Notes from a bitch…a pondering on religious institutions…

Sorry I’ve been out of touch, but I’ve been traveling…a lot…to places where the hotels have lousy internet access.

Ugh.

Anyhoo, shall we?

There is an ongoing discussion within my circle of friends about whether a person is being biased toward religious people when one criticizes a religious institution for a policy stance or public statement/position.  Included in the debate-based discussion is the question of whether one can criticize a religious institution without criticizing it’s members and whether that’s a bad thing or an unavoidable reality that comes with membership.  This all came up again recently because I posted about some new Mormon ads on my personal blog and I wanted to know what a couple of friends thought of them.  The ads are running in select states and feature regular folks discussing their regular lives (volunteering, hobbies and family) each ending with the statement that they (the regular folks) are Mormons.

I was curious about the timing of these ads, which come across as a re-positioning of the Mormon brand, given the recent Prop. 8 ruling and the role the Mormon Church played in funding and supporting the anti-equality Prop. 8 initiative in California.

One of my friends defended the ads, stating that they didn’t contain any mention of the church’s position on marriage equality or LGBT people or the state of California in general.  And then she went on to say that she was uncomfortable with lumping religious people in with what their religious institutions do politically because there are lots of religious people who disagree with what their church does.  Her concern was that we would damage our pro-equality cause by coming across as bigoted should we denounce the faithful when we denounce the actions of a faith.

The conversation got tense…these conversations often do and I keep it real at dinner parties…and ultimately someone changed the subject before our dinner went completely off the rails.

I’ve been advocating for LGBT equality and reproductive justice for a while now and this issue comes up often.  Every time religious institutions take public positions on policy and candidates I find myself struggling to word my criticism in such a way as to not loop religious people in with what their church has or has not done.

But I’ve got to admit…I’m not entirely comfortable with doing that.  I was raised Baptist and left the church because the church left me…I could not remain a member of an institution that no longer reflected my values or empowered my soul.  So, I struggle to understand and accept folks who can remain in the flock after they’ve lost respect for the shepherd.

The problem is that I’m not entirely comfortable with not accepting folks who remain either.

I know some fierce pro-choice and pro-equality activists who are religious leaders in my community and who head congregations that are open and embracing and who want the rest of the religious world to catch up and jump on board.  They represent the growing number of religious allies in the social justice movement who are working within communities of faith to advocate for change.

I also know some religious people who totally disagree with me when it comes to abortion rights…hell, I used to volunteer at a woman’s shelter run by a group of nuns and we had some amazing debates on the issue.  We sought and were able to achieve common ground and I’ll always be proud of that…but a huge part of achieving that common ground was the fact that both sides were up front about our beliefs and boundaries.

That brings me back to that reoccurring quizzical-based debate that keeps popping up and damn near ruining my dinner parties.

I’m not interested in bashing organized religion…I’m too much a culture buff to find the rhythm of that dance. But there are religious institutions that fund anti-choice and anti-equality campaigns and those institutions are supported by their members.  While I support and will defend their right to religious freedom and free speech and non-violent protest (‘cause I sure as shit enjoy the freedom to not be a member of the flock, to speak my mind and to protest non-violently), I also support the rights of we the people to respond to attacks on our rights whether they come from religious institutions or some social club or Target

And I acknowledge the challenge of that even as I confront the reality that not responding to attacks on LGBT equality or reproductive justice from religious institutions is tantamount to conceding defeat.

I have only to look at the recent health care reform battle to know the power religious institutions wield over our political process and far too many politicians.

Pause…consider…continue.

I can’t help but ponder the precious and oh so conveniently privileged position religious institutions hold in our society.

And I wonder what society would be like if folks like my friend defended my right to not be burdened by the laws of someone else’s church with as much passion as they defend the rights of religious institutions to advocate for public policy that plants their dogma on my neck.

Given the current political climate, something tells me I’m looking at more than my fair share of tense as hell dinner party discussions in the future.

Blink.

Join the Conversation

  • jiujitsubuddah

    The reason religious institutions have reputations for particular negative opinions is because many or most their members hold those particular negative opinions. If they don’t want to be victim to a stereotype, the members of those institutions need to stop living up to them.

    • davenj

      “If they don’t want to be victim to a stereotype, the members of those institutions need to stop living up to them.”

      Um, what? We have mods that let a statement like that go through?

      Isn’t that the very same argument used by folks who call feminists “feminazis” and the like?

      Many people disagree with part of what a group they belong to does, yet feel stronger ties to remain part of that group. Many also seek reform within those groups, but reform is a long, arduous process, and often takes place out of sight.

      All members of any religious group are not the same and do not hold the same views. It’s perfectly fine to speak out against a particular institutional position, or the actions of individuals. It is not okay, however, to stereotype and put the onus on someone else to remove said stereotype. I’d like to think we’re better than that.

      • jiujitsubuddah

        I was referring to members of religious organizations that live up to the stereotype of being prejudice, bigoted, and using their God as an excuse for hatred. I was NOT saying all people in a religious organization fit that stereotype. In FACT, that was the whole point. The best way to get rid of a stereotype is for enough people in the group to fight it and prove it wrong. People in religious organizations with those bad raps, who don’t agree with it, need to speak up and speak out about prejudice and hate. I’m guessing whoever moderates the comments could see what I was saying, and that’s why they “let it through”.

        Are you saying that there AREN’T a lot of religious folk who hold prejudices, who think their faith justifies their hate? There are many like that, and they tend to be the most vocal, hence people associating their religious organizations with those negative behaviors and opinions. And yes, I DO think it is the responsibility of those in the group to work toward change of that group.

        • http://feministing.com/members/cosoa/ Cosoa

          I see what you’re saying, I do, but I don’t think it’s entirely realistic to say that individual members are solely responsible for their church’s reputation. The church leadership is the entity that ultimately puts the church’s views into the media spotlight, and they’re the ones who are primarily responsible for the public perception of the church. Even though individual Episcopalians did not universally agree with the induction of a gay pastor, it still happened, and it changed (and in some cases improved) the way people think about the church. It doesn’t get in the news when members of the Catholic church decide that they support equal marriage, however, because the Vatican is still strongly anti. Until the Pope comes out with “yeah, guys, it’s totally cool,” people are probably going to assume Catholics are against it. Individual members have very little vocal power compared to the official leadership.

          (This is just my impression; I’m not religious.)

          • jiujitsubuddah

            People can be heard when they speak loud enough and group together, even religious folk who are progressive and outnumbered. Feminists in the 1960s were outnumbered, but they formed groups and alliances and shouted their voices together until they were heard and people took notice.

            If the members of an organization are not responsible for the antics of said organization, then who is? Do they play no part, while those outside the organizations just have the responsibility to change their opinions on the benefit of the doubt, without anyone from the organization speaking out and giving them reason to?

            I agree with the other commentors here who have stated that people within an organization they are in by choice are responsible for making change within that organization and for the reputation of that organization. I, identifying as a feminist, feel responsible for the few fellow feminists who live up to our negative stereotypes (unfortunately, there really are some “man-haters” out there), and feel compelled to speak loudly so that others may hear me, so work towards changing people’s view of feminism. Not exactly a perfect analogy, but I think the point is clear.

    • kisekileia

      This is widely variable depending on the religious tradition. It’s very untrue in Catholicism, in which the institutional hierarchy is self-perpetuating regardless of the opinions of most church members. The Catholic hierarchy is very anti-abortion, anti-gay, and anti-birth control, but I’m pretty sure the data show that Catholics in North America are if anything, more liberal on those issues than Protestants. The religious institutions and laity have more consistent opinions in the Protestant evangelical community, where there is limited hierarchy above the congregational level and inter-church groups (e.g. Focus on the Family) depend on donations from lay people. I’d be interested in hearing from people with expertise outside Western Christianity about whether religious institutions and their members hold consistent opinions in other faiths.

  • http://feministing.com/members/abbywankenobi/ abby_wan_kenobi

    I agree that this is a really tricky corner to be in. Usually I try to take the route of, I respect your right to believe that, I would defend your right to continue believing that freely – I dispute your right to legislate it. But that’s tough. That doesn’t feel like a position with any power. I don’t feel like I’ve come out swinging when I say that. And I want to come out swinging.

    In a lot of ways, I think “the faithful” are like the unfortunate children in the divorce of their beliefs. There was a time when their two parents, the church and their values were living in harmony together. Then at some point things went off the rails and now the faithful are trapped between the church that raised them – who they owe a lot to, whose community they live in – and their values, who were betrayed, packed up and left town. Unfortunately, the church seems (in this case) pretty willing to use the kids as leverage.

    It’s not easy to walk away from a church. Especially a church full of people. Good people, who may have known you your whole life, who stood up and watched you be baptized, take your first communion, and get married. You leave that church and you risk losing friends, causing a rift in your family, tearing a community apart. I really think that being able to leave a church is a privilege. Churches in many communities provide child-care, after school programs, food kitchens, support groups, counseling, educational opportunities and more. Walking away from that is a lot more than walking away from a political position you disagree with.

    It’s worth discussing though. It is hard to attack the church and not it’s members, but I think it is worthwhile to try.

    • http://feministing.com/members/cosoa/ Cosoa

      “I really think that being able to leave a church is a privilege. Churches in many communities provide child-care, after school programs, food kitchens, support groups, counseling, educational opportunities and more. Walking away from that is a lot more than walking away from a political position you disagree with.”

      This is a really important point, and something I definitely observed everywhere I’ve lived. As a nonreligious person I find it easy to get caught in the trap of ignoring the practical realities of faith-based communities in favor of focusing on the political, but because I’ve never had access to these church-provided resources and have never depended on them, I sometimes forget how vital they are, especially to poor communities. The choice involved would be a bit like the “choice” I have to leave my country. Technically, yes, I could, but it would be completely impractical. So I remain, even though I don’t always agree with my government’s choices.

  • zill222

    Full disclosure: I am a life long member of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and I think that United methodist women is one of the greatest feminist and humanitarian organization on the planet. I also lived for 2 years in Utah.

    I take issue with the idea that “the faith” is an actor, like when you say the actions or the views of the faith. A religious institution is made up of people and I don’t believe that any church or other religious institution contains people that all agree 100%. I think that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) has desenters I just don’t think they are that vocal in non-church culture because members feel a great deal of (either real of imagined) criticism from non-members. We all know that the Catholic Church has leaders a members who disagree with and are actively trying to change the policies of the Roman Catholic church.

    I know people who have left because they felt that the church left them. That is actually how every single protestant denomination have been created in the world. With a few exceptions (perhaps most notably the LDS Church) all Christian denominations trace their history back to the Catholic church then people di agreed (Martin Luther or King Henry VIII or Martin Wesley) and boom new church.

    If I am criticizing a church I try to criticize actions and specific policies and not just the whole lump sum of the membership. I also try to find out if there is a movement within the membership that is also upset about the same things (because there usually is).

    On the topic of the LDS church there is a feminist movement that is trying to balance equality with LDS teachings http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/ and the LGBT community http://www.affirmation.org/. These may not be your exact brand of activism but it is their’s.

    Many times on this site I have heard, “You can’t be a Christian and a Feminist because they are fundamentally opposed.” (I also heard “In the Christina tradition God is a rapist” but never mind that.) I think that is a belief that is held by people who only have a limited experience with one or a few churches and that is was probably negative so they lump everyone together. That is prejudice. Then the argument becomes “I have studied Christianity and I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS!” I respond, scholars have studied Christianity for centuries and hardly anyone agrees so it can’t possibly be that simple.

    • http://feministing.com/members/dark_morgaine_le_fey/ dark_morgaine_le_fey

      As another life long member of the United Methodist Church, I have to agree with most of what you say. You are definitely utilizing the Wesleyan quadrilateral (scripture, reason, tradition and experience). I’ve noticed that within this denomination, there are often tense discussions at annual conferences all over the country and the world that come to a head at General Conference, and same-sex marriage was a hot-button issue at the last General Conference.

      We have an inclination as a denomination to argue about the meaning of scripture and how we should apply it. We have parts of our history that are pretty ignoble (racial exclusion that in some sense continues to this day, etc). But I love the church, and I feel like I have to work from within to enact change. Our motto, as it were, is “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” It’s up to the members to make that a reality. And we have done a lot of good. We were some of the first on the ground in Haiti because UMCOR was already in Haiti when the earthquake struck. We’ve been ordaining women since 1956 (according to Wikipedia. It might be slightly off, but it was definitely the fifties). If the more liberal members who want marriage equality were all to leave in protest, the church would grow more conservative from our loss, and then the good works we could be doing for the LGBT community, among others, would never come to pass.

      I see absolutely nothing wrong with being both Feminist and Methodist, and my male feminist pastor would agree. ;)

      Also, slight aside, but I think you meant to say “John Wesley”, not “Martin Wesley”, though I realize you were thinking of Martin Luther as well, and sometimes we don’t type what we mean. (Diligently scans own entry to avoid embarrassing typos.)

      • zill222

        Yeah, I really need to learn to proof read.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    To me it’s all in how any religious/faith group handles conflict. And it also helps when there is a system of leadership in place that takes dissent into account without dismissing it out of hand.

    In my situation, the problems I run into involved individual monthly meetings and yearly meetings rather than individuals, per se. But when individuals are complacent and complicit in dysfunctional practices, then everyone loses.

  • http://feministing.com/members/time4ubuntu/ Emily Sheldon

    As a progressive person of faith, this is a question I struggle with on a regular basis. My life experience has caused me to constantly see the cross-section between faith and politics, for example, by working as an employee of Planned Parenthood and simultaneously sitting on the Board of Directors for a progressive Christian campus ministry.

    However, as stated above, I choose to affiliate myself with religious organizations that stand by the principles I associate with Christianity- love, equality, generosity and stewardship. Opportunities exist to be a person of faith and a strong progressive activist. I honestly believe that people should be held responsible for the groups that they affiliate with by choice, and if the behavior of that organization is not in line with the personal moral standards of that individual, it is their responsibility to leave.

    That being said, I do believe there are people out there truly being activists and trying to make a difference in the way their faith sees social issues, for example, Catholics for Choice. But, unless you are publicly stating your opposition to these issues, and attempting to educate, you’re often just using the separation between church and state as an excuse to not have to make a tough decision.
    AND….
    If you aren’t already familiar, check out the United Church of Christ.

  • http://feministing.com/members/rhoanna/ Rhoanna

    . I honestly believe that people should be held responsible for the groups that they affiliate with by choice, and if the behavior of that organization is not in line with the personal moral standards of that individual, it is their responsibility to leave.

    One of the problems with this standard is that people want different things out of religions (or other groups). There are many things that go into decide what church or religion to belong to: theology, worship style, local congregation, involvement in the community, and of course moral beliefs. On top of that, many people have family members they go to church with, with their own opinions and beliefs. Balancing all that often requires compromise — even if it’s just one individual, there isn’t always a church or congregation that meets all they want. And not everyone is going to view moral beliefs as the most important thing, or they may decide some moral beliefs are more important than others.

  • http://feministing.com/members/quantumelody/ Kaye

    If someone is appearing in an advertisement sponsored by an organized religion, it’s okay to analyze the messages critically and be upset about any negative political associations the group has.

    Religions can advocate for specific positions, but they cannot and should not dictate which candidate you vote for or threaten you with eternal damnation or refusal of services if you refuse to comply. It’s bullying, and so many people don’t have the confidence to stand up to it. And, since religion is so personal for so many people, criticizing their acquiescence can sometimes be conceived as personally attacking them.

    Of course, as a Hellenist I’m encouraged to have a loud opinion on just about everything for the purpose of debate and mutual enlightenment, so sometimes religions can push people in good ways, too. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/reilly/ reilly

    I’m in seminary to become a minister in a tradition that is regionally torn about LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and women as leaders in the church (among other things). I grew up in the midwest which is way more conservative and have since moved to the East coast, where I can find more liberal churches who hold the same values as I do.

    I choose to stay a member of my denomination because I am a person of faith. I am working to become a leader in this church because I can feel things changing and I want to be a part of that change. It is much easier to be a part of a group working for open-mindedness than to be on the outside of a group yelling. The same holds true for bashing. I criticize Protestant Christians all the time (for being too political or just downright hateful) and I’m okay with giving that critique because it’s my right as a part of that group. I don’t speak to any other sect because stereotypes are not the truth and it isn’t my job to judge groups that I’m not a member of.

    I don’t think religion and politics should ever mix. The separation of church and state was decided a long time ago for some very good reasons. When religious groups get political, no matter if I agree with them or not, it makes me very frustrated. By all means, vote with a moral code. But don’t blindly follow what the church tells you is the right thing to do. God is on everyone’s side. Jesus was all about radical love. Anyone who tells you differently is reading the Bible with a filter of some sort. And we have way too many examples on how dangerous this is.

  • http://feministing.com/members/badgers54/ Alex Wagner

    I appreciate the intent behind this post, but in some ways I think it misses the point. You say that you try to “word my criticism in such a way as to not loop religious people in with what their church has or has not done.”

    I think that’s kind of patronizing. It basically says to the person, “I know you’re a good person, and you couldn’t possibly agree with that terrible thing that your church did.” But what if they do agree with it, and don’t think it’s a terrible thing at all? Or what if they think that what their church does/teaches is too extreme, but they’re still closer to their church’s position than yours? Then you create a situation where the person doesn’t know whether to be honest about what they believe, or just tell you what you want to hear.

    It seems to me that a better way to ensure a respectful dialogue is to assume that there is a decent chance that the person does agree with their church. That they very well might feel like you are criticizing them if you criticize their church’s leadership. So don’t worry about not lumping them in with their church’s leadership, and instead, just be sure to criticize their church in a way that doesn’t dehumanize or demonize their religious leadership. Make it clear that you value your relationship with them even if you can’t understand why they think the way they do.

    If someone decides that they can’t be friends with me anymore because of what I believe, that’s not going to make me change my mind to align my beliefs with theirs, it’s just going to take away any chance they might have had to change my mind. I think if you want to change anyone’s mind on any issue, they pretty much have to know that you will accept them whether or not they come to agree with you.

    Finally, I think you have to be realistic about the fact that a lot of the time, people change their minds about issues very gradually. If you talk to someone and within a few minutes, they totally change their position on an important issue, it probably means that either they are just telling you what you want to hear because they feel uncomfortable, or they had never thought very much about why they believe what they do. If they have thought about their position and the arguments behind it, they’re probably not going to change their mind overnight.

  • http://feministing.com/members/kaelin/ Matt

    “…whether one can criticize a religious institution without criticizing it’s members and whether that’s a bad thing or an unavoidable reality that comes with membership”

    Yes, you can. Just because an institution is deemed responsible or at fault does not mean all of its members are responsible or at fault. For example, Justice Harlan is not responsible for the the Supreme Court’s ruling on Plessy v. Ferguson. About the only way you would necessarily be criticizing any members is if they unconditionally support the institution’s action/statement/etc.

    “…whether a person is being biased toward religious people when one criticizes a religious institution for a policy stance or public statement/position.”

    No, not necessarily. If a religious institution declares that the Sun revolves around the Earth, you are not biased just because you criticize that stance.

    Regarding your friend being uncomfortable with the blurring of the distinction between the institution and its members, that’s a reasonable feeling to have. I know I have never been a part of an organization (nonsecular or secular) where I was fully in lock-step, and for an issue this emotional, one should be careful about drawing associations.

    Regarding the timing of the advertisements, if they have really been popping up around this time, then that tactic does raise a red flag. For example, Toyota launching a major ad initiative emphasizing safety following their recalls is a fairly transparent attempt at trying to make their brand (and product) look more palatable. It’s reasonable to suggest that the Mormon church is doing the same — making their brand (and their product — which includes a substantial chunk of intolerance) more acceptable in the immediate aftermath of a court ruling that deemed Prop 8 (a measure it fiercely supported) violates people’s rights.

    While criticizing an institution does not mean you are criticizing its members (necessarily), you may nevertheless want to criticize its members as well. However, you are lodging a different criticism. You are not criticizing the members for the actions/statements of the church, but rather you are criticizing their decision to maintain their affiliation with the institution given certain actions of the institution. This sort of decision involves lots of aspects of the institution: the stances, the actions, the community, the relationships, and the background… at all levels (not just the ones you identify, but everything). It may not sound like much, but leaving/joining a religious institution can sometimes lead to a person losing most/all of their friends and family (which sometimes translates to losing their emotional and financial support). An alternative approach for your friend is for the person to voice criticism to the church itself at a level sufficient to justify remaining a member in spite of the dissonance, and that approach has advantages/drawbacks as well.

    Regarding churches getting special treatment (not being required to report criminal behavior, taking political stances while enjoying tax-exempt status), that’s a point suitable to another topic, and I’m inclined to compel them to play by the same rules as everyone else.

  • http://feministing.com/members/samperez/ Sam

    @sharkfu: have you read “the god delusion” by richard dawkins? it might offer you some insight and mitigate some of the guilt you might feel at criticizing an entire group of people based on their religion. some of the people i love and care about most in this world are religious, while i am atheist and this has been something difficult for me as well.

    dawkins made two really interesting points – the first being that religion is accorded a higher status than any other belief or affiliation. Somebody can say they are democratic and you will ask them to justify why they swing to the left, you can debate about the democratic party, you can CRITICIZE their party choice, etc. But the second someone comes out and says they’re catholic or muslim or whatever, you mustn’t ask them to question or justify their beliefs (and god forbid you criticized them!)

    secondly, he details the harm (yes, harm) that religion does to the world by asking people to renounce reason and logic and make very important decisions based solely on faith. i understand that there are many, many religious people who are intelligent, logical, reasonable, etc. I also know there are atheists who are not. However, i don’t think it’s a coincidence that, as a whole, the more educated people get, the less religious they are. When you tell children, “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so” you are teaching them from a very young age to NOT THINK. It’s not hard to understand how people go from “jesus loves me cos the bible says so!” to “gays are bad because the bible says so!” It’s not hard to understand why society continues to be so sexist when the bible hardly makes any mention of women except to blame eve for human sin and praise women for their baby-making capabilities. Do you really want to affiliate yourself to a religion that is based on a book that condones sexism, slavery, and gay-bashing? Sure, there are some very great chapters in the bible that condone peace, love for your neighbor, etc…. But what about the others? My main problem is that people pick and choose which parts of the bible they like and then get angry when people have chosen other parts they don’t like. As much as i hate it, the religious right that advocates against gay rights IS IN THE RIGHT, according to their religion.

    Rather than question whether it’s bad to criticize “all catholics” because you don’t agree with certain parts of “catholicism”, i think we should question why people continue to choose to affiliate with institutions that are responsible for propagating hateful, patriarchal messages to its members and the rest of the world.

    P.S. – i encounter many anti-americans because they don’t like the american government or corporate america. i remind them that they shouldn’t judge all americans based on the actions of the few in charge. in the case of religion, i feel it’s different because you can’t always choose where to live, and you certainly can’t choose where you are born. but you CAN choose to call yourself a catholic.

  • http://feministing.com/members/johnc/ John Crawford

    I wrote a post in response to someone else undergoing a similar situation once. Here is a link to it: link.

    It boggles my mind that people think the only appropriate response to disagreement with an institution that you value is to walk away from it. However, I understand that you aren’t exactly endorsing that and I am easily boggled.

  • http://feministing.com/members/leeraloo/ Leeraloo

    Yeah, this is an issue I struggle with a lot.

    On one hand, it hasn’t been but a few years since I “left” the church, and as far as my family’s concerned, none of them know I no longer buy into it. They mostly just think I’m too lazy to get up on Sunday mornings to go to church service (which is also kind of true). So I guess while I feel on the outside of the whole thing, there’s a certain part of me that’s still entrenched in the goings-on of my old church and whatnot. Full disclosure: I was raised in the Nazarene church, spent about 18 years going every Sunday, both morning and evening services, and most Wednesday services. I have a lot of bitterness built up about my whole experience, as the things I endured and learned there resulted in a lot of mental distress and anxiety for me. For example, there’s a certain amount of apocalyptic anxiety that a 12 year old will garner when forced to take a Sunday school class about the book of Revelation. I know this personally. I also had an almost OCD-like need to pray constantly and stuff, and these are things I’m still dealing with.

    So it’s hard for me to forgive and forget these things, and I am bitter. And, having achieved some distance from that community, I have been picking up on how politicized my specific church experience is/was, how homophobic and anti-feminist and just kind of hateful. I remember a sermon where the pastor basically told the congregation that voting for George W. Bush would be the Christian thing to do. I remember a man of about 70 years of age standing up in the middle of church to “testify” that he didn’t approve of the way the young teenage girls were dressed that day (I was one of these girls; I think someone had worn a v-neck shirt, so obviously all of us needed to hear about it). I remember a sermon about how women should be servile to their husbands. I remember a gay man who came to our church for a while who was made into a special church project, to make him “renounce his sinful ways.” Now, looking back, I can’t imagine the hell that must have been for him. On and on and on it goes. After a while, I became aware that many, MANY, of the opinions that church community holds and can flimsily back up with a sparse amount of Bible verses were just thinly disguising some serious prejudice and hatred. It’s a common practice, I think.

    So while it’s my default response to just blow off anything that has to do with religion, I am realizing that it’s not always this way. I’ve garnered a fundamental appreciation for the teachings of Jesus. The dude just wanted his followers to be loving. I feel like a lot of the characteristics of modern-day churches and believers fly in the face of everything Jesus taught, however. It’s like they’re basing their beliefs solely on the Old Testament. Modern-day Christianity and modern-day Republican party/Conservative beliefs are so intertwined, it seems, but there’s definitely a shocking amount of selfishness that goes along with that, and I think that’s the opposite of what Jesus preached. But I also realize that there are some awesome churches out there. Liberal churches, or churches that are completely free of political associations. It’s something I’m constantly having to remind myself about. Otherwise I can be hateful and hypocritical, and these are the things I hated most about my old church.

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