RELIGION

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Oh boy! Now I’m getting into trouble! In this post I’m writing about, even criticizing a religion that isn’t mine.

The thing is, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to view religion differently, to hold it in higher and higher regard. Religion binds many communities, provides heartfelt aid. At its best religion provides a moral code, guidelines to live by. Basic, but vitally important signposts. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do no harm to innocents. How to treat strangers.

Thus, my spirit cried out when I saw the Catholic Church, which I have written about in several historical studies, violate its youngest members. And again, today, certain examples have grabbed at my senses.

I’m not even going to discuss evangelicals overwhelming support for Donald Trump, or their votes for Ray Moore. These have been well covered in the media, and appropriately so. Even more than these disturbing cases, two recent examples uprooted me.

Sutherland Springs, in Texas, is the site of only the most recent mass murder. But it took place in a church. As Richard Parker wrote in the New York Times, “Here in rural Texas, the hay, baled and rolled, waits for winter. The corn is shorn and the stiff yucca stands guard in the dusk. I know this country; it is a short drive from my home…As in many small Texas towns, the center of Sutherland Springs is the church. And if anything stands out about the worst mass murder in the history of Texas, which took place here last Sunday, killing 26 and wounding at least 20, it is this: a simple, white wooden sanctuary with the peaked roof, next to an unkempt field by a lonesome two-lane road.”

Parker then makes a devastating point: “Now they are going to tear it down, bulldozing it from the South Texas plain, as if doing so could remove the sacrilege of killing defenseless people during a Sunday sermon. This is what America’s response to mass homicide has come to. We don’t remove the killing machines that have put tens of thousands of Americans in their graves or hospital beds in this century, but we do demolish the First Baptist Church that has stood at this lonely crossroad for nearly a century. It is this doomed site, rooted in the black soil, that cries out for people of faith to act.”

And yet, no such cries come forth, no action prescribed or taken. In one of the most religious districts in the country, we would rather demolish Christian churches than change the laws that allowed a holy place to become an abattoir.

Is this what religion has to offer us?

On to Ray Moore. Again, his case has been widely discussed already.

One remark that has relatively faded from attention, however, is the one by Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler. Along with many troubling, and inaccurate, statements, he justified Moore’s transgressions with the following: “Take the Bible….take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

A personal note before I comment. I grew up in the fifties, an era when television, the ultimate mass media of the home, was just coming into its own, and a source of power and fascination. Yet, in the midst of the Cold War, this was a rigid, conformist force, portraying a narrow vision of what America was. Foremost among these limiting depictions was that of religion. Christianity was presented to the audience, the message frequent and usually exclusive in terms of the spirituality presented. And in the holiday season, among the greatest and most repeated events was the story of the Christ child, of Mary and Joseph, of the manger and the wise men. Irregardless of one’s religion, it is part of that era, of my childhood.

And now, there is scant outcry over Zeigler’s remarks.

Is this what we’ve come to, using one of the foundations of Christianity to excuse pedophilia?

How do we assess this turn of religion? I quote here from Mr. Moore’s bible, the New Testament (Matthew 24: 4-5). “Jesus answered: ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, “I am Christ,” and will deceive many.’”

It is long past time for Christians in America to reclaim Christianity.