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Monday, September 14, 2015

Doing Evil in the Name of Faith

"In faith, a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. In faith, a minister prays for the president to die. In faith, terrorists plant bombs at the finish line of a marathon. In faith, mosques are vandalized, shot at and burned. In faith, a televangelist asks his followers to buy him a $65 million private jet.

And no one is even surprised anymore.

In America, what we call faith is often loud, often exclusionary, sometimes violent and too frequently enamored of shiny, expensive things. In faith, ill-tempered people mob the shopping malls every year at Christmas to have fistfights and gunfights over hot toys and highend electronics."

These words, written by syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts in a column titled 'Jimmy Carter's Faith,' eloquently express what I, and I suspect, many others, feel about the current state of 'religion' in our country. The faith of these so-called religious people -- be they Christian, Muslim or some other religion -- has been usurped by those with personal agendas. I can state with certainty that the current version of Christianity so much in the news lately is decidedly not the faith in which I was raised. And it is not the faith of so many people around the world. Too many people today seem to pick and choose the teachings of their religion that they try to force on other people, cherry-picking certain passages from the Bible or Koran as evidence of the 'rightness' of their beliefs and actions.

I have always felt that religion is best kept between a person and his/her God. I do not make a show of my faith through overt actions or the way I dress. I don't need to drop to my knees in prayer or point to the sky when something good happens to me. I would guess that none of my friends have any idea what my faith is. Yes, I know that Christ called on His followers to spread the good news of the gospel, and I have no quarrel with those who feel called to do just that. But I don't want somebody knocking on my door to try and convince me to join their church. I do not want others' religious beliefs to be forced down my throat.

I want the freedom to live my life, and make decisions, according to my beliefs. I should not be expected to live my life according to others' dictates. When I lived in Maryland in the early 1970s, I was unable to shop for dog food or typing paper or many other things on Sunday because of that state's 'blue laws.' In New Mexico, people cannot purchase alcoholic drinks before noon on Sunday, because someone believes people should be in church and not drinking alcohol on Sunday mornings. Shouldn't those decisions be left to the individual and not the state? I believe that government needs to be free of all religious influences.

This is not to say that I don't try to follow Christian principles in how I live my life. I donate food, clothing and money to help the less fortunate. I volunteered weekly for two years at a local food pantry. I try to be a good person. But I don't shout my religion from the rooftops, and I don't picket or protest places with whose practices I disagree. I don't feel a need to dress in a particular matter to broadcast to the world what religion I follow. I used to work with a Jewish woman who is not especially religious, and she didn't go to temple. But I noticed after a while that in every conversation she had with other people she always managed to work in the fact that she was Jewish.

Faith should not be loud. It should not be violent. And it should certainly not be exclusionary. Should we not embrace and welcome other people of faith despite our differences? Who is to say that my beliefs are better or more righteous than someone else's? And who am I to try to force my beliefs on others?

I frequently shake my head when I read about anti-abortion advocates who believe it is fine to kill abortion providers. So much for their 'pro-life' beliefs. Or the 'black lives matter' advocates who call for the murder of police officers and white people. Granted, those making such threats are a small minority, but do they feel the way to get justice for the oppressed is to murder innocent people who have caused them no harm?

Kim Davis and others of her ilk need to practice their religion in private. If her conscience or warped interpretation of the Bible conflicts with the laws of the land, and if they preclude her from doing the job she was elected to do, she needs to find a job better suited to her religious prejudices. Imagine the uproar that would ensue if a Jewish official refused to approve a permit for a restaurant because it served pork, or if a Muslim person refused to issue a liquor license to a business that met the requirements for such a license.

These so-called Christians need to re-read the Bible, particularly the passages about not judging others and about loving their neighbors. And then, they should just go away. The world is fed up with their evil acts in the name of faith.