Religion. Why do we even bother? So much evil has been perpetrated in the name of religion. Humans have an amazing capability of ascribing to God all their worst impulses.
In the Middle East, peace is just a dream as Palestinians and Jews alike use terror, violence, and hate as tools of religion. The so-called Holy Land is become an unholy place of violence, intolerance, and hard-line extremism.
India and Pakistan are two countries who owe their independence and freedom to one of the Twentieth Century’s true saints of non-violence, Mahandas Ghandi. But what have we seen since independence? Indian Hindus and Pakistani Muslims locked in a bitterly violent struggle fueled by religious and ethnic fanaticism.
In Afghanistan, the Muslim government is not content with blowing up Buddhist shrines and temples, they are now prosecuting Christians. Afghan citizens who are found guilty of proselytizing for Christianity face the death penalty.
And lest we smugly think that Christians have escaped faith-based hate, just look at Northern Ireland where a watching world has been treated to the disgusting spectacle of Protestant adults cursing, spitting, throwing stones and bottles, and on Wednesday a bomb at Catholics. And were those attacked Catholic paramilitary troops from the IRA, or even Catholic politicians and leaders, or priests? No. The targets of these sincere, passionate, ‘holy’ Protestants are little girls and their mothers, on their way to a Catholic elementary school.
I have never been so disgusted in my life.
Of course, this is all happening overseas, isn’t it? Americans would never be guilty of this kind of extremism. NOT!!
It was newly arrived American Christians who committed genocide against the native peoples whose only crime was that they were here first. It was good people of faith who brought Africans in chains to this country to live as chattel in slavery. It was American Protestants who put up signs that read ‘Irish and Dogs Forbidden.’ It was good Christian Americans who perpetrated the sin of segregation against African Americans and fought against the Civil Rights Movement, even bombing Black churches. And it is religious people who are in the vanguard of the war against sexual minorities in this country.
What is it about religion that brings out the worst in people? Why does belief result in intolerance? Simply because I believe in Jesus Christ, why would I want to kill people who don’t happen to agree with me? Yes, Jesus Saves. But some of Jesus’ followers have been known to kill, if you are not saved.
I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Protestant. I am a member of Metropolitan Community Church. I am an active member of Holy Redeemer MCC, College Park, Maryland. I am proud of my church and proud of the message of tolerance and love preached there.
But when I read the news from around the world I am dismayed at what people of faith can do in the name of their religion. These atrocities are as far away as Afghanistan, the Indian Subcontinent, and Northern Ireland, but also as close as Fred Phelps’ web site (www.GodHatesFags.com), the Southern Baptist Convention, certain polyester patriarchs among the television evangelists, and the church down the street, the fundamentalist Christian at the office, the bigoted relative.
The God I know and worship is a God of love. Like Queen Victoria, I am sure God is not amused at the religious violence all around the world. My Jesus would truly weep over the spectacle of Protestant Christians throwing epithets and stones at little Catholic girls.
I know, I know. Most Muslims, most Hindus, most Jews, most Christians are good, God-fearing, non-violent people. They are following God in the right way, the way of peace, justice, and love. I am confident I am right about God being a God of love.
But it is difficult to be confident about being right with so many people of faith around the world being so wrong. As for me, give me Jesus Christ. Religion, I am not so sure about.
R. Adam DeBaugh has served the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches since attending the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., in 1973 and is a director of Chi Ro Press.
He served on the Board of Directors of the Gay Rights National Lobby.
In late 1975 he was named Director of the UFMCC Department of Christian Social Action, which position he held until 1986. As Director of Christian Social Action and of the Washington Office he traveled extensively throughout the UFMCC, visiting, speaking, and preaching at over 100 churches throughout the U.S., and supervised the Christian Social Action programs of the denomination.
In 1979 he and the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson were named the first co-directors of the new Department of Ecumenical Relations and in 1981 Adam wrote the UFMCC’s original application for membership in the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S. With Elder Wilson he supervised the first triennium of dialogue with the NCCC through 1984, when he stepped down from the ecumenical work of the Fellowship.
In October, 1983, he was elected District Coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic District, only the second lay person to hold the position of District Coordinator in the UFMCC. (In the UFMCC, the District Coordinator is somewhat analogous to a Bishop in other church polities, having episcopal, pastoral and administrative responsibilities. The Mid-Atlantic District covered six states and the District of Columbia.) He served on the UFMCC General Council (the governing body of the denomination) from its inception in 1985 until his retirement as District Coordinator in June 1992.
In 1990 the Mid-Atlantic District Committee, recognizing Mr. DeBaugh’s gifts in the areas of writing, editing, and publishing, granted his application for Special Work status for Chi Rho Press, a Gay and Lesbian Christian publishing house. He decided not to stand for re-election as District Coordinator when his term expired in June 1992, in order to follow God’s clear call on his life to devote his energies to the ministry of Chi Rho Press.
A committed lay person, Adam DeBaugh is an accomplished writer, speaker, workshop leader, and preacher. He served on the Board of Directors of the Washington Blade newspaper in the early 1970’s, and on the Board of Directors of Emmaus House of Prayer, another Special Work of the Mid-Atlantic District. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Fund for Overcoming Racism, a scholarship fund for people of color who are studying for the UFMCC clergy ministry. He was a member of the board of directors of Among Friends, Inc., a non-profit Washington area agency that provides transitional services to Gay and Lesbian people in crisis.
He has written a number of booklets, including “Writing to Congress” and “The Least of These: A Christian Social Action Bible Study on Matthew 25”, which are currently distributed by Chi Rho Press. He is a contributor to the books “The Road to Emmaus” and “Positively Gay”.