"The nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes." ~ Ezekiel 36:23

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the not so humorous side of religion

Merriam Webster defines religion as "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices", and " a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith". 
By these definitions, I would qualify that I am a religious person, as should anyone with any type of belief structure, be it faith based, political, regional, organizational, etc..I think, however, when someone probes my character with the "religious" question they are more looking for my faith based structure.

I maintain a relationship with The Lord Jesus, but I don't consider myself part of a religious faction or of  the trappings of formality. I believe that The Bible is God's Word to humanity, both to me and to you.  Whether or not each of us follows the instructions remains a personal choice.  When we follow along with a group of others, to also adhere to a formatted list of additional rules, proceedings, tenants and coordinated agreements, we step into my definition of religion.

Merriam-Webster defines "Christian" as "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ".  I fall into that defined category, so, for me, let's leave it there.

According to Mary Fairchild, About.com Guide , "Today in the U.S., about 79.5% of adults (247 million) identify themselves as Christian."  She also notes, "Of the approximate 2 billion Christians in the world today, 279 million (12.8% of the world's Christian population) identify themselves, as Pentecostals, 304 million (14%) are Charismatics, and 285 million (13.1%) are Evangelicals, or Bible believing Christians.".

Clearly, if we are all reading the same book, one has to wonder why there are so many differing views on the contents.  We can not logically blame the Writer, though millions of "non-believers" would argue this point, so we are left with "religion".

The precipitate of this train of thought  was the following article brought to us by our liberally canted but always thought provoking guardians of the news at CNN: "Birthplace of Christ" to be first Palestinian World Heritage site?.

I was bemused by several of the passages and the (possibly unintended, though I think not) portrayal of the fallacies of organized "religion" combined with regional politics and tourism.

"Bethlehem, situated in the West Bank, about eight kilometers south of Jerusalem, is considered the Palestinian Territories' top visitor destination partly due to the religious significance of the church."

"She said the center considered Bethlehem's inclusion on the list "as a Palestinian dream, and as a reward of 11 years of work in the field of preserving the cultural and natural heritage in Palestine."

"Visitor numbers have hit record highs in recent years, but, according to a report into developing tourism in the town, Bethlehem has yet to properly capitalize on its potential. The majority of the visitors were day trippers on short visits, meaning the full economic benefits of tourism did not flow into the town."

So, while the Palestinians want to kill all the people of Israel, they also want to make sure they get their fair share of tourism dollars associated with the "Christian" shrine.

The local "Christians" looked even worse, "The condition of the church, which has suffered extensive earthquake damage in its history, has been of concern. One of the issues is that responsibility for its administration is shared between three religious authorities -- the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches. On occasion, tensions between the groups have spilled over into violence; in December, about 100 Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics fought with brooms when a tussle broke out while cleaning the church."

Yup, It's a "Holy Place", according to the tour guides, but watch out for jihadists and infighting among the caretakers!

Money.  Prestige.  Power.  A strong Travelocity rating. Oh, how that "Little Town of Bethlehem" has grown.

I'll continue to follow the teachings of Jesus, because that is what I believe God wants me to do, as outlined in His instruction manual, The Holy Bible.  I'll go to church and fellowship with like-minded believers, as also outlined in the book; and I'll do the best I can to be a good neighbor to mankind.

But I'll shy away from swinging brooms and selling souveniers to "the place where Jesus slept".

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