Summary: Part 2 in series Slowing Down. How do we pursue God in a way that does not damage ourselves and those around us?
Slowing Down, part 2
Wildwind Community Church
October 18, 2008
I want to talk to you tonight about destructive spirituality. Last week we talked about how important it is to make sure we follow Jesus the Way in the right way, lest we find that the way is not leading us to the Way.
12 There is a path before each person that seems right,
but it ends in death.
Will you think with me for a minute about all the damage that has been done in this world in the name of God. I mean on a world scale there’s the thousands of wars that have been fought with each side believing God was on their side. Of course there’s the Crusades and the Inquisition. The Salem witch trials. The Vatican’s persecution of all who disagreed with them in even the slightest way, while maintaining the idea that everything they did and said was infallible and directly from God. Going back to Jesus, there’s the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the way they twisted a law God gave to be good into a tool of wickedness and oppression. There’s the murderous rebellion of the Zealots of Jesus’ time who, in God’s name, slaughtered Roman soldiers believing they were doing the will of God.
Then there’s other religions. There’s the persecution of Christians by Hindus happening right now in India, which is part of an overall pattern of violence and bloodshed on the part of radical Hindus in that region. There’s Suni vs. Shiite in the Muslim world, and of course terror in the name of God. Of course everything we’re talking about is some form or other of terror in the name of God, right? Coming back to Christianity, there are the thousands of indignities done in churches all across America week after week in the name of God. Verbal and sometimes even physical assaults on gays. Attacks on the right coming from the left and on the left coming from the right. Condemnation. Blame. Guilt. Judgmentalism. The fact of our unique creation by God used to justify and defend blatant selfishness, materialism, and greed. Husbands who use scripture to browbeat their wives into submission. Wives who use it to demean and devalue their husbands. Children who are alienated from God because of the destructive religious impulses they saw in their parents. Adults turned away from God by the arguing and pettiness and infighting that happens in churches. Preachers that line altars on Sunday mornings by appealing to guilt, hell, punishment, pressure – whatever it takes to line altars and fill offering plates and build ever-bigger buildings.
I could go on, but this is getting a little depressing. Destructive spirituality. This planet tells the story of destructive spirituality. Countless human lives have ended at the hands of it, countless bright futures have been crushed beneath it, countless happy children have been filled with fear and suspicion under its influence. Countless numbers of confused people have filled the waiting rooms of psychologists and counselors across the land attempting to rid themselves of its effects, and countless preachers and teachers have molded countless numbers of the faithful around its twisted ideas. Destructive spirituality.
Where does it come from? My friends, destructive spirituality is always what results when we attempt to follow the Way in a way which is not the way. Destructive spirituality is what happens when we dabble with religion, when we tack God onto the edges of life in hopes that he will make our lives more comfortable, more pleasurable, more stable, perhaps even more profitable. Destructive spirituality is what happens when God is cast in the image of man, when God is infused with all our tendencies to fear, all our superstitions, all our twisted notions of justice and love. Destructive spirituality is what results when we assume God must, after all, be quite a bit like us. It’s easy to project our guilt onto God. We are guilt-ridden, therefore God must have guilted us. We are in lust with a person, therefore that relationship must be God’s will. We long for this toy or that vain thing, so God must certainly long for us to have it. With hearts like this, is it any wonder that nations ultimately go to war claiming God is on their side? After all, we long to have victory over the enemy – certainly God must long for it with us. And if God longs for victory, then surely he will bring it about on our behalf. So we think.
All of this nasty stuff I’m talking about raises one question that I want to spend the rest of our time talking about this evening. How do you pursue God without doing great damage to yourself and others?