Monday, February 10, 2014

If You Take Away Religion . . .

Pete sent this along recently.  It's a great statement on integral role of religion in democracy.  

It somehow reminded me of another airplane conversation I had as I sat next to a cop from Belfast on a flight to London a year or so ago.  His newspaper had an article about several police officers from Belfast that had been injured in sectarian violence the day before. He also worked on the riot squad and regularly puts his life on the line trying to keep the peace between warring factions of god-fearing Protestants and Catholics.

Needless to say he was very down on religion. Although he was brought up in a religious home and attended church regularly as a child, he had lost any appetite for organized religion. He assured me that he was a good person, but now lived without the restraints of religion. He considered all religion bad.

When it was my turn to chime in, I commented about the integral role that my faith and my religion play in my life. To my own astonishment, I challenged him on his contention that religion was all bad by simply pointing out that his religious upbringing was inseparably connected to who he was now. He had just finished telling me that his formative years were dominated by the principles taught by organized religion . . . how his parents were wonderful people and how he had a fantastic upbringing. I pointed out that his argument that religion was all bad was fatally flawed. Whether he now chose to believe the tenets of his faith or considered himself a part of his childhood religious tradition, was not the point. His historical religious tradition and upbringing had defined him and helped make him the man he was. It certainly was not the only thing that defined him, but it's role could not be ignored. 

I have friends who, becoming disenchanted with the church for their various reasons, lose their ability to objectively see it for what it is.  There are certain things that are problematic in the church; yet there is so much more that is very, very good.  Why does the latter become so hard for them to recognize?

To his credit, my friend from Belfast conceded my point.  I conceded to his that intolerance in the name of religion is a very dark stain on those who purport to be men of faith. It is something that every church-goer needs to work on.

I wrote down these quotes from Brennan Manning a long time ago. They seem to sum up the feelings of my friend from Belfast rather well: 
"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
 “The litmus test of our love for God is our love of neighbor.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sheep Among the Wolves

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
Uno, Duo, Tre

Originally Published February 4, 2014 at Modern Mormon Men
I'm joining MMM as a full-time contributor so add it to your reading list.

Having called his Twelve Apostles, the Lord endowed them with great power and sent them to rescue the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He said 'I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves' and then enjoined them to be 'wise as serpents, and harmless as doves' (Matthew 10:16).

And, if the wolf thing wasn't scary enough, the Lord went on to say:
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
I'm still trying to understand why the Lord's messengers were sent out among the wolves with instructions to be as harmless as doves. My gut tells me that it would be prudent to carry a stick of some sort. But the instruction says nothing about sticks--only to be wise and harmless. I can only imagine how scary that would have been for the Apostles. It's enough to make you get on the next boat to Tarshish.