“There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham.” ― Anna Sewell
“If we are growing holier, we are growing kinder.”― Andrew Bonar
If we follow the Golden Rule we will place others ahead of ourselves. This is the essence of all spirituality – to place others first. Our true purpose is to become of maximum service to others. Indeed, it is only in serving others that we find our greatest happiness and joy. All religions teach this simple truth. This should not mean we ignore our own needs. Indeed, if we ignore our own needs we will quickly burn out and be of no use to others. So while we must be selfish about taking care of ourselves, we do so only to the extent that it enables us to be able to help others.
All major religions have some version of the golden rule. Thousands of years before Jesus walked the earth, we find that the golden rule was first recorded. Yet most Americans know of the golden rule through Mathew 7:12:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The golden rule is about extending kindness and grace to others, ‘in everything’ as Jesus tells us. This implores us to practice kindness and grace in all areas of our lives and in every situation. On this blog, we call this ‘Kindness at all times.’ Unfortunately American Christians — being human — sometimes forget this important rule. I say this as someone who was raised in the church and educated in Christian universities. It is difficult for me to criticize the church in America that I have loved so much, but it is also critical for us to examine why so many have left the church in recent decades. The lack of grace and kindness is a common complaint, but also the all too human fault of settling for the status quo. If anything, Jesus was a radical who upset the religious leaders of his day, associated with undesirables and the outcast, and practiced a radical love and kindness towards others. Jesus was a revolutionary in many ways who upended the status quo and paid a price for it.
We in the American church must take a look at where we have fallen short in kindness and grace to see where we can do better. Too often the American church has ignored – or even defended – unkind and immoral acts like slavery and Jim Crow. We have much to make amends for.
We are all familiar with the reason for the establishment of the Southern Baptist Church – to defend slavery. We are also too familiar with the actions of too many white Southern churches in the South during the Civil Rights era.
Christian leader Rev. Jerry Falwell not only ignored the widespread poverty, racism, and suffering across the South, he openly questioned the sincerity and non-violent intentions of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Worse, the religious right not only supported the oppression of African-Americans under Jim Crow; but Jerry Falwell, (founder of the “Moral Majority”) did nothing to aid, and in fact opposed, the civil rights movement.
In the recent past, there was an astounding lack of outcry from the Christian church in America when the U.S. engaged in the torture of other human beings at Guantanamo and other detainee sites. Nary a peep was heard from religious leaders. This lack of leadership from the church cost American Christians both moral standing and respect. By remaining silent on- or actively supporting Jim Crow; and by remaining silent on – or actively supporting what the U.S. had previously defined as torture, the church in America became a defender of the status quo, and therefore complicit in discrimination and torture. A few Christians spoke up at the time, but very few. Even when the U.S. Senate released its report on post-911 torture in 2014, U.S. religious leaders were strangely silent. When Donald Trump ran for President on a pro-torture platform, many Christians voted proudly for him anyway. Such hypocritical behavior is driving people away from religion.
Jesus would weep. Christians need to seriously rethink their support of politicians who advocate for torture and discrimination.