Monday, January 05, 2009

It's a Good News slash Bad News Graphictruth.

Study Sheds Light on Link Between Religion, Self-Control| "religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.

'By thinking of religion as a social force that provides people with resources for controlling their impulses (including the impulse for self-preservation, in some cases) in the service of higher goals, religion can motivate people to do just about anything,' McCullough says."
Emphasis Mine.

Yep, that's your problem right there. Religion can be a positive force in people's lives. That is, pointedly, the point to it, and if that were not adequately nailed down for you already; how about "The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath."

I'm pretty sure Lau Tsu and The Buddha had some things to say on the subject as well, and no doubt it has been repeated many time and in many ways.

Because, you see, religion CAN motivate people to do just about anything, and because of that, positions of religious leadership command vast, personal power that tends to vastly corrupt the religion itself, assuming of course that it wasn't designed to fleece the marks in the first place.

Ironically enough, Christ Himself spoke a great deal about the corruption of religion - and due to the accreted revisions of Paul, Constantine, Augustine and our current crop of authoritarian scum, one could now manage to go through life thinking that Christ Himself was a life-long Pharasee who had somehow conspired to sacrifice himself for purely magical reasons.

Nope. They knocked him off because he threatened the existing racket. An astonishingly lucrative racket.

But since the teachings persisted anyway, Constantine co-opted the religion and in doing so, institutionalized many of the very things that made JC go ballistic. By this point in time, any correspondence between the teachings of Christ and the doctrines and teachings of any established and well-funded religion that refers to itself as "Christian" is spotty at best, and the more wealth and power a denomination has, the more strained the comparison becomes.

And yet, apparently, even a bad religion is better for many people than none at all. Our spiritual communities are that important to us, and we will tolerate far more than we should in order to preserve them. Hell, ask any Catholic.

Or, "See Illustration Above." Unfortunately, the human need for a spiritual context is great enough that you don't have to work particularly hard to get very, very rich, very powerful or both. And, as the Aztec empire illustrates, there's always some sonofabitch who seems perfectly sincere in preaching that it's ok to sacrifice someone else for "the greater good," as God Demands. Why, there's hardly been a social ill in the last two thousand years that someone didn't try to address with a cheerful auto-de-fe.

I could point fingers at various contemporary religious groups. Indeed, I started to. But I'd really have to list them all, and even sticking with those in the purely Christian tradition, that could take a while.

What I wish to point out instead is that people really need to expect more of their religious leadership. If the book of Leviticus is about anything relevant today, it is that those who are called or destined for a life of religious leadership MUST be held to a higher standard. After all, they are being paid to be experts in the matter, and like anything else worth doing, you have to actually do it well in order to have any understanding worth communicating.

At the VERY least, your actions must not be stark contradictions of the expectations of the membership the church actually DOES hold. There should certainly be greater consequences for those in positions of religious authority over others than there would be for ordinary members of the flock.

You would think. But as endless scandal within the Catholic Church and increasing cataclysms arising from the Evangelical types should prove, that proposition would be wrong, and that the leadership of the various churches have less accurate moral compasses than a teen-age convert dragooned into teaching Sunday school lessons to five year olds. I consciously refrain again from pointing fingers, but a few minutes with a search engine will definitely illustrate that it's not for lack of relevant citations.

There's a reason why many religious traditions refer to it as "the work," or "the craft." It's both. It's a life-long study, and there are objective, pragmatic standards that can be tested; scripture among them, but also the practical rewards of belonging to this church instead of that one, ascribing to this religious tradition instead of that one. In an ideal universe, there would be some visible correspondence between the quality of the product and the reward for providing it.

But then, that's really not up to me, OR the universe. It is, most pointedly, up to you. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out."

When people who claim to be your spiritual eyes prove to be visually challenged, you'd be better off being blind and knowing it than being deceived into thinking your worldview was accurate.

But what of your community of faith? For that, I refer you to a precept from the 12 step movement, as to what it takes to start a new 12 step group.

"Resentment and a pot of coffee."

I couldn't quite fit this into the above, but it's closely related to my point. Of late the Southern Baptists are deeply concerned that they are starting to LOSE membership - and more importantly to them, their conversion rates are dropping. It is a statistic that gives me some hope that the weekly Hour of Hate has begun to lose it's appeal.

At a news conference, Hunt said radical change and leadership was needed to "turn the tide in our denomination." After five decades of declining growth, the SBC reported an actual drop in membership — a decrease of about 40,000 people from 2006 to 2007. Seven out of the last eight years, baptisms have decreased, a more important statistic to many Southern Baptists than membership.

Hunt said he would try to unite Baptist around common causes and use his experience mentoring younger pastors to reach out to a younger generation.

"We come across almost only for what we're against when there's so many wonderful things we're for," Hunt said.

The context? The larger story concerns the debate over the necessity for and the implementation of a sex-offender database. So MANY wonderful things!

Including the wonderfully oblivious inattention to the fact that creating the database does not deal with the fact that it's church structure, customs and teachings about family and church authority that make abuse and sexual exploitation so gosh-darn easy to get away with.

The problem is not the lack of a database. The problem is that your denomination is seen as a happy hunting ground for perps. And who are perps attracted too? Children who come from abused, dysfunctional families, children who are perhaps already sexualized by abuse within the family.

That's what studies tell us. That's what the survivors tell us. But oddly, few if any churches tell us. One has to wonder aloud why that is.

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