Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. (Edgar Allan Poe)
With Martin Luther King Day upon us, I, too, have a dream. I have a dream of religious freedom in this nation.
I’m so tired of being part of a religion that is dominated by white men on golden thrones with mics and multi-million dollar book deals. I’m tired of a religion where the voice of God is sullied by prosperity messages and tour dates.
Our country was founded on freedom of religion, by a group of people with beliefs so revolutionary, their ENTIRE COUNTRY expelled them. To another continent!
They believed in the idea of a personal relationship with God. Freedom to worship as they pleased. Decisions made by following their conscience, rather than a legalistic church’s dictates. They came here with a dream of equality and a vision for freedom.
But nearly 150 years later, religion is not free.
The person seeking to connect with God outside of organized religion is “crippled by the manacles of segregation, the chains of discrimination.”
The crime? Choosing love, compassion, and justice.
The punishment? Public denouncement from the pulpits of the Evangelical right.
People are bailing left and right. Children are growing up and choosing no religion, over the religion of their fathers and mothers. This is shameful. My children are taught of “liberty and justice for all,” yet the religious people of America – the Christian Voice – drags them back and shackles them.
“No gays in the pulpit!” they cry.
“You cannot make reproductive choices on your own.” “Women cannot lead men.”
Children grow up and hear “No” shouted at them so much, they respond in kind.
If you wish to control my body, I say no.
If you wish to tell me my soul mate and I cannot marry, I say no.
If you wish to tell me that my heart and hands of service are rejected by God because he made me different, I SAY NO.
Young people are rejecting the Christian Church in spades because of the patriarchy that rules and slams down an angry fist at their resistance. So what do we have left? People like me, who wearily fight a losing battle in Christian churches, trying to take a stand for equality and love. People like my friends, who, seeing the futility of such a battle, leave the church altogether. People who quietly watch and keep opinions to themselves, lest they bring down the wrath of leadership on themselves.
People are leaving the church in droves to find God, and to find some semblance of the freedom our founders dreamed of when they left their homes and settled here. People like me.
And we watch and we wait and we despair that out heritage is not something we can, in good conscience, teach our children. So we teach them the new lessons – the lessons about Jesus’ love and compassion, rather than God’s judgment. We teach them about learning from wise men and women, even if they don’t wear the title “Christian.” We teach them quietly, we scream it loud sometimes in frustration, and we wish that detachment from the religion we grew up with didn’t seem so inevitable.
Is there hope for Christian reformation? Or is this an intermission where thousands of us will slip quietly down church aisles and head for the door? I would like to stage a coup. I want to redefine Christianity, for this century. I want my children to know the Christianity I stand for:
• Where people are accepted and loved, regardless of gender preference, age, race or political stance.
• Where questions are encouraged, and people are excited to explore.
• Where America’s Military is not considered the Right Hand of God.
• Where humility is valued over possessions.
• Where community thrives and takes care of its own.
• Where love never takes a back seat to legislation.
• Where a desire for peace replaces our desire for domination.
• Where the condemning voices speak out to condemn only injustice and intolerance.