I got very angry on Sunday night and stayed that way for two days. And I'm still angry, but not with the intensity of those two days.
It began with an email. I will not share the content of the email, because what is more important to me is my reaction to it.
I got angry. I confess that it was an out-of-proportion anger. I didn't yell, scream, rant, or rave, and I didn't send back an angry email to the person (although I did respond to it with a short note. I didn't address my reaction because it would not have been appropriate to share my out-of-proportion reaction to the sender.)
But I got angry.
Some of the things I got angry about, I'm sure, were self-pitying and self-righteous. But one of the things I got angry about was the way I and others have been treated by abusive religion.
There are people who use the Bible, and use religion, as a method of controlling and abusing people. They beat people over the head with Scripture and then use "I say/do this because I love you," as a reason/excuse to do so.
They take Scripture out of context, or twist those Scriptures, and use them as a basis for their "doctrine". And you know what's scary about that? They honestly believe that they are telling and teaching the truth! Hitler honestly and sincerely believed that Aryans were the "master race" and that Jews, Slavs, and others were inferior. More recently, in the Rwandan genocide, Hutus referred to Tsutis as "cockroaches". (The movie Hotel Rwanda opens with a radio broadcast referring to "cockroaches".) In the US, many whites believed that blacks were intellectually and socially inferior to whites. (Some still do, sadly.)
I am doing a Bible study with my Tuesday ladies' group. Yesterday I found myself making notes like, "How do I know the author is telling the truth?"
I've been there. I've been part of two groups that used Scripture for their own purposes. I've had the pressure put on me to "invite everything that moves" to church, and the scripture in John 15 used as a motivation: "he who remains in me will bear much fruit . . . he cuts off every branch that bears no fruit" (my paraphrase). "Fruit" is defined as "souls", and here's the reason it's defined as "souls": because fruit reproduces fruit, and Christians are to reproduce other Christians. Therefore, if you are not reproducing other Christians, you are not "bearing fruit" and you will be cut off.
I have also had Hebrews 10:24-25--"let us not give up meeting together" used on me as a reason to be at all church events, including showers and weddings. No excuse was acceptable. I understand that being at showers and weddings is a way to encourage the people we are honoring, but I want the final decision to be mine as to whether or not I go, and not be "guilt-tripped" into going. I also understand that a pattern of not meeting with other Christians isn't a good thing, because you do end up cutting yourself off from much-needed support. But there is a difference between the gentle encouragement to be with other Christians and the guilt trip that's often been put on people to be there.
Jesus had some very harsh words for people who used religion to burden others. In Matthew 23:4, he talked about those who tied up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders but weren't willing to lift a finger to help them. I think there are ways we do that with people today. We hold out certain examples as the way to live the Christian life, and then we--either blatantly or subtly--criticize or guilt-trip people because they cannot or will not live that way. We talk about people who are "radical" in their faith, who sold everything they had to live in another country, or to go to someplace outside of their "comfort zone", with the implication that "if you don't do this, you're not a 'radical' Christian. Jesus was 'radical', so why aren't you?" We're all called to live out our faith, but not everyone can or should sell everything they have and move to a third world country, or even to the inner city.
And what about the formulas we use? I sometimes think that there are Christians who believe that you must pray according to a certain "formula" (i.e., you must end every.single.prayer with the words, 'in Jesus' name' or else it is not a valid prayer.) You must "claim" God's blessings and favors (the "name it and claim it" philosophy). If your prayer is not answered, obviously it is your fault because you didn't have "enough faith" (whatever "enough faith" is) or because you didn't pray it in the "correct" way. We do need to have faith when we pray, but I wonder if our faith is in "God will give me what I want" rather than "God will do what is best." (I am often guilty of praying for my comfort or convenience, rather than for the will of God to be done.)
And God forbid that you vote for a political candidate that isn't a Christian. I have read posts where the Christianity of those who voted for Barack Obama, or any Democrat, is called into question. I know Christians who did vote for Obama, and while I may hold differing political views, I can't call into question their love for God. On the other hand, I have serious problems with certain candidates who call themselves "Christians". Mike Huckabee comes to mind. I lost respect for him when he defended Josh Duggar after Duggar's confession that he molested his sisters.
On the subject of forgiveness: I think we manipulate people into a false forgiveness when we demand that the wronged party "instantly" forgive. I think "forgiveness" in some cases is defined as "you must say the words, 'I forgive you', and then you never think about it or talk about it, ever again; and you act like it never happened. If you think about it, if you talk about it, if you don't behave as if it never happened, you have not truly 'forgiven'." I do think we can make the choice to forgive, but 1) carrying out that choice is a long and sometimes difficult process, and 2) forgiving someone does not mean that the offender shouldn't or won't face the consequences of what they have done. Sometimes an offender needs to face legal consequences. Sometimes a person needs to distance themselves from another because the offender's behavior is unhealthy or dangerous. I don't believe that's "unforgiveness".
It's possible that I am writing this out of selfish anger and frustration, and that this entry speaks to the condition of my own relationship with God at the moment. But I do believe that there are times when we are called to righteous anger, and when religion or Christianity is misused in a way to manipulate or abuse, that is a cause to get angry. I am called to forgive those that hurt me and not hold their sin against them.
On the other hand, I do think that the fact of abuse in the name of Christianity is a cause for righteous anger.
Jesus got angry about it, too.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.