I grew up reading the Union Leader, and I still have a fondness for New Hampshire paper’s positive news reporting. I particularly remember the Hometown Heroes section, and I loved reading what was going on around the state I lived in. I Google track the term “Derry” in GoogleNews now, and I noticed an article about a church that has been meeting in West Running Brook Middle School (of which I am a graduate of). The church is named North Ridge, and the article is great. Its about the church wanting to raise some funds for a building to worship in, and they did a creative media campaign to raise $1 or more from a million people. That’s a good deal, and people can decide what they give their dollars to. No big. Its a neat story, but many would probably pass it over.
The part that really got to me, however, is the comments on the article. Many years ago I vowed not to read comments thanks to an AOL experience that showed how bad anonymous humanity can be to one another, but since it was a small town article, I read the comments.
What quickly develops is two camps. (1) Those who have attended the church and are glad to read an article about their pastor’s idea. I imagine they think its affirming that the paper took the time to tell their story. Then (2) the voice of those who really do not like religion at all. A quote: “I guess anyone can start a church today and call themselves a “pastor”. Nice way to avoid work, live off other people’s hard earned money and avoid paying taxes.” There is an open disgust with churches and those associated with them, and regardless of whether they know anyone at the church – they lambaste whoever comes to its defense.
Next, something even more troubling happens. People not associated with the church come to defense of the church. By this time the argument has become so convoluted, that it eventually becomes a Religion vs. Anti-Religion debate. Personal attacks on argument style ensue, and people forget the actual article and just duke it out. This happens in every article that has a Religious association.
I’m trying to understand the other position on this, but this is what the argument looks like against religious folks:
(1) “Separation of church and state” means total and absolute non-existence of a religious world view in the public sphere. Especially government. There is no consideration that religious word views are core to many people’s lives, so technically every decision they make, and the very way they think is wrong. Thus, it should be erased with shame, maiming, and personal attacks. Sounds a bit like fascism to me. Several concerns were about how the town of Derry should not support a church. They don’t seem to realize that these churches rent out the space and pay their way based on availability (at a time the school would usually be not used at all – in fact, those complaining are probably asleep). But perception, and lack of knowledge combine to create the griping.
(2) The church is a mooch. The pastor lives off of fools who give money, and there is no benefit in return. Its a numbers game, tricking as many people into your flock as possible, getting as much out of it as possible, and doing silly things to make them think its worthwhile. But many pastors are people who could have gone into another field and have made millions more doing something else, and yet they have chosen, on faith, to come to a community, and serve people by performing marriages, caring for the sick, praying for the people of the church, and deal with community strife, among trying to build consensus among very strong personalities to bring about Good in this world. There are bad pastors, but most are trying to do good – and are accomplishing it!
(3) Believers are all ignorant and uneducated. I can see where if you don’t believe, church would seem somewhat silly sometimes. But the religious texts, histories, traditions, and beliefs have been around much longer than any of us and need at least to be considered. While some religious trappings may seem odd to those who don’t practice (even to those of faith looking at another way to celebrate the same faith) – we still should respect another human being – AND respect their Human Dignity and allow them the benefit of the doubt that if they choose to have faith – that there is some rationale to it. Faith and Reason certainly can go hand in hand. And a word to Christians – we know we look like Fools to others. Accept it, and stop fighting fire with fire.
It is unfortunate that online we think we are allowed to be like animals. Tearing into each other will only leave everyone wounded, laying on the ground, unable to make a move. This no win game wastes energy, and distracts us from some very human goals that those of faith, and those without could be doing together. I think that is what sickens me the most, and I hope that we can begin to realize that the people on the other side of the internet are humans too.