People expect that the food they buy is just what it says it is on the packet, you can see the picture, and if you are slightly more critical you can read the ingredients label. But who can protect the public if food manufacturers are perhaps not aware that an ingredient they are using is not what it appears to be? Maybe when the product was first created the ingredients were pure and unadulterated, and maybe at some stage the food manufacturer switched the supply of an ingredient from one supplier to another, and were duped by an unscrupulous supplier? Perhaps people overseeing the manufacture of food products wanted to cut costs… Assumptions and maybes aside, what is clear is that people are offended when they find out that something advertised as one thing (in this case beef products), which they have believed in and trusted is actually what it says it is, turns out to be something different, even if those things are essentially similar. A broken trust is something that is difficult to mend.
So what does this have to do with religion? To understand this topical analogy, we have to know a little about the roots of faith. In the Judeo-Christian sphere of religion, which is what I can write about as this loosely describes my faith; we can see that Judaism gave birth to what is now known as Christianity. Judaism and Christianity share the same root of faith, they use the same bible (except the Christian Bible has something called the “New Testament”), but many Judaists view Christians with suspicion and equally many Christians view Judaists with suspicion also. And looking more closely at Christianity, this again can be split broadly into two groups, Catholics (churches recognising the Pope as the supreme head of their church) and Protestants (all other churches who do not submit to the Pope’s authority). These two groups have also existed with varying levels of animosity between them over the course of history. However, the point I want you to remember here is that we can we have one essential source for three branches of a faith.
When we look at the Judeo-Christian faith in this way, we can see it broadly has two strands of belief, with one of those strands divided into two quite distinct groups. What is clear is that an essential source of their faith (the Bible) is interpreted differently by all three groups, and there are elements of the Bible each group excludes or ignores, and (if we are at least accepting that the bible was inspired by God as it claims to be) there are man-made rules and traditions that are also specific to each group which are not detailed in the Bible at all.
However, the original end product or goal of the bible, “faith” or “trust” in God has an authoritative source, and this product that the Bible aims to produce is free of impurities (let’s say that the Bible is like a recipe, or much like the ingredients you would find on a packet of beef burgers). The diverse interpretations and traditions that have sprung from the Bible all promote that they are the way, the truth, the light, – but can they all really be right?
Somewhere in the process of the “manufacture of religion”, adulterants have crept in and the recipe has been corrupted, and many people are investing themselves in a way of life that could ultimately turn out to disappoint them if the path they have chosen is ultimately not the right one. But how and why did this come to be the case?
The Bible’s first descriptions of faith or trust focus on intensely personal relationship between mankind and God with no mediator between them. God is described as being close to us, within our reach, not as a entity that only the priesthood, those leading monastic secluded lives, or those called to high office in a church could understand or even communicate with. Yet it is these “middle men” or mediators who have historically defined the parameters for faith, using the bible as a template, but always adding to, taking away, and in some cases misinterpreting its teaching.
It is my belief that these “middle-men”, the ones who attempt to define faith outside of the terms the Bible explicitly details, the ones who change the ”recipe”, the ones that “substitute the ingredients”; it is these people that are at fault for being part of the process that manufactures a faith that isn’t the authentic article that many people expect it to be, and that many people have a hope for.
Yahshua (Jesus) said to “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). The Pharisees and Saducees were two factions of Judaism. We shouldn’t view Yahshua’s teaching as if it were pinned to the past and has nothing more than an historical meaning. The Pharisees and Saducees were people who defined the law, they both had their own teachings and lawmakers just like today’s factions in the church have their Popes, Archbishops, Bishops and Priests. Today the Pope, Archbishops, Cardinals, Bishops and other religious figures may not teach variants of the Torah and Moses Commandments, but they do make the rules and regulations for their respective churches. We should read Yahshua’s teaching to refer to all Hypocrisy of those who are in religious authority, and thus when we see things we know are hypocritical; we need to question the people who practise these things.
When you see people in authority in a church, according to the Churches’ own teaching, you are seeing people who claim to have had the holy power of an almighty God bestowed upon them to preach an absolute truth (by the process of Ordination). Yet within this system we see great hypocrisy that people who don’t claim to know God can spot easily.
In the past the Catholic Church persecuted Protestants and Jews and had people put to death. Why would a church engage in killing and murder?
Many churches profited from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and when the slave trade ended accepted compensation from governments for loss of property (i.e. slaves). Why would a church indulge in Slavery?
In recent times children have been abused by priests and the Church covers it up. Why would a church or an officer of the Church indulge in child abuse, and why would such acts not be hidden and not punished?
And, though this may sound controversial for many people, some churches permit homosexuality in certain contexts, when biblically, quite aside from my personal opinions or even the moral consensus of these times; homosexuality is something the bible forbids for believers quite clearly.
In all these cases, the standpoint of the bible is absolute, the teaching is clear and these teachings are not moral points of view that change from generation to generation because of the relative shifts in morality that always occur in society.
So when hypocrisy is associated with the church (and by hypocrisy in this instance I mean not only those things which we deem to be morally wrong, but also those things which are defined as biblically wrong); I ask, does this reflect that something is wrong with this faith in its totality? I mean that this faith should be rejected completely? Or is something wrong with the forms of this faith that allow hypocrisy to occur and either doesn’t challenge it, or doesn’t get to the root cause of why this hypocrisy exists, exposes this and makes a fundamental change to root it out?
In the case of food it seems that the amount of people eating burgers dropped drastically, and some people changed eating habits, some permanently, others until the problems could be identified and sorted out, but most people didn’t reject eating burgers or beef permanently. But with religion, it seems somehow different, there are clearly “bad things” in the mix, and the whole world knows about them, but the Church carries on regardless without the rigorous and painful examination of the problems that exist to root them out completely. Perhaps the result is that people continue to be put off religion and shay away from it because of the scandals that remain to be completely rooted out.
Food manufacturers are trying to cut horsemeat out of their products so that their product is literally what it says it is, and this is being achieved using different suppliers and shortening the supply chain so there is less processing and therefore little or no opportunity for “middle men” to introduce other meats (like horsemeat) into the production process. The best manufacturers are totally excluding the “middle men” and actually owning a direct relationship with the meat production at its source and the processing that happens thereafter.
So if you are looking for faith according to the “recipe” the Bible outlines, using exclusively the ingredients it describes, then you too may have to ignore the “middle men” and seek to establish that direct relationship with God yourself. It seems God has always known about the dangers of using middle men and a convoluted process to achieve what is essentially a simple aim.