Column's Attack Was Based on Incorrect Assumptions About Christianity

by Jeff Cummins | 11/16/98 6:00am

To the Editor:

I was saddened and frustrated to read Michael Weiss's column in Wednesday's edition of The Dartmouth ["To Hell with Religion," Nov. 11]. While I realize that he was intending to be humorous, I'm afraid that his flippancy in regard to religion is very ill-considered, and his gross over-generalizations are extremely troubling, perhaps more so because I fear they are not uncommon stereotypes.

First of all, let me state that I am not defending "religion" as a human institution. The accusations against the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Jihads, the witch trials, the political scheming and, in more modern times, terrorism and totalitarianism, are justified. Far more horrible things have been done in the name of religion than in any other. But the misuses of a thing do not invalidate its existence. Because the United States enslaved Africans for a century, colonized multiple Pacific Islands and created a weapon capable of destroying the world, do we thus conclude that democracy is evil?

The generalization that all religions involve people wasting Sunday mornings to keep from going to Hell is simply an extension of the most degenerate form of Christianity to all other forms. Many religions do not even have a concept of an afterlife, let alone Sunday morning services. So Weiss is actually attacking Christianity under the euphemistic gloss of "religion." I am not qualified to speak in defense of every religion, but in regards to Christianity, there is much to be said.

First, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about getting out of Hell. Christ by no means shirked on the issue of Hell -- in fact, He was quite descriptive. The point, however, is loving God. Christ came to earth to restore our relationship with God which is broken because of the evil in human nature. For those who accept and pursue that relationship, Hell is out of the picture. Knowing God is all there is.

Second, the gospel is not about guilt. Guilt is simply the result of behaving destructively. On our own, we have only two ways to deal with guilt: suffer under it or ignore it till we no longer feel it. In Jesus, God provided us with a third option: be forgiven and get rid of it for good. Christianity is about freedom from guilt, and any Christian who is wracked by guilt is missing the point of the gospel. God does not desire us to feel guilty -- He loves us, and wants to forgive us, if we will just let Him.

And finally, the gospel is not about repressing sexuality. It is simply that destructive behavior separates us from God. And, believe it or not, irresponsible sexuality is destructive behavior. Children need two parents. Adults need respect, trust and companionship far more than they need physical pleasure. Diseases ruin bodies, emotional trauma wastes years, and addiction ruins lives. Sexuality only works without destructive side-effects when it's confined to permanent relationships. It is given by God for joy, for pleasure and for a hint of the kind of intimate relationship that He desires with each of us.

So, to Hell with religion? That's up to you. But at least damn the real thing rather than your own misconceptions.