The Inadequacy Paradigm

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Have you ever felt that you were not pretty enough, smart enough, coordinated enough, talented enough, handsome enough, strong enough or fast enough?  If so, you were suffering from the “inadequacy paradigm.”  A paradigm is a model or template for thought or behavior.  Feeling inadequate is one of the major paradigms of American society.  The marketplace wants you to feel inadequate because then they can sell you products and services that will make you feel “ADEQUATE.”

hqdefaultThere are beauty products, breast enhancements, hair implants, plastic surgery, expensive cars, perfume, jewelry, large homes, designer clothes, college degrees and many other products or services designed to help you feel less inadequate and more adequate.  We all want to feel adequate which means we must somehow learn to escape or jettison our inadequacy paradigms.  The marketplace strategy involves spending huge amounts of money on a regular basis to escape the “inadequacy paradigm.”  This strategy is often a failure as money and products cannot provide for real happiness or address some of the cultural biases, prejudices, racism and bigotry that contribute to the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”Henry A. Wallace

When I was growing up in New York City during the fifties, many of the popular singers were Italian.  There was Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Dion, Dean Martin and many others.  Most of the famous male singers had traditional Italian good looks being tall dark and handsome.  My father (6’ 4” tall) fit this model but my mother was Irish.  I (much to my chagrin) took after my mother.  I was short (5’ 8”) light skinned, brown thin hair with very nondescript looks.  No woman ever looked at me twice in high school.  I did inherit a good brain and cannot attest which side it came from.  Nevertheless, brainy nerdy intellectual guys had no more demand among the attractive high school girls in the fifties and sixties than they do now.  Beauty would seem to always trump brains in our society.

Now there are many different aspects or subdivisions of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  There is a division for Blacks, Latinos, women, disabled, intellectuals, old people and of course poor people.  If you belong to any one or more of these categories there are special rules that will be directed to you to help you feel even more inadequate than average. (Racism and Xenophobia create their own paradigms of inadequacy which go well beyond Madison Avenue but are supplemented by Madison Avenue to a large degree).  As a White male growing up in an Italian neighborhood, my complaints will not doubt seem trivial to individuals in these other “inadequacy categories.”  Let’s look at each group and see if we can perhaps walk a mile in their shoes.  What would it be like if you were in one of these other categories.  Now, one caveat must be shared.  If you are White and rich, you will probably be able to escape the most noticeable effects of the “inadequacy paradigm.”  For rich White folks, money provides a means to ameliorate the more consequential effects of inadequacy.  Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you many other things to make you feel better.

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African Americans:

What is it like growing up Black in America in the 21st Century?  Has years of Affirmative Action, Civil Rights and even a Black President mitigated the effects of the “inadequacy paradigm” for our African American citizens?

I decided to approach a Black man who was walking down my street.  I started to walk towards him and I yelled out “Hey, I need to talk to you.”  He immediately threw up his hands, laid on the ground and starting shouting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  I hollered out “I am not a cop.”  He got to his feet and said “Sorry, just an instinctive reaction.  How can I help you?”  “Well, I said, I just wanted to ask you what it was like being “Black in America today?”

Brian Lipscomb, IT Professional and Web Programmer/Website Designer

“Once I got off a trolley in downtown Philadelphia and accidentally bumped into an older White woman.  She immediately said “Here! Take my purse! Just don’t hurt me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was going to rob her.  When walking down the street, if a White woman is walking in my direction, they often cross the street or clutch their purse more tightly as I approach.  I guess I’m numb to it now, because I expect it.  I think that’s the sad part. There is nothing post-racial about our society.  Racism and prejudice have just become more subtle, more nuanced.”

Latinos:

Many Latino people in the USA have been residents since before the Pilgrims arrived.  With the annexation of Mexican Territory after the Mexican American War and the subsequent Gadsden purchase, many former Mexican citizens elected to become American Citizens.  The border between Mexico and the US was porous for many years with much travel back and forth.

Many Mexican Americans have families and friends still living in Mexico.  There has always been a White bias towards Mexican Americans and others from south of the border but recently this bias seems to have escalated.  Part of the reason for this lies in the drug wars but much of it is rooted in a xenophobia directed to Latinos who do not have traditional Northern European customs.   Latinos have become an increasingly larger segment of the population in many Southwestern cities.

But what is it like being a Latino?  We know that with the election of Donald Trump and his talk of building a border wall and deporting “Latino Rapists” that he has fanned the fears of xenophobia common among many Southwestern Whites.  There is no doubt that numerous Latino people residing in the Southwest and other parts of the USA are now uncertain about their future as US citizens.

Brittany Escalera, College Student

“Being born in the United States, I am automatically a citizen.  I am an American.  But according to society, I’m “too” Mexican to be American.  My complexion is too dark to be American.  My dark hair and dark eyes are too Mexican to be American. I’m Mexican, therefore, I can’t be American…. Yet it’s not always just the language barrier that is a struggle, there are constantly stereotypes and racial slurs being put on us everyday.  Being from the south, I had to work extra hard at breaking this.  No not all Mexican’s are illegal.  Sorry Trump, we are not all the criminals, drug dealers and rapists that you claim us to be.”

Women:

Of course, I cannot speak for being a Woman in America.  But I do not have to be female to see that Women must also suffer from the “inadequacy paradigm.”

“As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant pointed out in a recent New York Times op-ed, when male executives speak up, they receive 10% higher competence ratings; when female executives do the same, their ratings from their peers are 14% lower.  Similarly, when male employees offer ideas, they receive higher performance evaluations; when women offer the same ideas, managers’ perceptions of their performance remain unchanged.”  — What’s holding women back?

If the bias in the workplace is not bad enough to insult many women, the bias they face in the home is even worse.  The rates of domestic abuse and rape in American society are shameful.  But perhaps the worse indicator of the “inferiority paradigm” for women lies in the number of women who think they deserve such treatment.

“The cultural acceptance of spousal abuse can be so pervasive that in some countries, large majorities of women say it’s acceptable.  In Rwanda, 96 percent of women say the practice can be justified, according to the World Values Survey.  About two-thirds of women in India and South Africa feel the same way.  The attitude is also held by large shares of women in countries across the religious and cultural spectra — China, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, to cite a few. 

Even in countries where the vast majority of women don’t approve of spousal abuse, the share that do find it potentially acceptable isn’t exactly tiny.  It’s about 1 in 10 in the U.S. and about 1 in 5 in Germany.”  — Alarming Number Of Women Think Spousal Abuse Is Sometimes OKNURITH AIZENMAN

Many women are now worried in the USA due to the election of a President who openly bragged about his right to grab a women’s “pussy” because he was rich and privileged.  Many of his supporters were men and women who belong to fundamentalist religions that believe women have no place in politics or in the business world and that their only role is to bear children for men.  Thus, after years of battling to achieve equality with men, women now face the prospect of losing many of the hard-earned rights that they fought for and won.

Disabled:

One of my best friends committed suicide about a year ago.  He was a Cerebral Palsy victim who had dedicated his life to helping fight for more rights for disabled people.  He walked crablike and had to use walking sticks to keep his balance.  His head was always cocked at an odd angle due to his disability.  He was two years younger than I was and died at the age of 67.  Brian took his own life because he could fast see a time approaching when he would no longer be able to live on his own.  Brian was a fiercely independent man who struggled to obtain dignity in a society that does not always respect people who are disabled.

I first saw Brian when he would come into the town bakery to buy donuts or for lunch.  I was usually sitting with a bunch of locals who knew Brian and several had gone to school with Brian.  I was uncomfortable with the way they seemed to greet Brian and their response towards him.  It became disagreeable enough to me that I stopped my morning coffee sessions with this group.  Instead, I found a group of people at the library who met for coffee each day.  Brian was among the group at the library and we became good friends.

Brian told me many stories of how he was treated as though he was mentally disabled rather than physically disabled.  On several occasions that we went out together, it was clear that people wanted to avoid dealing with Brian.  For Brian, it must have felt like being a leper.  I am sure that much of the bias towards Brian was not intentionally hateful.  Nevertheless, it still was difficult for Brian to deal with.  Brian wanted to be treated as a normal person and not someone with a disability.  His strong desire to be normal ultimately led to his ending his life.

The following chart shows the changes in employment for disabled people in the USA since 1991.  Notice the “progress” is backwards.

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Intellectuals:

99632_origIf you have not read Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in America Life” I heartily recommend it. I have often joked that the worst discrimination in America seems to be saved for people who think.  Many companies trumpet their desire for “out of the box” thinkers.  This is usually nothing more than a well parroted display of self-deception.  What Human Resources and the company are really looking for is “people who fit in.”  People who are iconoclasts, people who are critical thinkers, people who rock the boat “need not apply here.”

Intellectuals include nerds, free thinkers, geeks and anyone who works with ideas as opposed to building things or throwing things.  Academics are often lumped in with this category since most people assume an academic to be a brilliant thinker.  This is very often a misplaced assumption.  People in the arts including music and theater are often very intellectual but they somehow manage to escape the opprobrium reserved for pure thinkers.

If you think I am exaggerating on the bias that is reserved for intellectuals, you should turn on any right wing talk show like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and listen to them for a while. It won’t be long before they are attacking commie pinko faggot intellectuals for all the problems in America.

“There is a great superficiality in today’s evangelical world.  Many Bible-believing Christians share the contemporary case for self-gratification, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism. Many people who believe in the Bible have never read it.” — Gene Edward Veith Jr.

I must mention one of the dumbest stupid-ass TV shows I have ever seen.  It is the epitome of anti-intellectualism in America today.  It is called the “Big Bang Theory.”  It is supposedly about genius and of course the geniuses in this show have Ph.D.’s but absolutely no common sense or interpersonal skills. They are also geeky with no athletic skills and about zero muscle mass on their puny frames.  This show portrays how much of America views intellectuals.

“Our big mistake in modern intellectualism is first and foremost its lack of nuance.  We have made science synonymous with atheism – a presupposed conception and yet, another means to non-sequiturs – and therefore, to a number of enthusiasts determined to go the further, anti-theism.  Hereby let us observe that science has long served best and should be, if none other, the one discipline, if at all possible, free of potential ideology, religious or anti-religious, and/or biased presupposition in order to maintain the authenticity and the reliability of its nature.” —–  Criss Jami

Elderly:

Every so often, my wife and I like to go to a Pow Wow.  I remember one of the first we went to and they had a free dinner for all attendees.  As we stood in line waiting our turn to get up to the food table, a young man came up and said “Oh Elders go to the front of the line.”  I said “I am not a Native American.”  He said “It did not matter” and escorted my wife and I to the front of the line with the other Elders.  Other Pow Wows that I have attended have had a special line for Elders.  I was pretty much blown away by this deference.  It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.

Many venues and shops have discounts for seniors or “Senior Days” where food is cheaper or there are discounts for those over fifty-five or sixty.  I am not impressed by these as you and I know it has nothing to do with “respect” for the elderly.  It has more to do with getting more of our money.  Respect for the elderly seems to be dwindling the older I get.

Both my wife and I have noticed that increasingly when we go to a clinic anymore with a health problem such as a sore hip or sore shoulder, we often get responses like “Oh, it is just part of getting old, you will just have to live with it.”  Instead of investigating to see if some our problem might be amenable to treatment, we are simply told to more of less “suck it up.”

“There is also a lack of recognition of the positive contributions that elderly people make to society.  The amount of unpaid childcare provided runs into the tens of billions.  Without this form of labor, fewer parents could work and gain fulfillment in their jobs.  Indeed, as some local authorities have recognized the 60 plus generation offer a huge reservoir of untapped energy for the voluntary sector.”  — Why do we treat elderly people so badly?By Paul Donovan

Poor:

The “poor” otherwise known as lazy, drug addicts, stupid, trailer trash, welfare bums, welfare cheats, handout recipients, bag people, curb people and homeless.  The poor in America are thought by many to be poor by choice and not by chance.  This makes it much easier to denigrate them and to blame them for their poverty.  When someone picks their lifestyle, it is much harder to be sympathetic for the choices they have made.

In 1978, I had finished my Master’s Degree in Counseling and I took a position as a Manpower Counselor II with the State of Wisconsin in the Department of Industry Labor and Human Relations or DILHR as it was known then.  My job entailed working with the WIN or Work Incentive Program to help families who were receiving welfare (AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children) find gainful employment so they could get off Welfare.  I also worked with the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program (IHRAP) and the Labor Education and Advancement Program (LEAP) to help mainly Southeast Asian refugees in the IHRAP program and women and minorities in the LEAP program find jobs.  I worked with several other job training programs as well.  The bottom line of all my programs and effort was to help people find employment by which they would become self-sufficient.

Now there are two interesting points I want to make gleaned from my two years working in these programs with mostly poor and under-privileged people.

  1. None of the programs really went far enough in their benefits or stipends or financial assistance to really help as much as was needed by my clients.

I am not going to say that many benefits were not helpful.  We could offer financial incentives to employers, daycare benefits, transportation help and even some educational benefits.  These were in addition to the monthly welfare checks that many families were receiving.  Nevertheless, the key to getting off welfare was to provide enough education to help the client to break out of the cycle of poverty.  Only education would help those who wanted to climb the proverbial “ladder of opportunity.”  Unfortunately, the ladders that were being provided never seemed to have enough rungs in them.  Whether through stupidity, frugality or simply underestimating what was needed, many people could not get enough help to break out of poverty.

  1. Ninety Percent of my clients wanted to get off Welfare.

There is a pernicious and vicious myth that most people on Welfare like it and want to stay on it.  Nothing, could be further from the truth.  I worked with hundreds of Welfare clients and the clear majority (90 percent or better) wanted to find a good job and become self-sufficient.

Yes, I encountered some Welfare cheats and some Welfare dependent people who had little or no incentive to gain employment and lose their Welfare checks.  However, these were a small minority of the clients that I saw in my two years working with the WIN program.   Even these individuals often had severe handicaps either physically or mentally which would have made holding gainful employment near impossible.  The average person does not realize how many barriers and hardships face some of the poor in this country.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.Ban Ki-moon

Conclusions:

inadequacy-cropWe have a pervasive problem that I labeled the “Inadequacy Paradigm.”  Much of it is caused by racism, xenophobia, prejudice, stereotypes and bigotry.  The majority of it is systemic and will need major changes in policies and institutions in this country to eliminate.  However, it is felt on a very personal level.  Feelings of inadequacy may be conveyed by others and cultural mores but they are received by an individual who assimilates these feelings into their psyche.  Thus, inadequacy becomes a personal problem and not simply a social problem.  Inadequacy is not “out there” it is right inside.  The vast numbers of suicides in our society are testament to the inadequacy that many of our fellow citizens feel.   This includes Whites as well as minorities.

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the USA
  • 44,000 people die every year by suicide (2015)
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015.

What can we do to overcome these problems?  Clearly education and social support systems must be developed and deployed.  If we see the problem of inadequacy as something that is “not my problem” nothing will be done.  We have people who refuse to spend one dime of their taxes to help others because of selfishness and greed.  We have many who want to label America as a Christian nation, but they do not practice Christianity.

Any church that does not practice tolerance for the oppressed, charity for the poor and compassion for the needy, regardless of what religion they belong to, should not call themselves a Christian church.  They should call themselves a HATE church.  Hate leads to prejudice and bigotry and these are the primary factors in the Inadequacy Paradigm.  Destroy prejudice and bigotry and we will create a society with many more well-adjusted people.

Time for Questions:

What makes you feel inadequate?  Why?  What do you do about it?  How do you think you could help others who feel inadequate?

Life is just beginning.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew.  I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”  — Hermann Hesse

 

 

The Tragic Deaths of Ananias and Sapphira:  What This Story Tells Us about the Decline and Fall of Religion.

ANANIAS_AND_SAPPHIRA1.280200851_stdIn the Acts of the Apostles (part of the New Testament) Chapter 5, there is the story of two members of the early Christian church which was thought important enough to merit inclusion in the Bible.  To summarize the story:  these two members (Ananias and Sapphira) sold some property which they owned and instead of contributing 100 percent of the proceeds, they elected to keep some of it aside for themselves.  This may have been in violation of a sense of community and common property that the early Church was fostering since the story seemed important enough to put down in text.  (You may enjoy listening to the following song while reading this blog “The Ballad of Ananias and Sapphira”)

After being confronted by the apostle Peter, both Ananias and his wife Sapphira died on the spot.  What I find most interesting about this story is the significance and interpretation that is given by many Christian leaders to this event.  I think these interpretations may tell us more about religion and why people are backing away from churches then any of the more common reasons given for the decreasing numbers of people who now belong to an organized church.  For instance, many theorists say that the lack of religion today is due to or at least correlated with a more highly educated work force. Others say, the lack of religious affiliation has to do with the sexual emancipation of men and women, thus freeing them from the demands and control of an organized church.  I think there are more fundamental reasons and this story illustrates them very well.  I would like to contrast my “heretical” view of what this story means with a common view espoused by one religious leader in an article called  “5 THINGS GOD TEACHES US IN THE TRAGIC DEATHS OF ANANIAS & SAPPHIRA” by  Pastor J.D. on November 20, 2013

Pastor J.D.

  1. In the church, there are two kinds of people, and it’s nearly impossible to distinguish them from the outside.

On the outside, Ananias and Sapphira look just like another church member named Barnabas (introduced in Acts 4). Barnabas had just sold his property and brought the money to the apostles, and to the casual observer, Ananias and Sapphira were doing the same thing.

But deep in their heart lingered a love of money and a desire for people’s praise.  So they conspired together to present a portion of their money while passing it off as the entire amount. This is worlds apart from the attitude of Barnabas, but looks very similar.

John’s Interpretation: 

ananisas gravesYou mean that there are only two kinds of people in church?  One good and the other bad?  Why are the bad people going to church anyway if they are bad?  How is the church helping these “bad” people?  People who have a love of money and a desire for praise are bad?  That means about 95 percent of the human race are bad.  If all that religion can do is condemn “bad” people, why bother to go to church?  To be “Good,” you must tithe, build churches, give large donations and upon your death leave large grants to your church.

Pastor J.D.

  1. We cannot hide from God.

It may be difficult for us to distinguish between a truly repentant heart and a seasoned faker, but nothing is hidden from God. The Holy Spirit knows our thoughts as if they were being played through a loudspeaker or being displayed on a screen.

That is why despite fooling everyone else, Ananias and Sapphira were still found out. There are no locked doors or hidden closets for the Holy Spirit.

John’s Interpretation:

god sees everythingGod is even worse than big brother. Big brother can be hacked and still has blind spots in his/her surveillance techniques.  God sees all and knows all.  Do not try to hide anything from God.  God has nothing to do but spy on us night and day.  24/7 God is spying.  Do not do anything that would offend God or he/she will know and your secrets will be shared with the universe.  Since your church is your organized representative of God on earth, you should not try to hide anything from your church.  Be sure to send copies of your annual tax returns to your local parish or pastor.

Pastor J.D.

  1. The closer we are to grace, the greater the offense of sin.

Not everyone who lies gets struck down immediately for their sin. So why did Ananias and Sapphira? A couple of reasons:

First, their deaths—like much in Acts—serve as a sign. God takes something that is true in the kingdom of God and puts it on physical display. We see this most often through the healing miracles, but it is equally true of this judgment.

God doesn’t do this with everyone who lies to the Holy Spirit today. But that should not cover up the fact that this death is a picture of how God feels about it. It is a glimpse of the future judgment for all who share in the heart of Ananias and Sapphira.

Second, Ananias and Sapphira had seen the activity of the Holy Spirit so closely that the seriousness of the sin increased. Think of it like the temple: the closer you are to the holy place, the more significant is every blemish.[1]

These people had seen the mercy of God firsthand. Ananias’ name, in fact, means, “God is merciful.” They had likely been witness to the death of Christ itself! And yet despite being recipients of such great grace, they spurned it for the praise of men. Do not take holy things lightly!

John’s Interpretation:

lying tonguesDon’t bother trying to be better; you can never be good enough. Furthermore, it is worse to screw up if you are better than if you had not even tried.  Whatever happened to forgiveness of sin?  In this story, it seems there is no room for repentance.  Tolerance is non-existent.  No one mourns the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  Where is the compassion and forgiveness that Jesus preached?  It would seem that even at this early date, the newly formed Christian church has soon forgotten the key messages of Jesus.

Pastor J.D.

  1. Fear is a part of worship.

Unsurprisingly, these dramatic deaths caused a great deal of fear (Acts 5:5, 11). But we may be shocked to see that even in light of this, “more and more people believed in the Lord” (Acts 5:14). Fear is an integral part of worship.

For those of us familiar with the idea of an infinitely loving God, this is a jarring realization.  But God’s love only makes sense when we know the magnificence of his glory and the might of his power. That is why John Newton wrote, “Tis grace that taught my heart to fear.”  As the fear of God increases, so does the sense of his love, because we understand more fully what we have been saved from.

My favorite definition of the fear of God is awe mixed with intimacy.  We are invited into the closest possible relationship with God, but this intimacy must never overshadow the majesty of who God is.

John’s Interpretation:

god_hates_lies_button-p145912936367763508t5sj_400Wow, this is really hard to understand much less accept.  Fear is a part of God?  God wants us to be afraid of him/her because we are more likely to be saved if we are afraid?  As I am more afraid of God, he will love me more? What kind of crazy mixed up logic is this?  Where did Jesus preach this or say anything close to this?  What is it we will be saved from if only we are afraid?  Maybe, this is why psychopaths commit crimes that are so heinous? They have no fear so why should they give a damn?  If you are fearless, you have no problem with God.  This sounds like a good prescription for a fascist dictatorship.  Just keep the people scared and they will stay in line.  God and fascism according to the Christian church must have a lot in common.  No wonder most religions hate communism so much.  Ironic, that so many communist regimes have also used fear to keep people in line. What ever happened to the saying that “You catch more flies with honey then you do with vinegar?”  What many religions seem to be saying is that if you scare people to death, they will donate more to the church.

Pastor J.D.

  1. Sin is a deadly serious matter to God.

If we’re honest, many of us find God’s actions here offensive—but that merely reveals our ignorance of our sin and God’s holiness.  We shouldn’t ask the question, “Why did they die?” Instead we should wonder, “Why do we remain alive?”

Yes, God is patient with us and slow to anger.  But as R.C. Sproul says, we forget that God’s patience is designed to lead us to repentance, not to become bolder in our sin.  If Jesus really went through the tormenting hell of the cross to redeem us, and we neglect that in pursuit of our sin, what will it be like to stand before God? “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”(Hebrews 2:3)

 John’s Interpretation:

Sinner ParkingGod hates sin and hate sinners?  In this case, he/she hated sin enough to kill two members of the church whose sin was keeping back some of their money and lying about it.  Wow, this is really scary.  If God can just strike any of us dead for such a trivial offense, imagine what he/she will do to most of us for the daily offenses we make. When you think of the Ten Commandments or Eight Beatitudes, you should be really scared.  Any second now, most of the human race will be struck dead for failing to comply or live up to these standards.  When you think about how many people covet their neighbor’s property, commit adultery, or lack humility or charity, you may wonder that anyone on earth is still alive.

Conclusions:

Well, you may and will draw your own conclusions but my conclusions are to ask why anyone would belong to any organized religion that subscribed to a single one of the beliefs that were noted by Pastor J. D.  If you want to look for reasons why people are less church going or less religious today, you have simply to look at these five beliefs about God and sin that Pastor J.D. has noted.  Who in their right mind, would want to belong to any group that felt this way about humanity and sin?

By the way, these five beliefs noted are not atypical or unique.  When I was researching the symbolism and meaning of the story of Ananias and Sapphira, I found many similar interpretations by other religious leaders.  (See Dan Stevers – The Grim Tale of Ananias & Sapphira)

Most of the interpretations support the idea of an intolerance that was in the early Christian church from the very beginning.  This is not to say that all religions do not share similar intolerances.  My best guess is that any system of organized belief is by its very nature “intolerant” of competing or contradictory belief systems.   One can only hope that we are not all killed instantly for our failures to comply with whatever belief system we are associated with.  Most systems other than religion find it more expedient to kill by innuendo and ostracism then to have God strike you dead immediately.  You lose less members that way.

Time for Questions:

What is sin?  Who are the real sinners in the world?  Do you know any sinners? Are you a sinner?  What do you do to atone or repent for your sins?  There are three things we must do for forgiveness:

  1. Sincerely admit, apologize and show regret for our sins
  2. Listen to the pain and misery that our sins have caused.
  3. Make appropriate amends for our sins to the victims.

Life is just beginning.

If you think that anything under the sun is new, you have only to compare the story of Ananias and Sapphira to this recent headline about churches that plunder their parishioners:

How passing the plate becomes the ‘Sunday morning stickup’” by John Blake, CNN, June, 14, 2015

Gandhi’s Sixth Social Sin: Worship Without Sacrifice

I find it surprising that I am writing about Gandhi and his ideas.  Surprising in that while growing up I was as far from a non-violent philosophy as anyone could be.  Sometimes it seemed like my whole life was violence, anger and fighting.  I joined the military out of high school and hoped to kill as many “commies” as I could.  I continued my violent ways for many years and to be honest I am still no pacifist.  I would not turn the other cheek once if you hit me, never mind 40 times. I am still on the border line about capital punishment.  One day I think Capital Punishment is terribly useless institution made even worse by its ineffectiveness at deterring crime. The next day I read of some horrendous crime that I feel can only be rectified by punishments that go well beyond the heinousness of legal murder.  If Gandhi were my father, he would surely disown me. 

Gandhi is one of those heroic icons who cannot be ignored.  Whether you believe in his ideas or not, you cannot deny that he tried to live according to his beliefs.  More important was that he lived to help others have a better life.  Everything Gandhi did paid evidence to his ideology that humans could be better than they were.  I know many people who think that educators, psychologists, social workers and other “human service” workers are just a waste of taxpayer money.  These same people are continually on the front line for more prisons and more military hardware.  It is evident to such people that humans can not improve and thus the only betterment of humanity lies in more weapons, more police, more military and more guns.  Gandhi would have professed the exact opposite and worked to create a world that was non-violent and where disputes could be resolved by civil discourse.

Years ago, I dropped my belief in God and in religions.  I came to the conclusion that the first did not exist and the second was evil. It seemed to me that much of the misery on the earth came from one or the other of the major religions.  The crusades, the inquisition, the Protestant Catholic wars, the wars against “Pagans” all showed me conclusively that religions did more harm than good. When I joined the military, I would not speak to any clergy and when they came around; I always avoided them.  I was even rude to them at times as I regarded them as hypocrites.  My first wife and I did not practice any religion together but I did bring my daughter around to several different religious venues as I wanted to at least expose her to them.  My second marriage was to a more deeply religious woman who practices her faith regularly by participating in church affairs and helping out at many church functions.  I often kid her about some of these events but I have come to a different point in my life regarding their benefit to the world.  I am somewhat less judgmental about religions and people then I was in my younger days. 

What does this mean for me about religions and how I regard them today?  I can say with sincerity that I still see much evil that comes out of religion, not to mention its ongoing hypocrisy (for instance where were all the churches and ministers when we invaded Iraq both the first and second times?).  However, I also see many good things that they now do, from supporting health care for poor people to championing efforts to feed people both domestically and abroad.  There are many other examples of good things that are done by churches and religious leaders.  So what does Gandhi mean by “Worship without Sacrifice?”  Is Gandhi against organized religion?  Here is the description from the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence that summarizes Gandhi’s ideas in respect to his Sixth Social Sin: 

“Worship without Sacrifice: One person’s faith is another person’s fantasy because religion has been reduced to meaningless rituals practiced mindlessly. Temples, churches, synagogues, mosques and those entrusted with the duty of interpreting religion to lay people seek to control through fear of hell, damnation, and purgatory. In the name of God they have spawned more hate and violence than any government. True religion is based on spirituality, love, compassion, understanding, and appreciation of each other whatever our beliefs may be — Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics or whatever. Gandhi believed whatever labels we put on our faith; ultimately all of us worship Truth because Truth is God. Superficially we may be very devout believers and make a tremendous public show of our worship, but if that belief, understanding, compassion, love and appreciation is not translated into our lives, prayers will have no meaning. True worship demands sacrifice not just in terms of the number of times a day we say our prayers but in how sincere we are in translating those prayers into life styles. In the 1930’s many Christian and Muslim clergy flocked into India to convert the millions who were oppressed as untouchables. The Christian clergy stood on street corners loudly denouncing Hinduism and proclaiming the virtues of Christianity. Months went by without a single convert accepting the offer. Frustrated, one priest asked Grandfather: After all the oppression and discrimination that the ‘untouchables’ suffer under Hinduism, why is it they do not accept our offer of a better life under Christianity? Grandfather replied: When you stop telling them how good Christianity is and start living it, you will find more converts than you can cope with. These words of wisdom apply to all religions of the world. We want to shout from roof-tops the virtues of our beliefs and not translate them into our lives.”

Gandhi’s words remind me of a comment by Sitting Bull. When asked what he thought of Christianity he replied:   “From what I have read it is an admirable religion, however I do not see any white people practicing it.”  From a Native American perspective, the only thing the conquerors religions offered was a destruction of their habitats and lifestyles.  Witness the coming of the Spanish to the “New World” and the systematic destruction of the culture and religions that already existed by the Spanish military and their allied missionaries.  The genocidal destruction of indigenous peoples throughout the world is full of pompous and pretentious efforts to “convert” and save them from their evil ways.  In reality, religion only provided an expedient excuse to separate them from their lands and gold.  We have in much of the history of organized religion a clear example of what Gandhi meant by Worship without Sacrifice.

Perhaps surprising to some though, true Christianity is firm that Worship without Sacrifice is worthless: 

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and be well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  

 

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

                    James 2:14-26- New International Version

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for his religious beliefs. This is Worship with Sacrifice.  Going to church on Sunday or simply reading the Bible is Worship without Sacrifice.  When Jesus said that the two most important Commandments were Love God and Love Everyone, he meant you had to practice your faith by helping others who were less fortunate.  This has made it very difficult for most of humankind to be his followers in deed as well as in professed belief.  It is far easier to say “I am a Christian, then to “Sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  It is much easier to pray, worship, and read the Bible than to actually practice what Jesus was saying.  Think for a minute what it would mean if all would be Christians really practiced the “Love Everyone Commandment?  A short list of the consequences of this would mean:

  • No religious wars
  • No Jihads
  • No terrorism
  • No murders
  • No rapes
  • No assaults
  • NO WARS PERIOD

Can you imagine a world without these problems?  This is the world we would have if everyone practiced their religions by deeds and not just words.  However, this would require sacrifice and too many people are not really willing to sacrifice for their religion, for Jesus or for God.  Sacrifice means giving up something to help others, not giving up something to gain something for you.  Those who blow up their bodies to attain paradise with 40 vestal virgins are not sacrificing for others; they are simply trying to take a shortcut to attain what other greedy people already have.  Any religion that terrorizes others in the name of “whoever” or “whatever” is evil regardless of what it calls itself.  This raises the question that might be phased as “What is the purpose of religion.”  Searching the web it is easy to find that many have condemned organized religion because of the atrocities associated with it. Great thinkers from Plato to Thomas Jefferson to Bertrand Russell have had little good to say about religions.  However, I like the following comment from WaheguruNet regarding what positive role religion could and indeed should play in society:

“Religion has and continues to impact almost every aspect of human civilization in both positive and negative ways. The great spiritual masters from all traditions have taught that we need to adopt and develop higher qualities of love, mercy, generosity, kindness and so on. These higher qualities are a natural byproduct of developing a deeper connection with our spiritual nature and so in this respect religion can be thought of as a vehicle to support our spiritual development and our re-connection with divinity.  In this way, human beings will be better at working together to create a better and more harmonious world.”

You will notice that in this purpose there is nothing mentioned about doom and destruction  or about going to hell and suffering for the rest of your life or about your neighbor who is a hypocrite and unlike you is destined for fire and brimstone.  The purpose of religion is to help us become better people. To help us find our connection to our inner spirit and to help guide us in living a more just and moral life.  This purpose must be followed by actions and deeds as well as pious readings and professed beliefs. There is no room Gandhi’s religion or Jesus’s religion for bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, hatred, intolerance and destruction of others or their belief systems.   

Time for Questions:

What can we do to practice good deeds as well as good thoughts? What sacrifices are you willing to make to help others?  Are we making a true sacrifice by telling others how hard we worked and that they can be what we are if they only try?  Should we simply tell others to pull themselves up by their boot straps?  Are all people really created equal in the sense that everyone has an equal chance at health and happiness?  Can we help make it so by sharing what we have with others?  

Life is just beginning.

 

 

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