Making Sense of Religious-Based Bigotry

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17:  A french fan dressed in the colours of the french flag and adorned with the logo of the Eiffe
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 17: A french fan dressed in the colours of the french flag and adorned with the logo of the Eiffel tower, which was used after the Paris attacks, arrives ahead of tonight's International friendly match between England and France on November 17, 2015 in London, England. Security in London has tightened after a series of terror attacks across the French capital of Paris on Friday, leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

I think I must be a religious idealist.

I grew up with a mother who impressed upon me and my siblings the importance of doing "what Jesus said to do." That included forgiving people, loving people, even and especially our "enemies," and doing to others as we would like to have done to us.

I have most assuredly failed in carrying out the commands of Jesus, but I have certainly worked all my life to do so. The Jesus my mother taught us about was a person who decried bigotry of any sort, and drew to himself the outcasts of society, the so-called "least of these."

So, I have taught those same lessons in my life as a pastor and theologian, and as a mother. I learned that love is the most powerful gift, a tool and a weapon, that humans have at our disposal, and have worked hard to practice it, though I have often failed miserably.

But what I don't understand is how religion, Christian and otherwise, seems to use its status as a moral force to allow and even encourage people to practice bigotry and hatred of others. I don't understand how one can call one a lover of God and at the same time hate and discriminate against people whom God created as God created everyone.

The bigotry and hatred shown by white people toward blacks, by black and white people toward Jewish people, by Zionists against Palestinians, by straight people toward LGBTQ individuals, by Protestants against Catholics and visa versa ...seems antithetical to the spirit of God or any divine being which for most religious adherents represents good and love, worthy of being worshiped and imitated.

As I write this, the world is still in shock over the terrorist attack in Paris, allegedly by ISIS. ISIS is reportedly a radical sect of Islam, and acts in the name of "Allah." This God of ISIS sanctions and perhaps encourages terrorism, wanting everyone to convert to the mores of ISIS, if what is being reported is true.

That might sound ridiculous, but KKK members acted in the name of Jesus as they carried out their terror on blacks and Jews (and God knows who else.) Zionists act in the name of Yahweh as they work to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their own land. The Crusades were fought "in the name of God." People have killed members of the LGBTQ community in the name of their God and their religion. All this violence against others ...in the name of God ...seems to me to be a direct contradiction of what God is supposed to represent and demand from those who are "believers."

Who, then, is this God who apparently sanctions and orchestrates acts of hatred, bigotry and discrimination? Did God create different races and ethnicities, resulting in people having different religions, for a reason? Did God not know that people who were different would use God's name to try to destroy each other?

A Jewish friend of mine shared that God really is showing us optimal and perfect love by backing away and letting us humans go at each other. God wants us to come to a state of divine revelation of what God requires on our own, not because we are forced, she shared. Perhaps. It sounds good. But if God is showing divine love and is expecting that love to gently lead us to treat each other in and with love, rejecting our tendency to discriminate and oppress others, God must be sorely disappointed, because we do not treat each other with love, nor does it seem we want to. To add insult to injury, we mock God by doing our own thing and then "worshiping" God as an act of homage.

The question has to be: "what are we doing?" How can we be OK with, say, demolishing a village in Palestine on a Wednesday and praying at the Wailing Wall on Thursday? How can we say we love God when we can kill someone on the basis of his or her color on a Saturday night and show up for church and Holy Communion on a Sunday morning? What is the essence and substance of our religion as we ignore the suffering of people in Beirut whose lives have been forever altered by ISIS, even as we drool over the unfortunate fate of the Parisians? Whose God are we worshiping when we can discriminate against a person who is LGBTQ, saying it is God's will that we do so, when the Bible we say we love says that "inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me?" (Matthew 25)

We are talking about building a wall between the United States and the Mexican border, even though many Americans have used and exploited Mexican labor for years. Now, we are up in arms about illegal immigration and at least one politician, Donald Trump, wants to build a wall. I keep seeing the wall in Israel/Palestine, separating those two groups from each other, and I keep hearing in my spirit the voices of those in agony because of the strictures the Israeli government has put on the Palestinians, and I shudder. Would our God want us to build walls? Did God want chattel slavery to be the legacy of America? Would God have wanted ethnic cleansing of any group of people by another group, something which groups of people have perpetrated against other groups of people for centuries?

Is there another God that I missed?

This world, full of "religious" people seems to have left God on a back burner somewhere. The God of this world is a God who is less than the human beings He/She created. This God permits people to do what they want, God notwithstanding ...and stands with grace even though we desecrate God's very image. God allows us to diss Him/Her and allows us to remain in our concocted towers built of religious idealism, human-made dogma and doctrine, and self-righteousness.

Is that the God we signed up to worship? As a question of theodicy, is God all good and powerful, or is God neither? Is God a loving divinity, or is God a feckless sham, like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz?

Right now, in light of what happened in Paris, religious governors, devout "believers," are espousing and promoting the need for the United States not to let anyone from Syria into this country. Period.

That's bigotry. Discrimination. Oppression.

The God I studied, and the God my mother taught us about, doesn't fit into the paradigm of worship and adoration to which we practice. The God of the people, though, is an enabler, allowing humans to remain addicted to the need to oppress others.

That, or I am a religious idealist.

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