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Elton John Wants you to Lose Your Religion:
Why Some Want Elton John to be Elton, Gone
Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, psychologist
Phantom Tollbooth visitors:
Elton John recently spoke out against religion, specifically religion of the organized variety, which he says promotes hatred of gays, divisive rancor, and war. Lately, he's been blaming the church for all of the evils in the world. In the process, I'm sure many religious folks want Elton John to be Elton, gone, or at least, Elton, gonged.
His sentiments remind me of my own---at a time I was so caught up in abiding by the structure of my religious upbringing that I forgot about the life and the love associated with its origins. I recall driving down the freeway, listening to R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion, and saying to myself something to the effect, "That's right, why don't you lose your religion?---After all---all it brings you is a host of inhabitions, a residual sense of guilt, and a burdensome bondage to hackneyed traditions." It was a sentiment I put into a song---Lose Your Religion: my answer, if you will, to R.E.M.'s classic, sung in this rendition by Daniel Sisco. By the same token, I believe that Elton John is misguided to suggest that religion, per se, is the root of all evil.
As we approach the Christmas season, we are reminded that this religion we call Christianity started from humble beginnings, involving the King of Kings being willing to be born in a mere stable as a helpless infant to liberate the hearts of men and women in bondage to their own mortal natures. If you listen to Handel's Messaiah, you will understand the freedom and joy that comes from such a faith---born of humble beginnings.
It is not religion, per se, that breeds division, rancor, and self-righteousness, but the perversion and abuse of religion. So, you see, I understand Elton John's sentiments, but I believe he runs the risk of throwing baby Jesus out with the bathwater. I know many pastors and many congregations filled with the love of Christ and the spirit of the living God. Though they may have different beliefs concerning homosexuality than those held by Sir Elton John, most do not hate gays, and do not think of themselves as spiritually superior. But churchgoers, and church leaders, as mortals, are subject to the forces of pride, self-righteousness, and even hatred.
Shall we then join Elton John's cacophonous chorus, and call for the death of religion---is that the fate you want for the Faith of our Fathers? I think not. Perhaps in many circles, religion is dead. Let's pray for its resurrection. There is no enduring hope to be found in political solutions. We need a worldwide spiritual renewal. True religion, born of humility, love and grace, is our hope, and our redemption, not our nemesis.
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