Religion is probably the most divisive thing that has ever happen to a more personal and true spirituality. It is religion that divides, not unites people, unless of course, it is ours against yours. Religion THRIVES on division or it would not thrive at all.
In the Bible belt, new churches, which are spin offs of older churches , which themselves spun off of older churches , are the order of the day. Every month, it seems, there are new buildings popping up as offshoots of the true church, but these of course are more true than the reprobates they left. The reason most ministers or minister wanna be's start new congregations is because they have had a falling out with the previous congregation and so he moves on to start his own church. Very often a new church is driven by a man who simply cannot work with others if he is not in charge. Since he can't be where he was, he will be where he is going. If he can stock the new church with some of the previous tithers, well he's got it made pretty darn quickly.
The point is that the church multiplies by division and adds to itself by subtraction of members from other established churches, all too often. Convincing your people that those people are not THE people is an mind virus that leads to much heartache and violence in our worlds of religion and politics.
In many ways, it's not that the new church down the street is growing new converts, but rather enters the fray to siphon off those who already have a church they attend, with a snazzier building, better programs for the kids, easier parking or no rules on having to dress up. Some offer dinner Wednesday nights so you can have little if any excuse to not attend prayer meetings, bible studies or seminars. Some are personality driven and the members will tell you that you "simply must" hear Pastor so and so. I asked one woman who could not tell me enough reasons why I had to come hear their guru minister and see for myself why they are growing beyond their wildest dreams. I asked one woman who used that on me as a reason I simply needed to come to her church and I asked if the Church had a plan "B". She looked rather puzzled and asked what I meant by that. "Plan "B" is what you need to have in place when the guru is found to be living a double standard, wearing masks, possessing another side or runs off with the car, house and offering", I said. Well, that went over like a lead balloon and she assured me that nothing like that could ever happen with Pastor My Way or the Highway. This church is the first in town to spend member donations, or tithes on a massive fireworks show each year on the Fourth of July. Is that showmanship or what. I wonder if anyone questions sending thousands of dollars in money given as part of a spiritual practice, up in smoke over the course of 30 minutes. I guess the guru feels it draws an appropriate attention to his true church, which of course is more true and now more fun than the other but less true, true churches in the community.
Take the divisive, my religion is right and yours is wrong, events out of the news and what you would have left are just the ads from Wal-Mart and the funnies. Of course you'd also have a few hundred or thousand people a day that might get to live as well if the world of me vs. you, us vs. them and ours vs. yours was not up and running in human minds. "God Save Me From Your Followers" is pretty darn true in this time of line drawing and fundamentalism gone amuck. Take Islam, Christian and Jewish Fundamentalists out of the equation and you'd swear the real Jesus had returned and peace had finally come once we got rid of the damn peacemakers of religion. You have to know the code in fundamentalism. Peace means war. Love means we hate you. Conversion means or you die. Freedom means slavery to my beliefs. Compassion means I'll murder you quickly if you don't agree. Freedom of speech means if I approve of the message. And of freedom of religion means only specific ones. I wish the founding fathers had made a point that it was freedom from religion. But alas, someone at least needs to inform the fundies that freedom of religion means all religions and get off people's backs.
The Apostle Paul chides the Corinthians for sqwalling about "For it has been reported to me concerning you, my brothers, by those who are from Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," "I follow Apollos," "I follow Cephas," and, "I follow Christ."
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius,
15 so that no one should say that I had baptized you into my own name.
16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanas; besides them, I don't know whether I baptized any other.) I Cor 12.
The words always sounded great to me. I read them often and used them when needed to try to quell dissent in the congregation who were of this or that person. But alas, even Paul ended up cursing and damning those that didn't not do or think as he did. He cursed, right after he said he didn't and for others not to, those that believed other gospels and sometimes he was talking about James the brother of the Jewish Jesus who was messing up his own plans to win converts. Peter bashed Paul. Paul bashed Peter. James called out Paul to show one's grace by showing works, and Paul bashed James back by saying that works were just crap and it was faith alone. Of course Paul modified this from time to time, depending on the audience which was his custom of being all things to all men. Problem with that is he is a jew to a jew, a gentile to a gentile, a slave to a slave etc...what the heck does the guy really believe! Whatever it was at the time, if you didn't follow him, you were accursed, which sounds like something you might now want on your permanent record, to me.
When Shia's murder Sunni's and Sunni's murder Shia's and when Jews murder Palestianians as Palestinians do unto them, this is truly religion at it's worst. It is "I'm of Larry, I'm of Curly, I'm of Moe" at it's worst. I believe the mind would go numb and count it as a mere sanitation problem to know the number of people that have been killed in the name of the various "us vs them" factions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Christianity has, at times, made the world awash in the blood of the Lamb. I am personally growing tired of a world where atonement for some comes by execution of others.
This is my wish list of concepts I wish fundamentalists and those in government who feel there is only one way to be and it is theirs.
1. Leave people alone! If they don't agree with you or you with them, suck it up and go about your own business and don't feel obligated to mind their business for them.
2. Leave people alone! If your world view is not theirs, it's ok. You might be dead wrong anyway.
3. Leave people alone! If the laws they believe work for them or don't work for them or the ones you agree with are not the ones they agree with, butt out. We need general laws of common sense to run a civilized society. But some topics are better left as suggestions or choices. I know the word "choices" makes most fundamentalists go crazy, but life is also choices.
4. Leave people alone! If they don't like the way you define God, Christ, Allah, Jesus, Paul, Peter, Apollos, Larry, Curly, Moe or Shemp, live with it. He convinced against his will, which is what you guys are good at, is of the same opinion still. In other words, what looks like compliance to you is merely sitting on the outside but standing up on the inside. You might be intimidating and threatening, but you won't win with that. People are more resilient and truth wins over stupidity every time, eventually. The day will come when when Americans look back on this time and wonder how it was let so much go unchallenged and could have avoided the mess we soon will have to clean up when the causes move on proud, no doubt, of what they imagine they have accomplished.
5. Leave people alone! If their beliefs are not yours and their culture is not yours, so what. If they don't want your Wal-Mart mentality or a McDonalds next to their sacred shrine, go fly a kite. If they get provoked and come after you for your disrespect, you deserve what you get.
6. Leave people alone!
7. Once you have learned to leave people alone, then help them recover from your plans and intentions and then leave them alone again.
No one is going to find much peace until political and religious leadership, sometimes falsely so called, can break the craving and addiction they have to exercise their phoney power over others. It's not really us vs. them, me vs. you, our true way vs. your false way, our accurate worldview vs. your bogus one or our true God vs. your false one. We are all one and the same each having or not having their opportunities, religion, politic and mindset they have almost by the luck of the draw. Every individual human had NO say in where they were born or into what. We only have a say, or not depending on if we outgrow it or allow it to keep us bound tightly in tribal beliefs and group think. We're all here to learn and what a scary world it would truly be if there was only one way to be and think...only one teacher to believe. So how bout we try and get over that idea and give Larry, Curly, Moe and Shemp credit for being who they individually are. Oh...and did I say, leave people alone?