Why I Lost Faith

I left the church completely when they turned their back on a child in need. This is happened years ago, but Charlie Pierce has an essay up that made me rethink about my own relationship with the Church. My thoughts are far too complicated for twitter, and I’m not sure they will make any sense with the blog, but all the hoopla on the Church lately has made me think about why I walked away from Catholicism and the Christian faith. I left because of the sheer hypocrisy of the Church.

I had a client, years ago, who was a devout Catholic. As with all of my clients, this young man was sexually aggressive. While in the world of treatment, his case was not necessarily the worst I had ever seen, he had done great harm to his victim, her family as well as his own family. His family came to me for treatment, and I worked with him to address his thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Given his level of activity in a peer group he was considered lower-risk. The family, who was accustomed to getting strength from the church ,assured me that this young man would continue to be embraced by the church community and receive the requisite spiritual and social support necessary to live a positive life.

They turned to the church, and the church kicked my client not just out of the youth group, but his school as well, citing his non-adjudicated offense as the reason why he could not be around children his own age.

Let me be perfectly clear: The kid offended someone much younger. He had no contact with kids of that age any more. He wasn’t on probation, he was diverted. This means he wasn’t even in the Juvenile Justice System because the authorities in the State’s Attorneys Office deemed him to be low risk.

So the Catholic Church, which goes on and on about forgiveness, redemption and social service turns its back on a parishioner who needed help. Meanwhile, the Bishops are shifting pedophiles and hebephiles around like collectible collecting cards. Here was a kid who was ready, willing and able to work through his shit.  They walked away from him.

The kicker:  I knew the pastor of that church.  He was, when I knew him, a good man who cared about children of all kinds.

The Church did nothing for this kid, while they have gone to the MAT for adults who have offended dozens of children.

This was a kid who could have–and  I should point out, was–helped without the guidance of the Church. As far as anyone knows, he’s relapse free for at least five years.  During those five years, the Church has continued to shelter pedophiles and turn its back on people in need based on sexual orientation or gender.

I beat up on the Church because the Church chose to protect and shelter pedophiles, and because it abandoned families in need.  Their hypocrisy drove me away.  And now, despite my desire to believe in the hereafter, they can’t get me back.

Hell. For Realz

Yesterday’s post set up some homework for today: Listening to the This American Life episode about Heretics. Specifically, Revered Pearson, an evangelical preacher who preaches the Gospel of Inclusion. Pearson doesn’t preach about hell.

Now, I grew up believing in hell. Kinda. It never made much sense to me. God, who loves us humans so much, is going to have us burn for eternity? Does that doesn’t make sense. He cannot be all forgiving and have you burn. Even if you reject Him, He’s supposed to be a font of love and compassion. He’ll forgive that too…

One can ask for forgiveness or it can just be given. I’m pretty sure God can forgive people, even without them asking for it.

The establishment of Hell seems to be a method of control. “Do what we say or you burn. Follow our rules or your soul is forfeit.” It is my understanding that Evangelical’s replaces “our” with “God’s;” however the Bible itself has been translated and re translated by other parties, typically those in authority, that “God’s word” has been replaced by, “divinely inspired author, who just happens to be paid by the Royal Bank.”

My dad** believed in more than just Hell. He flat out believed in a pervasive evil force in this world. I also think he believed that individuals are inherently good; however, the evil force corrupted people and their intentions. Hell, and the Devil, gave him the wiggle room to keep both thoughts in his head.

He wasn’t an idiot, nor was he zealot. He was religious, but he could curse better than any sailor I’ve ever met (well, nuclear sub tech). He was liberal and religious. I mention my dad in this only because he had an idea of Hell, and evil, that doesn’t sit well with me either. I don’t think that God can be the most Benevolent if he lets people who’ve been seduced or influenced by evil, burn for eternity.

If God isn’t benevolent, then why should I praise Him? Why should I live a Christ Like Life if he’s going to turn his back on individuals who don’t follow His (or, really just the Evangelical) way? And if God’s going to let people who have 11th hour conversions into heaven, but keep out Atheists who do a lifetime of good work, then God’s neither benevolent or omniscient. He becomes a spoiled brat who takes his ball and goes home when people don’t follow his rules.

So give me your views of hell and damnation. Why do (or don’t) you believe in hellfire?

**If you’re new to the blog, you should realize that my dad wasn’t stupid. He was a lawyer, a public defender, and he worked in the homicide task force. He defended the people that most other individuals would be hard pressed to talk to. It was his job to ensure that they received the full protections enshrined int the Constitution. Before he died, he was certified to try Death Penalty cases in the State of Illinois and sworn in before the US Supreme court (I have the coffee mugs they give you as mementos).

**Edit: I published this yesterday after Shannon left for the hawks game. It didn’t publish, it’s saved. Sorry about that. I’m only publishing this now, with the right date, for my records. Not for Nablopomo

Christian Nationalism

In this election cycle, both major party tickets are talking about their Christian faith. Obama has been discussing his since 04. McCain has been not been comfortable discussing his–and he has had some controversy with his own party over the religious right. Even Biden and Palin discuss their faith, and it is only a matter of time before both Vice Presidential candidates receive additional scrutiny for their faith. In fact, I believe before the election cycle has finished, a conservative catholic bishop will inform his diocese that voting for Obama is a sin, and they will not be eligible for Communion . In fact, its already started.

The discussion of the candidates faith led me to this article, a discussion of Christian Nationalism. Two years ago, the author, Michelle Goldberg, appeared on Fresh Air. I plan on listening to that when I get home tonight, because the teaser she has on the Talk 2 Action site is unbelievable. Michelle talks about Dominionism, which she summarized on the website as:

The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy’s influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book “The Changing of the Guard:”

“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”

This is terrifying. The core idea–that the US is fundamentally a Christian Nation–is wholly incorrect and inappropriate.

If we swap Jesus Christ for Allah, we’d have language fit for radical fundamentalist Islam. Why is the language okay for JHC, but not for Allah?

I am not anti-religion. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to worship, or not worship, as they see fit. When I don’t want to hear it, I’ll walk away. When they want to make it state law, I’ll put up a fight. This language of the Dominionists make it clear that they want religious law in place of secular law. This view is incompatible with the constitution–and individuals who hold on to this view of Church and State have no business in any government office where they swear to uphold the Constitution.