“A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32).
It’s from the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the hated guy was the one who actually rendered aide to the injured man.
Presumably, the two religious guys passed by the man because they were much too holy to defile themselves by touching someone who might be dead—they’d have been ceremonially unclean and then who would take care of the temple duties for the week?
I didn’t see it coming but I nearly lost control of my emotions this morning during the sermon. I started out with my typical wit and charm :). But then I asked the question, “Can our religion lead us to hurt people?
I answered that even now wars are being fueled by religion, but that’s a little too big for me to wrap my head around. So I said I could pick one of several groups of people that are the target of religious hostility but if I brought them up specifically, the tension would rise in this room, and if I got specific enough, someone could easily get mad and skulk out of the room.
So I picked an issue from a previous generation: divorce. It’s a painful thing with tears and heartache. In the 1970s the divorce rate began to climb and churches responded by excommunicating anyone who got a divorce. Neither would they let divorced people join. They were all permanently barred. Religious people felt free to gossip about and judge them from a position of righteous superiority. It was all quite shameful.
But by the 1980s, most mainline churches realized they needed to change their perspective. However, the diehards continued to rail against the “evil divorcees.” In a church I attended, the leadership decided they were being too lenient, so they brought in a guest speaker to address the subject and set everyone straight. The guy was sort of a holy hit man.
He used the handful of passages in the Bible that address divorce to beat that congregation just as harshly as if he were hitting them with a club. By the time he was done, some people were sobbing as they fled the building.
“If you turn on the TVs on Sunday mornings,” I said to the people, “or look at sermons on the internet, you can see preachers speak hatefully about persons, ridiculing them, stating they are evil and they deserve to go to hell and so would anyone who is nice to them.”
This is where my emotions got away from me and I actually shouted (which I never do).
“And they will say these things in the name of the rabbi who told this story. I’m standing here as the person assigned to be your pastor, and I’m telling you that IT IS WRONG!”
And I was done. I stepped to the back so I could quit crying before we went to the next thing in the service.
I have said before that when I leave the ministry and the church, I don’t want to be enemies. I’d just like to get away from them. But there is a pathology in churches, where religion fuels hatred and encourages respectable people to be mean and cruel, and then somehow feel justified for doing so.
I know a lot of people who have left church and are quite angry about the brainwashing they received, and I often watch them swing wildly with their criticism and rage to retaliate. Believe me I understand.
I don’t want to fight organized religion. I don’t want to expose a lot of scandals. I don’t want to be engaged in heated debates with people who are too crazy to know when they’ve lost. However, I would like to be a healing agent for those who have been wounded. And if a cadre of crazy religious bullies decided I was their enemy and want to pick a fight… well, okay. If that’s what they want….