"It is considered sophisticated and educated to know only the bad
stuff about religion. Of course, thats ironic because to only know the bad stuff is to not actually be educated."
"Half the time when Im giving a public presentation, the first question about religion is a negative question. What do you think about Islam and violence? What do you think about the Catholic Church and the pedophilia crisis? Why do so many people of faith hate gay people? Particularly in the areas of America where people have higher levels of education, those are their first questions."
Our society relies on religious communities to take care of people, to do addiction counseling, to do job training, to do hunger and homelessness work, to do refugee resettlement. We just dont often tell the story of them doing that work. And I think that thats a big problem.
"In America, people build institutions hospitals, social service agencies, colleges, whatever out of the inspiration of their own faith identity, but the institution serves people of all identities. That is not a common ethos in human history.
But thats the story of America. That is American pluralism at its best. That is civic cooperation."
Eboo Patel is an American Muslim who is the founder and president of Interfaith America. He was interviewed by Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest who has a religion column in the NYT as well as Christianity Today.
Behind a paywall unfortunately: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/09/opinion/patel-eboo-organized-religion.html
I once mainly knew the negative things about religion, especially Christianity. At least, if I knew some of the many contributions made by religious people and groups, the negative far outweighed the good in my mind. I was anti- both religion in general and Christianity in particular. This interview does a great job of reminding me of the positive role many faith communities have and still provide us.
religion is not so much a belief structure as a way of life.
organization. Like the guy that does a good job running the front business and looks the other way on the criminal activity.
BUT I view the "accomplishments" of churches and religion in general in "taking care of" people in the same vein I view all the "please help" commercials on TV, from hospitals begging for cancer research money to those dig-at-the-heart ASPCA commercials. Maybe I'm over sensitive in issues of the heart, and so they make a huge impact on me. I supported ASPCA while I was working at bringing in money. Even shortly after retirement, I continued to "pay it forward" at the grocery store or the doctor's office when and where I could. Today's news makes me wonder how I continue to live in this world. It is not what I envisioned or worked for all my life, including my military service.
The real question no one is asking (that I see) is WHY in one of the richest countries of the world are these entities put into the situation of begging for our private support? This is "general welfare" stuff of the constitution... things the government should be using our tax money for. We should be supporting people (and animals) with our tax dollars. These institutions should not have to begging for money from those of us who have little to nothing. Yet, that's where we're at.
If churches want to do this and NOT demand that their faith be presented and pushed on the people hurting for help, then go for it if that's part of their faith outreach. I don't disagree with that. I DO disagree when those churches then decide how, why, and to whom to offer the help. Churches demanded (long before government) that hospitals not perform abortions, for example. Food lines operated by churches have sermons while dinner is served. No problem with separation of church and state there, right? And yet we're all subjected to it in various ways everyday.
Our tax dollars are going to pay "representatives" who do not represent us; they represent the oligarchs and the churches who demand power over us. They pay for military ventures with which we do not agree. And all we can do is vote? I'm in a dead red state. My vote has never counted for anything. I've been gerrymandered twice since moving to this city 3 years ago. And yet, I still vote because it seems that's the most I can do.
It's about time for something huge, shocking, and dangerous from our side to push the narrative that these are not normal times. Buddhist monks set themselves aflame in situations like this. We go shopping. Damn, something is definitely wrong with this. Have we lost all heart, all soul, in this country?
Helping people is not the main purview of private individuals. It SHOULD be the main purview of the government. And yet, a good portion of our government believes the exact opposite, as do at least 30% of the Americans living in this country. I fear, I've lived too long. I'm not experiencing nostalgia nor do I want to experience it; I just long for the days when people had souls and cruelty wasn't the point.
I play the organ. I left a church where I had been playing for 8 years. I grew up with these people. One woman was bringing her phone in to church and watching FOX. Then she would coo in a flirty voice "oh, Tucker". Ugh. Then I slowly realized the pastor (a lovely woman) was a Trump supporter. She said that Social Security, SNAP, and all other safety net government programs were the worst thing the government ever did. She said that helping people is the church's job. Seriously? The church can pay everyone in retirement? They could have helped my mentally ill sister with housing, groceries, etc.? Or my friend who became disabled suddenly last year and I had to pay his bills for 3 months until he was able to get SNAP and $100/week. His truck was repossessed. The church was going to pay his car payment and insurance? How about the property taxes he owed?
I am at a new church and I really like these people. However, one woman recently used the "N word" to describe black students she taught in the South. Wow, that's really Christian. She and others are totally anti immigrant. The Bible states that we are to care for prisoners, migrants, widows, and orphans. Guess they did not read that part.
of their "bible" and actually created their own faith out of whole cloth. They are not Christians, IMO. People of that faith should rail loud and clear against them using the name of Christianity to describe who they are. They do not follow the teachings of the Christ. They follow the teachings of false prophets, moneychangers, and anti-christs. They are giving Christianity a bad name.
There's good and bad in every religion, because all of them have been created by man. From the first to recognize the elements and pray to them for good crops, hunts, etc., through to today to justify what they want justified. Christianity has a lot of blood on its hands, but then so do most religions... including my own, Paganism.
Most of us today try to extend tolerance and understanding through Interfaith meetings and gatherings. We realize when you boil down all religions, there are a few universal truths that they all recognize. Well... until now, anyway. Christian extremism and Islamic extremism I can say have forsaken those truths for truths of their own. Perhaps others have, too. I know I detest what the fringe of the Norse religions have been saying and doing of late.
Yes... churches have the opportunity to help when it fits within their faith missions. To me, that does not include stripping people of their native religions nor making square pegs fit into round holes. But it is under the constitution that our help as Americans comes from; the fact the politicians who rule "in our name" disregard it, twist it the way they do their bible verses, and discount it completely doesn't negate what it actually says.
And you're right... when it comes down to the nitty gritty of what people need, churches are poor substitutes for government safety nets.
This woman's husband basically stole their 3 kids. When the mother finally got them back, the kids came with "conversion" certificates meaning that the husband converted them to muslim without the mother's consent. The law says that the Hindu mother cannot raise her now Muslim children.
Most of us in local churches don't have the training to provide appropriate help to those with mental illness and behavioral problems.
In so many areas, the kind of help individual churches can offer would be too haphazard. A guaranteed monetary payment to the needy week in and week out? Allotments to ensure women and children have access to dairy products and other food items? Food stamps and the SNAP program? Only the federal government can meet those needs.
On the other hand, organized religion can and have organized to take on very big local projects. Hospitals. Health clinics. Universities. Schools. Mental health providers and counseling.
I totally agree that any help should be given with no strings attached. No proselytizing. Coercion of any kind is antithetical to what God demonstrates. That includes about whether to have a child or not, to have an abortion.
That feels right, that they have taken bits and pieces from various religions and cobbled them together to fit their own desires.