I have made a pretty deliberate decision to try to keep religion out of my blog, or my “published” writings, for that matter. I think that what a person believes in is very personal. I know that I don’t appreciate it when someone tries to persuade me that I am wrong and s/he is right. I figure I ought to show other people the same respect.
It’s part of the “treat others as I want to be treated” philosophy I try to live by.
Something that troubles me about conversations about religious beliefs, or moral codes, or ethics, or even philosophy and science, is that there usually is not a reasonable conversation happening. Most of the time, you get two or more parties yelling at each other irrationally with no substance to the vitriol. And people wonder why churches and organized religions and atheists, for that matter, are lampooned and mocked. Dude, if you want to be taken seriously, take yourself seriously first.
It’s part of the “remove the plank from your eye first, and then consider whether or not you’re qualified to throw stones” bit. None of us are qualified to throw things at each other. We just aren’t. Eventually, faith can’t be proven – it’s the nature of faith. And, if you believe one thing and I believe another, well, hey, we’re working on faith here. Of course we can’t “prove” it. And yelling at each other certainly doesn’t help. As long as we’re both trying to figure out how to live honestly and with goodness, I offer up a high five.
Now, for the skanky immoral folks who don’t consider ethics in decision-making and opt instead for immediate base gratification…. well, my tolerance doesn’t extend that far. That’s a failure on my part to completely live up to treating others the way I want to be treated. I admit it; I can’t stand people who don’t try to be bigger than base animals. You have to at least try. I mean, then, even if we disagree, we can have an interesting conversation about why we disagree. We might both learn something, too.
I am certain there is a great deal of value in discussing moral and ethical principles, completely outside of the context in which they are usually presented. In fact, once we begin examining what the source material really says, we usually find that most of its “followers” are, um, *not* practicing what they preach.
As a Christian, as an Episcopalian, I find this embarrassing. I freely admit to being horrified by most of the things “Christians” do in “God’s name.” I envision God (wherever he or she or it is, and however that looks, I’m not sure) shaking his head and saying, “I got nothin’ to do with that! That’s all you and your hate and stupidity! You wanna be an ass, do it in your own name!”
I suspect that lots of Muslims feel the same way about the jihadists, and so on, [insert your higher calling here].
People hide behind the blanket of religion to avoid being responsible for their own actions and words – or their failure to act. If you are a coward, that’s on you, buddy. That’s not God (or the absence of God, or whatever you believe). That’s all you. If you are a bigot or a racist or a dogmatic fear-driven fool, that’s all on you.
I read a book a few months ago that was fascinating. It’s called “Provocative Grace,” by Robert Corin Morris, and it’s pretty challenging to the establishment. Morris is an Episcopalian leader, but he writes this book not as a religious tract, but as an exercise in removing “religion” and looking one by one at the lessons in Christ’s teachings. Not what the church has said. Not even what the disciples said. Certainly not what masses do during their crusades. As bits of ethical ideas, he looks one by one at the tenets of what has become Christianity as it was written, fully acknowledging the limitations of translation and history.
It is brilliant. It is subversive and challenging and completely “in your face.” It turns conventional easy legalism on its head, and then kicks it out the door.
For anyone interested in ethics, I strongly recommend it. Morris comes right out and says that it is not the intention of this book to “convert” anyone. He wants to look at what it is that we say we believe in – and how closely our popular interpretations line up with what’s really said.
Punchline: conventional Christianity doesn’t line up well with Christ’s actions at all.
The basic “rules” of Christianity are 1) be kind to everyone – and it means everyone, even the people who hate you and whom you hate, be KIND, and 2) don’t judge people, period. You don’t know what they’re up against and you’re not qualified. So, take your sanctimonious self-satisfaction and shove it. You be *kind.* Feed anyone who is hungry. Protect anyone who needs safety – of any kind. Be gentle to all. Period.
It’s actually a pretty straight-forward set of instructions.
It’s really too bad they aren’t followed more closely.
So, when you meet someone who claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t live and act according to those two basic ideas – I implore you, blame (if you must) the human. God isn’t in those actions. He’s no where around. That’s all mankind, right there, building our own hell here on earth.