perhaps my religious upbringing was a bit different, but in all the sermons preached to me, one of the biggest lessons was the value of thinking. thinking independently of cant and thinking logically for oneself. in other words, to be skeptical of everything. critical of everything. i don't think people think much nowadays.
frankly, i'll leave arguments about doctrine to theologues. i'll admit i have doubt about things and that's as far as i'll go. (my private struggles with some aspects of my faith are exactly that - private and no one's business.) i'm talking about how religious faith intersects with the public sphere.
every month my church's young singles adult group puts together a dinner; a few years ago, the topic was Faith & Politics. one man at my table was very...orthodox. i sensed this and kept my mouth pretty much shut; i'd had a long day and didn't want to get into a shouting match with a stranger over dinner. but when the question about prayer in public schools came up and he loudly advocated it, i put my fork down and disagreed. also loudly. my disagreement had nothing to do with whether or not children from other faith backgrounds would be offended. it was a political disagreement.
and when i said that, as a christian, i was uncomfortable with the idea of a government inserting religion where it doesn't belong, pretty much linking the state to a religious institution, that the separation of church/state primarily protects churches from government control and interference, he called me a bad christian.
whenever someone calls me a bad christian or an improper woman, or even 'twisted', i know that a rupture has just occured. a conversation dies because of an ad hominem attack. (ad hominem = arguing 'to the man', a personal attack; a rhetorical strategy that distracts you from an argument by moving attention away from the merits of that argument to the person who made it. basically, it's a cheap shot coming from someone who can't muster arguments on their own.)
though the majority of people in this country identify themselves as religious, christian or somehow faithful, the level of religious discourse, especially in some of our smaller and more urban communities, is particularly low. it shows, for one, that the religious community doesn't have much of a sense of humor about things. so someone disagrees with you - so what?
and it shows the religious community to be rather...reactionary instead of thoughtful. being thoughtful doesn't mean capitulation or even compromise. it just means, take a breath, wipe the spittle from your chin and make your argument. if your argument consists of 50 scriptures that supposedly support your view why church/state should be immediately welded together, then so be it. but expect a challenge on those merits.
at the gay pride parade this past weekend, there was a protest from local religious groups. from what i heard, there was one scuffle (not really bright to shove and spit at a group of muscular gay men in their own neighborhood) and a lot of yelling. and signs saying God loves you but you're going to burn in hell. i have to wonder at the argumentation and point of all that. leaving what they're saying aside (since i have gay friends, i have my own ideas) i wonder why they're saying it. is it to convert? is it just to make known your disapproval? is it because you are compelled to?
it makes me think of that passage in the bible where the disciples are told to go into different towns, say their message, and if their message isn't accepted, leave and shake the dust from their sandals. i don't quite recall an admonition to set up a gauntlet, write a few signs, spit at some strangers and scream they're going to hell. i don't know why i mentioned that. it just makes me mad.