Let me begin by saying that I'm respectful of all religions but because they're all created by man, even though their purpose was to worship God, they are all imperfect in one way or another.
The interpretation of God’s word and the word of God’s messengers is one area where imperfection can occur. That makes it tricky for very literally based religions. Within that arena of the written word, there has always been room during transcription and translation for personal bias, ego and peer pressure to influence the end result. Remember, it was humans doing that work and you know what they say about many collaborative efforts – the group starts out trying for a horse and ends up with a camel.
Although this Blog is not meant to dissuade anyone from being a member of a religious group, I am pointing out the obvious: sometimes the focus of simply worshiping God becomes overshadowed by the demands to practically deify the institution in charge. Coming together with like-minded souls to glorify the Almighty is wonderful and provides benefits in building community, doing good deeds in God's name and raising prayers in a collective voice to magnify their effect. It's true that we don’t have enough community in our overall society today - so gathering together is good, yet it’s smart to remember that belonging to any church, temple or religious sect is not anywhere near equal to the purpose for which that organization was founded.
We have all seen how imperfect institutions can be. In the last few decades we've witnessed the reputation of religious institutions and their leaders crumble before us. There have been sex scandals within their walls involving rape, abuse and child trafficking worldwide. The most visible of late has been those surrounding the Catholic Church but lest we forget other religious leaders who also got caught with their metaphorical and literal pants down. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Protestant leaders including the Episcopal, Baptist and Mormon churches; televangelists such as Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, James Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart representing a variety of Christian religions were also in the headlines over the last 35-years.
Worldwide we can find the same story of institutional and personal corruption and abuse: Gilbert Deya, Kenyan Evangelist; Mount Cashel Orphanage in New Zealand with the Christian Brothers of Ireland and clear up to the Vatican Leaks Scandal (Benedict XVI) among the most notable coverups of everything from financial dealings to abuse. The conclusion: all these individuals are comprised of human beings.
This brings me to a message I received in January 2020 from Mary, Mother of God, who has rarely come to me in the last thirty years of being a “closet-medium” – only 5-times. I don’t interpret when these messages come, I take dictation – word-for-word, even if they don’t make sense when I’m writing - they make total sense when I read the information back later. I don’t judge, I just write. This is what Mother Mary said:
“Most don’t know where to turn, who to believe and they hide from the obvious, God. They believe religion is the path to that end. It is not. Let them know that. You are the perfect example of religious tolerance but (with) restraint. You don’t need others to clear the path to God. You can do that yourself. They don’t need that either. Show them all through your example.”
Mary was not discouraging organized religion but reminding us we don't need one to find God. Some people are more active about seeking the company of others - so places of worship provide a perfect outlet. That's a good thing but I remind everyone that the point of these gatherings should always be to embrace brotherhood, love one another and worship the Almighty - not to wear the mantle of the institution as some kind of an elevated status or to make one group of people better than another.
If human imperfection isn’t enough to give us a clear perspective of how organized religions may be flawed – institutional imperfection (human imperfection on a grand scale) should do it. In the name of religion, some have waged war with others. Also within the same religious category there are also conflicts upon conflicts; Christians have splintered into this group and that, each with a different slant on their interpretation of the bible. Some teach they are better than others and most teach it’s their way or the highway. I'm not sure God meant for any of that to happen.
There isn’t even consistency within a single religion - the Roman Catholic Church is a perfect example. Since Medieval times, Limbo was defined as the place infants’ souls were sent if not baptized within the Catholic Church prior to death. This dreadful, but accepted teaching, was rescinded in 2007. Other Catholic decrees have been changed over the years, too: slavery was first formally criticized in 1839 – prior to that it was accepted as long as the slave master was kind; the Latin mass faded away in the early 1960’s – when, since 1570 it had been a sacred tradition; a stronger opposition to the death penalty occurred in 1995. I’m sure other religions’ man-made rules were also modified over the years. But even the rules or traditions that ended had a fairly recent beginning – the Medieval times and 1570, for examples. Again, always established by man. Today, there is some dialogue about one day making celibacy among priests a thing of the past. Many Christian religions have now allowed women into their ministry and today there are women Rabbis and Torah scholars as well as ordained priests within the Episcopal church.
It would be fine for religions to be flexible but not when their teachings are so rigid and absolute that if one disobeys it's a sin or the threat of being excommunicated looms large. In one religion, apostates can still be put to death if male and imprisoned for life if female. When religious rules are so unequivocally enforced, any time there is an institutional inconsistency, followers begin to doubt the absolute nature of the religion, itself. The example we should look to is God, Himself. He is not inconsistent. He is always there, totally accessible, non-judgmental and loving.
My friend Cathy summed it up when she came to me on two different occasions. Cathy passed away in 2016. She was a devout Mormon toward the end of her life, and I was concerned for her since she was had never married and she had mentioned to me once that, according to LDS teachings, a woman had to be invited into heaven by her husband. If she was not married, a man would be appointed to invite her in. Anyway, I was concerned for my friend. Then, the first time Cathy came was only a week or so after she had died, Right away I asked her if she had to be invited into heaven and she responded very sweetly but directly:
“No, that wasn’t true. But they meant well.”
The second time, on this same subject, was a number of years later when she said:
“Religion is odd. Men do screw it up. Starts out pure and then egos, intellect and peer pressure distort the purity. Then we hurt each other. Boy, “control” is deadly.”
Cathy was referring to how some religions do control us with so many restrictions and rules to follow in order to be one of their “faithful”. And, to use fear as a tool for submission.
Tragically, we spend so much of our time trying to be a good Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever - when really what we’re trying to do is be good at a bunch of man-made rules. We’re expected to attend church weekly or even more often to be considered devout. That seems odd to me since a person can sit in a garage all day long and that doesn’t make them a car. Being in a particular place has no relationship to one’s closeness to the Almighty.
If you've had a difficult time finding a religion to which you can totally relate, take heart, for with or without a religion, you can still find your own connection to God all by yourself. Being close to God only requires an open heart and a willingness to receive His love.
There’s nothing man can do to screw that up.