Today, I read a number of headlines that reminded me that “Religion Gone Wild” is alive and well. One Facebook friend made the comment, “For all my Christian friends. FIX YOUR HOUSE NOW. Your faith is becoming disgusting.” – in response to a story about Terry Jones at the Dove Outreach Center in Gainseville, Fla hanging Barack Obama in effigy (seriously?) as a response to his recent comments in support of same-sex marriages. Yes, this is the same Pastor who was buring Qu’rans not too long ago.
The hate being spewed repeatedly and constantly by this “Pastor” literally leaves me speechless. The comment made in response by my FB friend also took me aback. Anyone who knows anything about My 52 Weeks of Worship knows that I have respect for all religious and worship traditions – and respect for those who respectfully decide not to worship in any way at all.
But those who choose to spew hate in the name of any worship tradition – well, that is a distraction from the constructive and positive contribution that religious and spiritual communities make all over the world every day.
These headlines reminded me of a piece I wrote for The Root in February of 2012 when Bishop Eddie Long was hailed as a “King” as part of a service. Then I talked about how he was a major distraction, and the headline from Florida, in my opinion, falls into the same category.
An excerpt from the article I wrote for theroot.com just seems relevant to share:
There will never be a time when negative images of religion don’t exist. But those negative images sit side by side with an equal number of instances of those people, inspired by their faith, who do great things. There are countless stories of those who aim to love others and build up, rather than spew hate and tear down. Many reflect a divine energy that defends and comforts those in need, rather than deceives and confuses those very same people.
Above all, I learned this truth on my 52-week journey: Don’t let the sensationalistic images present in today’s world of religion prevent you from finding an authentic connection to God and a community that helps to strengthen your spiritual foundation. If you search with an open heart and good intentions, you may find that community, and it will likely be filled with others like you who are searching for truth, just as you are.
When I see stories like the ones that dominated my news feed today, I am reminded of a quote by Krista Tippett, host of the show On Being. Tippett believes that “what most Americans want, whether they are religious or not, is for the religious voice in our public life to be more constructive—to reflect the capacity religion has to nourish lives and communities.”
It makes me sad to think that stories of “Religion Gone Wild” could stand in the way of anyone’s authentic journey to find out what they believe about religion, and spirituality – about what the source of their strength is, and how they choose to worship (or not worship, as the case may be) as they walk through a life that is sometimes joyful, and sometimes challenging.
I truly believe the journey is worth it – even if there are others who are trying to conspire, with their hate, to suggest otherwise.
For every time you meet someone who does a disservice to their worship tradition, there are a handful of others who help you to see the great things about that tradition. Don’t judge a religion based on the jerk or jerks you may meet.
I think that pretty much sums it up.