Saturday, February 17, 2007

Again I Ask: What WOULD Jesus Do?

Here's a headline from this morning's New York Times online edition:

Anglican Prelates Snub Head of U.S. Church Over Gay Issues

Yes, it's another one of those charming examples of religion in action in the world today: These self-proclaimed leaders of their church have philosophical disagreements with positions held by their American colleague, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church USA, so, as men of God, what do they do? Why, naturally, they "refused to take Communion here on Friday with the new head of the American Episcopal Church, to protest her support of gay clergy members and blessings for same-sex unions." Read the entire article here:

Well, naturally, this is in keeping with the example set by whom they purport to be a follower of, viz., Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus turned his back on everyone who did not think the same way he did. He certainly would not endorse comporting with those whom we perceive to be sinners--that's why he studiously avoided contact with the downtrodden and outcasts of society, and made sure to traffic only with yes-men and sycophants. (That's sarcasm, by the way.)

As the years go by, it becomes harder and harder to view religion as anything other than a great big speedbump on the road to Heaven, a colossal man-made obstacle designed to stand between Creator and creation. How can any institution that engenders so much rancor and violence and even death be seen as doing "God's work"? Quite the opposite, much of the time.

One hates to be so negative toward "organized religion" (an oxymoron if there ever was one)--and in brighter moments one does have to point to the good that religious institutions can do and occasionally have done in areas of education, health-care, poverty and disaster relief, and so on. When they are good they are very, very good...but the rest of the time--yikes!

Make no mistake: The culprit here is not God, of whom I maintain a very high opinion--Father, Son, and Spirit alike; no, the bad guy in this scenario is good ol' Homo sapiens, who seems incapable of developing any institution without a gilt-edged list of rules, regulations, doctrine, dogma, theology...and the insistence that everybody must subscribe. You have a question? A doubt? A different idea? Heretic! Blasphemer! Apostate! Out with you--if you're lucky we'll merely excommunicate you; if not, we'll stone you to death. (The Bible makes it clear we're allowed, nay, expected to do that.)

P.S.: Homo sapiens wrote the Bible, too. Make of that what you will.

Of course, ecclesiastic sleight-of-hand does a pretty good job of tricking the audience into thinking that religion is God--and more specifically, our religion is God--and therefore any criticism of the former is an attack on the latter. Which is nonsense.

There is a joke that tells of a rough-hewn sort who one Sunday attends services at a very upscale and well-heeled church. The man appears to be a laborer of some sort and, while he and his clothes are clean and neat, they definitely do no compare with the finery of the others in the congregations, who make no bones about their distaste for his style of dress. Indeed, afterward the pastor approaches him and suggests that he go home and pray to God, asking what God thinks would be the proper way to dress for a church such as this one.

The following Sunday the man is in his pew again, and dressed as before. Afterward the pastor comes up to the man. "I thought I encouraged you to go home and ask God how he thinks you should dress for this church," he says pointedly.

"I did," the man assures him. "And God said, 'Boy, I don't know--I've never been to that church!'"

"Church" is not God. "Religion" is not God. "Bible" is not God. To the extent that these human inventions bring us closer to God, they are good; to the extent that they stand between us and God--on the basis of doctrine, or theology, or tradition--they are evil.

Meanwhile, back in the ECUSA: Blessed are those who persist in trying to see the positive in things: "Liberal Episcopalians, on the other hand, were encouraged that the number of primates — the term for the leaders of Anglican provinces — who refused to take Communion at this meeting was only seven, about half the number who refused two years ago."

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