By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 2, 2018.
I need to address a sentiment expressed by some voters in Alabama two weeks ago (and uttered in similar circumstances in Canada occasionally), referring to the religious qualities of men like Roy Moore and Donald Trump. “I’m going to vote for (Roy or Donald or Jason) because “…he is a fine Christian man…”
So what are the qualities that make a person ‘a fine Christian’? In order to encourage a discussion on this theme I offer a short “thought piece” that I wrote a few years ago, somewhat revised and updated.
The Warmth of Religion.
I like my religion warm. Its warm glow should cast a gentle light on those around me so that I can see their pains and puzzles, doubts and fears, and reach out ever so gently to lend a warm and helping hand.
I like my religion warm so that my own doubts can be fearlessly displayed and shared, so that my frailties as a human can be soothed, bathed in forgiveness and accepted.
I like my religion warm so that the harsh realities of everyday life, the sharp edges of disappointment, of failure and self-deceit can be wrapped, bandaged, and shown a healing hand.
But I don’t like my religion too hot, so that believers have to spit it out and into other people’s faces, searing them with the scalding brew of judgment and condemnation.
I don’t like my religion too hot, so that compassion and empathy wither and wilt and turn into the dust of self righteousness.
I don’t like my religion too hot so that, like a heated knife, it divides people from each other, cuts lives, separates friends and families, and creates enmity, anger and alienation.
I don’t like my religion too hot so that, like an angry fire, it is not quenched until all minds are melted into one mind, the right mind, my mind, so that all truths are consumed and only my truth remains.
On the other hand, I don’t like my religion too cold, so that the freezing fingers of conviction cast icicles of hate into the world, so that people who happen to love differently are impaled by the crystallized venom of ignorance and an unwillingness to understand.
I don’t like my religion too cold, so that suffering people with no hope of a cure are denied their last and only requests, and so that families, fleeing bullets and bombs, feel the icy stab of suspicion and the cold-hearted hatred of the outsider.
I don’t like religion too cold. It turns hearts to stones which crush the weak, the lonely, the desperate, the needy and confused under an avalanche of petty judgments.
I don’t like my religion too cold, where adherents, properly coiffed and expensively dressed, sit in their air-conditioned pews, coldly thinking about their next business deal while singing loudly and lustily about The Old Rugged Cross. Driven by the cold pursuit of more stuff and fluffier vacations, their hearts are frozen to the point where the message of ‘Amazing Grace’ is utterly buried beneath their false piety.
Oh Calvin, theologian of predestination, what insanity have you wrought, where proof of one’s acceptability to God is one’s ability to accumulate cold cash here on earth? What could be colder than a rich man being annoyed at the crying of a hungry child or a homeless and desperate refugee.
By their fruits will you know them. Many of the positions of the so-called religious social conservatives smell of divisiveness, vindictiveness, self-righteousness, and thoughtless, mindless discipleship. This smells nothing like the message of “love your neighbour as yourself.”
So what does it mean when people continue to refer to leaders with obviously ‘unchristian’ records and qualities as ‘fine Christians’? How could unprincipled and immoral men like Roy Moore and Donald Trump embody the goals of Christians? How does vindictiveness aimed at your enemies and exclusionary policies that benefit your friends and harm ordinary citizens possibly bring healing to a troubled society? These same questions also need to be raised in our own province as an election approaches.
As St. Paul said, we see through a glass darkly. We cannot know the truth. Why, then, are so many Christians so ready to condemn, to deny, to impose their truth, to sow seeds of anger and dissension when they are called to love?
I like my religion warm.
Peter Mueller is a long-time resident of Medicine Hat who, in spite of all the evidence, continues to believe we can build a better world.
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