The View from Villa Flores
Will the Lion Sleep Tonight?
As most everyone I know knows, I live in the mountains of eastern Puerto Rico. It is a paradisiacal property according to visitors and I often agree. To the northeast I can see in the silent distance San Juan and the blue Atlantic tucked between two verdant mountains.
My house straddles the remains of an eons-old volcanic peak. On either side are steep ravines filled with tropical forest or patches of pasture land. Beyond the ravines are more mountains — some with houses, and behind them even higher mountains. A two-lane country road joins us (eventually) to the rest of the island.
There are, perhaps, 30 homes within a three-mile radius of my house, all but two are along the country road. One house adjoins my property at the lower part of my driveway, out of sight. The other belongs to my daughter and her husband, our only real neighbors. And, almost always, silence reigns.
I can hear my grandmother’s Biblical commandment: “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” In most cases, that’s not a problem. In a few it is. During its four centuries as a colony of Spain, just about everyone was Roman Catholic — other religions were banned. In 1898, Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States, the land of freedom of religion. Puerto Rico took it seriously. Today the majority in Puerto Ricans are Protestants and most of them Pentecostal.
As a Humanist, I believe in the right to believe (or not believe) in any form a person freely chooses. Most of my neighbors are Christians and I do try to love my neighbors as myself.
But my self-love does not include churches with loudspeakers on their roofs. I understand the joy of meeting with people who share devotion, who are baptised by the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues, and — especially — who sing in ecstasy.
But while the neighborhood churches (there are three) are sharing their jubilation, no one outside the churches can hear themselves think — or sleep.
Why don’t they place the loudspeakers inside the church? Too noisy, I guess. Is it to convert the infidels? There aren’t many to convert. Nearly everyone in those 30 homes is already a congregant.
Why don’t I report the disturbance to the police? There must be a law.
Well, there is a law: “Love thy Neighbor as Yourself.”
And another, “Make no enemies.”
And another, “Live and let live.”
After all, silence — after the service is over — is doubly divine.