I often see people on social media complaining about the criticism that is dealt out against Christianity or the Church. The most common responses are usually something in the vein of, “Well, not ALL Christians are like that!” I personally think this is a cop-out; a way of dismissing whatever argument is being brought forth. The thought process is usually that A) This statement doesn’t apply to me or people I directly know, or B) This statement is too broad and general, or C) This statement is about action done be people who aren’t “True Christians” – therefore I don’t need to address this concern.
I could write several posts on why this drives me crazy and how Christianity’s (yes, I’m using the general term) inability to be self-critical will ultimately ruin it. But, for the sake of argument, I’d like to propose the use of different terms, ones that are at the same time both more general and more specific, ones that can be used when discussing any religion or denomination –
Low Religion and High Religion.
Here’s how I would define them:
LR is based on dualistic thinking, or an “either/or” view of the world – black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, deserving and undeserving.
This thinking inevitably leads to a religion that is exclusive and tribalistic, with very clear borders set up to determine who is “in” and who is “out” – us vs them, saved or unsaved, conservative or liberal. This makes them suspicions and even antagonistic towards those perceived as “outsiders”. The also go to great lengths to make sure no one within the tribe leave the borders. Those that do are considered “back-sliders”, “apostate”, “heretics”, “lost-souls” and are shunned by tribe.
All LR are fear based, and in fact, can’t survive without it – fear of the wrath of their deity, fear of eternal punishment, fear of the “other”, fear of themselves, their own hearts and minds, fear of believing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing.
Fear-based religions seek to control others. The insist that they alone hold “The Truth” and as such, can dictate the lives of others. Not just those within their own institution, but society as a whole. There is a strong emphasis on submission – submission to religious leaders, sacred texts, the government, social groups.
LR can also be referred to as belief-based religion. The emphasis is placed on holding to correct theology, teachings, doctrines, and dogmas. They use this knowledge for the purpose of ego enhancement, shaming, and the control of others and themselves.
The sacred texts of LR are seen as divinely written or inspired and are mostly interpreted in a literal sense. The text are often proof-texted to conform the text to their own world views.
LR puts an emphasis on the after-life – rewards for those who are “in”, and punishment for those who are “out”.
HR is about non-dualistic thinking, or an “and/also” view of the world. It embraces paradox and isn’t concerned with having all the right answers. It is a contemplative.
HR is radically inclusive and seeks the greater good off all humanity and creation with an emphasis on issues such as human suffering, healing, poverty, environmentalism, social justice, care for outsiders, and political oppression.
Those who practice HR have risen above the boundaries created by LR and can see wisdom and goodness in all faiths, religions, and traditions. They are willing to engage in dialog with those of other faiths in the belief that they might learn something that will allow them to correct their own truths.
Symbols, traditions, and sacred texts are viewed in a more metaphorical and comprehensive lights.
HR is for those who have reached the 5th Stage of Faith – Conjunctive Faith. They can be found in every religious tradition, although are rare, especially amongst the Judeo/Christian traditions.
Despite my own feelings about God, religions, and faith, I want to make a clear that I don’t have a problem with religion – I only have a problem with Low Religion. When I (and most others) speak critically of religion/Christianity, it is almost always Low Religion that we are speaking of. I know that there are churches that are the exception. I know that there are individuals within churches that are the exception, ones who would be considered practicing High Religion. But, they are just that – the exception, not the rule.
If you read something by me and another writer that’s bashing the church, and you say to yourself, “This doesn’t sound like my church!” – great; then it doesn’t pertain to you. But if you get all defensive, if you start clamoring on about how, “not all Christians are like that!” or, “that doesn’t represent THE Church, only a specific church!” – then you’re probably part of the problem. You are probably a part of the Low Religion I’m speaking of. At best, you simply have blinders on, don’t get out enough, or don’t pay attention to the news and are unaware the the damage being done by religion in this country and around the world. Maybe you know that there are problems, but would rather focus on the good and let someone else deal with the problems. Or worse, you are active in trying to control, marginalize, or discriminate against those you consider “others”. You are actively a part of an institution that is wreaking havoc on this country and on the lives of countless people.
In future posts I’m going to try to use the term Low Religion instead of Christianity or the Church when applicable. However, there are instances where being more specific is necessary. (For example, Evangelical Christians are the only religion still hung up on the whole Evolution thing, therefore I’m going to call them out on it.)
I also want to say a quick bit to those who aren’t “like that”, who wouldn’t consider themselves to be a part of Low Religion, yet still consider themselves Christian. If you see or hear about people doing deplorable things in the name of religion – take a stand! Quit making excuses, quit pretending like it’s not a big deal, quit acting like it’s “just a few bad apples in the bunch,” and quit dismissing people as “not True Christians” like it’s not your problem. It is your problem! The reason asshats like Frank Graham and Mike Huckabee get away with saying the hateful shit they do is because none of their peers are calling them out on it! The only people I see saying anything are the progressive Christians and “liberals”. As Mandela said, to stay silent is to side with the oppressor. If you don’t like what’s being said in the name of god, Jesus, the Bible, whatever, then let that be known, loudly and publicly. Because while not “all Christians are like that”, they certainly don’t seem to have a problem with the ones that are.