Today I want to talk about handicaps - such as religion. And when I say "handicap", I mean in terms of driving with the handbrake still on. That's right, like having lead weights put in your pack to slow you down. Or your golfing handicap. Yes, that's a better description - because without that handicap, you could score so much higher. In fact I think that describes exactly what I mean.
Yes, very often, it is the silly superstitions and unfounded restrictions of religion which handicap us in life, getting in the way, blocking our path to happiness and success, thwarting our development, stunting our growth and scuppering our rise to our full potential.
You wouldn't go to war over a book marked "chicken soup for the soul", would you? Would you persecute people just because they are different to you, or believe different - or live differently to you? Would you refuse to hire somebody because they believe in a different god to you, or fire an employee because they call your god by a different name? Would you discriminate unfairly against somebody because of who they happen to be in love with or living with? I know I wouldn't. So why condemn other people for not buying into your little book? Come on, man how does that ever make sense?
"Dump the religion already it doesn`t deserve you." People have been telling me. Oh, but I have, believe me. It is just impossible to fight for human rights without having to face down the medieval witch-hunters, manic street preachers and other arcane robed figures with wild eyes and ragged hair and even wilder beliefs.
I don't know about death, the afterlife and the end of the world and all - or the truth or proximity of such a thing. For my part, if you want to get all philosophical about life, the universe, and everything, be my guest, but what I do know is that the philosophy of people described as "Commissionists" or "Reconstructionists" - is designed to bring it about - by forcing an issue according to their two-dimensional interpretation of their dog-eared copy of "chicken soup for the soul". That's right - these lemmings actually believe that if they can force the world into a global Christian fundamentalist theonomy they will bring about the second coming of Christ. And they are not hesitant to employ methods which contrast starkly the ethos of their professed religion to do so.
I have to say at this point, that if by some quirk, God IS what they (the fundamentalists) say God is - NOT love, but hateful and prejudiced like they are, then I will happily take my place in Hell, because I will have earned it - and who the heck wants to spend eternity worshipping a deity of hate and malice anyway? But I don't believe that - I believe that God - whoever God is, the God who created us all - is love, not hate. It is humans who embody hate and live it out.
Religion - that "chicken soup for the soul", is supposed to be uplifting and comforting in times of need - not to boost people into hatred and self-righteous arrogance. It is supposed to be the loving, comforting embrace of a parent for a crying child who has fallen and hurt its knee - not the harsh shove that sends them stumbling onto the stones and gravel of life that we fall on, prostrated and broken.
Yes, there are people in this country filled with hatred for diversity - and their zealotry makes them dangerous. I think they are counting on getting the moderates behind them on the porn and prostitution issues currently under heavy debate, without revealing their hand till the last minute - when they have worked the mob into a religious frenzy and signed away their constitutional rights to freedoms of speech, association, conscience and expression.
As for the South African Constitution, the government and the prez have been doing their bit to undermine the underpinnings of the Constitution - and are turning out to be pretty conservative and objectively biased. Party politics it seems, are more important than the Constitution. Errol Naidoo and others who think like him are hard at work influencing the government and canvassing MP's to join their cause, no matter what parties they are with - and they are working along a religious line, which frighteningly enough, is a common denominator. And in my humble opinion, you can't get much more "common" a denominator than that. These folks are playing a very dangerous power game at the moment.
Why do these people always have a need to be "right"? Why must they always prove themselves right and others wrong? Why? What does it mean in the end? Is there a prize or reward at the end of all things just for how many times you thought you were "right" at the expense of others? Is there some kind of pat on the back for how "right" we were and how many times we rubbed other people's noses in the dirt?
Homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, anti-Anything-that’s-not-the-same-as-us-ism: they’re all the same thing.
Wouldn't it be nice if it would turn out to be one big misunderstanding? But then isn't that just what it is? Instead of seeing our similarities, they see differences - differences which they cannot understand or accept - and which they see as a threat. In the end, when they are forced to admit to the truth, that we are just people, just like them - wanting to be happy and loved, like they want to be happy and loved, they cannot give a reasonable answer to justify their hatred and their fear. They don't want to admit that we are people, just like them - that we just want to have what they have, and live as they live - and not have to be hated for it. No, because we want what they have, they see our wants and needs as "special" and "privileges for perverts". Their perceptions of us are so far off the mark and skewed that if they knew our lives were just as ordinary and common-place as theirs, the moderates would soon lose interest in the rhetoric and propaganda. Which, to my mind, is exactly why they almost never let up.
Preachers who spout condemnation and hate in the name of God should bear in mind their accountability to the God they claim to serve. Throughout our lives, our words and actions echo down the ages into eternity. Rightly or wrongly, we are remembered for them. Opportunities to make a difference, to set things right, do not present themselves often, if ever.
So what is your full potential? Do you know? I'll bet now you know at least what your handicap is.