On Monday an anonymous friend left a comment that I wanted to respond to more fully than I could in the comment box.
Anonymous wrote, in part:
...I have been deeply hurt by those with faith and therefore am cautious with my own. I wish what you wrote was true, that our faith teaches the value of others. But, crosses were burned and black people killed by people of our faith. Women are not allowed to be ministers or priests by churches in our faith. 'Sins of the fathers' created a sin based view of disability. 'Kill a Queer for Christ' is a bumper sticker. I want a gentle faith...
When I read the book, Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia, by Carmen Bin Ladin; although the sense of oppressiveness and control clung to me like fog in a Newfoundland outport, I realized that the expression of Islam the author experienced does not represent all who follow that faith. I also realized that Christianity has, by some, been corrupted into a faith of oppression and repression as my anonymous friend pointed out.
Anonymous obviously still had faith in God in spite of being hurt by those with faith, because she referred to "our" faith. But the words he wrote are painfully poignant.
How can a faith that is really the love story of God for humanity, be perverted into a weapon of hate? But it has been. Any reader of history, past or recent, doesn't have to look far to find evidence of that. In the name of Christ, bad things have been done--sometimes by well meaning but misguided people, and other times by those with dark motives.
People can find themselves in spiritually abusive, unhealthy, belief systems that discourage independent thought; some of them calling themselves "Christian." Any system that demands unquestioning obedience and "group think," is dangerous.
I loved Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating book, Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking in which he wrote about "thin slicing;" our ability to gauge what is real and true, seemingly instinctively; but in reality by a rapid summation of what we see and a split second comparison with information we know to be true. "The book argues that intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training, and knowledge." (Wikipedia Blink (book))
If Malcolm Gladwell's argument is correct, then how much more important is it that we pursue a thorough knowledge of God for ourselves? When we press in to know God and to become familiar with the Bible, we will have an inner check in our spirit and our gut when something is wrong. It is dangerous to rely on others for a second hand faith.
There are difficult questions that I have wrestled through to where I have peace. My peace may not be an other's peace on the same subject. And some questions God will have to answer for me in heaven because I don't have the answers yet. But I know the one who is called Faithful and True and am content to trust him.
I would love to hear the thoughts of readers. Have you experienced systems of faith that controlled or abused? How did you overcome the effects of those experiences and find spiritual health?