My newspaper article about organized religion. Please review!
| During the darkest hours of the night, some journalists envision a spectral newspaper from the future. Reading with growing horror, they realize the “news” is no longer presented as related events, but simply the outcome of the world’s moral state. The venerable Opinion section has been converted into extra ad space, except for a small corner used to efficiently deride what remains of liberalism (Seems Hillary’s going to New Hampshire again – too bad she’s also going to Hell). Mike Doonesbury has long been hung up by his sweater vest, that free-thinking zebra from Pearls Before Swine ground-up into so many steaming rolls of blutwurst.
As a churchgoer, I do find most of these visionaries a little out of whack. But the fact remains: Religion scares the hell out of journalists, and most other people that make their living by being politically even-handed. So I shouldn’t have been surprised last month that -- after the frenzied rush to claim article topics -- a preternatural white space remained next to the item “Organized Religion: Pro”
Talk about uncomfortable.
I chose to write this article because people should know religion isn’t the eight-letter-word people make it out to be. When, last year, jeering Mira Loma students were waving “Gays Go to Hell” signs at fellow students, this notion may seem hard to swallow, but know this: The majority of the religious world is not Evangelical Christians. Just as justice is ideally tempered with mercy, most of the world’s faithful have come to an acceptable level of peace with society. This adaptation, if you will, has -- besides disassociating them with the embarassments of “creation science” -- made them more able to carry out religion’s most admirable purpose: helping the world. In our 21st century where the Religious Right drives around gory anti-abortion poster vans, the Pope and Dali Lama have been collaborating to bring religious freedom to Asia. When you include the personal integrity and self-worth that having a faith brings to individuals, it can be said that religion in the developed world is a positive force in society.
What needs to change is (repeat after me) Christian Fundamentalism. Now more often called Evangelicalism, it is basically a conservative Christian movement that started in the Southern U.S. After Roe vs. Wade forever legalized U.S. abortion in 1973, they’ve gotten very politically active and have seen their membership increase exponentially.
The problem isn’t so much their ideas, as their intolerance of others. While more moderate Christians focus on edifying themselves and helping others, Evangelicals seem to have this idea reversed. From my own experience with an Evangelical youth group, a good portion of their “preaching” is specifically attacking less conservative viewpoints. Sitting in that room one would quickly get the impression that they all considered “The Abortionists” or “The Evolutionists” (pronounced in the same way you might say “The Boogeyman”) to be the rough equivalent of the Nazis, only less civilized.
There was an almost authoritarian sense of intellectual conformity. I once innocently asked an adult leader what exact harm gay people were doing to others, and was met not with reason or even concern, but open hostility. “What interest do you have in them, Jason?” was the cold response.
This is not to say all Evangelical Christians are mini Pat Robertsons, or even most. There are many friendly Evangelicals out there who do behave as if they have their head screwed on. But in all, religious fundamentalism is counterproductive to a peaceful, diverse society.
Looking back at my original topic, a solution has already been proposed. Residing under the well-worn umbrella of anti-establishment, the ending of organized religion in America has long been a favorite topic in high school bull sessions -- under the “You know what's wrong with society?” category. This may sound extreme, but the social changes (ending discrimination, more peace) do seem alluring.
However, what is hardly ever discussed is that ending organized religion goes far beyond putting anti-gay protesters on hold. It means castrating First Amendment rights we have held for centuries (not just religion but speech, assembly, press), and letting others censor our most deeply held beliefs.
Then what? If anything, Evangelicals have taught us that self-righteous protest may feel good, but ultimately drives people further away (sometimes to the nearest Safeway).The solution could be much simpler. If we want Evangelicals to have more tolerance, we should show them the same. That’s literally taking a page out of their own book to be sure, but perhaps just that will be enough for them to drop their guard and see just what they have been missing. In the end, how can Evangelicals answer to Jesus if they can’t even answer to the Black Eyed Peas? “Where is the love?”