Saturday, February 13, 2010

Religious Violence

In his bestselling book The Road Less Traveled, Psychologist M. Scott Peck wrote that the Church keeps him in business as a therapist. He went on to tell stories about how different aspects of religious dogmatism can cause or be related to mental illness. For example, he treated a woman who was debilitated by the conviction that God wanted her to die. He also talked about how parents can use religious traditions and laws as an excuse to intentionally dominate their children.

One time I was called to counsel a young man who was talking about hurting himself. One of the central struggles he kept repeating was how his mother used her religious convictions to condemn many of the things that he liked. She also used her convictions to keep him with her, stunting his ability to grow. He was 19 and still did not even have a driver’s license. It seemed to me that it was her own insecurity, not her faith, which largely contributed to her behavior. It is sad to me that he was turned off to God by her religiosity.

I think this is a big part of the new reality in the United States. There may be less people who are “unchurched” and more who are “de-churched.” Unchurched people may not know much about religion; de-churched people have been a part of a religious system that has somehow turned them away from God.

In 2nd Corinthians 5 Paul explains his mission, that people will be reconciled to God. He did not call them to take on the faith of their fathers, get a master’s of divinity, or to start climbing the ranks of the religious establishment. He simply explained Christ’s compassion and sought to show his love. Knowing God is the goal.

It was Jesus’ message that changed the world. The voices of condemnation were not loud enough. It is definitely time to change.

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