Sunday, March 13, 2005

I Don't Understand Religion

This isn't to say I don't understand faith in a higher power. I can understand and respect most anyone who holds such powerful faith in their lives. But religion can so often be violent and contentious and odd.

In the next few days we'll find out more about the tragic Brookfield, WI shootings, evidently by one of the members of the Living Church of God congregation meeting there in a hotel conference space. I think it is safe to say this was an argument over doctrine, given that it appears the Pastor of the Chruch was targeted.

Now my first instinct in this sort of thing is to examine the church. Perhaps the question in my mind is something like: how in the world could DOCTRINE stir someone so badly as to open fire on the sabbath? And I usually go look to see what kind of wingnuttery the folks are spooning out to their flock. Religion is, after all, held very close and personal to Evangelicals and others who are so insistent that the bible is the literal word of God. Check out the Living Church of God's Mission Statement:

Preach, to all the nations of the world, the Gospel of the Kingdom and the true name of Jesus Christ.

Preach the end-time prophecies and the Ezekiel warning, particularly to the "Israelitish" peoples.

Feed the flock whom God calls, that all may be built to the stature of Jesus Christ.

Be examples to the world, and to the Church at large, of Christ’s way of life.

Learn and practice servant leadership in all our dealings with others.

Build an atmosphere of radiant faith within God’s Church.

Restore Apostolic Christianity, and all that this implies.

I don't know about you folks, but I get chills up and down my spine when I hear someone speak of the "end times." Such a focus on the most dire and mystical parts of the Bible at the diminishment of other parts indicates to me an imbalance. And I must say that I have always suspected a perverted and manipulative imbalance that wishes to suck in regular folks to let them join the chosen who "understand" all about the end times.

By the way, is "Israelitish" even a word?

What we have today is a congregation of good people shattered. They were taught a theology that had shattered another Church, the Living Church of God's predecessor, the World Church of God. They were taught a theology that implicity, if not explicitly, names some as chosen for saving and some as not worthy come the "end times." And that brings me to a further question -- How is "chosen to be saved" so very different from a concept of the "master race?" Certainly it is a spiritual elitism, if it does not nourish itself on racism and fascism. I know it is uncomfortable to voice this in a time when we should focus on the undoubtably good people who have died, but I don't understand this religion where it sees itself as so jealously the ONLY way to salvation. I understand it so little that it is difficult for me to work up sympathy.

Evidently I am a bit self-reflective today. Perhaps I am not "Israelitish" enough to accept these people at face value.