I don’t know if you heard Jimmy Kimmel’s interview of Bill Maher the other day (I didn’t), but Bill was apparently sweating out the threat that Islamic jihadists now pose to people who mock them (aka Bill Maher). And he said, “There are no great religions. They’re all stupid and evil.”
I don’t normally take offense at comedians who are paid to offend. You know what you’re getting into when you listen to them. And I generally don’t listen to Maher, because I generally don’t find him funny. But that comment stuck with me, because he’s actually rallying the hordes against the innocent.
I went to church the other night. There were 200 homeless people sleeping at my church. We fix them three meals a day, run a clothing boutique, offer free showers and haircuts. They’re here for three weeks in January when it’s coldest outside, and then on to another church, such that they can be under a roof from December through March. We’re not short on volunteers, so I usually just sit and talk with people who are having dinner. One woman needed help finding a Narcotics Anonymous program, which we host at our church, so I helped her find it. One woman was looking for a Bible, so I pulled one out of our pews for her. Generally I just listen to their stories. And as the 200 or so shuffled off to bed, I heard someone saying to me, of me, “You’re stupid and evil.”
I went to a congregational meeting on Sunday. We just approved a new budget. This year we raised our giving overseas by $30,000. There’s a program in India that uses English literacy training to give people marketable job skills. They’re helping people climb out of poverty by starting with reading. And in the midst of that, they introduce whoever will listen to the guy who taught us to love people on the other side of the ocean. Religious people in America usually give more to charity than their non-religious peers; we again have raised our giving. And as we pour tens of thousand dollars of our charity into people we’ll never meet, someone tells me that I’m stupid and evil.
Last year we made a donation of about the same amount to an orphanage in Haiti that had lost a building to the earthquake. We paid for the whole thing. And the guy living in Haiti at the orphanage leading the build – he’s one of our church members who has moved there to live among and help the poor. I gather that he’s stupid and evil as well.
But I can read the history of Christianity and so-called Christians as well as everyone else, and I see in my predecessors what is functionally just the same behaviors you see outside the church. And part of me has to agree – yes, religion, and religious people, are stupid and evil. We always have been. Just like everyone else. Atheistic regimes killed 100,000,000 people in the 20th century. Religious people haven’t done any better with power, just not worse.
But here’s the deal – Jesus wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t evil. If I have to come to grips with my own stupidity and the darkness within my own heart, I start groping around for someone to bail me out. The only person I have ever known who without question has earned the right is Jesus. He isn’t stupid or evil, and only blind stupidity or fiery hatred would make anyone say otherwise. I’ll admit it – I’m stupid and evil. I need a savior. But he’s actually worthy of the title.
So the bottom line is that the common thread between stupid and evil religious people and stupid and evil secular people is not religion, it’s humanity. And rather than casting stones at we who have called out to a savior for help, in a century where persecution of Christians is at a historical high, you might just as well have the humility to admit that you need a savior too.