I have written quite a bit about my life at the Community of Jesus. Check out the archived posts for all of that. For now, I am sharing some of my educational journey after I left.
In the summer of 2019 I took a class in comparative religion, comparing Christianity and Judaism.
Faith and Knives
What is faith? It is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Faith can be secular or religious.
Most of us think of faith in the context of religion, as in, faith in God and what that god can do. Believing by faith in that which cannot be proved. But faith is a confidence, and that confidence is not confined to the religious sphere. One’s faith can be in science, in nature, in our fellow human beings, in my pet. Anything that I have complete trust or confidence in, that is where I put my faith.
Faith of itself is neither good or bad. I propose that what we put our faith in determines the goodness or badness of our faith. Again, it is not the faith that is good or bad. But we can say that our faith is well-placed, or mis-placed.
Faith is personal by its very nature. What I put confidence in is determined by me, and by no one else for me. Even if I am persuaded by others, it still comes down to where I have confidence, in whom or in what. So, faith is not the sole purview of religion, and non-religious people can be examples of a wholesome and strong faith, also.
Whatever venue our faith is active in, it truly can be “…a marvel or a horror,” depending on how it is used, for faith itself is just the context from which a person chooses to act. It is the “reason” behind the choice of action. I don’t think the faith that flies planes into buildings is any stranger than the faith that spends all to feed the poor. I think it is the same action of faith at work, it is just the direction of the work that is different, diametrically opposed to each other.
“…€very day religious faith is used to justify atrocious behavior around the world”, as is non-religious faith. Faith in money drives the oil wars, faith in competition drives the sports industry, and faith in only one way to reach salvation (and that salvation is attainable) drives religious fervor, arguments, and even wars. I propose that it is not religion that is basically at fault, but the mis-use of religion for personal agendas, personal gain, that is the evil, and evil it indeed is. Using religion, mis-guiding someone’s faith, is perhaps the greatest manipulation, scam, and betrayal that exists today.
If children represent all that is good in life, the very continuation of life itself, then to kill children is perhaps the greatest evil of all. To even consider killing children for the sake of faith is the height of mis-guided fervor. It is well that God spoke to Abraham at the end, charging him to not lay a hand on Isaac, for that is the message that needs to be proclaimed. Do no harm to one another, and especially to the defenseless. All tales of heroism and chivalry raise that banner high. But it does beg the question of why the story has Abraham being instructed to sacrifice his son at all. Why does God even speak that atrocity to him? Is this god made in the image of man? Is this the epitome of the mind sickness that seems to afflict humanity?
When the California courts ruled that the Wentlands and the Church of Science were innocent of the Wentlands’ son Andrew’s death, they were allowing for a faith that values the spiritual life above the physical life. They were giving permission for people to let children die for the sake of saving their eternal souls.
This is a debate that has gone on for generations, and continues to this day. Who is responsible for children? There seems to be a consensus that the parents are the primary agents of responsibility for their children. There are exceptions to this. When a parent is causing physical harm to the child, or is neglecting the child to the point of physical damage, then the state has taken the right to step in and protect the child, and to provide its basic needs. However, in this country especially, the freedom of religion is such a strong value, that it takes precedence over child protection. The story of Abraham underscores this hierarchy. God told Abraham to kill his only son, the son he loved. Abraham takes steps to do so, up to binding his son and placing him on the altar on the wood. He reaches for the knife and takes it up. Only then does God stop him, and God praises Abraham because he IS WILLING TO KILL HIS SON. This obviously teaches that children are expendable, and God comes first. If this is the model, then the Wentlands were obeying God as they understood him, and the courts were right to allow them to do so without punishment. They were following in the footsteps of Abraham. However you want to interpret this scripture, that is what it says, and if a Christian is going to believe the Bible as the word of God then how can they judge others who do the same?
Now, I do not agree with this. I think the story of Abraham is wrong, and I think the Wentlands were wrong. I think the courts of California were wrong. I agree that people should be free to worship as they please, unless it brings physical harm to someone, including their own children. There are groups of Christians who run totalitarian churches, subjugating their members to strict controls and unreasonable practices. I know because I was a member of one of them. These churches should be held accountable for the harm they do, and they are not, because of freedom of religion.