Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Religion Has Become An Ugly thing

Leonard Pitts over at the Miami Herald has written what he calls a "wake up call for organized religion." After discussing the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity College of Hartford, Conn which is the poll of over 54,000 American adults that supposedly found a sharp erosion in the number of people claiming religious affiliation, he then submits a litany of failures of organized religion prefacing the whole thing with "religion has become an ugly thing."

To his credit, he does put the numbers in perspective:

"..It is important to reiterate that we are talking about overall percentages. In raw numbers, there are actually about 22 million more Christians now than in 1990. Still, the trend is clear, particularly as illustrated in one telling statistic: In 1990, 8.2 percent (about 14 million) of us said ''none'' when asked to specify their religion. Last year, 15 percent (34 million) did."
22 million more Christians and whether the fact that 7% more of those polled said "none" when asked to specify their religion actually translates to less Christians (or simply less that identify with a particular denomination) not withstanding, Pitts seems to want to focus on all that is wrong with organized religion and thus blame religion's ugliness as to why folks are staying away.
ugliness...by which I mean a seemingly endless cycle of scandal, controversy, hypocrisy, violence and TV preachers saying idiot things ...
...And people of faith should ask themselves: What is the cumulative effect upon outside observers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker living like lords on the largess of the poor, multiplied by Jimmy Swaggart's pornography addiction, plus Eric Rudolph bombing Olympians and gays in the name of God, plus Muslims hijacking airplanes in the name of God, multiplied by the church that kicked out some members because they voted Democrat, divided by people caterwauling on courthouse steps as a rock bearing the Ten Commandments was removed, multiplied by the square root of Catholic priests preying on little boys while the church looked on and did nothing, multiplied by Muslims rioting over cartoons, plus the ongoing demonization of gay men and lesbians, divided by all those ''traditional values'' coalitions and ''family values'' councils that try to bully public schools into becoming worship houses, with morning prayers and science lessons from the book of Genesis? Then subtract selflessness, service, sacrifice, holiness and hope.
Do the math, and I bet you'll draw the same conclusion the researchers did...

Ah yes, do the math indeed.. Can one honestly equate the bombings of Eric Rudolph with the widespread institutionalized terror that is codified in Islamic teaching and carried out by thousands?

And while it is true that the church (Catholic and otherwise) has had to address the tragedy of child abuse is it fair to ignore the "ugliness" in our school systems? For example the 2007 Associated Press report, and the 2007 Annual Report prepared by the Catholic bishops and based upon an outside audit, that the problem of childhood sexual abuse within Catholic institutions is largely resolved while the problem of childhood sexual abuse within public schools is ongoing and growing. The proof lies in the numbers:

an annual average of 1.875 allegations of abuse occurring within the Catholic Church for the years 2000 to 2007 versus an annual average of 514 documented cases of public school teachers having their licenses “taken away, denied, surrendered voluntarily or restricted” as a result of sexual misconduct with minors during the years 2001 to 2005.

Or the report, from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, that states that around 66 percent of those who sexually abuse children are parents, other relatives, unmarried partners, friends or neighbors, and that only 0.5 percent are professionals, of which clergy are a subset, and Catholic clergy a further, and by definition, smaller subset.

Charol Shakeshaft- cites in her book-that “the physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” (First Things)

Do the math. Do the charlatans such as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and the Jimmy Swaggart's really equate or outweigh the good done by Catholic hospitals, the Salvation Army (Methodist) or the Irish nuns spoken of this morning in the Boston Globe:

She was sitting on a bench on the fishing pier on Castle Island the other day, trying to explain why she does what she does, and what she does is go wherever people are dying and tries to save their lives....

...She slept in tents at night and played God by day. She looked into the eyes of the people struggling to get in the feeding center, feeling how hard they pushed against her, gauging who was the strongest, because there wasn't enough food.
She did things she couldn't back home. She stuffed children's prolapsed rectums back inside them, because if she didn't they would die. Sometimes they did anyway. She stuck needles in the bloated bellies of children to relieve pain. She slept as she spent every waking hour, haunted by death.

And when she was done in Ethiopia, she went to Sudan. Then Cambodia, Somalia. Everywhere she went, no matter where it was, no matter how bad it was, she met Irish nuns, women in their 70s who left when they were her age.

Unlike her, they never went home. She was in awe. (full story)

Do the math. Does the demonic influence in the gay/lesbian debate rest with those who reject the premise that one should get special rights based on their sexual preferences or with those who ignore the fact that such choices lead to death.

In fact, multiple studies have established that homosexual conduct, especially among males, is considerably more hazardous to one’s health than a lifetime of chain smoking.To the consternation of “gay” activist flat-earthers and homosexual AIDS holocaust deniers everywhere, one such study — conducted by pro-“gay” researchers in Canada — was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (IJE) in 1997.While the medical consensus is that smoking knocks from two to 10 years off an individual’s life expectancy, the IJE study found that homosexual conduct shortens the lifespan of “gays” by an astounding “8 to 20 years” — more than twice that of smoking.“[U]nder even the most liberal assumptions,” concluded the study, “gay and bisexual men in this urban centre are now experiencing a life expectancy similar to that experienced by all men in Canada in the year 1871. … [L]ife expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.” (Townhall)

In the middle of his commentary Mr. Pitts answers his own question. But he is too busy working his calculator to notice:

"If all I knew of God was what I had seen in the headlines, I would not be eager to make His acquaintance."

And there's the rub, eh? If all I knew of organized religion was what I read in the headlines, I might be jaded too. Lesson: look somewhere else for your information. I won't disagree that many who claim to worship God are in fact worshipping themselves, or money or their sexuality or as Pitts says:

...religion worships and serves that which has nothing to do with Him, worships money and serves politics, worships charisma and serves ego, worships intolerance and serves self.

Because the institution of religion is made up of (acknowledged) sinful, fallen people rest assured it will continue to make headlines. But the Christian Church offers a chance to change and heal brokenness in our lives. It reaches beyond itself to help others and remains God's chosen instrument of salvation and hope in a world filled with ugliness.


Yours, Sincerely said...

Excellent, excellent, well-thought article. Joseph Fielding McConkie said, "If we are going to get serious about [the gospel message] we can hardly expect gospel truths getting along compatibly with worldly fashions, nor can we expect them to get an approving nod from those who worship at the shrine of their own intellect."

eutychus said...

Thanks A.D. Glad you liked it and thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. Great quote!