Friday, February 27, 2015

Let's Clear The Air

Let's clear the air, here…the air around attaching blame to religious belief systems and how those systems are regularly twisted and bastardized.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler - president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - writes about the infamous Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church.  Mohler says,"He brought great discredit to the Gospel of Christ because his message was undiluted hatred packaged as the beliefs of a church.  Phelps knew exactly what he was doing.  As The Washington Post reported, he found comfort in being a pariah.  'If I had nobody mad at me, what right would I have to claim that I was preaching the gospel?'

Blogger Pastor Brian Tubbs writes,"There's simply no place in the Bible for the offensive rhetoric of tactics employed by Phelps.  No place for someone cherry-picking a particular sin and going after it with obsessive, ruthless hatred.  There's no place for hatred in general in the Christian community."

Columnist Mark Tooley writes,"Ideally, Phelps and Westoboro would have been ignored as irrelevant and unserious, representing almost no one.  But they were too useful as props in our current culture wars.  To be fair, conservative Christians sometimes highlighted Phelps to burnish their own credentials."

So, it wasn't bad enough that Phelps sowed hatred and discord in the name of religion, but other political hucksters attempted to co-opt Phelps, trying to steal a little of the spotlight for their own agendas.

Theologically speaking, the Gospel of Christ is one of forgiveness, not hatred.  Phelps wasn't just a fraudulent Christian, he was a thug with a personal agenda.

I personally had contact with another "preacher" similar to Phelps; a guy from Wisconsin who had his own little "Christian" cult that made a hobby out of harassing naturists for legally using a small stretch of river for sunbathing and skinny-dipping, suggesting that their motives were all sexually-based.  Like Phelps, this guy basked in the attention of local media cameras, until those media finally decided to quit making him a legitimate news item.  Eventually, the "preacher" took his little traveling hate show elsewhere, to a larger city instead of out in the middle of nowhere; where he could be more visible.

It wasn't about sin; it was all about being hateful and getting media attention.

The Muslim world has clearly and repeatedly denounced ISIS.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation - representing 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries - said ISIS,"…has nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence."  The Muslim Council of Great Britain said,"Violence has no place in religion. Violence has no religion."

Craig Hicks, the Chapel Hill murderer of three people, was profoundly anti-religion.  Does that mean that we should blame his crime on atheism?  Absolutely not.

M. Scott Peck, who served as Neurology Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army, calls fundamentalism an "immature stage of spiritual development."  In other words, it's not a matter of whose team you're on, it's whether you're mature enough to evolve past the violent thousands-year-old worldview and act peacefully.

Is there a person alive who has not known and experienced various kinds of drunks?  There's the happy drunk, the angry drunk and (like me), the sleepy drunk.  Remember actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade when he was arrested for drunken driving?  The one where he claimed "f*g Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world?"  Then later, he tried to pass it off on the alcohol.  The public didn't buy it.  We knew his anti-Semitic feelings were inside him all along.  The alcohol didn't create them.

Those of us old enough to remember comedian Flip Wilson recall how millions of Americans would gather round the TV set to watch him do his character, Geraldine, whose excuse for any bad behavior was,"The Devil made me do it."
I find that so hilariously ironic in view of all the blame people try to heap on religion.  The Devil never "made anybody" do anything, and most rational people would never grant anyone a pass or an acquittal based on the Devil's influence, but many seem perfectly willing to ascribe same to religion.

Atheistic anti-religious rants are no different than fundamentalist "believers" wanting to impose their hateful anti-gay beliefs on an entire state or ISIS members wanting to create a caliphate.  As Dana Carvey used to say when he did his impression of George Bush Sr. on SNL,"Na gaa happen."

Let's cut the crap and put the blame where it belongs - on the various thugs of this world doing their impressions of devout believers.  They represent neither the Muslims nor the Christians of the world, and their theologies are not the cause of their crimes, but their own personal hatreds and lusts for power.  

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