My Twitter feed each day is filled with reports of people using religion to justify their racism, homophobia, jingoism, and neo-Nazi beliefs and actions. These reports challenge and chastise these people correctly for their abuse of the name of God and ask that people shame them or even boycott them. I know that Jesus expressed his anger at the abuse of the rituals of the Temple by the moneychangers who took advantage of the pilgrims. He noted that they profited from religion without understanding its intention.
But that was in a different culture and time and before the proliferation of mass media, and I wonder if giving these crackpots notoriety is the best way to deal with them. Don’t they seek media attention to spread their messages, and even if we condemn them aren’t we in effect helping to spread their messages? Why not just ignore them, or at least not give them free publicity?
Does that mean the only option is to do nothing in the face of such outrages? No, but I suggest direct action rather than an automatic, in-direct, and ineffective reaction. Let’s deal with these folks face-to-face, through their pocketbook, or by challenging their supporters. The media loves controversy, so why does there always have to be “another side” of the story? Some statements are just flagrant lies or deliberate mis-information so that they just don’t justify a legitimate point-of-view. When someone maims or kills someone and then justifies their actions because of their beliefs, they’re either insane or evil fanatics. We want to know why people do terrible things and what is their motivation. Well, sometimes there isn’t any —they’re just crazy.
Which raises the issue of how to deal with gun violence, homelessness, as well as racism and homophobia. Trying to deal with the just the symptoms of a dysfunctional society is a hopeless effort, and we must come to terms with the root cause of these depravations. We must create new and effective systems of mental health treatment programs. That will require most than just providing insurance coverage for these treatments; it means new programs that are not just window-dressing but are truly effective in making substantial and permanent changes in people’s lives. The status of mental health treatment programs in the United States is a disgrace, especially so in North Carolina.
So rather than just re-tweet some reaction to an obviously stupid statement or action, get involved in the National Organization for Mental Illness (NAMI) with a local chapter or lobby for public funding of services to get people off the streets and help rebuild their lives. Our local relief non-profit agencies do a good job, but they simply are overwhelmed and don’t have the resources to cope with the vast needs.
Yes, it will require education for several generations to convert some of these misapprehensions of religion, as we saw with the issue of slavery, but it can be done. But the solution requires more than just education, it requires a re-orientation of some people’s basic psychological make-up so that they are in touch with reality and the true nature of humans to love and need one another rather than hate and kill each other.