|If I comment that religions
have brought much good to the earth, there may be a reply that religions have also disturbed the world greatly through bigotry and intolerance.
This has led to ill feeling, wars and all sorts of ugliness. This is true of course. Who doesn’t know
it? There’s no denying the existence of off-key religions. However, is that any reason to
abolish religion because it sounds off key at times as nearly everything and everyone else does also
Take up, for example, romantic love. Does it not often go off-key and lapse into jealousy, hurt pride, envy, divorce, bitterness, and ugliness? These are its off-key moments that are deplorable, and everyone later regrets, but should we then make these lapses in love an excuse to say there should be no more love? I think not. It is poor spirited to be so easily alienated from a desirable elemental life rhythm.
We should appreciate religion in the sense of the void that it fills in human life. But we should remember our religious expressions are going to be imperfect because God has chosen people to be instruments of His Grace and His Good Will. God, being an Invisible Spirit and Personality, often has need of hands-on workers. We, being imperfect and sinful humans, are called at times to act as instruments of His Grace. Yet all of us are sinful, sometimes make mistakes and have experienced off-key situations ourselves. None of us are perfect. All of us live in sin and this is unfortunate, but it is this cognition of our common sin that urges us to be patient with one another and not to point out the sins of others while being blind to our own. Judge not that you be not judged, said the Lord.
Then let us realize there are times when churches and faiths are off-key even though they may be reasonably in tune to God or Christ most or some of the time. All people and their religions will be at times off-key in minor ways and then sometimes off-key in major ways. By off-key I mean things like urging people in the wrong direction, being bitter, being intolerant, being insensitive, being full of hate. Or we might say churches, like people, under stress have tempers and temperamental moments. Nor should we expect the clergy to be perfect any more than we expect churches to be.
Let us remember nothing good given to mankind on this earth is not sometimes misused or taken out of context. Religion is not an exception. We should then not get rid of religion because of its guilt by association. People wanting to get rid of religion because it has parasites attached to it would also want to kill their dog or put it down because it may contract fleas. We cannot mark down religion as a bad thing because it is sometimes used as a mask to hide selfish people or evil organizations. Or because religion is sometimes taken over as governments are taken over by politicians and politics. At such times, we should pray, we should be wise in enduring. Eventually God will rudder all wave tossed boats in strange pride-dripped ironic ways. The mighty will be brought down from their seats. The insensitive rich will be driven away. The scriptures will be fulfilled. This is the Word of God.
But there are variables to be considered when meeting off-key religion. When I have found religious groups fighting, it has principally been over things like caste, class, economics, national pride, race and possession of certain desirable geographic areas. Religion is but a rider on the back of other social issues. It is common for a religious group to grant security and solidarity to the claims of a cause under stress. Is this wrong? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. But to be so used is not the fault of religion. It is simply the way the fallen world operates. Though it is my theory that grace will sometimes twist faith to fit true need. This is just as grace may use a creed to fit a need.
It is true religion was intended to help change and redeem the world through grace, transcendent thinking and feeling, but how often can things turn out exactly as they were intended in a fallen, flat, madly materialistic society of star-crossed and tacky-obsessed sinners? In the literal, flat, one dimensional, and drab lives that many of the neo-technological pagans of the industrial world now lead, how can they have a religion that is not off-key?. How can those who do not discern the beat of spiritual music in the universe keep time with it?
Our madly materialistic, secular and avaricious to the bone society consists of many of the spiritually “deaf” who cannot discern spiritual vibrations. This secular society has left them deaf to the sacred. It has immunized them to the genuine. They are more to be pitied than anything else. But we do have a society largely deaf to the elemental, sacred and spiritual rhythms that pervade the universe. Ours is indeed a society tone deaf to God. When He is talked of, when our society speaks of Him, it speaks off-key. Our society is generally a spiritually deaf people made mostly of churches that preach an “off-key” religion that knows not Christ firsthand. When most in our land speak on God, they speak off-key of a garbled God who is not supposed to be really genuine. That is why our churches are filled with people obsessed with things, who can give only in terms of things, who can live only in terms of things.
Why do people today so often not respond to religion? How could they? The modern churches offer them nonsensical ideas but not Christ. Never has there been such nonsensical garbled pseudo-theological theology and nonsensical confused thinking offered by churches in place of Christ. Today, the people are given everything but Christ. You see, in the background of our secular society is the assumption that if you meet Christ, the Spirit who is really not supposed to exist, you are therefore mad as a hatter. In our society to say that you have met Christ is widely considered a sign of mental health infirmities. Or it means, as Scrooge told Marley’s ghost, that his spirit was only the sign of an underdone potato. The real problem was a bad digestion.
Instead of wasting time on our superficial secular modern anti-Christian culture, I suggest you appeal to a higher court, the numberless folk in history who have known God. Many have proven Christ in their lives. The Apostle, St. Francis, Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, Luther, the great reformers, martyrs, church people and disciples of every religion. These knew Christ. These knew God. For when you are met by Christ, you know it. You are not made perfect by meeting Him but you know if you have met Him.
After you meet Christ, you do not whine, “Oh, I wonder if He is scientific.” Christ is the most genuine Personality you will ever experience even though He is invisible. You will not have to ask yourself if you have met Him. You will know He is there because He is there. When you meet Him, you will know Him. You will not whine, “Oh, is God real? Do you suppose He was conceived by a Virgin?” No, such peripheral issues vanish like fog before sun light. He radiates assurance. You know your mind when you have met Christ. He is a sympathetic force of irresistible grace. And you will not waste your mind’s energy on irrelevant and peripheral issues.
You do not meet Christ and say, “oh, was He real?” If that’s what you say, I don’t know who you met, but it wasn’t Christ. No, if you meet Christ, you are more likely to say, “This is the way it is. I know not how I know but I know. This Spirit is the spiritual foundation of life, the fountain from which grace pours.” You will tell Quisling Christians, “Think whatever you like, for you are outside the circle of grace, but as for me l understand for I have been up in it and seen from it. I cannot will a return to ignorance. I know now that my Redeemer lives. I have been taken up in the circle of grace and my views have been lifted. I could not go back to before grace if I wished to. It is as if I have stood upon a mountain and seen the wonder of it all. I have been locked in the knowledge of God by an experience of grace.”
Therefore I tell you frankly. Avoid off-key religion. Go to a Christ honoring church where there is a Biblical perspective. Do not wallow in callow materialism. Allow yourself to meet Christ. All I can tell you is that He is there. Sinful as I am and always will be, I am able to tell you that He is forever where you are. You just do not realize God is there. Allow Him to come into your thinking. For we fight Him off with our fears. You may be as Augustine and know from deep within yourself God is real, but you fight Him off saying, “God make me good but not now.” God will never make you better than you want to be. But each hour lost to His companionship is an hour of peace, vitality and joy.
We also need to consider the spiritual future of this earth as well as our own spiritual needs. The future of this earth, if it is to have one, is not to be built on science. Science has led us to this present crisis of life in which earth stands. We stand in the midst of the possible holocaust of the world from technology more advanced than man is morally or spiritually. If there is to be a future for the world in the midst of societies solely devoted to a debased materialism and hostile living, the future will have to be created from spiritual seeds of truths from religious sources. This is our challenge. Spirituality is needed to save the earth. Those who are not spiritual fail the earth.
The welfare of the future world depends on learning as well as applying universal spiritual truths that began in spiritual faiths but become often displaced in off-key and twisted applications of religion. But only if God exists can the world co-exist as a world, because God is the re-vitalizing source of reaffirming the spiritual truths and values needed for our survival on a small planet: sacrifice beyond self, concern for all, compassion for the poor, not just the material poor but also the mentally slow and the aged and infirm. As Dante, the poet remarked, the churches, the believers in God, are the chief source of “humanitas” which generates compassion, justice and concern for others. If the world is to survive, it must be under the guise of the Fatherhood of God where all are treated as children of God.
We must realize our survival as a world does not depend on science. Indeed science has brought us into the valley of the shadow of human extinction where we now exist. Following science first has led us into the crisis for life we are now in. Whether science comes or goes is interesting but frankly largely irrelevant. If the world and life are to survive, if we are to keep body and soul together, humans and earth together, we must learn to build some semblance and form of a spiritual civilization built on universal spiritual principles and the spirit of self-sacrifice and compassion that have accompanied these principles. Otherwise we on earth shall truly run the risk of killing each other and obliterating the earth as we wipe out each other en masse with apocalyptic scientific wars and in national socio-economic hostilities.
Our so called modern secular society can be best be likened to a march of lemmings to a sea of destruction where they kill themselves with obliterating bombs and scientific technology coldly applied. As our scientific lemmings continue their march to the oblivious sea of suicidal death through scientific advances, the onlooker is absolutely awed by a self-destructive march of such enormous stupidity. It is the Grand Scientific March to the Ultimate Negation of Mankind.
Soul-denying, grace defying, unthinking, our scientific lemmings march to their self-destructive river of no return seemingly totally unaware that their march is motivated by genuinely self-destructive impulses. While the lemmings march to the sea, it is up to us, the Christians who are watching them, to admit we cannot do much with those who do not wish to be helped but believe suicide through science is a victory. Those of us who believe in God know faith is the affirmative victory that overcomes the dark negativism of the pathetic self-destructive. But faith cannot be forced. It must well up from inside. So all we may do as believers in God is to try to see that the lemmings do not take the earth and life to destruction with them. Can we do this since it seems to me so far the lemmings in white coats have made significant progress?. I do not know. First it is up to God. Second God needs instruments of His will to be living expressions of His thinking. Will you be one? That is up to you.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.