I was in college, sitting in my American Sign Language class. In that class, there was no speaking allowed, and even if it WAS allowed, my teacher was deaf and did not speak.
A student came in late to class and stopped the class to share the story. The first plane had just hit. I watched him say what happened, and I was sure I misunderstood him. The teacher repeated it back, again in sign language, and although I understood him, it just wouldn't connect in my brain.
As a class, we all left and found a TV in the hallway and watched the news in silence.
Even with the words in English, and the pictures in front of me, I still could barely believe what I was watching. As the day progressed, and we learned it was an act of terrorism, my heart broke. How could anyone devalue life so much as to kill so many innocent people? How could the terrorists possibly believe they were following God?
Fast forward eight years (to two years ago).
I was reading a book on government that quoted Ezra Taft Benson.
"Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of man kind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own… The harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional ‘do-gooder,’ who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others—with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.”I am not sure the context that ETB meant this quote in... Here's what I saw:
(The Proper Role of Government, Ezra T. Benson)
The person that THINKS he is a God, or believes he speaks for God, will do far more damage than anyone else on the planet. Think of all the wars fought over who's God is the right God. Think of the crusades. Think of Hitler. Think of bin Ladin. Then think about the abuses that are closer to home. Think of the men who treat their wives and children as possessions. Think of the wives who are constantly criticizing and controlling their husbands. Think of the way the GLBT community is being treated today, or the way black people have been (and still are) treated. Think of the roles of women. Think of the roles of men. Think of the bishops, stake presidents, or even general authorities who believe they speak for God and give HORRIBLE advice.
When I read that quote, I was pretty much out of the church. I was out of EVERY church. (It appears, I suddenly became a Deist. I believe in God, but not in religion.)
I don't believe God is a controlling God - all of the commandments and rules and laws that people believe came from God came from another man. A man who wanted to control other people. (I do believe that some of the commandments are good suggestions, but not even the truest of believers believe that any of the commandments apply all of the time.)
What better way to control people than to make them believe you speak for God and can offer them salvation above what any other man can offer them? What would YOU be willing to do for salvation? If you just believed it was real, would you steal? Lie? Stay in a relationship that was abusive? Suicide? Make slurs against others because they don't live the way you think they should? Make laws that don't allow others the same rights you enjoy? Marry another man's wife? Murder? Mass murder?
A few months ago, I started reading from Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Did you know he was a Christian? Did you know he believed he was doing not only God's will, but Christ's as well? I was always taught he was on a quest for power, but that is not what HE believed. He thought he was doing God's work by killing so many. And the Allied leaders believed they were doing the work of God by taking Hitler and Nazi-Germany down. Who was right?
I understand some will not see how the dots are connected. They will say:
"But our church is different. We have God on our side. Hitler just THOUGHT he had God on his side. We really do."
or maybe, "But our church doesn't hurt people. We teach good things."
The church might teach some things that are good, but they also teach things that are very VERY harmful. To couple false teachings with the words, "God said" only leads to suffering. A lot of suffering. How can you argue with someone who says, "God said"? And especially if you believe the church is what it claims to be, and it gives the authority to speak for God to mere men...
What makes this difficult is that I believe in God. I believe in following the divine within. I believe that each of us has to find our own path, and the only way to do that is to search and walk and do what feels right.
So how is it that I hate what "God's followers" do and I still want to be one?
I'm having a hard time writing what I want to say, because I'm trying so hard not to offend. I'm trying so hard to say it in a way that will be understood. I guess I'll just leave at this for now, and maybe I'll try again later... In the meantime, what are your thoughts?