The other day I was talking to a retired pastor who sings in the same chorus I do. “Remember the weird things you used to get in your office mail?” I asked.
(I was thinking back to 2004 and “The Passion of the Christ” stuff that Mel Gibson and his ilk were hawking before the movie's release. I was still enough of a young pastor to be shocked: tee-shirts of a thorn-crowned Christ, a cross nail to wear as a necklace: money-making movie merch for Mel’s masses.)
Really, you would be surprised what comes over the transom of the pastor’s study. A few weeks ago I got solicitation material—and the pun just may work—for donating to an organization that funds priests accused of sexual abuse. On the remittance slip you are assured that your donation goes to accused priests who are “discouraged, suffering or in crisis.”
The suggested donation was $100.
“I do,” my retired colleague said, rolling her eyes. “What now?”
The other day I received a copy of a book—addressed to me, personally because I think a lot of people think "Jo" is a man. The book, self-published, heavily foot-noted and equally unedited, purports to warn us of the wrath to come. More specifically, of the war to come.
Since I didn’t read the whole book—it’s written in a kind of an action-adventure/religio-military prophecy genre that I don’t think exists in publishing, I can’t give you the latitude and longitude of exactly where this all was supposed to take place. (Actually, I googled it, so I could. But I won’t. Because it's ridiculous.)
Suffice to say that this action story soon becomes an extended tract on what the United States is in for owing to its sinfulness and corruption, much of which this author lays at the foot of the dereliction of religious observance and moral rectitude as he defines it.
But let me add: I do believe there is abounding sin and corruption long afoot in our country--systemic, institutionalized and enthroned. It’s just that these are largely not the sins and corruptions of the faith traditions I’ve known, studied and participated in for decades.
Put in more simplistic terms:
I don’t think the United States is due to be cosmically and atomically hammered by a pissed-off deity because of either a falling birthrate (which this author attributes to the devil providing birth control to millennials) or “Moslems” [sic] gaining military ranking over in-name Christians or because some churches have “allowed lesbians into their leadership.” (Lesbians are even worse than women; wait—what?).
And let’s get something straight: I am not anti-war. But glorifying, or so much, much worse, trying to religiously sanctify the cleansing aspects of war is a fool’s errand—a fool who may not even show up on the battlefield to do what others are sent to do.
So, to close--let me go back to the choir rehearsal—just for a sec.
Our choir will be singing a twentieth-century anti-war piece so raw, so frank that, upon a first run-through, I had to hide tears. Then I put away those tears. War IS emotional. But it is not to be emotionally exploited.
It seems that religious fundamentalists will see war and the willingness to wage it as a kind of test of faithfulneess--as certain kinds of political fundamentalisms see war as a test if patriotism.
But war is not a test of anything.
And our nation is not a theocracy. Who among those who call themselves believers wouldn’t agree that divinity is compassionate enough to give way to ethics and morality rather than martial chaos?
Wars are fought best when they are stopped first.