Rebranding Religion

Rebranding Religion

I have been amazed at how much religious oppression has in common with the two ugliest stains in the history of human behavior.  I’m currently reading The Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb.  Bibb writes,

The state of Georgia, by an act of 1770, declared, “that it shall not be lawful for any number of free negroes, molattoes or mestinos, or even slaves in company with white persons, to meet together for the purpose of mental instruction, either before the rising of the sun or after the going down of the same.” 2d Brevard’s Digest, 254-5.  Similar laws exist in most of the slave States, and patrols are sent out after night and on the Sabbath day to enforce them.  They go through their respective towns to prevent slaves from meeting for religious worship or mental instruction.

This is the regulation and law of American Slavery, as sanctioned by the Government of the United States, and without which it could not exist.  And almost the whole moral, political, and religious power of the nation are in favor of slavery and aggression, and against liberty and justice.  I only judge by their actions, which speak louder than words.  Slaveholders are put into the highest offices in the gift of the people in both Church and State, thereby making slaveholding popular and reputable.

I believe that the reason that religious “authority” is so popular and reputable among believers is that people who are naturally inclined to believe in the “authority” of the system are, to borrow Bibb’s words, “put into the highest offices in the gift of the people… thereby making [spiritual oppression] popular and reputable.”  Even if these new leaders are not spiritually oppressive to begin with, the system eventually makes them so.  This is not readily evident, though, unless someone comes along who seems “threatening” or “dangerous” to the system.

For example, they keep an eye on Facebook notes/comments and blog posts and ask questions about unofficial (not church-approved) spiritual-purpose meetings, looking for signs of heresy.  If they find it, the instigator is reported and subjected to various levels of discipline, depending on the amount of influence that person has, anything from a polite chat about being careful with words to outright opposition in the forms of shunning, public denunciations, name-calling, revoking privileges within the institution, and in more extreme cases, outright slander or defamation of character.  This is just one example, and I haven’t even expounded on the details.

Slaveholding, in its most overt form, has (thank God) been removed from the physical realm in the United States, but it most definitely NOT been removed from the spiritual realm.

This is the beginning of a new age, one in which the system is being overturned.  We experienced a small taste of it in the 1500’s.  The structure held, because it was not the God-appointed time for it to be dismantled.  Now, it’s time.  The regulations and laws that have kept the system in place, “without which it could not exist” (Bibb), are being stripped away, very slowly, one layer at a time.

Ending a church-government marriage from hell that dated back to the marriage proposal by Constantine and the full blown wedding with Justinian, the U.S. government declared “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The institution only complied where it HAD to comply, but resisted in every other way.  With the exception of Quakers and few Pentecostal movements, the Reformation (which was largely a step in the right direction) actually solidified women as spiritually irrelevant outside the home.  The A.M.E. church (African Methodist Episcopal) was founded because of segregation and racism in the Christian churches.  To this day, churches are still largely segregated (90+%).

Then came the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and equal rights for people of color.

And I have so much more to say, but I’ll save it for later.

Swallowed in Victory.  I suspect that some readers may think that as a member of the de-churched ecclesia, an abolitionist-type blog series about religious institutions ought to be considered the biased ramblings of a disgruntled heretic that should be promptly dismissed.  That’s why I invite questions or comments prior to the blog series, to give such readers an opportunity to present their objections – to defend the religious system or religious institutions as good, necessary, approved/appointed by God, to name the reasons why it ought to remain, to justify the good outweighing the bad, etc.

I must warn you, though, that I do plan to address each objection thoroughly, and that in naming your objections, you will have unintentionally become part of the glorious Good News of the Reign of God that is even now, transforming everything.  How so?  Go dig up some early 1800s pro-slavery arguments.  See how ridiculous those arguments sound, now that the slavery system has been abolished.  Go look at some sexist advertisements from the 1950s intended for a male audience.  Notice how your skin crawls, when you consider that such views were considered normal, good, and right at the time.

That’s exactly how your objections will look to an audience 50-100 years from now.

You may have recently heard of “rebranding” services for one’s “online image.”  There’s a reason for that.  What information goes online, from what I understand, stays available even if you delete it. Your arguments in defense of the religious system will serve the same purpose to future generations as pro-slavery or sexist arguments now serve our generation.

  • Lanny A. Eichert November 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    This whole blog site should, as you wrote it, to be considered the biased ramblings of a disgruntled heretic that should be promptly dismissed.

    The perfect literal Holy Bible still ends with a populated Lake of Fire without remedy.

    Jesus will still at the end say, “I NEVER knew you” to the multitude.

    • admin November 5, 2012 at 2:39 am

      I thought you might appreciate that line 🙂

      • Lanny A. Eichert November 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Jesus will keep His promise at the Great White Throne Final Judgment pronouncing, “I NEVER knew you” to the multitude as they go into eternal torments in the Lake of Fire without remedy, which is no smiling matter, neither for Him nor them.

        And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. {Matthew 7: 23}

        Judgment Day is surely coming: will you be in that multitude? Will Jesus say to you, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

  • Mary Vanderplas November 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t disagree that there is much in the institutional church today that bears resemblance to the institution of slavery in American history and to the subjugation of women historically. I don’t think, though, as I’ve argued before, that the issue is authority as such, but rather how authority is used – whether legitimately, to free and empower others to share in working for the good of all, or illegitimately, to dominate and control and keep others “in their place.” (Illegitimate use of power may stem from a distorted view of who God is: the supreme male monarch who exerts total control.) Granted, too often the latter has characterized the exercise of power in the institution; and, to the extent that it has (and is currently), reform is called for. But I am disinclined to say that, because authority has been misused, it should be done away with altogether and the whole system tossed out. At the same time, I think you’re right that illegitimate power in the institution tends to perpetuate itself, so perhaps the whole system does need to be radically changed – or done away with and a new beginning made – so that what God has in mind for the church can be realized. At any rate, as you can tell, I am slow to get aboard the bandwagon of abolishing the institution altogether.

    While I can understand your strong criticism of the oppressive, truth-suppressing practices in the institution – and agree that such practices are wholly at odds with God’s intention for the ecclesia – again, I don’t think that it is necessarily organized religion as such that is the problem, but rather a mindset that seeks to assert control over others and to claim certitude and possession of truth in all things moral and spiritual. That this mindset can be present also in de-churched versions of the ecclesia seems hard to deny.

    I don’t feel any particular need to defend the existence of the institution, even though I continue to be a part of it. For all of its flaws, it still, in my view, is where, to a great extent, God’s people are fed and grow and are challenged and enabled to enact God’s vision for the world. At least it is this for me personally. This isn’t to say that the institutional church is the only arena where God is praised and served – or that it’s necessarily even the best one. The flaws are real; and I think you’re right to point them out. Nonetheless, I am not convinced that God has given up totally on the institution. Perhaps your blog series will convince me otherwise. I am open, anyway, to what you have to say; and, far from writing you off as a “disgruntled heretic” whose musings should be taken with a grain of salt, I think that yours is a needed prophetic voice – a voice that the institution tunes out at its peril.

  • Patrick Strickland November 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Hi Everyone

    I throughly enjoyed this article. Slavery has many lessons for all of us to learn if we have ears to hear.

    In Galatians chapter 4 Christ must be birthed in each of us. We read that as long as we are looking at just natural Jerusalem for fulfillment of scriptures then we actually are her children and as such are in bondage with Her to the law she serves even now.

    Gal 4:19-31 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, (20) I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. (21) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? (22) For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. (23) BUT HE WHO WAS OF THE BONDWOMAN WAS BORN AFTER THE FLESH; but he of the freewoman was by promise. (24) Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. (25) For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (26) But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (27) For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. (28) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. (29) But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (30) Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (31) So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

    Those who are caught up in the systems of religion and have become religious in their service to God do not recognize that they are in bondage at all. Yet they will tell you I am free. They do not recognize that natural Jerusalem and her children is spiritually allegorically considered Ishmael – that which is born after the flesh. Ishmael who’s hand is against everyone and every ones hand is against them. WOW does that not sound like the modern church system which is against everything that head quarters does not accept as truth. There are constant bickering between the denominations that call themselves the church. Christ the promised seed must be birthed in each of us or we are not the child of promise we may think we are; but are slaves to sin slaves to the law, slaves to segregation, slaves to what head quarters preaches as truth, slaves to the flesh, slaves to hatred, slaves to the opinions of men that are over us. Slaves to what we see, hear; slaves to our five senses. Slavery in all its forms becomes an apt analogy of what is going on in the spirit.

    Thanks for sharing what you do Alice it is a refreshing breath of invigorating air in an otherwise spoiled meat locker.

    Grace and Peace Patrick

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