It's a good thing Elton John is not in charge of the world. Our British friend would ban religion, according to this article: http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Music/11/13/britain.eltonjohn.ap/index.html
Or, could it be, that banning "religion" might be a good thing?
Now, I don't want to bash Elton. I like Elton - well, at least, I like his music, and I don't know him personally so I can't say I don't like him as a person. He seems like a good guy. Given that, I feel compelled to make some observations regarding his comments to ban religion.
I agree with him that "religion," in and of itself, seems pretty horrible. Religion is basically a set of "don't" rules that simply tell us what not to do. Religion has no regard, it seems, for how we are behave toward one another. I think a perfect example of religion would be those folks who picket gay rallies with signs that say stuff like "Turn or Burn," or "God hates fags." Take, for instance, that horrible group the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. (If you are unfamiliar with this group, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church
Take, for another instance, the fact that Christ himself was most harsh on the "religious" of his day, the Pharisees - those who were sparkley clean on the outside, but on the inside were reeking tombs. It seems even today we can see the "religious" all around us.
So, in essence, I agree with our friend Elton: BAN RELIGION!
But before we get too carried away, let's consider less the religious aspects of Christianity since I contend 'Christianity done right' is not religious. Rather, it is a way of life, a heart change, directions to live like Christ. Aren't Christians, after all, supposed to be Christ followers? And what are we Christians to do? What is the greatest commandment? Love God, love others, right? Right. So why is it that one of our blackest marks seems to be those from the outside looking in saying, "I don't want to go in there. I don't want to be like them." Maybe it has more to do with most of us acting religious instead of being actual disciples of Christ.
That said, while I do think there is an element of truth in what our friend Elton is trying to say, we must be careful that we don't condone particular behaviors simply by saying that we love others. I think gay people pretty much get sick of hearing Christians, many of whom still have their own brands of sin running rampant in their lives, tell them "you're sinning, but we love you anyway so quit being gay." Now, I firmly don't believe it's wrong to say that homosexuality is wrong. But the hypocrisy that exudes from many Christians when they're saying it just begs criticism from non Christians. The point is that many of us don't really show others we love them, we just say we do and that doesn't set well.
Given that, I also think it's clear that some people, homosexual and others, willingly run in the opposite direction from Christianity because it calls wrong what wrong is: wrong. And they run in the opposite direction because they want to continue to live the way they want to live, not the way God called all of us to live.
But still ... there's an element of truth to what our friend Elton says. "Religion" does
promote hatred and spite against gay people because "religion" is
simply a set of rules to be followed and doesn't involve any kind of heart change. So, in that sense, I say, "Right on, Elton. Ban religion."
But if you're running away from becoming a Christ follower because you simply don't want to live Christ's way and you want to live your way, then we should all keep praying for Elton and millions like Elton. I don't expect those who first become Christ followers to immediately change their habits - changing us is God's work and often has very little to do with those of us who say others should change.
So, I say, let's welcome Elton and other gay people into the ranks of Christ followers and ban religion. It's for God to change them, not for us to change them.