A reader who goes by the alias Wayway attacks me for "attacking other religions." Says s/he:
hello men! you’re attacking other religion and promoting your wrong belief! you’re so so feeling!
The comment was made on a quote I titled "Church Politics" which I got from the book, I Permit Not a Woman... to Remain Shackled, written by a long-time member of the (Stone-Campbell) Church of Christ, Robert Rowland.
Rowland's book is a critique of his denomination's traditional teaching on the ecclesial role of women, particularly its stance against appointing deaconesses and against women serving Communion and /or preaching, teaching, and praying in mixed assemblies (i.e. church meeting where men and women, adults and children are present). Aside from a judicious exegesis of texts usually used by this religious group to justify its "shackling of women in the church," the book also explores the politics and economics involved in the perpetuation of this unfair set of religious practices.
I don't know if Wayway belongs to a religious group or not. If not, I don't know how s/he views religion in general or the clashing sects around us. Is s/he satisfied? Does s/he agree or disagree with all or some of their contending claims? Does s/he view these groups' truth claims as equally true, no matter how irreconcilable these are? If a religious group says that it is the "One, True Church" and the rest of the religious world are going to hell, what does s/he feel or think about this exclusivist claim?
If s/he belongs to some sect or faith system, does s/he subscribe to a particular (written or unwritten) creed? Does s/he adhere to a particular truth claim? Does her/his group believe that all its teachings and practices are biblically rooted? Does her/his group believe that all other religious groups have equally valid claims to truth? Or does his/her group believe that some teach false doctrines? Does his/her group believe that every practice or ritual of all churches are good? Or does his/her group believe that some practices or rituals of some churches are bad?
We can go on and on with this type of questioning as we determine whether those who oppose others for critiquing religion have their own biases or do make value judgments regarding the religious issues of our day.
What these people don't realize is that whether one commits oneself to a particular faith system or rejects all religious systems, s/he eventually makes a truth claim. And to make a truth claim is to reject what one considers as a false idea/doctrine/consciousness. All religious groups on earth -- even those that claim to be "the most tolerant of all" -- make either a subtle or overt attack on others in myriad ways , from graffiti on a wall and dietary rules to movie productions.
And that's perfectly normal. For after all, we all have to make an ideological commitment of some sort, which means that we will have to screen out other statements of meaning or truth and will have to uphold a particular moral or ethical standard. In a whole universe of dizzying standards, ours eventually engages others in a cosmic battle -- cosmic in the sense that worldviews are involved , and lives (and perhaps, "afterlives" too) are affected.
What's not normal is when we turn these spiritual/moral engagements into physical and material(istic) crusades or clashes. Or when we pretend to believe that all truth claims are equally valid and thus do not make judgment at all on any specific belief or idea. Or when we turn a blind eye to the excesses done in the name of religion. Or when we miss out on the fact that we, too, have our own biases that influence or determine what we say or do.
In my case, my commitment is to a particular Christian ideology -- one that recognizes the need for a Savior and has faith in the transformative power of the Cross, but has no faith in the rank Sectarianism among Churches where the explosive power of their various crosses often stifle, maim, and even kill faith.
I had spent some of my best years promoting a sectarian cause which I have now come to reject. I know how it is to live a religious but intellectually dishonest life in an exclusivist community sharing a borrowed faith.
As an ex-preacher, I have seen how the pulpit could become a powerful launching pad for reform and the church a grand hub of creative social interaction. But I have also seen how the pulpit could be the center of thought-control and the church a ramshackle barn of cowed herd with cowhands and undershepherds arguing till the cows come home (puns intended). I have seen how money could be used to sustain charitable projects, and how numbers can lift the spirit of the hopeless. But I have also seen how money could be dangled as bait to recruit footsoldier-puppets that would promote pet, imported, irrelevant, and divisive doctrines, and how numbers could be manipulated to boost egos and draw greater financial and moral support from here and abroad.
I know the joy of finding "the truth" in a faith system, but I also know how mind-wracking it could be to find out years later that this "enlightenment" is, after all, partly darkened by lies. I know how it feels to struggle maintaining your sanity trying to justify discrimination and intramural fighting in a religious corral while trying to preach a Jesus who knew of no such despicable practices. I know the thrill of "using your talents for the Lord," but I also know the frustration of having discovered that I have refused to use and develop all my God-given potentials for the greater good just because I had to subscribe to a narrow creed.
Now, if you went through such an experience (and what I wrote above is but a sampling of what I could say about my spiritual journey), would you just sit back after looking back and say, All is well. God is good! and just get on with your life without sharing with other meaning-seekers what you learned from a sectarian dungeon?
Well, I would not. And I shall continue writing about the good I see in religion without neglecting to expose and oppose what I see as abuses, manipulations, arrogance, and lies done in the name of heaven. And, yes, I will continue to write on these con sentimiento! :)
I don't believe that I am right all the time. My thousands of mistakes in the past have been more than enough to teach me of my fallibility. I have changed my views in the past, and, in the years ahead, will continue to welcome more changes in my outlook in life and my conduct in the midst of others. I only follow my heart to where my intellectual journey leads me.
Wayway accuses me of promoting "wrong beliefs." If only s/he could say more about this charge and so make me see the light from his/her flashbulb.
♥ "Deconverting from Sectarianism" : Introductory Note (1)
♥ "Deconverting from Sectarianism" : The Language of Sectarianism (2)
♥ "Deconverting from Sectarianism" : A Culture of Hate (3)