Sorry we have been so delayed in posting of late! Awesome clientele and much travel have sufficiently back-pocketed our blogging capabilities. So, with that, we are happy to introduce a guest piece by Rev. Dr. Neal Jones, of the Columbia, SC Unitarian Universalist Congregation. His contact information and piece on humanity — really — are posted below. Please consider giving some thought and sharing with others.
April 18, as posted in The State online
By Rev. Dr. NEAL JONES
Gallup released findings last month confirming that the South is aptly called the “Bible Belt,” as nine of the top 10 most religious states are Southern (South Carolina is No. 6); the 10 least religious states are in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.
Days later, on Good Friday, a young woman posted on the web a picture of a dead stingray on a beach in South Carolina, claiming she saw the face of Jesus on the ray’s back.
What ties these two stories together? A Christianity that no longer represents Christ.
How does life in those hyper-religious, conservative, red states of the South compare to those more secular, liberal, blue states of the North? The red states have higher rates of divorce, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births. So much for conservative “family values.” The red states also have higher rates of burglary, theft, assault and murder. And these are the states with government-sponsored killing, aka capital punishment. So much for Christian love.
One could rightly argue that the family dysfunction and violence of the Bible Belt are associated more with poverty and low educational levels than religion, but this argument begs the question:
Why do all those conservative, Christian, Southern voters steadfastly vote against the political policies that would assuage these social ills? Why do they shoot down even the most reasonable gun regulations, which would reduce violent crimes? Why do they shred the social safety net of public education, affordable health care, a livable minimum wage, a progressive tax rate and public assistance for the “least of these” — all of which would raise the standard of living of ordinary people and lower the rates of divorce, unwanted pregnancy, unemployment, poverty and crime? Why do they oppose sex education, access to birth control and a woman’s right to choose — steps that would lower teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births?
It’s because Christianity in America has divorced itself from the compassion of Jesus.
Christianity is possessed by two demons. One is the demon of right-wing politics. Christianity today would rather advance a mean-spirited conservative political agenda than promote understanding, kindness, acceptance and generosity. It would rather deprive women of their reproductive rights, deny gays and lesbians their civil rights and give tax cuts to the rich than feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless.
The Christian right has tasted political success over the past 30 years, and it has become intoxicated with power. Its adherents would do well to remember that when Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world during his temptations in the wilderness, he flatly turned them down in favor of advancing the kingdom of God.
Christianity is also possessed by the demon of supernaturalism. It maintains a primitive, pre-scientific worldview that no educated, thinking person could possibly hold as credible. Acting as if the Enlightenment never occurred and ignoring the validity of science, even reason itself, it clings to a Medieval belief in a gold-paved heaven and a flaming hell, in winged angels and horned devils, virgin births and resurrected deaths, and miraculous sightings of Jesus on refrigerator doors, grilled cheese sandwiches and the backs of stingrays.
Such indulgence in magical thinking is why so many Christians in this country have still not entered the 19th century, much less the 21st, in admitting the reality of evolution. Magical thinking impedes rational thinking, preventing us from availing ourselves of the most powerful resource we have as human beings in the struggle for a more humane life and the survival of the planet.
More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson cut and pasted a collection of New Testament verses — composing what has become known as the Jefferson Bible, which includes the moral teachings of Jesus but omits all supernatural references. It’s past time for American Christianity to catch up with its prominent Founding Father in promoting a religion of ethical behavior instead of superstitious belief.
If Christianity could sober up from its inebriation with political power and catch up with our modern, scientific understanding of the world, perhaps the most religious states would also be the most kindhearted and ethical.
The Rev. Dr. Jones is pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Columbia; contact him at email@example.com.