My pastor recently put something on Facebook about an upcoming sermon he's preaching on when religion hurts. Now, this is all I have heard or know about the sermon - as he hasn't preached it yet - so I have no idea which direction he's taking this topic. But it got me to thinking this week how religion can be hurtful. For the past couple of days this has been on my mind, and while I still cannot come up with a neat bulleted list, I have come up with a lot of ways that religion hurts - but they are all incredibly specific ways. When there is fighting between Christians about doctrine or belief, or when there is fighting between different faith traditions about who is "right" and who is "wrong" and who said what and what really happened. Regardless of whether or not you would agree with anything I have to say, and vice versa, the whole point is that there is freedom in religion. I know that not all places in the world have "religious freedom" as we would call it in America, but I'm talking about something much more transcendent than basic human rights. There is freedom in religion. In religion, there seems to be a deeper sense of self and a moral compass that guides one throughout life. Again, whether or not we want to agree with people or throw them under the bus, the freedom that comes from religion is a beautiful thing - because it's universal. At least, in the way that I view religion.
And this is the problem. Freedom in religion. It's the beauty and the curse. Because, as a human being, I have an enormous about of pride. Whether I realize it or not, I value myself more than I value others - I truly think that at the core of my being, I value myself over everyone else. Of course I tear up when I see the starving children on the commercial.
The commercial that I just forgot to fast forward through using the DVR - which has 15 tv shows that I just haven't had time to watch yet because I've been shopping at Hobby Lobby, or meeting friends for drinks at Starbucks, or working at a job that pays well and puts food of the table every night, but of course, I always buy too much food at the air conditioned, over-stocked, too much food for anyone grocery store, and it goes bad before I eat it all, and then I have to throw it away - because, "oh well, next time I just won't buy $100 worth of groceries, I'll just buy $75 worth."
While thinking about the idea of "religion hurts," I keep coming back to pride. Is it pride that drives the conflict? Is it pride that cause the schisms? Is it pride that segregates different faith traditions? Is it pride that says, "I'm right, so that must mean you're wrong"? Is pride the root of it all? Because I know that I get myself into a world of hurt sometimes...
In various instances throughout my young adult life, I have come in to contact with a wide array of people who believe various things - contrary as well as similar to myself. I find myself lucky to have been shaped and molded by these circumstances and situations. However, religion does hurt sometimes. The most sincere person can be offensive. I've often thought that intentions are incredibly important. That, as long as you didn't intend to be hurtful that it's okay. And I've mulled this idea over for quite sometime, but I find a dichotomy. I think that intentions are incredibly important and sincerity is something that you should strive for. The outcome of the actions, however, are a different monster all together.
It's like when Hubby and I have an argument, I don't intend to be hurtful when I say certain things, but it comes off as being hurtful. There is no "right" or "wrong" in this scenario - there is one person who did not intend to be hurtful, and one person who is hurt - and that's a problem. How to fix it? I don't know, I've only been married for 4 1/2 years - maybe don't say hurtful things? I don't know.
But with religion, I feel like the hurt is a deep hurt. Because religion reaches down deep into your soul while also soaring into the highest realms of your world, when religion hurts - it rocks your psyche. It shakes your core and tears pieces away from your being. They say, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Well, what doesn't kill you, doesn't kill you. I guess you become stronger because the other choice is to "be killed," but I would rather not have that mentality about life. I don't want to be a hurtful person. I don't want to judge other people's actions based on what I think they should have done, or what I think is the best thing for them.
I do not want to fool myself into thinking that I know everything about everyone and that I need to be their spiritual mentor without ever really getting to know them. I do not want to over-spiritualize myself so that I become a holier-than-thou voice of God for those (obviously) less fortunate. I believe in a sovereign God - a God that transcends humanity and everything that I could ever hope to comprehend. My God is BIG and I cannot contain God within the confines of my feeble existence. I want the freedom that comes with religion to be experienced by all, and I don't want to get in the way of others experiencing the freedom for themselves. I do not want my pride to hurt others. I do not want my pride to get in the way of potential relationships with people that might think things different from me. I do not want my pride to get in the way of God doing whatever it is that God does. I do not want my pride.
Religion hurts because pride. Religion hurts because pride hurts. Religion does not need to hurt, but pride hurts religion.
Thanks, Brother Pastor. I'm glad I saw your Facebook status. :)