Lately my head is swimming with so many thoughts. Headlines about the monkeypox surge’s impact on same-gender loving people. Will this be another time when pulpit quacks scapegoat queer folks as eminently dangerous to society? Wildfires blaze out of control. Will many self-identified Christians persist in minimizing climate change as “a sign of the times”? Pope Francis in Canada apologizing for yet one more heinous betrayal of trust by his congregation. How long will the sins of a few poison Christianity as a whole? The campaign to enslave child-bearing Americans moves from the courts to the polls, based on an irreligious assumption that legislating against freedom to control our bodies somehow “respects life.”
These sick-world symptoms—and so many more like them—can be traced to a nasty strain of toxic theology and paralyzing fear that finds many reaching for the spiritual equivalent of N-95 masks and sanitizer, some going so far as to practice a kind of social distancing that leaves them isolated, anxious, and angry, terrified of getting too close to anything that even hints of religion. What’s more, the atrocities and tragedies dominating our newsfeeds suggest the only way to escape the worst of religion is rejecting all of it.
But right religion is life-changing and often life-saving. We know this at Gather. We tell how our lives have been changed and we consistently see what happens when we practice what Jesus preached. We also know how radical it is to believe healthy faith is possible. None of this is late-breaking news. For as long as there’s been good faith, there’s been poisonous beliefs. For as long as faithful people have dared to trust God’s power and healing, doubters have sought to undermine the hope that trust creates. In fact, we see this in two stories we’ll look at during Sunday’s YouTube worship—two near-tragedies that play out in the bodies of women. By the end, both are forever, literally changed. Their transformation comes from courage to defy toxic religion.
Religious rehab is necessary if we have any intention of overcoming rotten religion. To do that, we must embrace healthy religion—the kind the Apostle James describes when he writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
See you this Sunday at 5pm on YouTube!
With much love,