Do We Have Enough Religion?

One Pulse

Jonathan Swift, 17th Century Satirist, Clergyman, Writer (Gulliver’s Travels), Political Activist said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

I wonder why that is.

But I don’t question it.

I see it.  All around.  In different religions.

The shooter, who claimed to be Muslim, on June 12.

The response to the shooting by those claiming to be Christian:

Pastor Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento told his congregation, “Christians shouldn’t be mourning the death of 50 sodomites…the tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.  The tragedy is – I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job…I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.” 

Jimenez posted his sermon, in which he made these remarks, on his church’s website under the title, “The Christian response to the Orlando murders.”

So that’s the Christian response? That’s how Jesus would respond?

Pastor Steven Anderson, who has previously said that gay people are “worthy of death,” weighed in with these words:

“The Bible says that homosexuals should be put death in Leviticus 20:13.  Obviously, it’s not right for someone to just shoot up the place because that’s not going through the proper channels.  But these people all should have been killed anyway but they should have been killed through the proper channels as in, they should have been executed by a righteous government that would have tried them, convicted them, and saw them them executed…That’s what the Bible says. Plain and simple…the bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle.”

Hateful speech has punctured the airwaves for years:

In 2012, Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina told his congregation, “Build a  great, big large fence – 150 or 100 mile long – put all the lesbians in there…Do the same things for queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why?  They can’t reproduce!”

Last year, Matt McLaughlin proposed a ballot measure in California mandating the execution of all homosexuals by “bullets to the head” or “any other convenient method.” He explained that it is “better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath.”

Connecting gays with God’s punishment is not new.

John Hagee, in a 2006 interview, described Hurricane Katrina as “God’s retribution for a planned gay pride parade.

In 1988, as Hurricane Bonnie set its course toward Orlando, Pat Robertson pre-emptively blamed gays at Disney World’s Gay Days Weekend for being the cause of the pending storm.  “Hold the judgment, Pat!” The storm changed course, completely missed Florida but hit the rest of the East coast.  One of the hardest hit areas was Hampton Roads, VA, where Robertson’s 700 Club is based.  Oops.

Following the 9-11 attack, Jerry Falwell said, “I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way all of them who have tried to secularize America.  I point the finger in their face and say, ‘you helped this happen.’”

In January, 2016, Franklin Graham said in a radio interview,

“We have allowed the Enemy to come into our churches.  I was talking to some Christians and they were talking about how they invited these gay children to come into their home and to come into the church and that they were wanting to influence them.  And I thought to myself, they’re not going to influence those kids; those kids are going to  influence those parent’s children.  

What happens is we think we can fight by smiling and being real nice and loving.  We have to understand who the Enemy is and what he wants to do. He wants to devour our homes.  He wants to devour this nation and we have to be so careful who we let out kids hang out with.  We have to be careful who we let into the churches.  You have immoral people who get into the churches and it begins to effect the others in the church and it is dangerous.”

LGBT kids, the enemy?  Did he really say that?

40% of homeless children in the United States are LGBTQ.

68% of them report their homelessness is due to family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, often by religious parents.

Is there a connection between those statistics and the sentiment expressed in Franklin’s words?  How could there not be?

Is there any wonder why our LGBTQ friends hesitate or refuse to enter the doors of most churches?

How much religion do we have? Enough to love?

Are we following the ethical progression in the Bible?  God calls us to a higher and higher ethic.  I see this in Jesus’ repeated phrase: “You have heard it said…but I say to you…”

The Bible, in both Testaments, condone slavery.  Yet, we abhor and condemn slavery today.  Why? Ethical progression.  Jesus is constantly calling us to a higher ethic of love.  The Spirit of Jesus has transformed how we interpret and apply the Biblical passages on slavery.

It’s easy to look at the Orlando shooting and make judgments about the shooter’s religion.

Are we willing to look at our own?

 

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From Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali

Ali punch

I was confused.  I was 10 years old.

Why did Cassius Clay change his name to Muhammad Ali?

Why wasn’t he a Christian anymore?
And what is this Muslim religion he now followed?

Why would anyone walk away from Christianity?
Why were so many people mad at him?

There was a lot more to Muhammad Ali than a “jab.”  The May 5, 1969 issue of Sports Illustrated reported that Ali’s jab could smash a balsa board 16.5 inches away in 19/100 of a second.  It actually covered the distance in 4/100 of a second.

In the blink of an eye.

Ali was the fastest heavyweight ever.  Those lightening fast hands and a pair of legs that moved around the ring like Fred Astaire made him a three-time heavyweight champion of the world.  He made a total of 19 successful title defenses.

Your hands can’t hit

What your eyes can’t see

Float like a butterfly

Sting like a bee

Ali was a force in the ring and a force outside of it. It was outside of the ring that Ali stirred up so much controversy.

His anti-Vietnam war stance: 

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

“I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong…No Vietcong ever called me N – -r….they never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me…”
The Olympic gold medal Ali may or may not have thrown into the Ohio River: 

Ali was refused service in a Louisville restaurant after he won an Olympic gold medallion Rome. One story says that Ali got so mad he threw his medal into the Ohio River.  Later, Ali said he just lost it.  Ali recounted the story here:

“I done whipped the world for America.  I took my gold medal and said, ‘I know I’m going to get my people free now.  I’m the champion of the whole world. I know I can eat downtown now.’  And I went downtown that day, with my medal on, and went in arestaurant.  Things weren’t integrated then and black folks couldn’t eat in the restaurants downtown, and I sat down, and order a cup of coffee and a hamburger and the lady said, ‘We don’t serve Negroes.’  I was so mad, I said, ‘I don’t eat ‘em either. Just give me a cup of coffee and a hamburger.’  I told her, ‘I won the gold medal. I fought for this country and won.  I’m going to eat.’  She talked to the manager and I had to leave that restaurant in my hometown, where I went to their church and served in their Christianity, and daddy fought in all the wars, and could’t eat in their restaurants.  And I said, ‘Something’s wrong.’  And from then on, I’ve been a Muslim.’” 

There it is:  “And from then on, I’ve been a Muslim.”

Before he was a Muslim, Ali was a Christian, of the Baptist variety.  But he dropped Christianity and picked up Islam.

Being the son of a Baptist pastor and living in a world that revolved around Christianity and the church, this really bothered me.

  • “Why would he do that?”
  • “What’s wrong with him?”
  • “What’s wrong with Christianity that Ali would want to leave it?”
  • Ali, when he was Clay, was a Baptist.  I was a Baptist (at the time).
  • “What’s wrong with being a Baptist?”
  • “Why would he not want to be one anymore?”
  • “Why would a young man, raised in the Baptist tradition of the Christian faith, drop it and pick up something else?”

Rather than looking down at Ali, as was done, maybe we should be looking hard at ourselves.

Look hard at the racism in the southern Christian churches. The prevailing orthodoxy was that non-whites were inferior spiritually, morally, and mentally. Racism remained longest where Christian belief was the strongest.  It was not bishops or preachers but freethinkers, secularists, and atheists intellectuals who spread the idea that all should be treated equally.

Ali said, “I chose to follow the Islamic path because I never saw so much love, so much people hugging each other…As a Christian in America I couldn’t go to the white churches.”

At the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, you will see this drawing by Ali, contrasting his experience of the difference between Islam and Christianity.  It speaks for itself:Ali-on-Christianity-1024x768

In the book, The Christ and the Indian Road, by E. Stanley Jones, the author tells about asking Gandhi how to naturalize Christianity into India.  Gandhi answered, “I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”

I wonder if the story of Cassius Clay would have been different had Christians lived more like Jesus Christ. I wonder if I’m pushing anyone away from Christianity because I’m not living like Jesus.

I’ve heard it called the United States of Amnesia.  We must not forget how our past, present and future are woven together.

  • Let’s remember Muhammad Ali.
  • Let’s remember the culture in which he lived.
  • Let’s repent of any attitudes and actions that don’t reflect Jesus.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was founded in 1845 after Baptists in the North and the South clashed on the issue of slavery.  The SBC has been known for backing slavery then and in more recent history, racism.  In 1995 the SBC apologized for supporting racial injustice, for “condoning and or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime, and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

  • Let’s use our memories of the past to motivate us to create a better present and future.