In times of trouble, people turn to religion. Religion is a balm that soothes our heart, lifts our spirit, and affirms our faith. Religion helps us to live in the question of things unknown, unexplainable, and, in the case of September 11 terrorist attack on America, inexcusable.
Religion gives us a heart of compassion, forgiveness and patience in times of difficult tribulations and it anchors us in our times when life is a turbulent sea. When religion does these things, religion is being used for its intended purpose.
But when religion is used to bind people’s shared hatred of others, to harden their hearts toward one another, and to hurl invectives at each other, religion becomes a weapon of violence masked in the name of God. These are the very things religion is not intended for.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell uses religion for what it is not intended for.
In this time when everyone in our nation needs to feel blanketed by the word of God and comforted by the compassion of one another, the Rev. Jerry Falwell did the opposite. Falwell — a Baptist minister and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia — in a television dialogue on “The 700 Club,” a Christian Broadcasting Network showcase of right-wing religious dogma with an audience of millions, spewed venom instead of speaking kindness.
“The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked . . . we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”
Caught up in the rapture and rhetoric of hatred religion is not a balm for Falwell, but instead religion is a bomb that he detonates in the name of God.
Unrepentant for his remarks, Falwell, according to a Washington Post report, told a reporter that he was “making a theological statement, not a legal statement.”
While God treats us all in benevolent ways, religion often does not.
Falwell’s theology does not speak of a benevolent God, but instead of a bellicose Christian — himself.
Theology, which is our talks about and with God, often reflects not God’s intent or message to us, but instead it reflects our human woundedness and yearnings in our search and struggle to find God. As a human enterprise, theology is invariably subject to both righteous intent and human error. One of its missions is to help us speak of and with God in the ways we are to speak of and with each other.
Theology is to help us to see of the image of God in ourselves, the image of God as ourselves and the image of God in each other. And in so doing, religion becomes the umbrella that holds us under the care of God and in communion and community with one another.
Only then is religion functioning in the manner for which it is intended.
Falwell is a Christian with millennialist views who believes in an end of the world theology that has been associated with the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament.
His Christology is imbued with violent apocalyptic images and cryptic messages of a God who must punish the “unfaithful” — like abortionists, feminists and gays and lesbians — at the expense of harming the innocent and an entire nation.
“I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we’ve been attacked on our soil . . . what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if in fact. . .God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,” said Falwell to “The 700 Club” host Rev. Pat Robertson.
How we see and serve God in our lives has everything to do with our approach to religion and the theology we bespeak.
If we see and serve God like a child we then approach religion with an acceptance of “blind obedience,” fanaticism and fundamentalism, and we do not ask that acceptance of others. Instead we demand it.
On the other hand, if we see and serve God like an adult, we then approach religion with a “reasoned faith,” one that is bent towards justice and open to tolerance.
Falwell sees the world as evil and predatory. He sees God through a child’s eye — punishing, damning and dominating. His God is to be feared.
I see and serve God like an adult — and Falwell’s God is not my God.