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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Religious Half-Truths

What exactly is a half-truth? Well, according to Webster’s, it is: 1) a statement that is only partially true, 2) a statement that mingles truth and falsehood with deliberate intent to deceive.

Religious half-truths are those clever, cute, over-used isms that we all of us grew up hearing, and then wind up using ourselves. One thing is certain: These half-truths are false. Therein lies the deceptiveness of them. Even though I had no real religious training to speak of while growing up, I frequently heard these utterances. Not knowing the truth, I accepted these remarks as valid.

I remember hearing a phrase used in criticism of those who were overly religious. It went like this: “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good!”

What was the implication of this? A person who spent too much time at church, reading their Bible, praying, and who was simply too religious could not be of any use in this world. I remember thinking that this analysis always sounded right. But is it?

Another phrase I frequently heard was, “Religion is just a crutch for the weak.” Implication? Such people are too weak, unable, or unwilling, to face life head on – whereas the rest of the world sucks it up, toughs it out. Real people are made of sturdier stuff. They don’t need to be rescued by some supposed deity. Or do they?

Then there is the classic comment that says: “God helps those who help themselves.” Implication? Real religion is where God needs my help – not the other way around. God needs my help? Are you serious?

Not to be outdone, there’s always this beauty: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Implication? God cannot be bothered with our getting dirty and seriously frowns on our messiness. Some mother must have spouted this saying in frustration with her kids!

Then there’s the Karl Marx quote: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He wrote this in German in 1844 in the process of establishing his philosophy of materialism over against religion. From this premise he began formulating his Communist Manifesto in concert with Friedrich Engels. The implications of this quote are similar to that of “Religion is just a crutch for the weak.” Some people need a drug, cannabis, an opiate, in order to make it in life. Do they really?

You may be thinking that all this half-truth business isn’t really a big deal. At first blush, I would agree with you. However, such isms repeated often enough eventually become part of our thoughts and beliefs. Unfortunately, the human condition is to grow increasingly more cynical as we grow older. Thus, we lean toward believing half-truths when they fit life’s experiences. Consider the manner in which people of faith are portrayed through the media! Such a portrayal clearly supports the half-truths referenced above.

Allow me to give you a quick biblical, albeit, accurate, response to the religious half-truths I have addressed.

1.) “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good!” The Bible says in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” I have modified this over the years by saying, “If a person is not heavenly minded, then he’s no earthly good.”

2.) “Religion is just a crutch for the weak.” The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Please note: “Do not lean on your own understanding!” This is the danger inherent in religious half-truths!

3.) “God helps those who help themselves.” The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, you and I are helpless to do anything about our sinful condition. Only God can deliver us from this dilemma.

4.) “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” The Bible says in Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” God’s Word has much to say about cleanliness, particularly regarding certain foods that should not be eaten; avoiding the unclean sickness – leprosy; and clean hands and clothes. But the one act of cleanliness that trumps the rest is a heart made clean by God!

5.) “Religion is the opiate of the people.” The Bible says in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” The bottom line is: God loves us, and desires to have us share in his glory.

God’s Word warns us not to embrace false teachings and half-truths in
Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

Paul says those who have accepted Christ as savior now have the mind of Christ. That sure beats the world’s false teachings and half-truths!

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