Thursday, August 30, 2012

Love & Compassion - Battling Intolerance & Hatred

My Personal Background

As a child, I wasn't really guided on how to handle people... I didn't have regular conversations with my parents about faith, religion, etc. I do vaguely remember hearing them say at least once that racism is wrong. So I knew they wanted me to know that it is not right to discriminate. Up until the 4th grade, I went to church periodically - my parents didn't take me, they sent me with a lady from my brother's church, or I went with my best friend Val to her family's church, and sometimes her brother's church. Being young and easily distracted, I didn't really grasp the stories - though I vaguely remember being taught about basic bible stories (Jonah, David & Goliath, etc.) and singing Father Abraham.
My mom remarried when I was in 4th grade, and my stepdad took me with him to church, and mom went sometimes. She, nor I, really felt comfortable in a Pentecostal church with all the speaking in tongues, falling on the floor, etc. Just not our cup of tea. But while she wouldn't go, I still got drug, and I dreaded it not just because of the weirdness, but because it was just another place I didn't feel accepted or welcome. I didn't get bullied there like I did at school, but I didn't have anyone to hang out with either. I was always a loner. I didn't really get involved in a church and get a fire in me to learn about the Bible and God until I moved to Georgia and got involved in my half-sister's church, where her dad preaches. But it was hard, because I felt like I was ill-equipped because I wasn't "raised" on this stuff - the stories weren't drilled into my head - I wasn't familiar with the bible and struggled with reading and understanding it because of the old english language most versions are written in, and everyone always said the King James Version was the "true" version... yet according to most church's, "all versions are inerrant"... thinking about it now, maybe they wanted us to read the KVJ because of our lack of ability to fully understand it, so that made it easier to teach it their way... they also pushed the NIV alot - but I've personally found this is one of the most mistranslated versions out there. They purposefully change the words in the clobber passages to homosexuality so no one will even question if that's the meaning or not...

Anyways... back on track... I listened intently to their teachings, and for a while got sucked into the whole "right-wing fundamentalist" way of thinking... This church considers itself non-denominational, but is a part of the Southern Evangelical association. And of course, non-denomination doesn't mean they don't hold a specific set of "standards" or doctrine. I heard a lot of preaching about sin, how to obtain salvation, that we must right our wrongs, etc. But I also heard negative remarks towards liberals, abortion, homosexuals, atheists, and basically anyone who didn't believe the same way they did. This hit a nerve with me, and not in a good way. I started to question the teachings I'd become so wrapped up in, and I started reaching outside the church for my own understanding of God and the bible. Since I had such a difficult time understanding the bible in its old English format,  I started browsing the web for other views. I was involved in a debate one day over gay marriage, and "saw the light." I came across that explained both the conservative and liberal view of scripture. I discovered where I could review different versions of the Bible, and eventually came across The Message, which was written in plain English and in a way that I could understand and relate in today's time.

Someone had told me to "read & re-read Romans" because of my POV on gay marriage, and that "it's about not accepting sin." Yeah ok, so I started with the book of Romans, and I'm to chapter 5, but this book is not about teaching us to "not accept sin" nor does it teach us homosexuals are sinning because of their sexual orientation - in fact it doesn't talk about homosexuals, it talks about unnatural homosexual actions (straights performing gay practices), and teachings of Romans are intended for believers, or the religious, to learn how not to live in sin nor to criticize others. So I wondered, how many other scriptures are so loosely translated? I've reviewed Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis - also not what I was taught. I'm slowly making my way through the clobber passages and I'm discovering a whole new & amazing point of view on God, the Bible, and my faith.

Love & Compassion; Religious Tolerance
  "Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who follow a different religious path. Tolerance is more difficult to maintain when you know that your religion is true and their religion is wrong."- Anon

"Religious tolerance is not religious indifference. It consists of valuing the right of another person to hold beliefs that you know absolutely, and without a doubt, to be wrong." - Anon

First off, no one knows their religion is true and the only right one - only God knows all of the truth, and the proof is in the puddin' - even different denominations of Christians have different interpretations of the bible and doctrine. They  can't all be right, and I'm willing to be they've all got something wrong... And the way I see it is if the religion is teaching hate, intolerance, oppression, etc... it's probably not right. Why would God create us to be at war with each other, to hurt each other, to destroy each other and ourselves? And the bible instructs us (in the book of Romans - see chapter 6:13-16 ) that it is not your religion that gets you right with God. Your faith in God is what sets you right.We are told that even the Gentiles (defined as non-Jews, synonym: Pagan) who naturally live by God's laws without religion, can inherit the kingdom of heaven through salvation. (Romans 2)

Also, God specifically instructs us not to criticize others (Romans 2:3-5). He doesn't want us to be intolerant of people who are different or without. In fact, we are instructed to reach out to the poor... and that by "placing the homeless man in the back row and the rich man in the front" (James 2) you have segregated God's children and proven that you are judges who can't be trusted. 

So by turning someone away because they don't meet the church's criteria, you have practiced segregation, discrimination, and you have judged another. God teaches that we are to show love & compassion to all mankind. He instructs us to love thy neighbor our ourselves, and even to love our enemies. God made every one of us - he made each of us distinct and none of us are the same. Our differences are made by God! He crafts each and every one of us - none of us are self-made.

Proverbs 14:21
It's criminal to ignore a neighbor in need, but compassion for the poor—what a blessing! 

Ephesians 2: 9-10
No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.  

Religious Tolerance in the Bible
The prophet Micah prophesied about a coming time when nations will stop making war. The various peoples of the world will live in peace and pursue their different religions, each worshiping their different Gods and Goddesses. Meanwhile, the Jews will continue to follow Jehovah. His prophesy came to pass for the known western world during the Roman Empire where religious were generally tolerated (except for the intermittent persecution of Christians). However, late in the 4th century CE when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, persecution of non-Christians became the norm. -

Micah 4 (The Message)

The Making of God's People
 1-4 But when all is said and done,
   God's Temple on the mountain,
Firmly fixed, will dominate all mountains,
   towering above surrounding hills.
People will stream to it
   and many nations set out for it,
Saying, "Come, let's climb God's mountain.
   Let's go to the Temple of Jacob's God.
He will teach us how to live.
   We'll know how to live God's way."
True teaching will issue from Zion,
   God's revelation from Jerusalem.
He'll establish justice in the rabble of nations
   and settle disputes in faraway places.
They'll trade in their swords for shovels,
   their spears for rakes and hoes.
Nations will quit fighting each other,
   quit learning how to kill one another.
Each man will sit under his own shade tree,
   each woman in safety will tend her own garden.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so,
   and he means what he says.
 5Meanwhile, all the other people live however they wish,
   picking and choosing their gods.
But we live honoring God,
   and we're loyal to our God forever and ever.

Jesus' disciples rejected and criticized a healer who was exorcising demons in Jesus' name, but wasn't a "Christian" follower. Jesus then criticizes his disciples and accepts the healer because he is doing good in his name.

Mark 9:38-40
The Message (MSG)

 38John spoke up, "Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn't in our group."
 39-41Jesus wasn't pleased. "Don't stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he's not an enemy, he's an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice. 

Luke 9:49-50
The Message (MSG)
 49John spoke up, "Master, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn't of our group."
 50Jesus said, "Don't stop him. If he's not an enemy, he's an ally."

Other examples of Jesus' tolerance:

Jesus refused to curse non-believers. (Luke 9:52-26.)

Jesus treats a Samaritan women with respect.  (John 4:7-27.)

Religious Tolerance: 

Christians treat Jews with respect. (Acts 17:10-13)

Non-Christians who follow God's law will be accepted into heaven. (Romans 2:14-16.)

Also, Paul instructs to avoid offending followers of other religions. (1 Corinthians 10:31-32.)

The more I think about it, the more I think, why would anyone want to focus so much time and energy into playing "keep away" with basic human rights? They put a "positive" spin on it and call it "supporting or defending traditional marriage" - but that doesn't change what it is. It's anti-gay, it's intolerant, and it's discrimination - it is the civil rights movement of our time. And just like the "Christian" groups who used twisted, cherry picked, and loosely translated scripture to support slavery... and to support the oppression of women.... and to claim interracial marriage wasn't right either... today they are using it to support the oppression of gays and are denying them the legal right of marriage. How are they denying it? There are active political groups campaigning for the "Defense of Marriage Act" and when someone goes to the polls to vote for something like that, or to vote against the legalization of gay unions, they are denying those people their rights.

They talk about preserving "traditional marriage" as according to the bible... well first of all, traditional marriage in biblical times was not what we see as marriage today. And secondly, heterosexuals are doing a pretty poor job of preserving their own marriages to be worrying about someone else's... how about worrying about the log in your own eye before telling someone else to remove the splinter from their eye.

Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Matthew 7.1-5 MSG

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