Oh, Those Desert Religions…
While I was preaching recently at a large church, a person marched up to the senior pastor and lambasted him for allowing me in the pulpit. The individual was not a member of the church, but someone who “just happened” to attend that Sunday. Uh, huh. Forgive me for being a tad suspicious, but attacks against me have been on the increase.
There are reasons. Recent articles in the Denver Post and the New York Times have certainly increased my visibility. A couple of segments on Colorado Public Radio played a part as well. But I believe the main reason is generated more from our current political reality than we might like to admit. With his unfiltered remarks, our current president has stoked fires of hatred, and those who once kept their opinions to themselves have been empowered to publicly attack people not like them.
I understand the genesis of these attacks. They are fear based. The evangelicals who attack me have a fragile God, one who might break if he did not have rigid rules about who is in and who is out. Their God is fragile because their faith is fragile. I believe their particular expression of Christianity is an example of desert religions at their worst. Whether speaking about Islam, Judaism or Christianity, the desert religions have always had a tendency to be religions of scarcity. “There’s not enough to go around, so I’ve gotta take care of me and mine.” That desert mentality is a threat to the ongoing welfare of the species. If we don’t rid ourselves of scarcity thinking, we might accidentally end the human experiment.
Today #45 made life far more difficult for the children of parents who arrived here as illegal immigrants. The average “Dreamer” is 26 and came here at age six. Ninety-one percent are employed and one hundred percent do not have a criminal record. They pay $500 every two years so they can remain, which has brought our treasury over 800 million dollars. Yet somehow these young people who remember nothing but America are a threat to other Americans, a significant number of which are evangelicals.
Fear-based reaction caused Texas to spend one million dollars on a special session to stop transgender people from using the appropriate restroom. The proposed law, which failed to pass, was based on the fear transgender people would assault people in restrooms. The fact that there is not one recorded instance in the history of our nation in which this has actually occurred is apparently irrelevant. When you are afraid, facts do not matter. You are a hammer and everything that does not look like you is a nail. You’re gonna whack it.
Native American and Pacific Islander religions do not begin from a place of scarcity. Theirs are religions of abundance. No wonder Native Americans readily accepted the whites that came onto their lands. They believed there was enough for everyone. They did not see the massacres coming.
At their extremes, over the centuries all of the desert religions have been guilty of dehumanizing those outside their tribes. The Sunnis and the Shiites of today remind us of the Catholics and Protestants of times gone by. Fear drives hatred.
I do not hold to a religion of scarcity. My faith is in a God of abundance. God has no favorites. God loves me as much as he loves the man who marched up to the pastor and expressed his displeasure. God loves me as much as she loves those who continue to vilify me with their relentless fury.
I will fight for my rights and the rights of all minorities, but I pray I can do so without attacking the people who choose to attack me. I have received thousands of negative emails, Facebook messages, letters, phone calls, and personal confrontations. I have responded to fewer than a dozen. Two were to protect people who did not realize they had written on a public forum. The rest were short replies expressing sorrow about lost friendships. I have lived long enough to realize that responding in kind to hateful rhetoric is like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies.
In the midst of these incredibly tumultuous times I am convinced of one great truth. We are placed on this earth to learn to love well. It is incredibly simple, but not simplistic. If we could love our enemies as Christ loved us, we could reconcile the creation to the creator. I want to love well. Some days I succeed. Some days I do not. And so it goes.