“I think Religion generally gets in the way of God,” Bono told a reporter. Like Bono’s own Ireland, so many places on earth are war torn over religion.
I will never forget the abandoned beauty I saw when I visited Sri Lanka in 2009. There was an eerie silence.
Sri Lanka is a paradise island off of India, almost fully abandoned by tourists due to the intensity of the conflicts between the Sinhalese and the Tamils (mostly Buddhists and Hindus).
That is right, not only have Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims waged bloody battles in the name of God, but the eastern forms of faith, known for yoga and meditation, have too.
Given these facts, it is no wonder so many of us wander away from traditional forms of religion, but is faith (or religion, to be consistent with terms) something to be thrown out all together? Or, when boiled down to its purist form, is there something good left?
One of the first-century followers of Jesus said,
“Anyone who sets himself up as ‘religious’ by talking a good game is self-deceived.
This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air.
Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this:
Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight,
and guard against corruption from the godless world”
(The Message, James 1:26-27).
In Sri Lanka, I visited a small church where Sinhalese and Tamils worshiped Jesus together. The people did not have much, but they took care of each other.
When the Buddhist monk who lived next door got drunk and threw bricks through the windows of the church, they kept each other from retaliating. On Sundays, when they ate a community meal together at the church, they continued to invite him to eat with them.
What if, as Chicagoans, despite our religion of birth or choice, we began to practice the religion of caring for those in Chicago with the most need? That kind of religion would not get in God’s way.