Thursday, July 31, 2008

Problem with Religion

Here's one of my biggest problems with religion—

People use religion to justify and explain their lives and things they find unsettling. Death? We're going to heaven. Terrorist attacks? God wills it. Having 18 children [as has just been in the news]? "[C]hildren are God’s blessing and husbands and wives should happily welcome every child they are given." Apparently they've forgotten that humans, as any other animal on earth, are reproductive machines. Having 18 children doesn't mean God has blessed you, it just means that you're not using birth control and aren't afraid of the day when the human population tops out at around 10 or 11 billion people and Earth might no longer sustain our lives. As a bonus, the husband's name is Jim Bob.

I was also disturbed after the September 11 attacks to hear people talk to reporters about their experience. There were many accounts of people who missed their train or randomly showed up late to work, thereby saving their lives. Many of them had answers like "It just wasn't my time to go yet" or "God still had a purpose for me." So what, that means that God decided to save a handful of people while giving a big "fuck you!" to the rest of them? That's such a dangerous way of thinking! That kind of flippant justification leads entire populations to war and genocide.

People also use God in other ways. A guy I went to high school with posts his religious ramblings on Facebook, and lists his religious views as "Jesus is Lord." About a year and a half ago he posted a note that I still think about, reference, and show to friends. He titled it "Dating and Singleness," and it's here for your reading pleasure:

"Well, it turns out that God really is awesome at everything, including relationships. Including making and breaking relationships. I don't think that God is so concerned about who we marry that we must be in search of the "one," but I do know that he has plans for us and will bless us with someone to marry if that is the desire of our hearts. More importantly, though, I see God being faithful to our sanctification over our love lives. I think the two go hand in hand at times, but sanctification far outweighs relationships because in being sanctified we are made more like Christ and we enjoy Christ that much more as we come to know God better! I do not consider it a misfortune that we should endure hard times for the sake of being drawn closer to God! Rather, like James says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance." It is a much greater joy when God lavishes on us part of his love through sanctification than when we try to create love through remaining in a relationship. It is another joy that God would bless you in a relationship and lead that into marriage. But breaking up is a joy as you experience God's grace through sanctification.

"How are we sanctified through breaking up? We are forced to lean on God for hope and joy, we are shown our own weakness and our need for God, we are shown more sin that we didn't realize was there, we cannot escape dealing with emotions and sinfulness that was not apparent before, we are disciplined into repentance, we must trust in his promises and hope in Christ alone, we must seek him out daily as we feel a need to seek out something else to fill this void that was left behind. Having to lean on God and deal with hard things is far better as we see Jesus work in our lives and experience his peace and joy than just being content with our current situation as we see and experience nothing about God.

I don't know about you, but I can rejoice in breaking up because Christ is so much better!

I think that speaks for itself. What is says to me is "This guy's a whackjob!" Seems like God would have better things to worry about than who your college girlfriend is. And if He wills you to break up with her in order to lean on Him, doesn't that make it a codependent relationship?

codependency |ˌkōdəˈpendənsē|
excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

Then, this morning, I got a request from a guy I've known since elementary school to join a support group. His brother's fiancée was admitted to a hospital, and "the following day, our family was informed that she had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. This came as a shock to all of us because she is one of the nicest, caring people any of us have ever met." I actually did a double take when I came to that last part of the sentence. A shock because she is young and healthy and we never could have imagined this, would have been a little more appropriate.

I guess I'm pretty sensitive when it comes to the subject of cancer these days, because pancreatic cancer claimed my grandfather two months ago, my best friend was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 22 a month ago, and my dog had a cancerous tumor removed a couple weeks ago that is almost 100% guaranteed to return. Does that triple-whammy mean that God's trying to punish me for something, trying to get me over to his side? Or am I just struck by coincidence? Would God really punish MY DOG for my "sins"? Because honestly, Hobbes never did anything to rile God up and he's been a very good dog throughout his 10 years. Mostly he likes to chase sticks and the occasional squirrel. If God has a problem with that, well, he shouldn't have given squirrels such a chase-able, fluffy tail.


Funambulus said...

As the twenty-two year old who survives his cancer and mourns the grandfather having passed from a relatable illness, I relate very much to this piece of writing. Nothing about my illness could have an explanation even remotely related to fate, faith or any higher power whatsoever. Were someone to say to me, "how could this happen to you, you are the nicest most wonderful person I now and have always cared so much for the world", I would likely laugh and simply share this thought: I have always loved as often as possible all those around me. I try to exercise all manner of respect when and where I can and try even harder to learn from my mistakes. Nothing i've done, good or bad, determines what sort of challenges life might provide. My choices will, but medically speaking, Cancer and the like is a wildcard and I have chosen to learn from it, as much as I can.

Relationships are the same. Wildcards. Sometimes love is a wild success. Sometimes love comes undone, comes back, leaves forever, constantly changes. We are our own gods in this way, choosing (or not) to wield our own two hands as we see fit, providing piece by piece the building blocks of our lives, long or short. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who love and support me and to each of them goes the credit. Not to God, not to any lord, but to their kind and caring natures.
I choose to imagine a world where we find endless possibility in the choices we make in how we treat ourselves, others and our environment. These choices are best made out of respect and deference not to any higher power, but to each other, such as we are. Individuals, each powerful, and all just as likely or not as my twenty-two year old self to suffer or enjoy all that life brings to the table.
Always better to look in all directions instead of just one, imagining constantly that we are serving someone other than ourselves because Christ, where the hell's the fun in that?

gaz said...

hi yels.
it winds me up when people attribute everything to be the will of god. they over spiritualise everything. the fact is - bad stuff happens. be it disease or breaking up. it's incredibly sad but it's true.

i'm a follower of christ, but i don't want to waffle on at length about why there is disease and illness and death in the world. i simply want to say that this last week i have been to a christian conference with about 12,000 other people, and i have experienced first hand his love and healing power. i've seen legs grow by several inches, hearing loss healed, bones fixed, curved spines straightened, whithered hands restored to normal... right before my eyes - in adults and children.
but. i have also seen people not healed. including my wife and youngest son. it has nothing to do with god having favourites.

god is amazing and powerful and awesome and he is alive and at work in the world today.
i get the idea that americans have this view of christians being like the tv super-evangelists that get so much air time over there. the truth is, god is not showy and rich and loud and annoying like those guys, whooping all over the stage. i'm not denying that christ uses them - but there's a lot of unecessary nonsense there too.
god's will is not ours to know, but to trust in him and his unfailing love is the answer. he wil reveal himself to you in ways you thought impossible. he will ease your pain, soothe your heartache, lift your spirit and be with you through the storms of your life.
he will bring joy and love like you've never experienced. to the very core of your being - to the centre of your soul.
when you hear people say "is this all there is?", believe me... it isn't.

seriously, don't knock it till you've tried it!