“As Christians, we do a better job of promoting what we are against than what we are for.” This was a quote from my minister this past Sunday as he presented his sermon and for once I was paying attention. The title of his message could have been, but wasn’t, “THE TRAP THAT IS RELIGION.” He referred to this “trap” a couple of times and both of these quotes provided a feast as in “food for thought.”
All week long I thought about the “trappings” of religion. Not the trappings my minister was talking about. I was thinking about rituals; my church is bigger than your church kind of things. Fancy eye-catching robes, repeated liturgy in unison, long, long, long alter calls, public displays, you get the idea. My grandmother turned her back on the “trappings” and lived a “religiously” pious God-loving life without going to church. Ninety-eight years’ worth.
I really have problems with public displays of faith. I don’t mean modeling it, I mean chest thumping. I would guess you are thinking, “Isn’t this public.” The answer is not really. Except for people who know me, I am hiding behind the anonymity of my computer. It is still hard for me to “bare” my feelings and put myself out there. My religious beliefs are private to me and hard for me to talk about. I know some Christians believe that public displays are part of the trappings. I ask God and Christ to make me more “public” but as yet they haven’t eased my struggle. They are probably busy elsewhere. I don’t blame them and yet still believe in their teachings.
When I thought about the “trap that is religion” I could not help but remember the lines from the Buffett song “Fruitcakes.” The lyrics went like this, “Where’s the church, who took the steeple? Religion is in the hands of some crazy-ass people. Television preachers with bad hair and dimples. The god’s honest truth is it’s not that simple. It’s the Buddhist in you, it’s the Pagan in me. It’s the Muslim in him, she’s Catholic ain’t she? It’s the born again look, it’s the WASP and the Jew. Tell me what’s goin on, I ain’t gotta clue.”
The line about religion being in the hands of some crazy ass people is what gives me the most pause. I think ISIS along with any other Jihadist group or individual would qualify as would a Christian reactionary killing (fill in the blank) for Christ. But I am concerned most about followers of non-reactionary American Christian Religions who their piety allows for racism and bigotry. John Pavlovitz, a pastor, and writer published these assertions in his blog, STUFF THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. I am reproducing them verbatim from his post MY EMANCIPATION FROM AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY. These are his words, not mine, but I found them to be quite profound along with the rest of his post. I invite you to read it in its entirety.
“I am not losing my mind.
I’m not losing my faith.
I’m not failing or falling or backsliding.
I have simply outgrown American Christianity.
I’ve outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
I’ve outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
I’ve outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
I’ve outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim and Atheist communities.
I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
I’ve outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in any way.
Most of all though, I’ve outgrown something that simply no longer feels like love, something I no longer see much of Jesus in.”
This past Friday morning I felt alone as my blog post “Silence” should have reflected. Later, my Baha’i cousin, quoting scripture, and a friend quoting…well herself, lifted me up, something my musings had not done. This morning I opened my computer blog and found John Pavolovitz and realized I’m not the only “wrong” thinking person in my country…or at least my social media account. If enough of us become “wrong” thinkers maybe, we can actually make a difference in our world. I invite you to join the Evolutionary New Testament Church of Jesus Christ’s Love and Grace. We are not on TV and I don’t have any hair or dimples. I’m not going to give up my Church membership because they seem to be “wrong” thinkers too. My Christ is loving…toward all our neighbors.