I find this to be one of the most fascinating and real questions asked in this process. And while it is a wildly entertaining philosophical conversation, the reality of the truth behind it is terrifying. The reason that we want to ask this question is because we know it happens. We need to look no further than our Twitter feeds to see the way that all good things are hijacked by those that refuse to protect holy and beautiful space.
At the heart of faith is a deep desire for connection. We long to known and be known. We stumble and fall and rise and soar in our efforts to connect. Along the way, both the expressions of religious alignment and the desire for control seep into our ego-centric wiring and distort our pure efforts. Countless times, in countless seasons of leadership, I have watched really great people be blinded by the need and desire to stake their claim not in the pursuit of Divine connection but in authority, positions, causes and security.
The really scary part of this experience is that these movements of human control rarely begin with malicious intent. Often, the gentle lull of right (vs wrong), truth (over deception) and wisdom (above immaturity) is the ignition spark that becomes an idol. Time and again, I have been witness to the working of the great magnifying glass of human ego that fuels a shift from holy pursuit to personal agenda. There is a moment, maybe even unnoticed, when an issue, belief or political gain moves from a spiritual aim/tool to a need for victory and control. This slippery slope is a dangerous, subversive shift. With the power that may have started as a calling, passion or stirring, the use of a spiritual cover often excuses the originator from the criticism and correction of others.
While my personal witness is primarily limited to Protestant Christianity, one needs to look no further than some of the greatest atrocities in history to see this exact situation flourish. While the “biggies” are easy to spot (often in hindsight), the more concerning modern dilemma is being lived out on the pages of our political systems, our denominational divisions and our justice movements. Please don’t mishear me. I believe, with all of my being, in a holistic approach to faith that demands action in the name of truth. What disappoints me most these days, however, is the accepted disconnect with the heart of God and the identified agenda. If you are a follower of the teachings of Jesus, and you hijack his message to give cover to your platform, shame on you. If you have studied the Quran or the Talmud and you are accessing holy truths for your own gain, I call heresy.
Of all of the ways that people of faith twist and distort the sacred for the things of self, this single spiritual misstep is one of the most costly. While many world religions differ on context and pathways, there is a constant thread that resonates throughout time. God is God. And the reason this is vital is the opposite motivation of this question: humility. With as much as I hate to admit this truth, the acceptance of the power and role of the Divine is a leveling, humbling, shaping and ego killing admission of powerlessness. Without this realization, and a constant leaning into the truth of relinquishing of power, we are not living in a posture of release. If there is one thing that I know is vital in the moments of surrender, it is deep desire to pursue the aim of not setting the agenda anymore.