The Religious Right...and Wrong

Let’s get something straight, right at the outset. I prefer the term “Jesus Freak”, not “Bible Thumper”, “Holy Roller”, or even “Religious Fanatic”. “Jesus Freak” is just fine. Specifically, I’m a Christian, raised in the Methodist Church, married to a Charismatic Catholic, and currently pursuing my faith at a Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod). Call me whatever you want, but don’t ever assume that my faith is based on peer pressure, stems from a personal insecurity, or is born out of some kind of fear of death or the unknown.

And I’m serious when I say “call me whatever you want”. I know who I am and I feel secure about my beliefs. Further, I’m not the type that is bothered by opposing points of view. I don’t take personal offense at movies such as “the Last Temptation of Christ” or even the recent release, “the Golden Compass”. Sure, reading a book that proclaims religion to be worthless might not be my first choice, but it doesn’t bother me that they’re out there. This country is based on the right not only to have differences, but to display them proudly. After all, this is America, not the Sudan.

The reason I go into this now is that, knowing my religious foundation, a lot of people have been asking me my opinion regarding the British teacher who got into trouble by naming the class teddy bear Muhammad. Filled with a surplus of generally misinformed, pre-conceived notions about the behavior of us Jesus Freaks, many people were very surprised by my answer. I think the punishment fit the crime. I’m saddened by the fact that there are people and countries out there who feel this type of religious law is necessary; however, she should have at least been aware of these laws before taking the job or moving to the country in the first place.

That said, I do take issue with anyone who thinks this system of religious beliefs is acceptable, just not with a government or courts that simply uphold the existing law. My beef is with the religious leaders who teach hate, subservience and intolerance in a thinly veiled attempt to hold power, wealth and position. They should be preaching love, freedom and compassion in the hopes of sharing the salvation of the soul that awaits anyone with the strength to seek it.

I would argue that what’s happening in many of the Middle Eastern theocracies has very little to do with religion at all. The very nature of religion is that while the observance of its practices can be mandatory, true belief of its teachings cannot. I’m just not sure that some of the more radical leaders of Islam have ever heard the saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. I don’t know about the other major religions, but when Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to “go out, teach, and baptize,” he didn’t add the phrase, “and kill anyone who doesn’t cooperate”. True faith cannot come from force.

Even if faith could be coerced, what does it say about the primacy of a deity if their followers fear the simplest scrutiny? If any practice, belief or ritual cannot hold up to question and, yes, even criticism, its validity is dubious at best. But then validating their practices has never been a primary concern when it comes to being a religious zealot. How often in history have bad things been justified by the pretext that “it’s for the good of the people”, or that it’s a "necessary evil”? Before Jihad, there was “ethnic cleansing”, before that, the Holocaust, and before that, the Crusades. History is clear in its understanding of what is and isn’t a “necessary evil”, even if the present is still undecided.

The reason people like Osama bin Laden attack the United States is not because we represent an affront to his God, his Prophet, or his religious practice, it’s because we demonstrate the very possibility that religion and faith can prosper in a free society. The West isn’t a threat to Islam so much as it is a threat to the individual Imam. After all, there is no insult without pride, ego, and especially insecurity, traits not even I would suggest are associated with Muhammad.

I also have a problem with people who extol the premise “do as I say, not as I do”. I always wondered how an entire country could follow a short, skinny, ugly looking, dark haired man who preached the virtues of creating an “Aryan” nation. Yet you get the same thing out of leaders who explain that becoming a martyr is the greatest possible fate, yet are usually the first ones into the “spider hole” when things get tough. I’m not trying to insinuate any superiority here, but when the hummus hit the fan for Jesus, he took the cross himself, he didn’t go run and hide in the hills of Pakistan.

I’m not trying to start some kind of a holy war here. I’m just trying to get my point across that in the last half century or so the very goals of most organized religions have taken a beating at the hands of a relatively small group that chooses earthly greed over heavenly gain. I pray that atheists, agnostics, or those unfamiliar will not close their eyes to the blessings of grace due to the injustice that is done in the name of God, whatever that God’s name may be.

Challenge my spirituality and I will debate you, however refuse to worship my God and I will not fight you. I simply ask that you evaluate my religion by watching those who love, not those who hate.

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Volume 3, Issue 25, Posted 5:11 PM, 12.03.2007