Fundamentalism in religion is primarily the result of a literal interpretation of a sacred text. This is where it starts. This is how it is fueled. It is an approach where compromise is unacceptable, where the whole text has dominance over any individual passage. Consequently, in the fundamentalist’s mind, everything in their sacred text is pure, right, and infallible.
The Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran, the Jewish Torah or Old Testament, are the three primary sacred texts that are often taken by their individual groups of believers as literally true in every word. Hindus have the Bhagavad Gita but they do not worship it in the sense these other religions do their Books. Buddhists have no holy text but instead are guided by sutras or the sayings and teachings of Buddha. Rarely do you see fundamentalists among Hindus or Buddhists.
As Christians, or people who admire Jesus without the religious label, we are to do our best to love one another with the integrity of Christ. However, this is a challenge, because not all Christians or people who say we love Jesus are equally devoted to living from integrity to discern right and wrong, truth from fiction, trustworthiness from conspiracy, and justice from injustice.
Without the discernment of integrity we cannot identify the dishonest from the honest and the accountable from the irresponsible. Without the values of integrity to guide our reasoning we do not acknowledge and condemn propaganda, fake news, or conspiracy theories. Without integrity we do not have the ability to accurately evaluate a person’s character. Without a shared devotion to walk in the footsteps of integrity as Jesus did, we do not have a willingness or the compassion to put ourselves in the position of others.
Sure we have lots to work on to fix what is broken within Christianity, politics, and society. And, you and I may ultimately agree on the topics we must address. But you and I, or anyone in a conflicting situation, cannot begin to find common ground to develop real solutions if there is no common devotion to respect, honesty, compassion, and justice.
To find common ground we must jointly acknowledge the clear danger of defending, as simply having a different view, tabloid media, white supremacists, racial bigots, those prejudiced against people with handicaps, gays, women, the poor, blacks, immigrants, Muslims etc.
Jesus would remind us there are awful outcomes that arise from defending biased agendas and judgmental hearts. It is extremely dangerous to give a voice or power to people who do not care to hold themselves accountable for the damage hate speech and unjust policies do. Therefore, hesitation on any Christian’s part to clearly identify and vilify purveyors of persecution, division, injustice, and lies, results in a real danger to our society and to our relationships.
A refusal to stand up to tyranny as Jesus would certainly endangers the relationship we have with God. And, Christ.
There is a calling in life that is spiritual but not religious. It comes from deep within us and from influences outside of us.
It comes from losses and longings, from lessons not yet learned, from lost loves, from emotional hurts we felt but never healed. It comes from thinking we failed our parents, from missing obvious life messages, from disappointing ourselves. It comes from sorry parenting, from unrealistic expectations we accepted, from betrayals received and given. It comes from faulty theology, from the wrong ideas about God, from fears that we are born bad and stay bad. It comes from kids or teens or adults who bullied us, from sexual abuse, from relationship battering, from being belittled in some wounding way or ways.
My uncle’s car broke down on a sparsely populated stretch of two-lane highway. This happened long before cell phones, and he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had to depend on the off chance that someone would happen along.
After a while he heard a soft buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees heading in his direction. As the noise grew louder, he watched the horizon. Soon a group of motorcycle riders crested the hill.
Even though my uncle had not personally encountered bikers before, he was terrified at the sight of them. He had formed a critical conclusion of motorcycle riders from others’ opinions and harbored a preconceived idea that they were all dangerous. He feared they would rob and possibly harm him. With nowhere to hide, he felt completely helpless as he watched them approach.
I’ve known several tattooed biker guys with scraggly beards, do-rags, and wallets on chains, and I realize how they might seem ominous. Yet, I know from experience that we cannot accurately measure the true character of any person or group of people based on a stereotype.
Most of the motorcycle group waved as they passed by my uncle. Two riders stopped and politely asked if they could be of help.
Let’s face it; racism in this country is a reality and a hideous evil.
There is a great line from John Merrick, the Elephant Man, in the movie by the same title. Physically distorted, emotionally tormented because of his glaring differences, he tries to justify the cruelty of others by saying to a physician, “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.”
I can’t stand pain. To the point I almost passed out the first time I got my ear pierced. While on a college trip to Scotland I just decided to go for it. A woman in the back of a hair salon used what looked like a gun.
As the needle, bolt, rivet, whatever, shot through my ear lobe the room began to spin. I rushed to the bathroom, embarrassed, but relieved it was over.
When I returned home my parents generously offered to buy me diamond stud earrings if I got the other ear pierced. I declined. The pain remained too fresh in my memory. I couldn’t bring myself to undergo any more discomfort. No matter how temporary, and minor, it still hurt.
It seems silly to have made such a big deal over such a small thing. At the time it was a big deal. Until one day, years later, when having my other ear done I realized, no matter how it hurt to get my ear pierced, the pain was nothing compared to what Jesus endured during his life.
The beatings, crown of thorns, and being nailed to a cross to hang until dead. Not to mention the ridicule, denial, slander, and betrayal he endured.
I don’t think any one of us can imagine such emotional and physical suffering. I honestly don’t believe any Christian, or decent human being, would want anyone to undergo the misery Christ did.
Yet we witness too many people, who say they love Jesus, causing anguish to others. Often in the name of God.
The contradiction between Jesus, who was inclusive love in action, and the exclusive religion that bears his name raises the question, which Jesus would consider worse.
The agony he suffered in life and while dying on the cross?
Or the pain of being betrayed by people who disrespect his life and sacrifice by judging, abusing, and excluding others in his name?
My vote is for the latter.
No matter if we are gay, straight, black, white, female, male, rich or poor, limitless numbers of people experience religious persecution. I know of a woman who was asked to leave a congregation because she wore a red dress to church. A family I know disowned their son for marrying a woman they considered a non-believer. My aunt was not allowed to wed the love of her life because the man was Jewish. A friend was told by the minister of a church she had to grow her hair long in order to be accepted by God and the congregation.
These examples, and countless others, are a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Christ’s Church as an inclusive community of love and kindness, and as a guide on how to live with the integrity of Jesus. The egocentric hutzpah to persecute, exclude, and attempt to dominate in God or Jesus’ name, while prevalent, is certainly not action aligned with Christs’ heart. Yet, it is behavior witnessed with disappointing pervasiveness in the Church and therefore sadly within society in general.
I believe the most important labor of love Christians perform is honestly looking at the personal relationship they have with Jesus. Which includes candidly challenging why the religion created in the name of Christ is too often elitist and cruel, when Jesus was a messenger of inclusive compassion.
There is a coarsening of our senses and our spirits these days. Much of it comes from the influence of Washington, D.C. The political landscape there is now dreary like a scorched desert. Nothing exists in most of politics but roaming predators stalking their prey viciously waiting to attack.
The scene is so bizarre now that nobodies from nowhere who are inexperienced, inept, discourteous, and amateurish, have taken the spotlight and never stop standing in it. And worse, they have been given just enough power from the media, and from muddleheaded voters, that they perceive themselves to be important.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, peruse means “to examine or consider with attention and in detail.” And dictionary.com says peruse means “to read through with thoroughness or care.”
Have you thought about what a difference it would make to your peace and joy if you actually perused life rather than skimming through it?
One day, I asked myself this question. Stressed and hurried, I felt disconnected from myself and life. Why was I constantly choosing to experience life as if I were a stone tossed out across a lake, touching down then skipping above the water, over and over? The moments when I was above the water, or the present, far outweighed the times I was immersed in whatever I was doing.
When I consciously slowed down, I became introspective. I asked myself, “Regina, if you are not devoted to patiently immersing yourself fully in the here and now, how is it possible for you to actually enjoy life? Where is the satisfaction in allowing your thoughts to fantasize about a future event, rather than staying present to listen closely to a friend? What joy do you receive from letting your thoughts return you to a past situation, instead of patiently remaining present to thoroughly read and comprehend an e-mail from a relative? Why waste time wanting a traffic jam to be different?”
The past is no longer a real moment in time that we can influence or change. The past only holds memories of our life as it was. Returning to fond memories brings us great joy, but the past officially ended the instant we stepped from the then into now.
We cannot go back in time to change the choices we made. Reflecting on the past and our previous choices is the way we learn.
The remarkable Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, once wrote,
“This hasn’t been the age for the righteous and the decent.
I know what it means to beget monsters
And to recognize in them myself.”
It is an appropriate indictment of our own day and of our own selves.
I keep telling myself that what we are experiencing in our country is just a phase, something we have gone through before, where people who turn loathsome and violent, enormously greedy and arrogant, will change. That these dark clouds of hostility hovering over us will pass and the sunlight of decent behavior will shine again.
But there is something alarmingly stubborn about the indignity, prejudice, violence, division and hatred among us. We seem stuck in a continuous atmosphere of rancor and bitter estrangement. And it is disturbing and frightening that our leaders seem incapable or not
Two women in Arizona thought it was a good idea to vandalize a Mosque. They also thought it would be great to bring three children along to help.
The women have been arrested. They took a video of their actions and posted it to Facebook. One of the children can be overheard spewing hatred.
My heart breaks when I hear of these type actions against our brothers and sisters of different religious faiths. My heart also breaks for the children. They are being taught by two women whose behavior calls into question their ability to properly nurture the children into respectful and responsible citizens. They are children whose lives are ahead of them. They are too young to say no to their mother. Yet, this very thoughtless action will tear their lives apart. And the lives of their mothers.
Anyone who exhibits this behavior is not on the side of God. And God does not side with them.
God gave us free will. No matter how small our actions, you and I have