Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Do Believers Creat Such Human Harm?

Op Ed art. For Herald Leader,
Optional titles: version 10, Oct 19

Is God on Our Side
or
Righteousness or Champ Grace?;
Or - "
How we use faith to put ourselves on God’s side.

One of the great challenges for any faith today is finding a way to stay in creative dialogue with the world so that each can be enriched by the other. Religion should be an engine of civil discourse. But where are the practitioners of openness in our polarized society? Why are these voices absent? Are they just in hiding, shy, fearful, paralyzed or too righteous in their own belief systems?

One cause for this absence may be religious persuasion. We are trained in our churches to believe that our faith has God’s favor. We have the "true faith," the right way, while others do not. We feel secure in faith-led back and white thinking. Never do we judge others so easily, cheerfully and comfortably as when we do it from religious convicting. Is this to make God into a tribal god, favoring only "out side" while being jealous of other "gods."

Christians have long been taught that they are the rightful successors to the Jewish covenant of God’s chosen. Christians are now the chosen ones. The Hebrew bible is called that "Old Testament." Christian scriptures are called the "New Testament." Jews were labeled and despised long ago as "Christ killers." Many have taught and believed they lost God’s favor and are doomed.

Religious conviction seems to train the mind in "either-or", "we versus them", right or wrong, black or white thinking. Polarized thinking, "my way or the highway." become the eyeglasses through which one views the world. A trickle down blindness effect occurs. We become addicted to quickly judging in order to stay comfortable with our world views. Talk radio and cable news often seems drunk with polarizing.

Actually, Jesus of Nazareth gave us one remedy in a few words: "Why do you notice the splinter in your neighbor’s eye when you do not see the plank in your own?" In other words, only when we are aware of ourselves can we avoid this most common human flaw. .

The crux of the situation seems to be this. If faith is a gift, should we judge others by our individual gift of faith? To judge another’s faith as not favored is to use an undeserved gift as a hammer against another. Religious faith can become a self-righteousness fueled by a cheap grace.

From early times, one finds the sad history of terrible abuse of those who did not agree to the "right teaching," or orthodoxy of those Christians in power. Orthodoxy quickly became an idolatry of the "only way" to this mystery we call God.

Currently, religious tribalism appears everywhere in many forms. For example, radical Muslims are simply doing to each other what historically some Christians have done to each other for many centuries. We cannot say religious tribalism is not found among us. It is a terrible betrayal of faith, but it is not new. Christians taught Muslims well in the Middle Ages by conducting nine Crusaders aimed to take back the Holy Land from Muslim rule.

Any church that becomes a have for "us verus them" thinking is not only misreading the bible but teaching a false, fearful and harmful faith. Such faith, wrongly conceived, spurs us find enemies everywhere and poisons civil dialogue. Some media feed on this polarizing. It is their meat and potatoes. Some church pulpits are even used for political polarizing. Yet civil discourse and the very existence of real democracy both here and abroad may depend upon ordinary people waking up to these differences in the way faith and language are used.

We could stop polarizing by learning to listen. Here is a new but challenging way to begin that dialogue. Instead of starting the conversation with your point of view, start by saying something you appreciate about the other’s viewpoint. " I like your ideas or position on ....." but then admit you do not always agree with everyone who supports your views. "But I do not agree with all those who support this view as I take this position and have these reasons".... This is a significant challenge if one is accustomed to their position and the "only God given one". But this kind of start offers real promise of authentic dialogue. .

   

If we are all Gods children and faith is a free gift, then we should honor each other’s different paths. To love my neighbor as myself means that I must honor my neighbor’s spiritual journey. For the common good and to prevent polarizing, we should strive k to understand the diversity of our Wisdom traditions.

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