Tom’s Turn — Religious Hypocrisy
It's my birthday, and I didn't want to write about anything but the silly things – you know, gags about getting gray and gaining weight, wearing glasses, and so forth. But I keep getting bombarded, today as many days, with much more serious stuff. So I need to write about it.
The Pope Monday took the opportunity of a gathering of diplomats to appeal for religious tolerance in the wake of a church bombing on Christmas in Madala Nigeria. I received an e-mail containing a soldier's reflections on hypocritical behavior of supposedly quite pious men in Afghanistan. The details aren't appropriate for printing here, but the bottom line was the soldier's musings about whether God shouldn't perhaps just wipe the slate clean and start over. I watched again the old docu-drama about the mass suicide-murder at People's Temple in Guyana decades ago. Conversations are beginning around here about perhaps taking a trip together to the Holy Land – which reminds me that, at the rate things are going, it won't be long before the only Christians in Israel will be tourists, the exodus of the native Palestinian Christian population continues apace. And it's not all “over there,” of course. Religion has for centuries been the cause of so much hatred and conflict in the world, and so, so many deaths. Right here in our own country there are many places and many voices that make Christian faith a synonym for intolerance and jingoism. And one of the questions in this election year is about which candidate will gain “the Christian vote,” implying not only a monolithic church but lock-step controlling clergy and also exclusion if not hate for “the other side.”
All the while, we worship a God whose very self-definition is love. I do not know of one of the world's major faiths which, viewed fairly and from the perspective of its own adherents, is about hatred or killing. God surely sheds a tear (and feels the pain) every time God's name gets used to justify one of us raising a hand or a weapon against another of us. God does not condone and will not tolerate any use of religion as an excuse to hurt or kill or exclude or deny a job or squelch an expression of love and caring. The only God there is was, I believe, most clearly revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. We call him Christ. He taught turning the other cheek, going the second mile when taken advantage of, elevating the poor, loving everyone, even “those who spitefully use you.” Yet his followers, those who stand in his name and wear his cross are often indistinguishable from many haters among the world's other faith families – and there are plenty of those.
We know better!
Gather with us here to worship and sing God's praise, but also to confess our complicity in all this hypocrisy and all the violence and hatred that bleeds from it. Gather with us to learn a better way, for Christ Jesus has shown us the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I’ll see you and your guest next Sunday. Bring the whole family. Remember to share a ride, to wash your hands often, and to share the love of God even if only with a smile. To prepare for worship, please read Jn. 1.43-51.