Conscience belongs to the heart, not politicized religion.
What happened to us? Where is
Why did millions of Americans allow television evangelist types to take over our country? Do we honestly believe such people have a hot line to God? Granted, most of them have a talent for raising money and some of them certainly have colorful sex lives, but shouldn't matters of the heart be between each of us and the mystery of existence.
To be fair, it's not just the Religious Right; it's now virtually all institutionalized religions. Pedophile priests, for example, are still regarded as spiritual authorities! And sad to say, millions of people lost their moral respect for the last Pope; not because they resented his ethical preoccupations, but because they felt his strident moralizing lacked the warmth of ethical wisdom.
How glaring is the contrast between doomsdaying preachers and gentle Jesus. Jesus spoke to our hearts -- as did Mohammed and the Hebrew Prophets (those beacons of Justice). They talked to us as heart travelers into mystery. They didn't lust after political power.
Surely Jesus would be heart broken to see his life affirming compassion and love replaced with death-wishing Armageddon and “Last Days”. And what would he have thought of the lucrative account of his life and teaching in the "Left Behind" sitcoms? His was not the arrogance of the fundamentalists nor the way of might makes right. And certainly not the way of multimillionaire authors!
Jesus counseled us to "judge them by their fruits." And the fruit of murder in the name of God is always poisonous. Such rationalizations for violence are abhorrent and how we long for a return to humanity and kindness.
We also long to be delivered from this money worshipping President. How conveniently the Bush/Evangelicals forget that the only time the founder of Christianity "lost his cool" was when he whipped the money changers out of the temple. Jesus loved the poor in spirit. He also didn't cancel heath benefits for children and under fund their schools in order to give tax breaks to King Herad.
The tragedy is that none of these things should have to be said. The institutions of religion are, at best, footprints of an ineffable and vulnerable journey in which each of us (to borrow a caption from a poignant photograph of Edward Steichen) is "alone with the beating of my heart.”
Sadly, many of us are afraid of this journey, so we huddle together in righteous synagogues, mosques, and cathedrals, desperately trying to define ourselves by what we hate. It has always been so.
The puzzle is why early 3rd millennia earthlings are losing their spiritual nerve. The fundamentalists (of all religions) are a tragic symptom of spiritual regression. Their hubris and contempt for other religions should be a sober warning to men and women of good will.
The perennial truth is that carnivorous cults, Popes and pamphlets, tents and temples are expendable, but our hearts and conscience are not.
So can we return, please, to the
W. Christopher Epler (Bill)
Visit Bill at his blog The liberation of Realism