Saturday, September 3, 2011

Religion's Demons (James 1:27)

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)

To care for orphans and widows in their distress...
...or to blame the hungry and red-tape food stamps.

To love neighbors as we love ourselves...
...or to harbor suspicions of the "other" and tell lies about fairness.

To be generous to the stranger and the worker...
...or to wield money and power in defense of "ours".

Ah, God, how you must judge us -- and rightly so -- for our contortions of religion and our abuses of faith. Religion is naught but a weapon in the politicking for power, a language for other-ing and one-upping, a self-righteous reason not to care or understand. Not even the "spiritual but not religious" can pass your judgment; their worship of individualism and personal epiphany reveals just another form of ego-driven religion. Surely you have thrown up your hands over religion and given us up to our mockeries of faith...

...and yet I love religion dearly. Ack, what a quandary within me! I love religion's pursuit of understanding the divine (when it remembers to pursue rather than indoctrinate). I love its questions of mortal purpose and meaning, and its challenge to be defined by the Other. And I love its calling to community (although too often we never get past the calling to the embodying).

Do not abandon religion, please God, even though it has abandoned you. Instead, shake every foundation upon which we have built religious laws and idols. Disrupt our assumptions of one another; even more, disrupt our assumptions of the Holy. Tear down our Tower of Babel, stone by stone, until politicians have no religious rhetoric to shroud their lies; until phrases of faith are no longer code for hatred; until scriptures cannot be manipulated into documents for war. Indeed, strike us altogether mute about faith, so that our religious convictions can only be understood by our actions -- for better or worse -- and our gods are revealed by our deeds to be the demons they truly are.

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