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From The Eclectic Church

 

 

SOMETHING FOR RELECTION, CONSIDERATION AND DISCUSSION

 

 

Violence in America

These are just a few of the Christian images portraying Jesus' suffering and death. While the artwork is truly beautiful, in our present age of psychological awareness one can, and should, ask: How are such images affecting our children?

Violence is a serious problem in our culture without a doubt. There is much discussion about this topic in regards to what influences it and what causes it. Contributing factors, which have been cited, are television, movies, books, music, the web, and computer games --- all worthwhile things that deserve discussion.

But we at the Eclectic Church have considered another possibility as not yet widely discussed, in fact it seems it has not been mentioned. Before presenting this observation, we feel it necessary to point out; realistically, there can be no single cause or blame assigned to violence, which at its root is always a selfish act. Psychologically, there are many factors which contribute to ones personality and nature, some genetic and some nurture.

With that being said, we have wondered why no one dares to suggest religious beliefs as a contributing factor (on the nurturing side) to our violence. At first glance religion may seem to be an unlikely consideration in such a discussion; after all, religions are about God, and all that is moral and good --- at least in principle!

Yet, when we examine this suggestion more closely it brings up some questions. Ponder this:

We at the Eclectic Church realize that religion has contributed significantly to further the humanistic attitudes of our world and acknowledge that the world is probably a better place because of faith and religion. However, there have also been great atrocities in the name of God based upon religious beliefs. The crusades and the Inquisition are but two. Too often, people of faith take at face value what their ministers proclaim, seldom considering the psychological implications of the often-violent message. For example, we tell children we are made in God's image, which is quite a strong psychological suggestion! After all, next to a child's parents in a religious home, there is probably no stronger a figure in their eyes than God. So let us examine some of the ideas that are postulated about God and what kind of an image that presents.

The following excerpt is taken from "Religion May be Hazardous to Your Health" by Eli S Chasen, psychiatrist and author.

"I recall a five year old Jewish boy who was learning about Passover in Sunday School. He was exposed to the Old Testament story about the lamb that was sacrificed on Passover; the lams blood was smeared on the door lintels on the Jewish homes so that the Angel of death would pass over and spare the first-born sons while taking the Egyptians. Unbeknownst to the Sunday School teacher, the story terrified the boy. Aware that Passover was approaching, he developed a very real feeling of fear that someone was going to "sacrifice" his dog and smear the blood on his parents home --- not a far fetched notion for a five year old.

"Easter time fills the Sunday School classroom with equally terrifying and violent tales of Christ being tormented and nailed unto a cross. I question the wisdom of exposing such gore to children who have not begun school, and may not even have witnessed a good lynching on television.

"I can recall hearing, at the age of seven or so, a story told to my Hebrew School class about a martyred rabbi. All I can remember is that the man's tongue and legs were cut off in the middle of the Town Square. A related story was told about a woman whose skin was raked off for similar reasons.

"I do not recall the reasons, just the gore. This horrified me at the time, as I am sure it did my classmates. The Bible is filled with violence from Genesis to the end, and I would no more expose my young children to this than I would subject them to a bullfight or a public execution.

"I even question the justification for teaching the Ten Commandments to stage one children. Is it necessary specifically to teach a child of five that he should not kill? I wonder how many children even consider the thought of killing --- prior to Sunday School stimulation? And is it really necessary to "teach" children to honor and love their parents? Would it not be more reasonable and appropriate for children to learn this intuitively, as most children will find it anyway?

"It is abundantly clear to me that Biblical material is as inappropriate as biochemistry to teach not only to the preschooler, but to the younger stage two child as well."

(Published by: Peter H Wyden Inc, 1972, PP 123-124)

 

This is obviously only a brief glimpse of the possible discussions that could go on. And we in no way are trying to indict anyone's faith. What we are really trying to say, is that maybe it is time to rethink some of our theological assumptions, some of our images we present, and find a more practical and useful way to portray the Image of God and our religious ideals. Our spoken words are not without consequence even when they are about faith, and with our understanding of psychology and sociology we should be much more careful as to the messages we are delivering, particularly to our children.

We, at the Eclectic Church, are trying to change the approach we take towards our Sacred Inspirations. We need not toss them aside, but we can be very careful in the way we present them. We feel it is not God's intent to scare children into submission or to promote guilt complexes which trouble so many adults because of their religious training. Often it is not the message that needs to change, but our approach toward it.

For example, we see the crucifixion of Jesus, not mankind's salvation as willed by the Father; but view it as an ultimate rejection of God's unrequited love and the message that goes with it. It represents the worst human potential. We do not "bathe in the blood", or proclaim "drinking the blood" as is so often done; but rather, see this bloodletting as representing man's inhumanity toward their fellow man. God loves us, and the death of Jesus may dramatize this --- but, as for being the will of God we must differ. Our interpretation sees God's Love being generated, despite, our potential for evil. Every time we abuse our fellow man, every time we abuse the creation God has blessed us with, we are crucifying Jesus. It seems to us, what we proclaim our salvation should be viewed as our shame!

Jesus preached a message of love and there can be no doubt about that! He spoke of God bestowing His/Her gifts upon the good and bad alike. He/She wants us to come to Him/Her out of a sense of love, not fear of punishment or hope of reward. In the end, such interpretations can only strengthen one's relationship with God and outward reflection of that ideal.

We close with the following quote from Blake in "The Everlasting Gospel":

"The vision of Christ that you do see, is my visions greatest enemy... Both you and I read the Bible day and night, but you read black where I read white."

May God bless you in all your endeavors.

Please give us your thoughts!

Email us at eclecticchurch@electicchurch.org

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