Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Religion as a "Cover for Evil"

One of the running headlines this week has been the raid on a Mormon-sect compound near Eldorado, Texas. This raid came about after the police received a call from a sixteen-year girl (wife and mother) within the compound who said she was being held against her will and being abused.

As part of this story, the media interviewed Carolyn Jessop. She has written a book Escape about her escape from this same cult. Ms Jessop made a very interesting comment duriung the interview . . . something to the effect of “Religion can be just a cover for evil.” I thought that was a very good way to summarize what she had been through.

I think she was forced to marry a 50 year-old church leader (as his 7th wife) when she was about 18. But that was only the beginning of the abuse. She bore him 8 children. He was very abusive to her and them.

She said that he never hit her, but if she didn’t completely obey him, he would hurt her children. Each of her babies were “broke” by him at a certain young age (6-9 months). It was the same as the CIA water boarding. The baby was hit by him and made to cry, then his little face was held under running water making him feel like he was drowning. He did this over and over until the baby stopped crying . . . in exhaustion. Thus the child had been “broken for God.”

Carolyn didn't even live within the fortress-compound that the police are investigating . . . but outside in the "free world." Even then, she was completely controlled by her husband and the other church leaders. She could not read books, newspapers, listen to the radio or music and certainly not watch TV. If she did, one of the other wives would "tell on her" then one of her children would be beaten.

Certainly everyone would agree that throughout the existence of humanity, religion has been used as a cover to some very primal (and selfish) desires. The examples I seem to always come back to is the Church during the Middle Ages and the present Taliban. But I then have to ask, how does this same weakness apply to me or the present Christian church in America?

I recently finished Frank Schaeffer's book Portofino. I want to do an entire posting on his book and my observations. It is a type of defacto autobiography, but I think he greatly embellished the story to make his point.

His point was having a family that was deeply flawed (who happened t be my hero Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith) but on the surface were great Christian leaders. In the same way, their religion was a cover for their flaws. But I believe that we are all in this same boat.

One of the legacies of the "How To" Christianity (of which I am a product) is the misguided view of sanctification. I/we honestly believed that we could do X, Y and Z . . . go to conference A, B, C and we would become "godly." As a godly person, we believed that we were pretty good, did most things out of pure motives etc.

But in reality, I believe that we are wonderfully made by God, but deeply flawed by the fall and that deeply flawed nature is not erased by becoming a Christian or following the "How To" Christianity manual.

So, what happens is that we tend to stucco over (our selfish motives) a facade of righteousness? The selfish part of us is left to grow and increase.

But the good news is that Jesus has done that for us. We don't need to be perfect.

The father character in the Portofino book had a horrible anger problem, and I think that may have been true of Francis Schaeffer. I personally have a deeply embedded anxiety problem. Yeah, as a manly man I'm ashamed to admit that. But for 15 years, I denied that trait because it was inconsistent with the godly facade I was taught to exhibit. It doesn't look good in a meeting of "The Men of God" to admit "I'm scared shit-less" about something.

Now, with a proper understanding of the Gospel, we don't just give up on our behavior and attitudes . . . thinking saved by grace, covered by Christ . . . therefore it's PARTY TIME.

No, when I recognize that I have a tendency to lie, steal, fear, rage and lust . . . then I can be more cautious.

It is when I cover my real nature with a facade of religion, a kind of psychological denial, then that's when I am most dangerous. When I see myself as godly, then I mask my true intentions.

This is how a "prophet" (in this Mormon Cult) can convince himself it is okay to have lots of sex with lots of woman, even very, very young women. It is how they can convince themselves that it is okay to manipulate and oppress other people (to boast their own self-esteem). Hey, they are doing it for God . . . right. They are doing what the raw, selfish, primal part of almost every man wants to do. I want to dominate the world. I want people to obey everything I say. I want people to yield to all my insecurities and sexual passions. But when you know it is the urges of your unrepentant man then you know better than to act on it. I have a hyperactive dog, a Saint Bernard, whom I can't trust in public. So, I leave her on a short leash. I leave myself on a short leash as well.

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