Saturday, September 4, 2010
Many skeptics, including atheists, agnostics or other non-believers , have found themselves asking, if God is not real, what is the purpose for churches in the natural world. Some non-believers don't really care. But, it is a question that must be addressed. Churches do exist and have a purpose, as I discussed earlier.
One of the most compelling uses for a church is a s an indoctrination center for the children. A church community can help form like experiences, to draw on for spirit de corps and motivation to adhere to certain mores and conditions. It also provides a point of communal identity. I am a Lutheran, I am a Methodist, I am a Pentecostal, I am Catholic, so on and so forth. It provides a sense of identity among other believers and the community at large.
Recently, I took a tour of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Graham family home. It was a nice facility and set on the Billy Graham Parkway as one would make ones way to the airport in Charlotte. As one drives into the area a security guard greets you and hands you a parking pass and says, “We've been expecting you.” which of course I find odd as I didn't even know I would actually be going there for sure. But what can you say about a gimmick.
I drove in and parked near the front. Most of the day and during the week, the weather was misty, so not many people were visiting. I took a brief, outside tour to look at the different signs. I also took a short walk to his wife Ruth Graham's graveside. It was at the graveside that I discovered that she was born in China. I found that interesting. At the time she was born, her parents were missionaries to China.
At the main entrance, a vast atrium inside the building welcomes the visitor and it was built to resemble a barn. It did indeed have a big ceiling. A gentleman greeted me and asks if I had been to the library before. I told him I had not. He said I should watch a short video, and then follow the automatic doors for the rest of the tour. Before the video, I encountered a talking cow. I just had to get a picture. A talking cow was in line with the impossible things that religious adherents seem to believe. As I slowly perused around the library, I noticed recreations of Graham’s work; a tent revival in the late 1940s to his early work on the radio and then television. There was also an area dedicated to his wife and her participation in his work. The Library was much more a museum than a library as it had many items on display and the rooms were set up like exhibitions I really doubt that an average person could come in and handle an item much less check something out to take and return with them.
Finally, the depictions progressed to the world wide tours and crusades that were more well known. Television increased Graham’s visibility in the world. By this time, Graham was spending time with celebrities, and presidents. He grew in popularity and prominence. One room held awards that he received, such as: the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Congressional Medal of Honor, not to mention a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. I found these particular items most distressing, since Graham had done little to help people, but become more self deluded with a fairy story of the sand people of the Middle East. I couldn't image what he had possibly done for my country or for the United Kingdom to deserve such awards. I did, of course, read the citations. The awards really did nothing other say show Graham made a contribution to improving the nation or human condition. I guess you don't turn down such honors, even if you don't deserve them.
We see that from President Obama and his Nobel Peace Prize. At least President Obama is in the position to be able to make effective change to earn his award. I would say, Billy Graham should have to spend the rest of his days taking care of the needy or helping to encourage educational opportunities for those that are in need. And leave the work of God, to God.
With Billy Graham being one of the most respected persons in the Christian realm one would think that his focus would have been upon the needs of the people instead of the growth of his "empire." If the people that follow Jesus do not even "Feed my sheep" as Jesus says, What good is the church anyway? It shows no reason for purpose other that to self perpetuate their own venial agenda. What purpose would a none believer have to turn toward this religion if the only thing they are concerned about is their own religious perpetuation? When the human good versus the self serving efforts, there is little room for doubt that churches and religious adherents do little to serve the good of humanity. Without the tangible proof of the existence of any supernatural being, the agenda of the adherents should be to show this proof, conclusively and to care for humanity, regardless of their beliefs.
When I think about what good church is I see wasted opportunities, the teaching of ignorance as fact and the immoral indoctrination of children for starters. Religious person are intolerant and blame their dogma, they are exclusionary and blame their faith, they are vindictive and blame their ignorance of their own spiritual text. By blame I mean they rather say they are tolerant yet say God doesn't want this or the Bible says that about persons that do not share their dogmatic belief.
These feelings are encouraged by popular speakers such as Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, Dick Armey, Michelle Bachman and others that continue to spray their ignorance and intolerance about people that they have no concern with yet turn their backs on their fellow American and human. This mix of politics and religion has always proved to be a dangerous mix throughout human history.