This is the last post in the series on 6 Religious Beliefs that Cause Tremendous Harm. These are misguided beliefs that take us away from the Good News of Jesus to a life burdened with fear, condemnation, and religious baggage that prevent us from sharing the love of the Father to those who need to hear the Good News.
We have seen how these mistaken beliefs cause pain and seriously harm to believers, non-believers, and the church:
- That the Father is an angry, harsh, vindictive God
- That God will send people to eternal punishment and torture in hell
- That the Bible is somehow inerrant in every word
- That God wants us to live life based on religious rules
- That evolution is false and the Genesis creation stories literally true
- That God disapproves of and condemns gay people
Because of these beliefs certain believers inflict tremendous pain and damage on people—and they consider they are doing God a great service.
How Do We Respond to Those who Hurt so Many People?
How do we respond to leaders and teachers who go about hurting people Jesus loves? In my opinion, there is one overriding response we must have to haters and hurters—we must love them. Even though they can be fountains of hate, condemnation, and pain we must still love them. This must guide all our responses; otherwise we are in danger of becoming haters and hurters ourselves, and this is not what Jesus asks of us when he said we should love people—all people—even haters and hurters.
In March of last year, World Vision announced a decision to allow those in legal same-sex marriages, who otherwise met the organization’s faith requirements, to work for the charity. It was not an endorsement of same-sex marriage, nor was it a rejection of traditional marriage, which World Vision affirms. Rather it was a recognition of the broad-based support of American churches that have differing views and practices on the matter.
The knee-jerk reaction was terrible! Conservative evangelical leaders called on followers who supported World Vision to withdraw their support, and more than 10,000 needy children around the world lost their monthly sponsorships. Within 48 hours World Vision capitulated to the pressure, and the evangelical leaders gleefully proclaimed victory—at the expense and pain of more than 10,000 needy children around the world.
In horror, a number of prominent Christian bloggers declared that they were ‘Done with Evangelicals!’ They were Done! I was also distressed with the heartlessness of putting a symbolic principle ahead of the welfare interest of children; it hurt me deeply.
But how could I be done with conservative evangelicals? They are my brothers and sisters—callous and hurtful though they may be.
Jesus Gave Believers Only One Command
Jesus taught us how to live and to share the Good News, but he gave believers only one command; it is found in John 13:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
This is not about loving our neighbor or about loving people of the world. It is specifically about loving other believers. 1 John 2 reflects a similar message. The writer says:
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I think this is consistent with the heart of Jesus that believers love each other. We cannot make someone love us back, but we can love them anyway. But our love must be genuine; we cannot say we love the conservative evangelical in some vague way but hate their sin. This is the same thing evangelicals say when they are condemning and excluding people.
Do Believers Embrace these 6 Dangerous Beliefs because they are Evil?
As a fundamentalist, I embraced all six beliefs—with a passion; I have never known a fundamentalist, or very many conservative evangelicals, who didn’t embrace all six. We would go out of our way to hurt and condemn people using these terrible, hurtful beliefs? Why?
And what was the motivation for leaders to teach these beliefs?
I think there are three answers to consider:
- We believed them because we were taught by leaders we respected
- We acted on them because they were part of our buy-in to a flawed religious worldview
- We taught them to others because we thought they were true
I did all those things. I was a champion in assaulting people with the message of an angry God who condemns people to eternal torment for not observing his religious rules and believing the ‘clear’ truth of his inerrant Bible. When people resisted, I sometimes became downright intimidating in my arrogance and condemnation.
Some point out other motivations for conservative leaders like power or money but, though these might come into play, I don’t think they are motivations for teaching harmful beliefs. I think leaders teach them because they actually believe them, and they sink to condemnation and inflicting pain on those who don’t measure up because of fear. They are afraid of God, and they are also afraid they will be responsible for not warning people about God’s harsh doctrines.
So they attack and marginalize those who disagree with them or don’t measure up to their expectations. But they are not innately evil; they are misguided and burdened with religious baggage. Our response should not be to attack and marginalize them as they do others. We should not respond with contempt, condescension, disparagement, or mocking. Instead, we should see them as the Father sees them—broken people who need healing from their great burden of religious baggage.
Let us address the false doctrines and their dangers, but let us do it in love and with respect; they are burdened with heavy baggage and need healing—not contempt and exclusion. They are our brothers and sisters, not our enemies.
In this series:
6 Religious Beliefs that Cause Tremendous Harm
The #1 Most Harmful Belief Among Christians—Angry God
4 Ways that Believing God is Angry and Harsh Hurts People
The #2 Most Harmful Religious Belief—the Inerrant Bible
A More Realistic Alternative to Inerrancy of the Bible
4 Huge Ways Believing the Bible Inerrant is Tremendously Harmful
How Legalism Stunts Our Spiritual Growth
How Should We Respond to Those who Teach Harmful Beliefs? (Today’s Post)
Photo Credit 2: Christian Evolution
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Have a great day! ~Tim