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Getting Religion Wrong

People are fascinating creatures. Religious people, perhaps the most amazing of all.

Consider the 58-year-old Baltimore man who attacked his 19-year-old son. They are religious people, enough so that they went to church Sunday. They are evidently passionate about some of their beliefs. So passionate that they argued about it. So zealous that the argument turned violent when the dad went to his car, got a knife, came back inside, and stabbed his son in the left buttock.

Among many things that are puzzling about this event is why the dad stabbed his son where he did. It would have seemed more logical to have aimed higher. After all, the argument was about the kid’s refusal to remove his hat in church.

Jesus warned of people like that – folks who “look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3), folks who obsess over minute details, but neglect “the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

Yes, there is Scripture which says that, when he prays, “A man ought not to cover his head” (1 Corinthians 11:7). It may even be that actually means that a man shouldn’t wear a hat in church.

But to stab him over it? I don’t recall seeing that in my Bible anywhere. Instead, I read that “to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33). That would seem to suggest that a person’s well-being takes precedence over religious rituals. It would suggest that the person is more important than the practice.

Neither the attacking father nor his recalcitrant son put the other’s person’s feelings first. Each thought more of his own personal preference and practice than of the other. They are not alone in that.

Far too many very religious people cut each other to shreds, verbally and emotionally if not physically, over lesser issues. Churches split. Couples divorce. Friendships end. All because people, often very religious people fail to see that every issue is less important than how we treat each other.

Read it again: “to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” That’s what Jesus, the Christ, said. If religious people fight, especially if they fight over religious practices, then at least one of them has a religion different from Jesus.


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