I am employed by a religious organisation. At one time in the Western World, being religious was the in thing to do. Everyone went to church or a synagogue. Now though being part of the church is an unusual thing. Less than 20% of people go to church and of these we do not go every week. This means that the church's influence in society has decreased.
Across the world, I think it would be safe to say that the church is trying in some way to be more relevant. Many faith groups are trying to modernise their message to be more akin with 21st century beliefs. Other faith groups are trying to go back to the way things were or least the way they think things were as a way to grow the church.
In terms of the latter, hard line church values have led to extreme interpretations of religion. The Sultan of Brunei has used an extreme understanding of Islam to say that homosexual acts are worthy of death by stoning. After international pressure was raised by George Clooney and others, the death sentence for homosexuality was replaced with time in the jail. In the US states of Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and Missouri have passed laws which are very draconian laws against women and reproductive rights.
.Extreme interpretations in any religion bother me. I do not agree with extreme Shari'a interpretations of law where thieves have their arms cut off for steeling or women get stoned for adultery (men seem to suffer lesser punishments). Christian interpretations which assert that male should dominate women also are extreme views that I cannot accept. I also vehemently disagree with people who have used the bible to support apartheid, segregation, slavery, and other social evils.
To me, faith in any form should be life affirming rather than one of condemnation. Faith should be about supporting us, encouraging us, and enlightening us. Faith should not be guilt instilling, soul destroying, and dehumanising. Also, there are many statements in the bible telling us not to judge lest we be judge, to love just as we are loved, to not see the speck in someone else's eye when their is a log in your own eye.
It is sad that some people will hear the extreme views held by the Sultan of Brunei and the Christchurch shooter, and the Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, and Ohio state houses and think that is a true representative of what Christianity is all about. They are wrong. Extremism in any form is wrong. We cannot let their voices win. Blessings
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