From pulpits to statehouses, many people tried to invoke God to defend slavery. Some insisted that slavery was actually good for the slaves because it introduced them to Christianity.
They said there was a “Christianizing” effect on people who were kidnapped from their families, beaten and raped, placed in manacles, shipped overseas in ungodly conditions, sold as property, and treated as a possession rather than as God’s beloved child.
What is Christian about any of that?
The answer: Nothing.
The ongoing debate over “religious rights” is a reminder that nothing gets twisted and perverted more than family, country and religion when people want to try to justify awful things. It’s universal.
And what’s striking is that some of these laws actually demean religion. They declare that ‘’religion’’ is whatever any person happens to think it should be at any given moment, no matter how ugly or harmful it is.
Many of us respectfully differ. Religion is much, much more than that.
Religion isn’t about glorifying and encouraging our worst tendencies. It’s not about promoting selfishness and fear and hatred. True, many people misuse religion that way, but that’s when it stops being religion and starts becoming something else.
Instead, religion is a journey away from those things, away from the dark parts that are in each of us to a place where we’re more capable of love. It’s about growing closer to the one who loves all of us.
It’s the process of becoming a person who is more peaceful, humble, hopeful, joyful, compassionate and accepting. Of becoming a world that is less hateful and judgmental and fearful and selfish and indifferent.
It’s about getting along with one another and loving one another as God’s family. (Isn’t that the essence of faith and religion?)
Contrary to what many people have said, slavery wasn’t about religion. Prohibiting women from voting wasn’t about religion, either. Neither was turning black people away from food counters or making them move to the back of the bus.
And on and on.
Treating someone as less than an equally beloved child of God is never about religion. It’s always about something else, regardless how it’s dressed up and presented.
You can dress up hatred and fear in Sunday best, but it’s still hatred and fear.
Give our Sunday best to someone who needs clothes. If they’re hungry or thirsty, bring them something to eat and drink. Make sure they have a safe place to sleep. If they’re somehow imprisoned, stop by again and check on them.
And if they need a cake, bake one for them. Without judgment or condition.
Do it purely out of love.