Lectionary: 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon text: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Excerpt: Did you know that religions can have diseases? One that is rampant in our world today is one we call “religious fundamental extremism.” Fundamental extremism holds the idea that there are certain fundamental truths related to their faith that cannot be altered. Which, in itself, is nothing wrong. You cannot be a Christian unless you can say, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him.” If you don’t agree with that statement, I question whether or not you can really call yourself “Christian.” Just like if you say you’re a Jew and you can’t say, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” I question your Jewishness. And if you say you’re a Muslim and you cannot say, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet,” then I question whether or not you’re really a Muslim. There are things that a faith cannot survive being compromised. That’s intrinsic. Otherwise we would believe whatever and it really wouldn’t matter.
The problem is two-fold, really. It’s when people have religious extremist fundamentalism, they don’t just hold those basic one or two things that are necessary for religion. They start saying that the fundamental is this, AND the way we live our life. The fundamental is THIS, and all these other things. This was the problem in Jesus’ day with the Pharisees. The Pharisees said, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” AND you’ve gotta make sure you do all these other things or you’re not a good Jew. And they came into conflict with Jesus. So the first problem is that people add things that are essentially cultural variants to their fundamentals, and then the other thing is that extremism part.
When people become religious extremists, from whatever faith, they do bad things in the name of God. They blow up buildings. And before we start pointing any fingers, long before 9/11 , the Oklahoma City Federal Building was blown up by a good Baptist, because he believed the Federal government was corrupt and an enemy of God. This is what fundamental extremists do. And they think this is the way religion should be. The problem is that the people outside of the faith see these people and think, “Ah, that’s what their faith is like.” You go out to Walmart and ask the average person what’s a Muslim like, they’re not going to describe Alex Shunnarah, the lawyer you always see on TV, they’re going to describe Osama Bin-Laden. You ask somebody who’s not a Christian what a Christian is like, they’re going to describe these people who march around carrying signs about, “Jesus doesn’t love you,” and who try to take money from poor people. They’re not gonna see us.
Now, the thing about religious extremist fundamentalists’ behavior, especially among Christianity–I’m not really concerned about those other people because they’re wrong to begin with–in most parts–I’m more concerned about Christianity and fighting this disease.
Well, how do we get this disease?