“The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities; and for this reason, the heart should be cultivated with more assiduity than the head.” Noah Webster
It was a disturbing Facebook post made by a “friend” that I hardly know. He posted a tirade against liberals, perverts, and abortionists, as he termed them, pretty well checking off every evil (in his words) facing the country today. Now, I have heard such venomous condemnations from others before but his was a little different.
He is a fervent Christian whose perspective on the culture and loud outburst is unfortunately rather common. I decided to engage the conversation to see if there was any chance of making sense of his attacks.
I got nowhere.
I wrote of forsaking a judgmental attitude, of self-righteousness, and of not falling into the trap of identifying himself and his religious affiliation by being against things.
But, sadly, I didn’t get anywhere. It all ended when he insisted that “It is my responsibility to point out sin wherever I see it.’
He is, of course, quite incorrect, but his attitude does indeed reflect that of too many religious people.
A book which is proclaimed to be the source of life is used more often to be an instrument of death. I touched on this in previous posts but I want to continue here. The Bible and its role in religion is almost never scrutinized. It is simply taken for a given that the book is the locus of religious life. I think most converts start out innocently enough, looking in the Bible to learn what it says and what it means. But somewhere along the way it becomes the by-laws of life, used to put others in their place and solidify one’s one spot in the pecking order that is religious politics. The Bible, which should be the source of comfort and life, becomes the hammer used to beat up on others.
My good friend David Fritsche, in his blog Dimensions of Grace wrote:
“You see, there is a vast difference between a God and the Bible when it is simply the law, the prescription of what is right and what is wrong, who is right and who is wrong, as opposed to walking innocently with Him in the expectation that He and His Word, are descriptive of how others in history experienced God and walked with Him and the encouragement that we, in the here and now, do the same. One perspective limits us to seeing religion with its prescriptions, rules, laws, practices and the approval we gain from others in our group by conforming to them. The other opens us to a descriptive wonder of the God of creation and of His ongoing creative work in us. One is of the law and reduces God and the Bible to nothing more than props in our need to be right. The other describes the wonder of God’s inter-relationship with humanity and releases us to believe for that same presence, power and wonder here and now.”
There is something about religious learning that seems to swell the head but shrink the heart. The focus every so subtly becomes on who knows what…and then on who doesn’t know what we know. Then, priorities shift and, because we think we know so much, self-righteousness takes over. It seems to me that it should bother religious people who so readily incline to hammer on others. No one, and I mean no one, has a lock on orthodoxy. It is a myth.
Then, tragically like my friend in my introductory comments, a personalized standard is erected which determines who’s on the right side. Compassion for the “lost” is drowned in a sea of smugness and self-righteousness. The Book of Life becomes a manual for attack and destroy.
Remember this – religion is always social and functions in a group while spirituality is always individual and functions in solitude. Religion promotes and rewards comparisons with others, spirituality focuses solely upon an individual’s responses to himself. Religion always circles around to come back to oneself as the center of attention and the purpose for religious activity and engagement (you will get more money, live in a bigger house, enjoy rewards in heaven, and the like). Spirituality always circles outward to effect genuine benefit upon others with no thought of how that benefit will accrue to one’s self (sacrifice, giving with no expectation of return, doing good deeds because good deeds are worth doing and make life better for someone else, and the like). Religion has at its core a culture of control. Spirituality has at its core a life of liberty. Jesus Himself eliminated every codified control device when he unequivocally stated there are but two rules. Love God, love each other.
5 simple words.
That’s it. But if one were to follow that advice, religion then loses its capacity to efficiently and effectively control people when those people are granted the right and privilege of living lives free of the whims and fancies of those who would occupy positions of power or ‘the seat of Moses” as Jesus called it.
Somewhere somehow the good news has simply been drowned in a sea of antipathy. Codes of specified right and wrong behavior remain at the core of religious expression and the so-called Book of Life becomes an instrument of mass destruction. Persistently, others maintain the right to interfere with the individual as to what is acceptable and what is not, who is right and who is wrong. In the Middle Ages it was the Inquisition and armies who conquered people, killing thousands in pursuit of converting them to Christianity or Islam. While it continues somewhat these days and capture headlines, the same intent goes on every day. Just check out Facebook.
It is a position that is morally reprehensible, ethically compromised, and intellectually dishonest. Who, it seems, would dare speak for God if just about everyone carrying a book of religion demands they have the responsibility to point out sin wherever they see it? Apparently those people never look in a mirror.
That really doesn’t seem to bother religious people…but it should.