Friday, June 8, 2012

Healthy Religion

Two recent articles in the Gainesville Times showed the sharp contrast between healthy and unhealthy religion. Columnist Joan King discussed the tendency of religion to dominate and divide. More conservative columnist, Trevor Thomas, gave a good example of this in his defense of discriminating against gays and lesbians when it comes to marriage.
Healthy religion is what you get when you practice the main teachings of Jesus without filtering them through a particular worldview, and accepting that some words were probably added over the centuries that were not part of the original. You find similar teachings from Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed once you dig through all the unhealthy layers that naturally build up over time.
All healthy religion emphasizes compassion, non-judging and oneness. Unhealthy religion tends to judge, punish, divide and dominate. It’s usually to protect some particular interest its leaders are deeply vested in, or to avoid some cultural change that frightens them. Unfortunately, most institutional religion is somewhat unhealthy.
Regarding marriage, heterosexual marriage has worked well for me, not so much because of gender as because my wife and I have learned to love and forgive each other and become best friends over the past 36 years. Plain old good luck has also played a role. I see no need to bar others from a socially valuable institution simply because of gender.  Our 50% divorce rate doesn’t seem to be about gender.
Obviously,  gay marriage has it's challenges as does any marriage, but when in doubt about anything, I would rather err on the side of love, grace and non-judging than on the side of legalism and trying to make everyone else be just like me. I think God is bigger than that.
The Bible says everything was good in the beginning. As part of our evolution toward whatever it is God has pre-destined us for, he allows us to misuse things and hurt each other. We fear that which is different, and then we try to dominate it and make it like us. Saint Paul says even that will ultimately work for our good, even though it hurts. God obviously saw the genius of evolution long before Darwin did.
Meanwhile, my prayer is for evolution to speed up so we can finally out grow our childish need to dominate and control everything. Accept the imperfection in everything, including the Bible, and let God use all the imperfection, whether it‘s people, religion, science or culture, to evolve us toward that which heaven symbolizes and points to.
Also, let religion add the one component that explains why it evolved. That is, resist the tendency to let only the strong survive. Take care of the weak and unlucky. 
Just like in the beginning, it will all be good in the end. But in a more immediate and personal context, healthy religion can make the journey easier.  Trust the loving God that religion so imperfectly seeks. As a Christian, don’t force your ideas about Jesus on others.  Just follow him in your own day to day life.

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