I am a religious person. I think we’ve established that.
When I advocate for things like gay marriage and women having access to healthcare, when I speak on the virtues of love and tolerance even when you don’t agree with someone else (which can just as difficult from a liberal perspective as from a conservative one), I struggle with my religion a little bit. Not my faith, mind you, my faith is pretty straightforward: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” And so on.
It is said sometimes that Satan’s greatest trick is convincing people he doesn’t exist. So I struggled with that. I don’t think my God of love and mercy gets hung up on human sexuality the way humans do, for example.
But I don’t know. God is infinite and unknowable, and me saying, “Eh, I don’t think God gets hung up on human sexuality” could be just as valid as someone else saying, “God wants marriage to be between one man and one woman.” The first message just sounds more tolerant.
But at some point late Friday night, I realized that I don’t think the lie of religion is in any of the things I hold dear and advocate for in this human vale of tears.
The lie of religion is that God wants you to kill or oppress other people for your religion.
God doesn’t want that. I don’t know the rules of the Quran, but I am willing to bet that just like in my Christian Ten Commandments, there’s something that states, “Thou shalt not kill.”
God doesn’t want us to impose our religion on other people be it through laws or through guns and bombs.
We can speak our faith and our religion. We can practice our faith and our religion — here in America, anyway. It’s easier to be a Christian here; when people hear freedom of religion, that’s what they default to. But Muslims, and Jews, and Hindis, and Buddists, they get to practice too, without fear of being barred from their places of worship, without being beat up for their religion.
And no doubt, it is harder in other parts of the world. Christians are persecuted in the Middle East — and I don’t mean Starbucks red cup persecuted, I mean “live in real fear of prison and death” persecuted. Muslims in American must live in fear, too, after things like the attacks in Paris. I cannot imagine.
The lie of extremists is the lie that when they act out in violence, they are doing God’s work. When they act out to oppress and take things away from, that they are doing what God wants. I’m not just talking about ISIS. They are the most egregious and scary example, to be sure.
Christian extremists may not be toting guns around at Pride rallies, but to impose one’s religion on people trying to exercise their civil rights is wrong-headed and ugly too.
Jesus came to us and left us with one commandment.
“Love one another. Love one another as I have loved you.”
We don’t get to be selfish and judgmental in the service of our religion. That is about the exact opposite of what Jesus charged us with.
We need to sacrifice and serve in the name of God to give him glory. And maybe some of what we need to sacrifice is the idea that because we are Catholic or Christian or Muslim, that the rules we live by need to be imposed on everyone.
Religious extremists do the work of Satan in the world. They foster strife and drive people away from God. They end conversation. They close off what we should seek to open.
We need to show them that love is stronger than death and destruction. That the world will unite and be stronger in love than in hate. Faithful or not, religious or not, spiritual or not, if we can unite in love, we will be doing what we are here to do.
Love one another.