It’s never too soon to teach your children prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Just ask the good Christian folks at this Baptist church in the United States.
I seldom talk about my faith and have never written about it in my blog before but I’m going to write about it today.
I’m a Christian although not a very good one despite having contemplated becoming a priest at one time. My only hope is that God is quite patient and has a sense of humour. Otherwise, I’m pretty much screwed. Nonetheless, while a true and complete understanding of the nature and love of God passes far beyond my understanding, I have a considerable faith that God is more forgiving than we are and far less concerned with the trivial and petty things that seem to consume us.
It is inconceivable to me that God is overly concerned with things like sexual orientation, skin colour or whether or not your football team wins the big game. That would be a pretty small god and I believe God is infinite.
Christians, like those who stood and cheered this little boy in church for parroting what can only be termed hatred, like to quote Leviticus from the Old Testament. They ignore the simple but profound statement that God, through Christ, made a new covenant with humanity and it was to be based on love, tolerance and forgiveness.
I don’t speak for God but neither does anyone else. It is beyond hubris, even arrogance for anyone to presume they do but that hasn’t prevented people from perverting the basic tenets of their faith to support their intolerance, their prejudice and their hatred. Some have even used it to become quite wealthy.
The Klan did it to justify their hatred and killing of blacks. The IRA and its supporters did it to justify their hatred of British rule in Northern Ireland and the killings they carried out as a result. Protestant extremists were right in there with them, justifying their violence with scriptural quotes as if the only reason Christ walked on earth was to stir things up and induce more hatred and killing.
The Inquisition tortured and murdered to root out heretics who were nothing more than people with a different approach to their faith in God. Bloody Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter was responsible for the burning of hundreds of protestants and it was protestants who burned and murdered women they claimed were witches in places like Salem.
When it comes to our faith, most of us may not be very good at it but we try. Unfortunately, there are those among us who don’t try. They confuse their hatred for someone or something with the love of God and have become quite accomplished at twisting the teachings of their faith to support their personal prejudices and biases. No group exemplifies this better than the Westboro Baptist Church who celebrate the deaths of military personnel by protesting their funerals and promoting hatred against everyone and anyone that doesn’t fit their narrow, close-minded definition of Christianity.
This isn’t a uniquely Christian phenomenon.
Extremist Sikhs, an ultra conservative part of the Hindu religion were able to justify the blowing up of an Air India flight in the name of God and virtually every day, Sunnis and Shiite Muslims are at each other’s throats like junk yard dogs, all in the name of Allah. Many Muslim’s tolerate so-called Honour Killings, which are nothing more than the murder of women (primarily) who have violated a family’s paternalistic concept of honour.
Muslims kill Jews and Jews respond by killing Muslims, usually not the Muslims who initiated the original attack. They claim their faith condones an eye for an eye but usually that means, bringing the person who committed the offense to justice. In practice, it has become indiscriminate retaliation that too often kills the innocent.
There is nothing in either the holy books of the Hindu faith or the Quran about strapping some C4 to your chest and blowing up and indiscriminately killing men, women and children just because you don’t like them. No faith condones the murder of innocents to satisfy another’s personal sense of being offended or for revenge.
I can already hear the atheists marshalling their arguments against a belief in God as they preen their feathers in moral superiority. Stand down boys and girls, there is as much intolerance and prejudice on your side of the river that divides us as there is over here. But on this one small point, atheists and I agree.
Religion has been perverted by those who only think they believe and who cannot see beyond their personal prejudice. As a result, horrendous crimes have been committed in the name of religion but then, you don’t have to be one of the faithful to commit horrendous crimes. Atheists bring no moral superiority to the failings of humanity. There are many atheists who are as fallible, intolerant and prejudiced as the rest of us.
The world’s great religions do not preach the hatred, violence and intolerance that too many have and continue to practice today in the name of God. That has nothing to do with the teachings of religion and are the refuge of the weak-minded and frightened.
It doesn’t matter what a person’s beliefs are about things like homosexuality, it isn’t for us to judge. It doesn’t matter what a person’s belief are about other religions, other races, other cultures and other political opinions might be. It isn’t for us to judge. It is one thing to hate the sin and another completely to hate the sinner.The bible, as are the scriptures of all faiths, is clear on that singular point.
We are not called on to engage in a holy war of hatred. Even the Quran’s call for a holy war has nothing to do with promoting hatred and killing indiscriminately. That is just one more human distortion of the teaching.
We are commanded to live according to the basic tenets of our individual faiths and if you’re a Christian that means, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. There is nothing in the New Testament, which is the book of Christianity, that preaches hatred and there is only one instance in the entire book where Christ displayed true anger.
He threw the money changers out of the temple for turning the House Of God into a financial whorehouse. Imagine how he might feel to watch adults who have taught small children to hate others, cheer on those children in a church as they sing words of hatred they don’t even understand. Christ said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” What he didn’t say was, “Teach your kids to hate others, especially homos!”
There are a lot of convenient interpretations of scripture, all scriptures in all faiths. While I’m not a biblical scholar, I know this much. If your interpretation allows you to judge others and condemn them or treat them with intolerance and hatred, you’re interpretation is wrong. While we all have our prejudices, it is how we act on them that is important.
That’s what scripture is all about. It is meant to guide us through our own failings in order to get us to sit up straight and fly right. We do not honour ourselves or our faith, let alone God, by perverting those teachings to support those things in us that we are meant to struggle to correct.
Need more proof?
The intolerant among us are quick to quote Leviticus when it comes to justifying not only their prejudice of homosexuality but in support of any actions they may take against gays. They are equally slow to acknowledge the sixth commandment when it comes to supporting their belief in laws like the Stand Your Ground law in Florida or in some extreme cases, defending the rights of the unborn by murdering doctors. You cannot prevent a sin by committing sin and you can’t be righteous by being unrighteous.
At the end of the day, there are really only two commandments that define Christianity and when we live lives that are contrary to them, we have failed as Christians. Christ said,
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord
our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
This is the first and great commandment. And the
second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself. On these two commandments hang all
the law and the prophets.”
It couldn’t be more clear. All of the law, all of the tenets of our Christian faith hang on these two commandments. It isn’t possible to love God while hating others. It isn’t possible to be a good Christian by loving others but ignoring the word of God.
That really is all there is to being a Christian. Love God, love your neighbour. Every action can be measured against those two commandments and if we do something that is contradictory to one or both of them, we have broken faith with our faith.
If a person can’t rise above their prejudice and hatred to live these two commandments to the best of their ability, or at least prepared to try, then it’s probably time to quit the charade and hand in their membership card ‘cause whatever they are……they ain’t Christian.
That won’t happen, of course. There is nothing more sanctimonious than someone who believes that the true light of Jesus burns within them and that this gives them the right to condemn and judge others as a result. These are the people who do not rise up and strive to be what God intended but rather reduce and trivialize God to a small and narrow-minded concept that is all too human rather than divine.
All of this makes me think sometimes that God must wish he had better fan clubs than the ones most of us have provided. Hopefully God’s patience won’t wear thin any time soon.