Saturday, April 30, 2011

Enough Faith to Hate, But Not To Love?

Do we Christians enough religion to hate, but not enough to love?

Christian truth is revealed in strange, even weird ways. Take the entertainer and comedian Emo Philips. He has been on the world scene for over 25 years. I caught some of his early appearances on the David Letterman television talk show.

Then I read something from a church bulletin of a Emo Philips skit. It was a revised version of one of his stand-up comedy routines about a couple of hot-hearted religious believers.

I looked up the original on YouTube and began to tinker with his gig. I have shamelessly taken his work of humorous art and painful truth as a lesson for all of us religious folk. Here is my edited version, with the names changed, to help religious Texans of a particular persuasion, to better understand the moral of the tale. Here goes:

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! Don't do it! --- There's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well, are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" He said, "Baptist!"

I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Southern Baptist or Northern Baptist?" He said, "Southern Baptist." I said, "Me too! Are you Moderate Southern Baptist, or a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Fundamentalist!” I said “Me too! Are you J. Frank Norris Fundamentalist or a moderate Cooperative Baptist?” He said, "J. Frank Norris Fundamentalist." Shaken by his reply, I said, "Die, heretic scum," and pushed him off the bridge.

We church-going folks don’t act like that, do we? We have more gracious ways of putting down those who disagree with us.

Long before Emo Phillips, Johathan Swift (remember him from “Gulliver’s Travels”) stung Christian believers with: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

Charles Caleb Colton (English writer and cleric, 1780-1832) was as popular and insightful as Swift in his time. Colton wrote short essays on conduct. He published a cheap edition titled: “Many Things in Few Words, Addressed To Those Who Think.”

One of Colton’s maxims: "Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it." (Such an attitude curtailed his church ministry somewhat.)

I’m convinced, except for the radical fringe, Christian people are God-fearing folks and lovers of the upward Way. They seldom beat up on those who disagree with them.

What Christ shared was backed up by a spotless, perfect life (of which we lack). My experience has been that we are still a work in progress. Splitting hairs with other believers is a poor use of our time, talents and doesn’t help the blood pressure. To my knowledge, the believers I have been blessed to know seldom intentionally push anyone off a bridge.

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