Wednesday, November 27, 2013
When did religion become so angry and aggressive?
Now, I know that we can go back to any point in history and find the wars started or sustained by religion, hate crimes done in the name of religion, and all sorts of less than pleasant things done in the name of religion or faith. It's a very broad topic, so I will narrow my scope to the U.S. and Christianity for now.
Westboro Baptist church is the extreme example, but many other Christian congregations and/or pastors have been highlighted in the media because of their aggressive stance on one issue or another. People using the Christian bible and their beliefs as vehicles for hateful actions against other people. This has manifested in businesses using their profits to fund anti-gay groups and campaigns, lobbyists arguing for laws and regulations based on their interpretations of religious texts, parents sending their adolescent childern to ex-gay therapy, and even direct violence against people of other faiths, skin colors, or sexual orientation.
Where did all this hate and aggression come from? The church I grew up in was nothing like that. It's possible that as a child and younger teen, I didn't notice this kind of rhetoric. But, I don't remember ever hearing one of the ministers preach about how one group of people were evil, or how we should hate anyone who is this, or does that. The sermons talked about God in our lives and in our world. They told stories about how we all mess up, but how God has a hand in our lives, and it was our responsibility to be good and to act out of love and to help those around us. The summer Mission Trips were all about community service and strengthening our relationship with God and build relationships by loving our fellow men. There was no going out to convert people, or preaching to others about our faith.
I don't have a problem with people talking about their faith or inviting others to join them and to learn about their religion. But there's a big difference between saying to someone "Hey, I believe this and this, and I'd like to share that with you because I think it would benefit you" and "You are a terrible and evil person who is going to hell if you don't change your way of life to be in line with my beliefs".
Now, is all that we're hearing about in the media in the past couple years actually indicative of an increase in this kind of thinking and action? Or is it just more widely publicized? I think it's probably a little of each. There's a lot of social change going on, and with change comes fear. When people are confronted with something new, they sometimes freak out about it, because they don't know how to handle it or how to incorporate it into their lives.
I know that there are so many loving and compassionate congregations out there of every faith/denomination, and it's hard to remember that sometimes. In the gay community there's an undertone of dislike and anger when Christians or Christianity is mentioned, because of all the horrible things that have been done to and said about gays in the name of this faith. And this is one of the real tragedies. Just as gays are sterotyped and lumped into one category, we are starting to do the same to Christians.
I don't identify with any religion, because I have my own issues with the Christian religion and the idea of one all powerful deity as a singular being, among other things. That's one of the reasons why it's so fascinating to me that I have such a strong reaction to these two opposite and opposing sides of Christianity. It's not my faith, but it is a part of my life because it's what I grew up with and significantly influenced my life. The texts concerning Jesus show him talking about love, and not judging one another. That's the heart of Christianity, and yet so many have lost sight of that.