Beliefnet
Everyday Spirituality

Amid our nation’s terrors, we should remember that our neighbors need comfort and hope, they need useful religion.

The bad news is that religion gets a bad rap in the West.

The good news is that religion is on the increase globally, providing plenty of opportunity to make religion more useful.

A Barna Research study reports that the number one barrier to faith is: Non-Christian believers have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world. This study shows that thought is held by 18% of Baby Boomers, 22% of Generation X, 30% of Millennials, and 28% of Generation Z.

Can religion offer a better understanding of God and evil?

I think so.

I, too, don’t want to believe in a good God that allows evil and suffering, mainly because it doesn’t make sense. It only makes sense that a good God destroys evil and suffering, therefore, it’s opportunity to make this logic clear to the public.

The issue of a good God allowing us to overcome evil and suffering has been fully addressed in Christian Science. God did not create a mortal existence; God did not create human beings with good and bad instincts and inclinations. God created an immortal existence with spiritual beings imaging forth goodness, the image of Good, God.

If we’re going to be surprised, don’t be surprised by the terrors and old-time rhetoric that boasts God works through evil. God doesn’t work through evil.

Evil is what the human mind knows, or better said, it’s the good it doesn’t know. Just like we don’t know everything about the universe or even our self, the human mind needs to learn Good, God.

Instead of fearing or excusing an environment of terrors, we can face them with God, Good. We can find solutions to protect our comfort and hope. We can make religion useful.

From 21st Century Science and Health:

“Error in statement leads to error in action. The term “evil spirits” resists the fact that evil is not Spirit, for there is no evil in Spirit. Evil spirits or beliefs are removed by truth. As we advance spiritually, evil becomes more apparent and more obnoxious until it disappears in the reality of Spirit.

“God is not the creator of an evil mind. Indeed, evil is not Mind. We must learn that evil is the awful deception and unreality of existence. Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless; nor are the so-called physical laws primary and the law of Spirit secondary. Without these lessons, we lose sight of the perfect Source or divine Principle of spiritual selfhood.”

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Dealing with sensitive issues such as revising church by-laws, calls this question to mind: Are you relying on God’s law, or on human laws?

In other words, leaders who penned by-laws are not called into question. They did their job for their era. But that doesn’t discount us from doing our job of outlining guidance relevant to today.

Crowning achievements of churches is not Manual by-laws, most churches have them, but rather the structure of government and practices that make the Manual applicable. By-laws can be enforced according to its terms and not according to the whims of a leader or governing board.

Proceeding after the by-laws of government and practices, topics not covered by the Manual’s words, are to be resolved by open deliberation, logical persuasion, and wise compromise. This procedure produces revisions or new laws that provide the conditions essential to flourishing churches.

January 11, 2018, at a Break Point symposium, Jeff Myers, Ph.D., President, Summit Ministries, said, “Whatever pressing cultural issues need tackling in 2018, Christian faithfulness will involve preparing believers to have ‘water cooler conversations’ using public arguments that make sense to rising generations.”

I doubt Myers is implying that our living and sharing of Christ needs dumbing down, but that we need to respect the time and attention of other people and speak clearly and relevantly with them.

Translating this idea of expanding on foundational principles to church by-laws, new policies can reflect today’s circumstances.

January 5, 2018, 12th President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, John Stumbo, introduced new revisions to the organizations Manual. Stumbo wrote, “I am pleased to introduce our Manual to you. It contains the most recent understanding of how we can function best as a denomination. Together, through the passing years, we created it. Together, in the years to come, we can adjust it as we deem appropriate. It is a human tool . . .necessary, even valuable, but not infallible. For our historic ministry to be relevant for generations to come, such tools as this one will continue to be revised.”

For myself, as a student of Christian Science, I see the value of revising the Church Manual as established more than 100 years ago by Mary Baker Eddy. Some of her statements are so restrictive that church members today can’t and don’t’ follow them. They are a church only in name, not practice. However, Eddy admitted making mistakes in her life and correcting them. A principle that can be followed by true leaders.

As author and speaker, Jenni Catron wrote online February 2018, at Christianity Today, true leaders “keep their eye on the big picture. While they manage the details and are attentive to what it takes to bring a plan to fruition, they keep the big picture in front of themselves and those they lead. They don’t lose sight of the goal.”

Arguably, religion’s usefulness is exhausted at times or gets polluted. So, how can nearly 6 billion faith adherents keep religion useful?

Religion News Service asked faith leaders to predict the 2018 religious landscape. Here are two responses: an increase in women’s influence in the wider society as well as in the churches; and speaking truth with love, in an atmosphere of anger and hateful rhetoric.

It’s noteworthy that the responses carry a recognition of interconnectedness between religion, societies, and politics.

History shows that that human institutions influence one another, nationally and internationally. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi are two leaders who deftly wove religious teachings into political actions.

These models of symbiosis remind us to value our institutions and keep them as pure as possible.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Earth serves as a bountiful source of life, beauty, and food for us. It’s only natural we’d want to return the treatment. But human ego, greed, confusion, and fear tempt us to do that which is unnatural, and suffering is felt. Too often, we make others suffer first.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What is natural is possible.

Many of us find help in prayer or meditation as helpful in quieting the human egos bent on self-destruction and self-deception. The mind’s eye sees peace and encouragement. We can look around and find people who are contributing to the health of Earth. We can join them or we follow their footsteps on our own.

Religion News Service posted an article January 26, 2018 that juxtaposed environmental care and religion. Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and the Ecology, “pointed to programs such as Yale Divinity School’s master’s degree in religion and ecology, which trains future ministers to view the environment as a critical component of faith formation.”

The environment has always been a critical component of my faith. I enjoy my daily walks in the woods. The natural environment tells me love and light are real. It tells me I can’t stop newness and healing. It humbles me and inspires me to share goodness, to tread lighter.

  • I think before I buy and notice I buy less.
  • I turn off unneeded lights.
  • I eat smart, from my garden as much as possible.
  • I read instead of watch TV.

I believe we were given dominion to take care of Earth, not to dominate. Just as I believe I was given dominion to take care of my children, not dominate them.

 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one. (Matt. 6, NIV)