Religion is a fascinating merger of the spiritual, cultural, and social.
It has the power to destroy or transform lives, and its destructive side is often cultural. This is because people interpret scripture ideologically.
Abstraction is difficult for humans.
We understand things relative to other things – family upbringing, societal norms, what we’ve been taught, etc. Learning does not take place in a vacuum.
You will meet very few people who grasp knowledge outside existing frameworks. We tag them geniuses. An example is Einstein who intuitively discerned the equation, E=MC².
There’s something particularly interesting about the African interpretation of Christian scripture. Emphasis is placed on power, spiritism, and patriarchy. This is not strange when you consider our culture. It is normal actually. After all, we can only know what we know.
It takes great humility to unlearn and submit to new paradigms.
If you come from a culture that glorifies powerful people, here’s how you might subtly rationalize some things in scripture.
You will read the story of David and then conclude that despite him being an adulterer and murderer, as long as he was also a worshipper and a man after God’s heart, “grace covers all”.
And so, when you are confronted by an alleged rapist Pastor, as long as he works great miracles and exudes extreme excellence, you may also assume he is operating a different level of grace.
When you read about Elisha, an inspired prophet who killed children that mocked him, you may be led to also excuse anointed Bishops who physically assault members.
And when you read about unmarried Paul who wrote 2/3rds of the New Testament but yet held misogynistic views on marriage, you may conclude it’s okay for men to dismiss equality.
It’s the same way scripture has been used to justify racism and slavery. It’s nothing new.
We use a version of scripture that aligns with our existing prejudices.
That something is in the Bible does not make it righteous.
Beliefs tend to operate within a social context. I dare say the writers of scripture used their cultural frameworks. And that’s okay.
However, we the readers must possess the discernment to differentiate between the mind of God and the words of men – the Spirit and the letter.
There are very badly behaved people who call on the name of God. Men and women who relish destroying the self-esteem of church workers. Those who are running businesses and accumulating assets.
That’s why we have the biblical story in Matthew 7: 21-23. Many will work wonders in God’s name. They will also prophesy. But, they will fail to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit – love.
The propensity to shape information according to our worldview is not just a religious phenomenon.
The world also has a habit of rewriting the stories of captains of industry who have brilliant minds and develop innovative products. Yet, they are truly shitty people.
This reminds me of something that happened a few months ago. I was approached to participate in a funding round for an incredible business. I knew the company would succeed. And, the founder was brilliant. But I passed.
I didn’t like the values of the founder. He was a user. So, although the offer was tempting, I remembered a promise I once made to myself: I cannot determine what people do with their resources but I can choose what to do with mine. I will use my money, wisdom, intellect, and networks to support the righteous.
Humanity may soon accept that what we call religion is fraught with contradictions. A relationship is easier. It places emphasis on people and not rituals.
It runs on a simple premise – Do unto others as you would be done by. In other words, love your neighbour as yourself.
For more, please read Rigid ChristianityHumanity may soon accept that what we call religion is fraught with contradictions. A relationship is easier. It places emphasis on people and not rituals. Click To Tweet