Thank God for Church

I’ve stayed mostly out of the political fray this year. I’d love to say it’s because I’m busy, but it’s just because I’m disgusted. I think my view of both candidates for President can be summed up in Dawn Bellwether’s statement in Zootopia “Fear always works.”

Fear_Always_Works

The saddest thing is, she is right. Fear works. It works because it is multifaceted. It’s not just fear of your fellow man (racism, genderism, Islamophobia, homophobia), it’s fear of scarcity, it’s fear of failure, it’s fear of…well, whatever you want to be afraid of, you can be.

Society both promotes and promulgates fear. It promotes it from childhood by harsh forms of discipline and by teasing and bullying on the playground and in the classroom, by making sure we “stay in our place.” It promulgates it by twining it into our religion. We promote hell in Christianity, using fear to “bring people to Jesus.” Other religions have their own fears that encourage people to keep the commands lest they be “outside” their god’s favor.

I’ve been forced to examine the fears I was raised with and the fears I inculcated into my thoughts since becoming an adult. Abuse is run by fear and I cannot permanently escape it, learn to stand up for myself against future abuse, or stand up for others if I don’t understand the sources of my fear.

Many Christians claim there is only one source of fear for the believer and that is Satan. This is yet another teaching that drives faith by fear. I’m not saying I don’t believe there is a devil, I’m just saying that to claim he is the only source of fear and that to feel fear is to let the devil and his minions have control over you is fear itself.

We are raised, as I have said, to be afraid. Some of those fears have good reasons, even if our resulting actions are a bit over the top. Example: When I was a little girl, two different men in two different locations tried to kidnap me. My reaction: My kids can’t go out in the front yard without me. Seriously, even when Farmer Boy takes down the trash, I sit and listen to make sure he is still out there. He’s 19.

Many fears, however, are based in myth (aka lies). And the reactions to those lies create a far worse situation. Example: My parents and paternal grandparents taught me that most minorities were horrible people looking to hurt white people and to take advantage of them. Sure, there were a few who weren’t, but the vast majority…

I’m not the only child raised that way. Millions of children in the US have been. I think we can see the results of that in the rhetoric of our conservative politicians and our religious leaders. They build on that fear of minorities, that distrust taught to so many from infancy, to make us hate Muslims, to make us shun anyone who even seems LGBTQ+ (even our own children), to make us think that ridding our nation of these people would somehow “make America great again.”

The only thing I can look back on that changed my attitude toward minorities as a child so that my parents’ and grandparents’ racist comments sounded offensive was a simple song learned in the Sunday School I was dragged to each week.

Jesus Loves the Little Children.

It was my favorite song. It had these little masks on sticks and when it got to our part, we raised the mask over our little faces to show that we were representing a race of children Jesus Himself loved. Red, Yellow, Black, Brown, White. All these children were precious in His sight. So when I went home and heard the rhetoric that taught that Native Americans deserved to be corralled because they were all vicious killers, that Blacks in South Africa deserved Apartheid because of some rebellion they once staged where they killed white people (honestly, that’s what I was told), that slavery wasn’t all that bad and that even now those descendants of slaves were not as intelligent nor as trustworthy as whites, this song would play in my head and leave me confused.

I say a lot of things about the church on my blog, and this is probably one of the reasons why. The teachings our children receive from the church hold sway far longer and far greater than we imagine. Oh, we claim we know, but if we did really believe that, would we teach them the things we do? Would we tolerate churches that teach us to fear an entire group of people simply because of their sexual orientation? Would we tolerate churches who force children to go up to the grown person who sexually assaulted them and tell them they forgive them “because that’s what the Bible teaches?”

If we understood our power would we continue to use it in a manner Christ never approved, taught, or condoned? And, let’s be honest, if the highest commandment is to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself, we are teaching our children a lot of un-Christ-like things.

The church has power, Christ Himself was fully aware of that, which is why He regularly spoke out against the leaders of the church of His day. He knew that the church was using it’s power to spread fear and lies about who God really is. In the words of Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Nothing has changed since Christ walked the earth and reached out to those the church rejected and forsook. Those who were considered unclean and, to be honest, unhuman.

I think it’s past time for us to examine who it is we turn away and why. Do we turn away the suffering refugee because we are afraid that evil people lurk in their midst? Do we turn away our children who “come out” because we are afraid they will infect us and our other children?

I find both of these horrifying considering the evil people churches regularly open their doors to and evil people the church defends…abusers, manipulators, even rapists and pedophiles. (If that surprises you, it’s time for you to start doing your own research and educating yourself.)

The church has the power to help people overcome their fears. It’s what we claim, it’s what we are supposed to do. But we are too afraid to do so.

1john4-18

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