Like most of us, I had just started to wrap my head around what happened as I checked my emails and social media the other day. And then I received an email message from a dear friend, addressed to a pretty large group of her friends and family, that really disturbed me. She had crossed a line and I had to respond before all of the people on her list started to think she might be right. She is a wonderful, loving person who means well, but she
is not a believer does not believe the Bible to be true. I think that will be pretty clear. Below is the string.
“The Islamic extremist in Orlando, Florida who killed so many people on Saturday thought he was following God’s will. It is so sad. Hitler was so devout that he had bible verses inscribed on the belt buckles of every soldier. The point is that it is a person’s belief of ‘doing God’s will’ that gives religious extremists permission. They actually believe they are doing ‘right’. They believe they are following God’s instruction. For example they will take a concept/section from a holy book where it describes how God condemns homosexuality or God promotes slavery or God promotes sexism and they try to promote the concept because this is what God instructed in the book. They believe they are being good because they are the ones following God’s instruction. They believe they are just following orders. And this is why teaching religion using these books is so detrimental. Because these extremists are just reading and following the instructions which other humans have taught them, usually from a young age, are the instructions directly from God. So they believe if they follow the instructions ‘they are good’ and if they do not follow the instructions ‘they are bad’. It is the continual teaching that these books are actually God’s words/God’s will/instructions that causes the problem combined with a person who really wants to do what is ‘right’ by following God’s orders exactly that leads to all this inhumanity. We have to stop teaching people that these books are God’s words. Otherwise there will be people who will want to follow the instructions to the extreme thinking they are doing good.”
Wait…What??? Are you kidding me?? Unfortunately, I can see that a lot of people think this way… that “religion” is the cause of war, “religion” is what is wrong with the world.
Here was my carefully worded response.
I follow your train of thought but I have so many issues with this message. And this is not a conversation to be had in a short email (with no paragraph breaks). With all due love and respect, I have to respond.
The shooting in Orlando was a hate crime. Extremism teaches hate. Hate is NOT from God – no matter which book you read.
To me, God is very alive, God is love, God is omniscient, and God speaks to me through the Bible – His living words. So, although people will misuse, misinterpret, misrepresent it, it doesn’t make it any less true. So, I find it offensive that you would demand that people stop teaching that the Bible is God’s word.
I look at it this way – if we were in a burning building and I knew that the door on the left would lead us to death but the door in the middle would get us to safety, it would be my responsibility to let you know that I know the way out. I’m not about the keep my mouth quiet and let the people I love perish while I know the way to everlasting life. I want to see you in heaven. I have to tell you what I know. If
you the people I share it with don’t want to test it out and see if what God says is true, then I can’t make you them. And I wouldn’t pass judgement or fault them in any way. But I would at least have shared what I know.
The other point I want to make is that the Bible teaches that unless people keep God’s 2 greatest commandments, then nothing else in the Bible matters. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
If you want to get on the soap box and engage people in more in-depth conversations like this, then I suggest you start blogging. I can help you get one started if you are interested.
At my friend’s request, I’ve edited this post to insert her complete reply here. I also made a few other edits in an attempt to honor the original intent of her message.
In her private response to me, she did clarify that she the point she was trying to make is that people still teach that they are being good if they follow the “religious books” as she called them, to a tee and that is what is praised and taught. And then people get confused and commit hate crimes thinking they are doing right. Okay, but…
I agree with you, religions teach True God = True Love. The point I’m conveying is that some people, not all, are still teaching kids/adults that they are being “good” if they follow a religious book to a tee even though every religious book has sections that contain prejudice that shouldn’t be misconstrued and followed. Kids/adults get confused and they commit hate crimes thinking they are doing right. Hard to believe. It is a catch 22 that needs to be addressed. This confusion is all I’m pointing out.
Common sense is only common when it is taught. And the simple common sense concept that it isn’t God’s will to follow the book to a tee (and wipe out homosexuals in God’s name for example) isn’t always taught, stated, addressed and expressed outright. Unfortunately a lot of the time the concept of “following to a tee” is what is praised and taught so that’s what a few people do, thinking they are good sheep.
Okay, I follow the logic. And I admire her for trying to come up with a solution. I do. But it still doesn’t seem right. I mean, how many people do you think would agree to teach that the holy book they believe in, books that they believe are God breathed, would knowingly teach that they are not God’s words? To me, it would feel as though I were being disrespectful to God. Perhaps there is another way to frame it?
In the meantime, I received 2 messages from people thanking me for speaking up. The first came from a Muslim man, “Thank you for your respect to God and prophets! God bless you and your family.” The other came from a neighbor – not sure how she got on the list – who also thanked me but went on claim that it’s all Jihad and blasted the “American leadership” for failing to “call the enemy by its name or effectively protect us and our allies”.
Again, I felt a need to respond.
Jihadists misuse, misinterpret, and misrepresent the Koran and teach it as truth. But we also have church leaders who misuse, misinterpret, and misrepresent the Bible… because we are human. I think the only way to know the truth is to get to know God on a personal level, dig into the Bible and let it speak to you.
I believe what happened in Orlando was not just Jihad. It was also a hate crime against the LGBT community. And things like that will keep happening as long as the us against them mentality continues to be promoted.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I think that means everyone.
The other thing I believe is that there are forces of evil that are not of this world. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12
One of my friends posted about this very thing. She wrote. “We are called to struggle in prayer… Prayer is our weapon. Faith is our shield. His word is our sword.”
So then my neighbor writes back:
“It was most definitely a violent hate crime. For it to be politicized into a gun control discussion by our feckless leadership is unconscionable. There is a disconnect with the Western world’s value of Life and those that will give theirs in the pursuit of what we label as Evil.”
Uugh! Blaming it on the leadership again??!! It’s not just leadership talking about gun control, it’s all of us who are tired of hearing of yet another mass shooting! Who other than our soldiers needs to have access to assault weapons??? This is not about the second amendment anymore. Can’t we admit that the laws need to change to put an end to the senseless killing? I read an article titled, Before We Forget About Orlando, Here Are 4 Ways Christians Need to Change. One of the ways is to change the way you vote. It says, “Somewhere around 90% of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. Do you have any idea how hard it is right now to get 90% of Americans to agree on ANYTHING?!? It is next to impossible. There is absolutely no rational reason for people to be able to buy military weapons that are designed to kill many people in a very short amount of time.”
If my Facebook feed is any indication, 90% can’t be accurate. And, I’m well aware that gun control is not the solution. But, I look at it this way, when I am in the battle of the bulge and trying to loose weight, I have to change the way I think, change the way I eat, and get more exercise. I can’t just focus on one piece of the puzzle.
Changing the way we think isn’t easy but we have access to the supernatural powers necessary to be transformed. And we can fight the forces of evil that are not of this world. It says so right there in the Bible. It IS true! You don’t believe it? Have you read it? Have you let Him speak to you through His word? Let Him transform you?
We need more than religion, more than prayer, more than gun control, more than great leadership. We need each and every person to do what God created us for – to be in relationship with Him, to walk with Him, to do what He directs us to do – not through what religious leaders and human interpretations tell us. Perhaps we need to make sure that when we teach from the Bible (or any of the holy books for that matter), that in addition to reading God’s words, they need to make sure they meditate on them, study them, pray about them and then listen for the Holy Spirit to guide them. We especially need to train ourselves to see God in every encounter, every experience, in every person’s eyes regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, gender… We are all one family, all on the same planet.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
– Matthew 22:37-40