Today’s question comes from Yvette. She writes: “Why does ‘religion’– many religions– give a person permission to judge, with perhaps an excuse to harm or ignore another human? Instead of bringing people together, I see religion bringing people apart– which is probably totally opposite of what is intended.”
Yvette, you hit the nail on the head at the very end of your question when you wrote “which is probably totally opposite of what is intended.”
If you take Christianity as an example, Jesus could not have been more clear when it comes to the inappropriateness of judging others when he was quoted as saying in Matthew 7:1-2: ““Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you.”
What I’ve found in most cases is that it’s not the religion that makes individuals judgmental and self-righteous: it’s what some individuals DO with the religion that causes problems.
Not only have some individuals used religion to justify their judgmental and self-righteous way of being in the world (which is beyond annoying!). Some have used religion to do horrific things that violated Jesus’ vision and values. One need look no further than the Crusades, the pogroms, the institutional church’s support of slavery, and its blatant support of the -isms (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classicism, etc.).
But others – spiritually healthy individuals who were well grounded in Jesus’ vision and values – have used religion to accomplish amazing things. Religious groups in the United States, for instance, were instrumental in founding countless hospitals, schools, and social service agencies: many of which have changed the lives of millions! In Spokane, WA – the area in which I was raised – most of the medical services that are provided today come from entities that were originally founded by religious bodies: i.e. the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches.
So my closing word of advice, Yvette, is not to let a few (albeit it obnoxious and troublesome) individuals give religion a bad name. Instead, look at the spiritual precepts of the community and its founder(s) and then look at the big picture.
And when religious bodies seem to violate the precepts they proclaim, please – by all means – CHALLENGE THEM AND HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE TO THEIR OWN PRINCIPLES. (Pastor Craig says, as he drops the mic and steps down). 🙂
So what about you? What do you think?