Saturday, December 26, 2015

Religion That's Lost Its Way: An Impassioned Plea - Lazar Puhalo

This year, now drawing to an end, must surely remind of us of the horrors mankind can visit upon humanity. The disasters we create are worse than the natural disasters that we often fear more. As we carry the tragedies of this year forward into the new year with unresolved wars, incalculable suffering both of refugees and of those unable to flee from the strife and brutality of war zones, it might be well to consider how much of the horror arises from sectarianism and other forms of tribalism. 

While some would like to deny the degree to which the suffering, genocides and savage slaughters are so often religion-based, this reality is ultimately undeniable. Religion which has lost its way and its bases degrades into a system of primitive tribalism and political ideologies. It is tragic that, with all the sectarian and religious-based horror in our world, so many concern themselves with questions of much less significance and with a form of unrealistic, narrow-minded and often brutal moralisms, the meaning of which vanish in the face of the greater tragedies of mankind. Yet, our tribalism leads us to focus on the less significant, the desire to force others to believe and act as our branch of our religion thinks proper, while offering no deeper consideration to the actual, profound tragedies that religious fundamentalism daily creates around the world. 

This year, Pope Francis has called upon all to turn toward what should have always been our main focus as Christians: toward compassion and mercy. These things are the underpinning of all that Christ Jesus taught and did, and still, so many Fundamentalist Christians find sophistic means of preaching hate and calling it love. The demand that civil, secular democratic governments should follow religious doctrines in making legislation, or that law courts be subverted to religious doctrine rather than to human rights and freedoms, all create local forms of violence toward those whom our religion would make outcasts. 

This forms microcosms of the violence we see inflicted by Fundamentalism on a greater scale; whether it is Hindu nationalists in India slaughtering their Muslim neighbours for eating beef, Buddhist fundamentalists in Burma persecuting and massacring their Muslim neighbours, Islamic fundamentalists leading the war in Syria/Iraq, or Christian Fundamentalists seeking to extinguish the rights and freedoms of their fellow citizens through violence or legislation, it all follows the same spirit. 

The spirit of "me-ism" or "we-ism," of arrogance and self-righteousness, of religio-political ideologies, many of which consider truth and reality to be nefarious conspiracies, are all part of and elemental to the general intolerance and religious violence that manifests itself in smaller ways on local scales, or on a greater scale in the unmentionable horrors of ISIS. 

Can we not hope that religions of every form might be delivered out of the dark abyss of Fundamentalism and Right-wingism, and find some common ground in the education and acceptance of even those elements of humanity which differ from us? Can we not strive to gain greater understanding rather than resorting to fear and hatred of those with whom we do not agree and do not understand? Can we not make place in our hearts to gain greater understanding and knowledge rather than accepting demagogic rants and hiding behind shields of ignorance, prejudice and malice? Can we not at least attempt to find a place for Christ and His teaching and example in Christianity, and lift it out of the realm of absolutisms, ideologies and hate misdiagnosed as "love"? Can we not deliver it from the bondage of "CreationISM" Fundamentalism, denominational and jurisdictional tribalism, and make a focussed effort to manifest the transforming power of co-suffering love and mercy

Let us hope that in the new year we might find the presence of mind to seek such a path, 

In Christ, Vladika Lazar