It’s always refreshing when religious leaders strive to embody the very best values their faith has to offer. I have been reminded of this often over the past year, which is shaping up to be banner one for Christian leaders in the “practice what you preach” department.
For starters there is Kansas Pastor Curtis Knapp, who argued that the U.S. should put gay people to death. Pastor Charles Worley of North Carolina shared similar sentiments, stating that he figured out a way to “get rid of all the lesbians and queers… Build a great big, large fence — 100 miles long — put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food… Do the same thing with the queers and homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out … and in a few years they will die out.” (It appears the Christian churches, not to mention Christian school, I attended over the years utilized different versions of the Bible that omitted the section that talks about putting “queers” behind an electrified fence, because this edict doesn’t ring any bells with me.)
Whenever I hear the angry and hateful rhetoric of religious leaders like Knapp or Worley, or their cohorts like the notorious Fred Phelps of the Westboro Church of “God Hates F*gs” fame (or rather, infamy), or when I hear of yet another priest accused of abusing a child (or covering for one who did), I can understand how people become fed up and disillusioned with organized religion altogether. Particularly when the anger, hatred, corruption and intolerance displayed in some pulpits finds its way into politics. (Here’s looking at you, any religious leader who filed swift lawsuits to battle birth control access for women but moved slowly, or not at all, to prosecute clergy accused of sexually abusing kids.)
Of course, the irony is that many people who flee the anger and intolerance of organized religion appear to replace it with the anger and intolerance of atheism. I know I will spark outrage with this declaration, but I have never personally met an atheist who isn’t angry. (Before anyone completely freaks out, I’m speaking from my own personal encounters with atheists, which is admittedly limited to four people. Although I will say they are four people from very different walks of life, ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds so I wouldn’t call them a terrible sample. Perhaps not a great one, but not terrible either.) Each of them had a specific grievance in his or her life that he or she blamed on God. One was a black male friend who said, “If God existed, why would he let our people suffer the way that we have, from slavery until now?” including his own personal hardships in adulthood. He went on to explain that he was a “recovering Catholic.” (Strangely, three of the four atheists I have known fit this category.)
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