Today I got into a pretty heated exchange with a handful of my liberal/progressive friends on Facebook. I posted one of my favorite Bible scriptures- Ezekiel 16:49 which clearly states the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality, but arrogance, gluttony and lack of concern for the poor. One would think my liberal brothers and sisters would have been cheering this one. Instead, a handful took it as an opportunity to attack the Bible in particular, scripture in general, Christianity in particular and scripture in general. It was a full out assault by some of them.
As a former Christian, I can understand the criticisms of Christianity and the Bible because I’ve felt and voiced all of them myself. The Bible is far from perfect and has been used as a tool to promote misogyny, sexism, racism, slavery and genocide. Need I go on? Christianity has been the dominant religion in the West for close to 2,000 years and is responsible for many, many deaths and a lot of heartache. I get that. I get it when someone says that neither is for them, ever again. Fine. No problem.
What I have a problem with is when my liberal/progressive brothers and sisters became as judgmental as the most fundamentalist Christians. My friends were comparing Christianity to an abusive marriage. One went so far as to say that an addict that escapes drug addiction by finding faith in religion has simply traded one addiction for another- implying that both are equally harmful One said (I’m paraphrasing) that good behavior brought on by compulsion is not good behavior at all and he gives no credit for it. I wonder if he’d be surprised to find out the Bible and Christianity actually agree with him. But, he presumed or concluded that all good behavior done by Christians is done out of a fear of hell. He has completely neglected the fact that a true understanding of Christianity leads to good deeds done out of gratitude for what God has already done for us and the recognition that our fellow man is our brother, made in the image of our Father. When I discovered Christian Universalism many years ago and began hanging with people who had new found freedom offered by the understanding they were not compelled to believe anything or to go to church many of them started berating me for still going to church. They wanted to use their freedom to tell me what I could not or should not do
My friends yesterday argued that good people would be good people with or without religion. This is interesting, since I had earlier made the argument that racists and homophobes would be racists and homophobes with or without scripture. Neither of us can prove our point. But, I can say I have known many, deeply religious Christians who are exemplary human beings, including both of my parents. Religion has bound them in some areas. Some things from their former teachings they have had to overcome. But, it has also inspired them to go beyond what most human beings ever achieve in terms of compassion.
As a middle way kind of person, I see both sides of this argument. I would never (again) tell anyone he has to be a Christian or go to church. People certainly can be amazing human beings without a religion or a religious community. Religion has been too abused in some people’s eyes for them to ever go back to it. I don’t advocate for any particular religion, anymore. I think everyone has to find his own unique path. I do attend a church. I’m not a member. I do have a community of people I gather with on a regular basis both in that church and in other groups. They are people of like minds, beliefs and goals. We don’t have a formal religion. I practice Brianism. It’s my own blend. But, to deny the positive impact of Christianity and even the Bible on Western civilization I think is not only wrong, it’s ineffective. There are still many, many people who are in churches, who take the Bible seriously if not literally. And, you are never going to reach those people from a position of putting their faith and their scriptures down. Better to understand their scriptures and teach them what they really say. Better to understand their faith and teach them what Jesus really taught. And, it’s also more loving to do so.
Ezekiel 16:49- “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
This was written for the Jews over 2,000 years ago in a land and a time far removed from America in 2017. But, the words are just as true today as they were then. Substitute the name “America” for “Sodom” and it could have been written yesterday. This is the power of scripture. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not for me. Many parts of the Bible and Christianity still resonate deeply with me.