Washington, DC - Faith has been a major part of my life for a long time. Belief in God, the Bible and church involvement go way back for me. There is so much about all of it that has shaped and impacted every fiber of my life. A faith relationship with God is peaceful, hopeful, helpful, positive and life changing in so many ways. I've written a lot about faith in articles, books and public messages.
At this juncture of my life I can say with confidence that my faith is as great as ever but I detest militant religion. I guess we are all religious in some areas about some things. However, religion does not always connote faith and relationship, especially militant religion.
Some people have the marriage religion but they don't have much relationship in their marriage. They lack happiness, fulfillment, peace, rest and hope. Mostly they just go through the rituals of marriage. Some are very unhappy in marriage but put on a good face. They go through the daily perfunctory and keep up appearances but are lacking quality relationships.
Militant religious people are not happy people unless they are imprisoning or hurting someone else with their rules and regulations. The crazy militant Isis crowd takes pleasure in imprisoning, torturing and beheading people - all in the name of their perverted religious views.
Last year there was a national story about a Middlesboro, Kentucky preacher named Jamie Coots who died from handling a rattlesnake during a religious worship gathering. Coots who became famous on a reality television show, practiced snake handling as a part of his religion. His religion was dangerous and cost him his life. Religion can be crazy.
Remember David Koresh and the Waco, Texas religious disaster? He and 75 others were killed when their compound was raided and burned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I believe the massive loss of life at Waco could have been avoided but that's another article. The story of Koresh and his followers is another episode of religion gone crazy.
What about Jim Jones who led 913 people to their deaths in Guyana, near Georgetown in South America? Most of these people were led to commit suicide after Jones' followers murdered Congressman Leo Ryan and four others near the airport in Georgetown, Guyana. Jones was crazy as were many of the people who had been duped into leaving America to live at the People's Temple Agricultural Project. Jones was a militant, crazy, controlling religious fanatic who duped hundreds to their death.
When I was a young child I heard a preacher spend an hour telling the church about all the things we shouldn't do. He told the men they shouldn't wear short sleeve shirts. He told us we should keep our hair cut short. Men, he continued, should never wear short pants. Of course he proceeded to tell the women how they should wear their hair, how long their dresses should be and that they shouldn't wear makeup. We were told we shouldn't dance, watch movies, watch television, listen to rock n roll music, drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes among other things. I don't remember what he told us we could do. I remember the negatives. Needless to say his sermon did not encourage my faith.
There is nothing wrong with sensible, common sense, enthusiastic church preaching that warns people about the danger zones of life. We all need to know where the markers are that could hurt us. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount still work very well for a functioning world. While the Old Testament has some weird stuff in it I get the message of the Bible and am grateful.
However, in my maturing years I have come to understand that faith liberates us.
Faith does not imprison us. Jesus said, "The truth shall set you free," John 8:32. Some ministers and religious types have devoted their years of clergy service to making people feel guilty about every move they have ever made. Real faith is about life, energy, joy and forgiveness of mistakes and guilt.
A mean religious crowd crucified Jesus. Jesus did not bind or stone people. Jesus was about liberation, joy and life. Jesus enjoyed life. Mean, militant religious types are often turned off by anyone having too much fun.
I would encourage everyone to pursue a life and walk of faith in God. We all need eternal guidance and internal strength from above. Public worship is not always about what we want to hear. However, we don't need the shackles of a religion that bind and hurt people. If your church, synagogue, temple, mosque or anyplace that you worship is not helping you to experience freedom and joy in your life then I recommend that you find a different place of worship before the damage is too great.
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author. He served as a senior pastor for over 35 years and is the founder of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana. He is a graduate of numerous schools including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He was elected President of the Kentucky Baptist Convention by acclamation in 1991. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group, organization or this publication.
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