Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Quick Snapshot of Religion Today

Here is a snapshot of religion provided (unintentionally) by this morning’s USATODAY.

Item: “Faith, medicine at odds.” Colleen Hauser, a Minnesota Catholic who also believes in the Native American healing techniques promoted by the Missouri-based Nemenhah Band has taken her 12-year old son, Daniel, into hiding. The boy has Hodgkin’s lymphoma; a disease that doctors say is 91% curable in children Daniel’s age. Mom believes that chemo and radiation, the proven cures for this disease, are unnecessary and that her brand of Native medicine is superior. Is she is killing her son in the name of her faith? Does she have that right?

Item: “4 arrested in NYC synagogue bomb plot.” The FBI arrested four men they had been watching for a year who were about to bomb a synagogue and community center, and shoot down military aircraft. The paper didn’t say what their motive was, but NPR said they were upset about the killing of Muslims by US soldiers. In a war between Christians and Muslims, why are the Jews the easiest target?

Item: “Car bomber strikes in Baghdad district.” Yet another car bomb tore through a Shiite neighborhood. No group has taken responsibility, but you can be pretty sure the murderers were Sunnis. We spent thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars to free these people and all they want to do is engage in religious warfare. Is this the proper use of our American heroes?

Item: “Children forced into exorcisms.” Nondenominational Christian clergy in the Congo are making good money pouring hot wax on little kids and pulling demons out of their stomachs. Claiming to be guided by the Holy Spirit, these priests are demanding $50 per exorcism from people who annual per capita income is $100. Parents who can no longer care for their children are proclaiming them possessed and forcing them onto the streets to fend for themselves. Estimates are that 70% of the 15,000 abandoned children in the capital of Kinshasa are thought to be there because of charges of witchcraft. Jesus performed exorcisms, so there may be no way to stop this, but at least he didn’t charge for his services. Why is Christianity so plagued by witches and demons?

Item: “Report details abuse at institutions.” According to a report released yesterday, “children were beaten and raped for decades” in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland. The study traces abuse from the 1930s onward. How much brutality and rape tacitly sanctioned by the Church do Catholics have to endure before they simply walk away from their church in disgust?

***
What to make of all this? First, for every story of religious evil there are also stories of religious good. Second, abuse and witchcraft makes headlines, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless do not. And yet… Religion, like any other human institution, can shelter the wicked as well as the righteous; can promote evil as well as good, madness as well as morality. Religion can be trusted no more than any other human institution. The truth is, trust no one. How sad.

12 comments:

Karen said...

...OR trust individuals on their own merits instead of their religion, how often they attend church, whether or not they attend church, whether or not they have a "support the troops" decal on their car, and so on.

I'm not sure how I feel about the Minnesota mom's actions. I do feel that conventional medicine gets it wrong as often, if not more so, than getting it right. Also, I know parents are in charge of their kids at least until the age of 18, but 12-year-olds can hold very strong opinions of their own. How much of "going into hiding" was just the mom's idea? Or was her heart twisted in knots because her son was pleading with her to NOT have chemo?

Evil is born out of desperation and ignorance. That's what is happening to those children in the Congo. Parents are desperate and uneducated; they look up to their clergy; and then they are taken advantage of. Clergy are people, too, regardless of their religion! We need to quit putting them on pedestals, thinking they know all (this goes for doctors, too!).

Jordan said...

Shalom All,

Here's "organized religion" doing good. Surprise!!
It's a megachurch Willow Creek!!

http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=294065

Biv'racha,
Jordan

andrea perez said...

1. Children aren't possessions, if they are sick and need treatment they should get treatment. if Mom can't handle the decision, the courts take over or guardian ad lidums...parents abuse their kids, that is why there are laws to protect them.
2. Why go after synagogues? Why not federal buildings if they are angry with US soldiers...Anti-semitism always rears its ugly head..just another excuse to kill Jews. and the political statement was what? They didn't go after the Israeli embassy...I agree, in a war between Christiams and Muslims, why are the Jews the easiest target?
3. Wait a minute, in a war between Muslims and Muslims, why are we sending our children over there to get killed? The world needs to take ownership of this.
4.Just what is needed in the Congo, one more reason to act completely inhumane to its citizens. Maybe the UN could stop with its anti-Israeli campaign, allow the Palestinians and Israelis to work it out and send once and for all troops into Congo,Sudan and that hellhole known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and take them over!
5. I just don't get why anyone still sends their children to Catholic private schools. Until the Church takes child sex abuse seriously, people should send their kids to public school. That goes for any private institution where this keeps happening.
What does this tell me: Children, regardless of their religious affiliation are our most important responsiblity . We need to guard them from well meaning parents who deny them lifesaving treatment, terrorists who don't seem to care that community centers are places of meeting for small children, exorcisms, sex abuse and just plain being treated like objects. Thou shalt teach diligently unto your children and keep them safe. Too bad so many turn a blind eye and say they aren't mine to care for.

dtedac said...

Rabbi Rami,
Here are my takes on these:
1. I would do both: get whatever medical treatment you agree with and have healing prayer. The dichotomy between science and faith is not a true split; there's no need for it.
2. Antisemitism is such a horrible hatred. The fact that two religions which base their beliefs on Jewish scriptures can deem the Jews worthy of being killed is the greatest hypocrisy of all time.
3. For some Muslims, the only hatred greater than that toward the Jews is the intramural rivalry with Islam. The mix of political and religious rivalry in Iraq is a powderkeg. I'm not sure that we have defused that bomb.
4. Blaming child misbehavior on the devil is something that I have seen here in the US among some Charismatic Christians. Exorcism has such a potential for abuse that there ought to be great discernment before it is ever used. It should never be used on children because they don't behave.
5. The Catholic Church in Ireland is going to suffer much from their abuse of power and human rights. As a Catholic, I hate to say it, but that is only right and just based on more than 60 years of horror.

Yes, religion can be a source of great good and great evil. Being aware of the truth of this may be the first step toward change.

Shalom,
David

Grégoire said...

Karen:

Nothing interesting or insightful to add. I just wanted to thank you for another great response. I'd come here to read the responses if that's all there were, and yours have become my favorites.

Jordan:

Is that one of the churches you're affiliated with or visiting? That's very impressive.

The temple in my area raised a huge amount of money for a program called 'nothing but nets'. It provides mosquito netting and anti-malaria drugs for children and families. Despite all their hard work, they've never had a mention in the press, which is pretty sad... but then that's the media. It's not really newsworthy unless it's something disheartening.

Anyway, cool that they got a plug in the Chicago papers. The world needs more projects like these.

Patti said...

Item: “Faith, medicine at odds.”
Why am I leaning towards the answer; Yes, she has the right?? What she is doing sickens me. I feel sorry for her son who is kept barefoot and uneducated in order to allow their faith system to make sense to him. Certainly, it is against the law to let a child to die, even if he wants to. But something inside me says she still has the right. HELP!!! Someone set me straight. Just because we can save people through medicine does it mean we have to do it? That we have to accept this life on everyone else’s terms? I am uneasy with my own feelings.

Item: “4 arrested in NYC synagogue bomb plot.”
My younger son is still in Baghdad. Recently, he and his platoon were in a woman’s home looking for a bombing suspect. The interpreter just kept chuckling under his breath while the lady ranted. Later my very blue-eyed and blonde son asked what was going on. The interpreter told him that the woman, having been sheltered in a remote town all her life, could not put a label on Mick, so she just kept calling him “that Jew” as if it was the worst insult, kinda like “you substitute math teacher.” They all got a kick out of it, but it made me think, this woman had no clue what a Christian or a Jew looked like, but her bias certainly leaned in one direction.

Item: “Car bomber strikes in Baghdad district.” Is this the proper use of our American heroes? No.

Item: “Children forced into exorcisms.”
I suspect, and I could be way off here, that after 100’s of years of Christian missionaries showing up and calling every behavior they did not understand, can not control or do not condone, “of the devil” that pretty soon the locals are passing that understanding to the next generation. Not being given any parenting tools that actually work, being told stories of hell and demonic possession they shed the children and gladly pay the fee to be free.

We don’t know that Jesus charged a fee, but he wasn’t making tables anymore! He was supported somehow. And from what I hear, following him was not exactly a walk in the park – it costs a great deal. Hear me, I do not condone charging a fee to exorcise the demons from children or anyone else. However, saying Jesus didn’t do it, doesn’t move me.

Item: “Report details abuse at institutions.”
How can they walk from their church when they are told that by simply not attending church service they will suffer in hell forever? That pain for eternity thing is hard to overcome.

Jordan said...

Shalom Gregoire,

Willow is the megachurch about which I know the most from first hand experience as it about 25 minutes from my home. It's the one that I've written about in here more often then not. It's a living realtime example of what a religious community can be and continue to become. I'm not affiliated there but would be if I were not Jewish. I do attend their worship services 3-4 time a year and must say that I've learned a lot of Judaism there. For me, it's a process of separating my self from the theology that has come to surround Jesus and listen, learn and apply the teaching that comes from Willow's "bimah." As Rabbi Rami has written, it's my way of "reclaiming the Jewish Jesus." My deep sadness is that I haven't really found a synagogue home that
provides me with the spiritual nourishment I get from Willow and other megachurches with which I'm familiar.

I posted the article/link so that there would be a counter to the possible notion/caricature that religion is the root of all evil. Like Fox News: Fair and balanced.

Shabbat Shalom to all of us

Biv'racha,
Jordan

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

You wrote:

"The truth is, trust no one. How sad."

How sad indeed, that you believe this enough, not only to have written it, but to have ended your post with this!! You must be very tired and frustrated to offer no hope. This is why I linked to Willow: to show an example of faith in action; to offer hope!

Without trust there's nothing!!!

With Trust there's Nothing!!!

Shabbat Shalom/Shavu'a Tov (a good week) to all of us

Biv'racha,
Jordan

Karen said...

Two quick notes:

1. Thank you, Gregoire, for your kind comments.

2. As I suspected, the 12-year-old Minnesota son was thinking of running away on his own, and his mother couldn't bear that. It's so easy for us (humanity in general) to create our own stories around what little information we're offered through the media. For my own story with this particular situation, I think it unfolded exactly as it probably needed to. Mom went with her son because she couldn't bear to lose him as a runaway, and they both probably had the time to work through their thoughts and feelings together in order to come back and face a challenge that I can only imagine to be truly horrific for the son. My heart aches for this family and all families who have to face such tough decisions and trials.

James Love said...

Trust no one, how sad? The fact is it's foolish to trust anyone, especially one's self. Is any one of us a stranger to self-deception, denial, procrastination, narcisssism and haughtiness?

Then, of course, I distrust me, with the utmost distrust, which leads to all kinds of interesting situations and relationships. I can't be a detective, investigating myself - conflict of interest. Does this mean I might be the mole in the CIA of my own intelligence agency? I better proceed very carefully. How wonderful! I can taste the slightest self deception in myself, and it's no different in others. I'll trust them as much as they distrust themselves. I'm not sad or elated about it. It's just what it is, the way of the world. Can it change? I'll have to find out for myself. Not much consolation there, but it doesn't seem like there are other options, if any at all. Someone may reflect to me something that has not been exposed, but if I'm not serious enough or objective enough, it will all have fallen on my own deaf ears. The only trust that seems of value is to ask questions, with a mindful attitude that we may be prone to cop out and jump out of the question into some silly conclusion before we have barely begun to ask.

Jordan said...

Shalom James,

You wrote: "Trust no one, how sad? The fact is it's foolish to trust anyone, especially one's self." Is any one of us a stranger to self-deception, denial, procrastination, narcisssism and haughtiness?..."

No doubt that the litany of human weakness is real
and if one CHOOSES to grow in character it cannot be done in a vacuum. I'll agree that trusting oneself
WITHOUT a friend or friends, or a community to hold one accountable is an exercise in futility.
You continued:

"The only trust that seems of value is to ask questions, with a mindful attitude that we may be prone to cop out and jump out of the question into some silly conclusion before we have barely begun to ask."

"Copping out" is a cowardly CHOICE that would be
all but eliminated with the support system I just described. But then again one has to intentionally CHOOSE to grow. To quote Pastor/Dr. John Ortberg,
"The decision to grow always involves a CHOICE
between risk and comfort."

So what's it gonna be James?

Bi'vracha (with blessing),
Jordan

Jordan said...

Shalom James,

You wrote: "Trust no one, how sad? The fact is it's foolish to trust anyone, especially one's self." Is any one of us a stranger to self-deception, denial, procrastination, narcisssism and haughtiness?..."

No doubt that the litany of human weakness is real
and if one CHOOSES to grow in character it cannot be done in a vacuum. I'll agree that trusting oneself
WITHOUT a friend or friends, or a community to hold one accountable is an exercise in futility.
You continued:

"The only trust that seems of value is to ask questions, with a mindful attitude that we may be prone to cop out and jump out of the question into some silly conclusion before we have barely begun to ask."

"Copping out" is a cowardly CHOICE that would be
all but eliminated with the support system I just described. But then again one has to intentionally CHOOSE to grow. To quote Pastor/Dr. John Ortberg,
"The decision to grow always involves a CHOICE
between risk and comfort."

So what's it gonna be James?

Bi'vracha (with blessing),
Jordan