I’ll be blunt: the current controversy over the Mother Emanuel donations is depressing, but it was inevitable. Anybody who has paid attention to the large amounts of money being donated and, more importantly, the seemingly haphazard way in which much of it was given — some to the church itself, some to a city fund, some to specific individuals — had to realize that in the end the church, the survivors, and the family members of the fallen would fight for their share of the pie, or at least what they believe their share to be. And now it has come to be.
The Post and Courier‘s Jennifer Berry Hawes and Andrew Knapp recently wrote about the ongoing woes at Emanuel AME Church and it’s a depressing look at a church that is splintering apart. There is distrust of the new pastor and distrust among the parishioners and distrust of the city.
As I said, none of it should come as a shock. And if you gasp when the first lawsuit is filed — and it will be (after all, what do you think all of this Emanuel 12 rebranding is about other than to make sure that the survivors get their ducats too) — then I feel for you for honestly believing that the promise of free money wouldn’t bring out the worst in nearly all the parties involved.
If you believe churches are above this kind of behavior, then you should honestly feel ashamed. Fewer groups are more corrupted by money than churches. From the days of Jesus to the days of Pope Alexander VI and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, it has always been this way and will always be this way. You would think it would be different, but that’s just human nature. Churches and their leaders love the filthy lucre.
Which is why so many megachurch hucksters preach the Prayer of Jabez and the Prosperity Gospel while they embark on plans to build massive gymnasiums, hip teen centers, and rock arena sanctuaries complete with booming sound systems, jumbotrons, and light shows. Surely, this is not what Jesus had in mind when he marched up Mt. Calvary.
But I don’t have to tell anyone that. We all know where the Bible stands on this sort of thing. It’s just that we so often ignore it, which, sadly, we do for most things in the Good Book.
All of which is why, despite all of this talk that so many people spout out about being good Christians and the like, the teachings of Christ appear to be irrelevant to their existence — whether you’re a materialistic soccer mom, a fag-hating pastor, or an “Amazing Grace”-singing president who routinely sends drone strikes to bomb innocent civilians. If anyone, anywhere, actually believed what the Bible or any other religious text advocated, they wouldn’t behave the way they do.
As such, I’ve formulated a cynical, little doctrine I call Irrelevantalism, based solely upon my observations of other people and how they practice, or don’t practice, their faith. Here it goes:
1. The vast majority of people have come to the common understanding that the teachings of a specific religion are only meant to be practiced in select scenarios, and those scenarios are actually surprisingly few.
2. The teachings of a specific religion are not designed to be applied to the world at large. They are meant to be ritualized in either semi-public or private settings among likeminded individuals.
3. These rituals strengthen the bonds between these groups, resulting in mutually beneficial relationships, particular in times of need.
4. Few, if any teachings, from any religion can actually be applied in the real world, without harm to either the practitioner or those who are the object of the practitioner’s teachings.
5. When someone says that they are the follower of a specific religion, what they are really saying is that they find comfort in the stories of that religion and not in any application of those teachings in the public sector.
6. Problems arise, however, when individuals attempt to follow a specific religion as taught, for the teachings are not only of limited real-world application but are at best contradictory and at worst detrimental.
7. This is also why the vast majority of followers of a specific religion are uncomfortable being around a true believer, for it’s clear that this individual has no concern for his or her own safety and has divorced him- or herself from the world that actually exists.
8. Given that most people actually do not apply religious teachings in public, or in private for that matter, one has to assume that the individual then believes that the teachings of a religion are actually irrelevant to their lives.
9. And if the teachings of a religion are irrelevant to their lives, and those teachings have limited real-world application, then the follower of a specific religion then questions the existence of the deity or deities at the head of that religion, for what good are these religious teachings if they have no real-world application?
10. Furthermore, if the followers of a specific religion choose not to follow a specific religion’s teachings despite threats of punishment, except in the most minor or ritualistic manner, then it’s clear that they actually do not believe the deity or deities exist beyond the teachings in which they are contained and the rituals in honor of them.
11. While that deity or deities may in fact exist, based upon the actions of the vast majority of a specific religion’s followers, it becomes increasingly clear that they believe the deity or deities at the head of their religion simply do not. As such, a deity or deities’ existence is actually irrelevant to the lives of most people.
Now, I don’t feel particularly good sharing these thoughts. In fact, they make me quite sad. Deep in my heart of hearts, I actually hope that nothing there is the truth. But after reading about the troubles at Mother Emanuel, I’m finding that to be harder than ever.
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