When I was a kid going to church was about service to others, regardless of their own views, the message was one of hope for humanity. As an adult (largely after Reagan revived the current conservative movement in this country), church (Catholic) became more and more focused on who you voted for, being anti-choice and anti- gay, being receptive to intelligent design, and generally asking that we set aside our intelligence (and pocket books) in favor of supporting the growing conservative movement. So I and my family left (as did a lot of others I knew). I have since travelled the road toward atheism (note: because of the church, not because of science – although I suspect that would have ultimately followed anyway), but I still look for those esoteric human desires, such as hope, in the rest of humanity. I am not against finding those things in cultural institutions like the “church”, but the message from religion has become more politically and less tangible.
Fortunately, there is the rare occasion when I can read about a church’s activities and find hope (instead of getting pissed off!). Dr. David Platt and his Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama did something absolutely remarkable among the faithful these days:
First we gave away our entire surplus fund – $500,000 – through partnerships with churches in India, where 41 percent of the world’s poor live. Then we trimmed another $1.5 million from our budget and used the savings to build wells, improve education, provide medical care and share the gospel in impoverished places around the world. Literally hundreds of church members have gone overseas temporarily or permanently to serve in such places.
This is the kind of religious effort that gives me hope (not only for humanity, but for the cultural relevancy of religion). My only quibble with the effort is that I think the need is becoming just as great here in the U.S. We have significant numbers of people falling into poverty, no access to health care (perhaps….) and limited education opportunities and all the churches can do is blame the victim. I suspect, with the pro-wealth Republicans we have in Congress now we’ll see more cuts to basic needs and more advantages given to the rich.
Nonetheless, Dr. Platt (note to Sarah Palin: it takes an educated person to truly walk in Christ’s footsteps, not some backcountry moron with a gun and a private property sign). Hat tip to Robert Cargill, who also makes this comment about Christianity:
Christianity is not first about doctrine or dogma, it is about service (specifically, social justice). Until we get the service part down, our doctrine is worthless.