‘Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.’ – Senior Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, as quoted by Iranian media.
‘Thank God for eight more dead troops. We are praying for 8,000 more. We’ve turned America over to the fags; they’re coming home in body bags.’ April 16, 2010 Press Release from Pastor Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church, Kansas, US.
If Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps met in the street they would no doubt be mortal enemies, except they are speaking from the same script. One believes God is sending earthquakes to Iran due to short dresses and the other believes God is sending home dead soldiers because of the US tolerance of homosexuality.
While these two ‘clerics’ might seem to be at opposite ends of the religious spectrum (Muslim v Christian) they are actually of the same religious spirit, just wearing different colours.
Religion is a set of laws that people observe externally with scant regard for the state of their heart, or other’s. Power is gained by asserting these laws in ever-increasing measure to affirm one’s own superiority and to ensure the others sublimation.
It is true that we live in a moral universe and that there is a way of living that is right before God. But none of us attain it and our only hope is not more religion, but a freeing relationship with the one who is always truth, and love.When the religious power-mongers of Jesus’ day brought an adulterous woman before him, he first reminded them of their own sin and then dealt graciously with the woman. ‘He that is without sin, throw the first stone.’ No stones were thrown and the only one entitled too, Jesus, chose to love, forgive and gently direct the woman to a better life – one that she found in following him.
Now if Jesus didn’t cast a stone, how is that Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps (and, let’s be honest, occasionally you and I)think they can? Because they have lost sight (or never known) their own brokenness before God and that in Jesus, judgement has fallen, been met, and the way thrown open for new life. Does God hate sin? Yes, because of what it does to people. Does God hate people? No, he died for them. All of us.
A certain Australian pastor, who I’ll refrain from naming at this point, made some frighteningly similar remarks to these vengeful clerics in the context of the Victorian bushfires last year. It is to be hoped that he submits his theology to the crucible of his peers before making any more remarks like that… PH