Between Ugly Believers And Liberal Nothings

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Each of the major faiths in the world teaches that salvation is best found inside its ranks. Each teaches the best way to salvation is to follow the teachings and rules of the founders of their particular faith or  denomination. Each of these religions or denominations of a church generally maintains that it lights the true path. Each of the religions tends to assume that others are totally in the dark. Actually, the desired end each faith ideally dreams of is to wipe out the other religions so their faith can become THE spiritual world monopoly. That’s not likely but they do dream on.

The theoretical ideal of achieving a world spiritual monopoly in becoming the only true faith or religion is probably not going to happen anymore than there is going to be only one make of automobiles or one chain of grocery stores. Competition among religions or stores or political creeds or automobiles is probably a good thing. Of course competition has a dark side too. However, I do not think I would like a Christianity that offered only one denomination or a natural creation that offered only one sex. Our differences are often fulfilled in others to make a whole we may not be aware of, but a whole that is better and bigger than the parts.

On the one hand I don’t think we in Christianity need 650 denominational choices, but on the other hand, I don’t think we need that reduced to one choice either. I could be quite content with fewer choices, but, please God, no more one choice super churches propounding their infallibility on faith and morals. We  went that route with Rome and it didn’t work. One mass organizational super church with a spiritual Napoleonic general at its head is just plain repugnant to me. But there are those happy with it. That makes my point. One or a thousand is too little and rigid in one way but too much the other way.

The configuration of God that makes me happy may not make others happy. To be spiritually happy together or united together in one spirit does not mean to be organizationally one.To be  spiritually one may come from the balanced expression of different needs. That’s a paradox. High spiritual truths are often paradoxes, the coming together of opposed definitions. Paradoxes show logic turned into spiritual forms that may be the result of art, balance and spiritual awareness through the Holy Spirit.

Now what I dislike is the way so many members of religions claiming to be “it” obviously enjoy the fact members of other religions than their own are supposedly going to hell. I’ve watched some of these types  and the idea anybody not of their views is going to hell deeply satisfies them. It gives them an emotional bang .They threaten outsiders with it. They get drunk on their own self-righteousness. They are “ugly  believers” carrying spiritual signs saying, “You are going to hell. I am smug and self-righteous, but I am not because I have uttered some magic creed words.” Well, I disagree. It is not knowledge about God,  theoretical knowledge, but practical knowledge learned in working with God that makes true religious higher awareness or enlightenment.

Remember everyone is a child of God. Your first duty, regardless of faith, is to love all the children of God. If you love them, you won’t treat them like dirt because they aren’t Christian or they don’t go to your church. Or they are Hindus or other persuasions. The first job of every Christian is to try treat others as fellow children of God.

Now don’t be disappointed when you just can’t. Nobody is perfect. Nobody is going to attain perfection  short of the last trumpet. But do you try? That is what we mean by justification by faith. It is the trying , the effort that is the victory. Nobody can really know how hard others are trying. That means we can’t judge others. Jesus taught: “Judge not, that ye be not judged for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged ”(Matthew 7:1) That means God knows if you are trying. Leave the judgment of others to God who knows them intimately and thoroughly. You try. Do your best. Leave the rest to Heaven.  What is really discouraging to God is when He doesn’t see anybody trying. It fits into the old spiritual  song lines....“way down yonder by myself I didn’t hear nobody pray.” Nobody praying meant nobody trying. Because to really try, you must pray

If you can love a good person, that is fine, well and good, but that’s not much progress in the way of  spiritual growth. It’s easier to love a good man, but when you can love a bad man, you are getting higher towards the level of God. You will suffer for this, as Christ did, but you will also grow. Will the bad man grow? Will the bad person grow? I can’t tell you that except many times the answer is: no. It is very satisfying when the answer is, yes, and the person you love grows through your love and God’s grace, but often the honest answer is, no. Many, many that are helped to grow, don’t grow.

Ask the people at Alcoholics Anonymous how many people come and how few are changed. It is sad. Many, many people don’t change. They just go underground under moral pressure. Others hope, but hope is not enough, because their hope is not a plan involving God, prayer and action. To get ahead in anything, and I think it is a formula of Natural Law, a principle of common grace, that after you are awaked by grace, there must be a plan involving God, prayer and action.

Remember the founders of all the great religions and their leading prophets were trying to build a Love Community. Instead people who may have been into religion but did not understand religion at its best did not do well by religion. Faiths succumbed to violence and hate and made the religions of the world into causes for friction and hate rather than a common cause for good. They are what I call “ugly believers.” And what should be written is the” History of Ugly Believers In  Religion.” From it we would learn much.

Where the ugly believers have brought religion down to the present level of so much secular materialisms, overly sentimental slop, and approval of violence, our job is to try through grace to resurrect religion into a positive spiritual force. That is going to be no small endeavor, considering the way  the world is today. But if you don’t try, if we don’t try, then we are adding apathy to injury.

The world needs genuine religious people with honest, caring and loving values. Wherever these are, there will be people with good values, who are standing in grace. The world does not need more ugly believers who haven’t experienced the love of God personally but have a creed or a politician view to force on everybody else. More ugly believers are not what the world needs. Yet it often looks as if that is what it is getting. God have mercy on it.

Sometimes in religion I feel as if I am caught between ugly believers: soured in spirit, snobby, bigoted in attitude, intolerant in practice, while then on the other side are the Nothing Liberals. The liberals are  running the Mainline churches, oh, yes, Lord, with degrees from Harvard Management School Seminaries. The poor guys have been to all the colleges of the world but don’t seem to believe there is in this universe a living Spirit Personality called God. How can this be learned except by grace? They are not in grace.

I look at the “Ugly Believers” and then I turn to look at the “Nothing Liberals” and I think of those lines from the “Romeo and Juliet” of Shakespeare, “A plague on both your houses.” Has the choice given people once proud to be Protestants come down to this?  And then I feel the lines of Patrick Henry: “Forbid it, Almighty God.”

I tell you that in the church is more than the choices most people are given today between “Ugly Believers” and “The Sour Saints” versus “Liberal Nothings.” It is difficult to say which of those lost tribes of Israel  is most cursed! But I tell you we are still living in the Spiritual Stone Ages. The dawn of the truly Spiritual Age is yet to come. There exists in this universe a magnet of attracting grace. Far greater men than I have  told of this, but I am privileged to remind you of that Presence which I through grace experienced, and I do solemnly believe is there waiting for some of you if you will but claim His grace. Because of this I say, Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:3) Join me in so doing.      


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.