My two cents — just random thinking out loud, something I don’t do as much on the blog as I used to, but I had to get this off of my chest.

I just wish more of these organized religions would get back to the mission of helping the poor, the homeless, the sick…and the fighting for the civil rights of other human beings living among them, not oppressing them.

It’s depressing that so much energy is being put toward stirring fear, loathing, and strife through what some believe is THE interpretation of a holy text and “forgetting” — or purposely ignoring — the separation of church and state our country was founded on.

What happened to the focus on personal spiritual enlightenment, becoming a better human being and building a larger circle of community through faith? I know it’s still out there, but it’s in precious short supply in the public sphere as we see misguided and even hostile use of religion by purported people of faith to try to attack equality movements and attempt to control one’s physical autonomy. And then these same people claim to be a victim when called out for the hypocrisy and lack of compassion. How has society allowed this to go so terribly awry, and can this anti-social thinking be curtailed?

Some of these discussions we’ve had in 2012 really should not be occurring — such as anything involving your body and the relationship with your doctor. Women have been whittled down to their uterus and vagina and whether the state needs to probe them, see into them, and monitor her reasoning about who or what she allows into both of them. The behavior of men as part of any of this equation is notably absent from the discussion. For those of faith so concerned about what women are doing with their ladyparts, it appears they believe the higher power has determined that men have a free pass to do whatever they want in the sexual/reproductive realm.

As a non-practicing Episcopalian the matter of how organized religion can be “sure” about a lot of complex issues vexes me. If humans have free will, then they will make mistakes, be capable of evil, and also of great works.

If we take history as an example — “God-directed” acts have been responsible for countless deaths and punishment meted out because of the human frailties of vindictiveness, fear, misunderstanding and this perpetual need for controlling social order by dividing everyone by race, gender, economic status — and religion, among other things.

That alone should tell you that in order to respect one another — and each other’s religion (or the right to be in no faith community at all) our actions need to remain focused on self-improvement and extending yourself beyond your comfort zones.

Bigotry in all forms, fashions and political realms

And that goes beyond political affiliation or faith — I’ve encountered “progressives” who have a non-diverse circle of friends, or hold incredibly ignorant views on race and gender issues. And they hate being called out on it just as vehemently as any fundie. People who are raised — and then choose to stay in the socially comfortable environment of the familiar will inevitably have a much more difficult path to truly understand the diverse and complex nation we live in. We all can do better.

I quickly lose interest in conversations denigrating religion and people who follow a faith of one kind or another. They often quickly devolve into “you have to stupid to believe in the sky fairy” insults or questioning their intelligence. It’s not productive, unnecessarily combative, and pointless — no one is going to convert one another from their viewpoints. People find faith, lose faith, find an alternative means of finding community and how to understand the world around them.

People find faith, lose faith, find an alternative means of finding community and how to understand the world around them. I am at peace with that.

The problem for me isn’t faith itself — it’s that it has been extended into spheres where  it doesn’t belong, away from the personal and into the areas of proselytizing and politicking from the pulpit at the expense of other people’s rights.

However, the civil rights movement for blacks would not have succeeded if not for the unifying power of that faith community and its organizing principles for social justice. By the same token, that same civil rights movement  had a hideous blind spot — its rank sexism and homophobia. Women doing so much of the hard work were only allowed behind the scenes and not in leadership roles, Bayard Rustin, an out gay man critical to the March On Washington, was pushed out of recognition. It’s an example of how the times shape our movements — and no amount of praying appears to overcome our prejudices and biases of our times. Our free will to fear and loathe (and politically act on it) gets in the way of the perfect vision for a just society – whether it’s driven by faith, or no faith in a higher power.

It’s also not about whether one can truly understand the meaning of community — it’s whether one really wants to and is committed to doing more than writing a check or showing up on the day your faith holds sacred — and what personal responsibility really means in living out your values.

That’s the hard work that a faith community can ease, but for some it’s turning out to serve a very different, narrow kind of “community” guided by those natural impulses of fear of difference. We’re more than our impulses. Or so we say. I see an election where a lot of Americans are going to vote on rank fear.

For a longer piece on my thoughts about faith, read “This I believe.”