I enjoy reading the Science Fiction genre, and one of the motifs I often encounter there is religion, or faith, as contemptuous or anti-intellectual or authoritarian. We see this in the popular series, Handmaids’ Tale, and in the children’s books like The Golden Compass. I think we all encounter anti-religious sentiments these days in our lives through both the media and even in our friendships.
Here’s the thing, I can understand why someone would be contemptuous of religion. The versions of religion we see caricatured in movies and novels is often beneath contempt. In fact, I have even been there myself. There was a time when I actively rejected religion and even spirituality. There are so many expressions of religion that demand conformance, obedience, and credulity. If that is all you have known, it is reasonable and even healthy to reject faith and religion.
And then there is the experience of God’s love that cannot be denied. I had that experience many years ago in the form of a vision, and I continue to have that experience today: in the quiet of centering prayer, in the communal peace of worship, in the harmony of singing together, in the satisfaction of working together in Christian service, in the joy of fellowship, in the sacred grief as someone dies, in the sweet peace of loving and being loved by others even with all our failings, and in the understanding that we are all children of God.
I wonder, how can I communicate this other kind of faith and religion when the culture around us sees the caricature of the judging, angry church and God? People seem to be at least a little receptive in the midst of grief at funerals, but is that enough?
What I want you to know is that God loves us, and that changes everything. When we trust in God and extend that trust to trusting in one another, when we trust that God loves us and offer that love to one another, it changes our lives. Faith is trusting that God’s love is reason enough to care about, to sacrifice for the good of others. Faith is trusting that just as I can care for you, help you in times of trial, you will be there for me when I need help, because God loves us. We belong to God and to one another.
What do we do when people express contempt for religion? Love them. Most of what people held in contempt is so far from what we know and love in our worship, prayers, and caring for others as to be unrecognizable. The Handmaid’s Tale is good fiction because it exaggerates things we see in our world today in religion and in politics. We have something else to enjoy and to offer.