Essay Non-Fiction posted November 18, 2008


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Religion is a two-edged sword

Can One Be Over-Churched?

by Annmuma

Is there any such thing as the "greatest" evil?  I doubt it, but if so, Adewpearl may have nailed it in her essay about fear.  Rather than compete in a discussion of the worst example of evil, I will explore perhaps the most insidious and acceptable source of evil.  Religious beliefs, when unpruned and unchallenged, warp the hearts and minds of otherwise good and kind people.  That same fountain of evil sires great love and kindness.  The footprints are equally clear, only the teachers and believers are different.  It's the zealots on either side, whether teacher or believer, whether good or evil, who muddy the waters when it comes to religious tenets.

I was reared in a Christian environment and choose here to speak from that vantage point.  The Jim Joneses or David Koreshes of the world are the exceptions to the mainstream Christian churches on every corner.  The violence in Ireland, the ethnic cleansings, the witch burnings, the children's crusade, to name only a few of the historical examples, are the known, the publicized, acts of Christian doctrine horror.   Those are the kind we can all agree are examples of extremism: hate practices.  Those are the type we can band together to prevent or circumvent.  It's the other almost invisible, but maybe more Machiavellian, acts performed in the name of God that represent the real and most frightening evil because we ignore them or join in their practice.  For the purpose of this essay, I'll only mention two of the many malicious hate cancers grown in our society by God-fearing Christians. It is important to remember the same model is true for most, if not all, of the world's religious faiths.   

When I was about twelve years old, my dad gave me a book to read.  I cannot remember the name of it now, but I fully recall the importance he placed on its teachings.  

"Olevia, this book is based on the Bible.  In here, you'll find out why the white race is to be exalted and why the niggers are here to serve."

"What do you mean, Daddy, here to serve?"

"Read the book.  God tells us right there in His Word what our responsibilities are."

I read the book and, even at that age, found the message distasteful.  The premise was built on Noah and his sons many months following the ark's landing.  Noah and his family had planted a vineyard, harvested the grapes and now had wine to drink.  According to the story, Noah drank too much and was mocked by his son, Ham.  Upon sobering up, Noah damned not his son, but his grandson, Canaan, and all of his children for generations to come to be servants.  In the entire book of Genesis, I believe that episode is the only time Noah speaks at all. The book explained that Canaan's skin was blackened so that all would know and recognize him and his children as servants.  The book emphasized the God-imposed responsibility of white people to take care of black people, keep them in their place and treat them kindly, but as children and servants.  Beatings, lynchings, and untold persecution have resulted from this Christian teaching and our world suffers from the deeply embedded mistrust between the races.  The election of a black American president was a step in the right direction, but the ladder is still tall and the bigotry is deeply rooted.

My youngest daughter married her best friend right out of high school.  Denise and Michael had an abiding love and respect for each other, and Michael wanted to be the husband of both their dreams.   He had been a high school ROTC member and had tried to be as macho and "girl crazy" as the next guy.  Within just a few months of their marriage, Michael recognized that he could not lie to himself and to the world.  He admitted his sexual orientation, and though it was difficult for all of us, Denise especially, we still shared a love with Michael.  He and Denise connect today as they always did on that special friendship level, but they live in parallel worlds now.

It is strange how what exists, but doesn't touch us individually, can be ignored.  I had no particular awareness of homosexuals or their plight because it had not rested on my doorstep.  I was surprised at the reaction of many of our relatives and friends, one in particular.  Peggy and I had lived next door to each other for over twenty years.  We had raised children together, been scout leaders together, and yet I had no idea what her personal feelings were in this regard.   Several months after Michael and Denise divorced, Peggy and I were having coffee.

"Ann, is it true that Denise's husband was queer?"

"Michael is gay.  Why?"

"Well, it just is so sad.  I wish he would go to Jesus with his sin.  He could be saved.  Have you tried witnessing to him?"

I was appalled.  It had not occurred to me that Michael needed to be saved from being who God created him to be.  Our conversation was short-lived.  Peggy's mind was closed except to one biblical interpretation that branded homosexuality a sin worthy of an eternity in hell.  He was different from the rest of us, and that differentness earned him persecution and judgment from the rest of us.    

California's Proposition Eight is only one of many mirrors reflecting this Bible-taught intolerance.  Gays and lesbians endure the slights, misplaced torment and fewer rights than the rest of us because of a single-minded explanation of a few Bible verses.  Too many Christians behave badly because God says it's the right thing to do.   Many Christians don't know that the New Testament reveals nothing that Jesus said about same-sex behavior.  The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality, and six, maybe seven, of the Bible's one million plus verses even refer to same-sex behavior in any way. None of those verses refer to homosexual orientation as it's widely understood in today's society.

It's been my experience that most people who use the Bible to create havoc, civil unrest or to support intolerance do not study the scriptures.  Most depend upon what someone else told them was there, or they look for a specific verse to back their position.  As Shakespeare said "Even the devil can cite scripture for his  purpose."    It is incumbent upon us as Christians to study the scriptures for ourselves, with our own open minds and individual direction from the Holy Spirit, i.e. in prayer.  The Bible is the map to be used by every Christian in their journey from the other side, through this world, and again to the other side.  The lessons found there are unique to our personal adventure, while offering the universal truths of hope, faith and love we are to share with our fellow travelers.  

Until each Christian accepts responsibility for not only their private and public actions, but also for those committed by others in the name of Christianity, the evils of the Christian religion will run rampant in our world.  We must speak up and defend what is the essence of our belief and that is: God is Love.  Any action, word or thought that does not meet that smell test is not true Christianity.


Recognized


I apologize for the use of the 'n' word. I find it abhorrent, but it is true to the early 1950's environment and was used by my father.

The contest required an essay of any length to discuss the greatest evil in today's world. The entry could be fiction or a non-fiction opinion piece. It also encouraged creative approaches and I've used that loophole to discuss a most acceptable source of evil. I look forward to all constructive criticism.

Thanks, Cajun, for organizing a thought-provoking contest.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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