Response to CNN blog: Faith, Polygamy, and Fears
September 25th, 2010
“I hate religion,” the reader of my CNN essay wrote in the comment section.
Last week, as many of you may know, I wrote a blog that was published on CNN.com. What follows will make more sense if you first read the original blog, so if you missed it, here’s the link:
Obviously, I can’t respond to all 154 blog comments, but I will respond to one or two every day or so. I invite you to leave comments and questions of your own. We can open the discussion with the questions at the end of the blog.
“I hate religion.”
This comment definitely caught my attention. It also caused me to wonder about the writer’s experience with religion–or those who represent it.
No doubt about it, terrible acts have been committed in the name of religion, and even worse, in the name of God. The Spanish Inquisition is one of the most horrific examples. There are many, many more. Since the serpent chatted with Eve in the garden, charlatans have followed his lead, telling their own “beautiful” lies. False prophets have raised their charming heads and led thousands astray. And in recent years, we have seen the rise of cults whose leaders set themselves up as gods. Jim Jones is a sickening reminder of such a “religious” cult, commanding his flock of 1000 men, women, and children to drink poisoned Kool-aid … and die.
To the one who said, “I hate religion,” I have to ask, are these the images that play out on the stage of your mind?
Religion can be a good and edifying part of a person’s life. It is for me. Being involved in my local church and my denomination is one of the ways I choose to love and serve God and others. I love being part of the larger family of God, receiving spiritual direction through ministers and other godly leaders. My faith community, the individuals in it, reflect His amazing love and grace. They encourage me and dry my tears when I’m down, and they dance with me when it’s time to rejoice. They walk alongside me on my life journey, holding me in prayer as I also hold them before God. I am blessed to be part of such a fellowship.
I recognize that my experience isn’t universal.
When human beings and their egos step out of the way, a faith community can reflect God’s attributes. But because we’re made of clay with a multitude of flaws and warts, we too often block His unconditional love, His forgiveness, mercy, and grace; we don’t love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds; we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. Too often we don’t even know who our neighbors are.
We let our prejudices get in the way of love.
Grace disappears as we shout political rhetoric at one another, claiming we speak for God as we judge those who are different from us, those whose views collide with ours, whether it be about the president’s birthplace, the ground-zero mosque, the color of our skin, gender of marriage partners, or where we choose to worship.
Does religion tell us that God loves us more than those we disagree with? Does God really love Republicans more than He loves Democrats? Does God’s love for his people stop at the borders of the United States? Or of any nation? Does he love those who don’t wear turbans more than he loves those who do?
If that’s all there was to religion, I would hate it too.
The good news is, there’s more to it than what even the most loving, grace-filled messenger could reflect. I hope you’ll find a way to explore what the Living God could mean in your life. Ask Him to reveal Himself. Then quietly listen. I promise you, He’ll answer your prayer.
I leave you with a verse of Scripture that will give you an idea of how the Lord, your God feels about you:
“The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Questions for all:
Have you had experiences with people, perhaps “hypocrites” who turned you away from God or from the church? If you did, what changed your thinking? If you’re still reeling from such an experience, what would be the one thing that might change your thinking? Tell me what you think about the quote (paraphrased) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel; use words if you must.”
With all love, joy and peace,