This summer has been crazy busy for me, and I haven’t blogged for so long I’m not sure I can remember how! But over the course of the summer a few topics did make their way to my awareness. I’d like to talk about one of those this time.
In one of the classes I taught online, I asked the question: Why do you think religion has brought out the best and the worst in people down through the ages? Responses varied, but most students agreed with a baseline answer. Here are some of the negatives.
One insightful response was that there were two groups of people who brought out the worst in religion: first, those who selfishly want to control people and use religion to do so, and second, those who take their religion to extreme, and pervert it to the point of making it an evil thing. This student cited people like Jim Jones as being among the first, and persecutions among the second, such as the Crusades who destroyed Muslims and Jews and their property, the papal church in the Dark Ages who persecuted and even burned Christians who disagreed with them, and even Protestants who came to America and proceeded to wipe out as many Indians as they could – or at least kill them off on death marches.
Another student who lives in a Muslim country mentioned that people feel that theirs is the only religion worth pursuing, so they feel they have the right to use force to coerce others to change their beliefs. He cited the meaning of jihad, which is to make war against one’s own faulty character, and how terrorists have taken that out of context to justify killing in the name of Allah.
Yet another student said that we set ourselves up as God to people, twisting our holy writings to believe we have the power to judge and punish. It’s not the fault of the religion, but of people.
These students figuratively hit the nail on the head. Control and force have been used as hammers over people’s heads for centuries. And although it happens in every religion, Christianity is what we’re concerned with here. What a shame that something that should lead us to God is the very thing that tears us away from His will for our lives and makes monsters out of the very people who profess the name of the God of love!
Of course, I’m only viewing the negatives here. There are the positives, of course, and I’ll talk about that next time.
Questions to Ask Ourselves
But for now it might be a good thing to check our motives and attitudes. Are we, in our own little sphere, equally as culpable as those who tortured and killed others because we disagreed with them? Do we judge people because they don’t have our beliefs? Instead of coming in love to others, is our attitude one of superiority?
Jesus is the truth and the way. But He treated all people with love and respect when He walked the earth. Can we do any less as His followers?