Saturday, June 20, 2009

The fifth page for Sunday, June 21

This week it is actually more like a “sixth” page, because I integrated the scripture story of David and Goliath into my sermon, so it ran a little longer than normal. In my research into the story I read a very good essay by Dan Clendenin at the “Journey with Jesus” website. He included images from Caravaggio’s paintings, and a Dore’ woodcut of the gruesome scene of David holding up the head of Goliath. This is the one that stuck with me:

Goliath looks surprised. I think Caravaggio deliberately depicted human emotion on Goliath’s face to remind us that there is nothing glorious in violence, and it is not to be glorified.

Clendenin’s essay included what he called “warning signs” that a religion is going off the rails and veering into the always dangerous tendency to legitimize “sacred violence”:

“We should learn the warning signs that religion has become evil and evil has become religious:
* Fanatical claims of absolute truth. I do not mean the belief that absolute truth exists, but the doubt-free and uncritical confidence that one understands such absolute truth absolutely.
* Blind obedience to totalitarian, charismatic, and authoritarian leaders or their views that undermines moral integrity, personal freedom, individual responsibility, and intellectual inquiry.
* Identifying and rationalizing “end times” scenarios in the name of your religion.
* Justifying religious ends by dubious means.
* Any and all forms of dehumanization, from openly declaring war on your enemy, demonizing those who differ from you, construing your neighbor as an Other, to claiming that God is on your side alone.
* Pressure tactics of coercion, deception, and false advertisement.
* Alienation, isolation and withdrawal from family, friends and society, whether psychologically or literally.
* Exploitation and all forms of unreasonable demands upon one's time, money, resources, family, friendships, sexuality, etc. “