Last week’s election results were an indictment on the way the religious right influenced the Bush administration. The entire American Christian community, whether they agreed with the religious right or not, are now held under more suspicion than at any other point in American history. In fact, Ted Haggard’s ironic fall, which involved his resignation as pastor after accusations of purchasing drugs and involvement in a homosexual relationship just before election week was symbolic of the religious right’s future in American politics.
Romans 2:24 (New Living Translation) can easily be applied to the nation when it states, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”
On last week’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” the comedian rips not only the religious right but also the basic beliefs of all Christians. Elton John, according to eonline.com, said that all religion should be banned. Are the statements made by the comic and singer fair? To the degree of what they have seen – yes. Their opinions of what they’ve seen of Christianity are perfectly logical conclusions based on the paths they have led. Yet a deeper realization must be made in response to such sweeping criticism.
Religion, like philosophy, politics or art, is a servant of humanity. Each individual chooses how to use it – either for the good of humanity or for the ill. The fact that Adolph Hitler or the Ku Klux Klan can use religion as a weapon of hate is no different than when a scientist uses atomic energy to construct nuclear weapons. The science itself isn’t evil; it is the person who uses the science who is.
The Christian faith, contrary to current popular opinion, has done amazing things to advance humanity. Every aspect of life has benefited, in some way, from its many graces.
At the same time, much evil has been done in the name of Jesus. Millions have been disgraced, tortured or killed because they didn’t conform to a particular Christian viewpoint. C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay “Religion and Rocketry,” “‘Gun and gospel’ have been horribly combined in the past. The missionary’s holy desire to save souls has not always been kept quite distinct from the arrogant desire, the busybody’s itch, to civilize the natives.”
But which side should take precedence when judging a religion’s worth – the good or the evil?
The actions of a few, or many, are more a reflection on those committing the act than on the philosophy in whose name they commit it. For those who are bent on committing evil acts, they will use any means at their disposal to have their will accomplished. Christianity is an easy tool for people to use as a smokescreen for their anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny and racism. It is also an easy tool for humanitarians, artists and public servants.
The same argument could be made about Islam. It is an easy tool for terrorists to use to deceive their recruits into joining them. Yet the religion has also been the conduit for scientific, cultural and humanitarian advances.
Thus, it does no good to make sweeping generalized statements about the smokescreens a group uses to get its agenda across. It makes much more sense to examine the factors and people behind the smoke to get to the real root of a group’s mindset. For, as the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Erick Raven is a first-year graduate student in the School of Education from Grand Prairie. His column appears every Friday.