As Shakespeare noted in The Merchant of Venice, the Devil can cite Scripture to his purpose. And I think that’s the kind of sin that’s forbidden in the commandment against “taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
I’m sure you were told growing up that you shouldn’t cry “Oh God!” or “Jesus!” when you hit your thumb with a hammer. But I don’t think God will punish us for that.
I think it’s hypocrisy that irks God, not profanity.
I believe in God. And I believe the Bible is a holy document. But I suspect the people who proclaim their religious beliefs most loudly are often the ones most in danger of incurring God’s wrath.
So, it was with interest that I read a piece by Truthdig’s Chris Hedges today in which he warns that fundamentalism puts America at risk. I don’t agree with everything Hedges says, but some of his arguments resonated with me. Here’s a paragraph with which I identify:
The battle under way in America is not between religion and science. It is not between those who embrace the rational and those who believe in biblical myth. It is not between Western civilization and Islam. The blustering televangelists and the New Atheists, the television pundits and our vaunted Middle East specialists and experts, are all part of our vast, simplistic culture of mindless entertainment. They are in show business. They cannot afford complexity. Religion and science, facts and lies, truth and fiction, are the least of their concerns. They trade insults and clichés like cartoon characters. They don masks. One wears the mask of religion. One wears the mask of science. One wears the mask of journalism. One wears the mask of the terrorism expert. They jab back and forth in predictable sound bites. It is a sterile and useless debate between bizarre subsets of American culture. Some use the scientific theory of evolution to explain the behavior and rules for complex social and political systems, and others insist that the six-day creation story in Genesis is a factual account. The danger we face is not in the quarrel between religion advocates and evolution advocates, but in the widespread mental habit of fundamentalism itself.
I believe it is a sin to use God’s name to justify our prejudices and promote our self-interest.
I believe it is a sin to turn religion into show business.
And as long as Americans abandon the narrow path of truth seeking and reflection in favor of the broad and easy way of emotional venting and simplistic shibboleths, the country cannot thrive.
With God’s help, American fundamentalism might not trigger the kind of bloodbath that has left Norway in mourning, but it constantly frustrates attempts at rational debate, precipitates political crises, and leaves the martyred bodies of abortion doctors, politicians and innocent bystanders in its wake.