We need religious leaders not cult leaders

One of my pet peeves is witnessing bigotry from the pulpit. To me, it is one of the more egregious abuses of power, as we look to our ministers to be among our better angels. One thing I have sadly learned over my worship, volunteer and business life is just because one is portrayed as pious, does not mean they are without fault.

To be frank, we need our ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and other faith leaders to be religious leaders not cult leaders. We need our religious leaders to inspire us, counsel us, and guide us to be on and remain on a good path forward. We do not leaders to tell us who to hate, who to distrust, or who is less deserving of grace, using religious text as a weapon.

Former president Jimmy Carter is arguably one of the best ex-presidents we have ever had. His good works and good deeds around the world have helped eradicate exposure to a parasite in some third world countries, have helped shape peace agreements, and have bolstered Habitat for Humanity as he has been an ambassador for his country and the disenfranchised. He has also written around thirty books and taught Sunday school on a routine basis.

He is the kind of religious leader that we need. He often cites the context of the Christian bible rather pulling excerpts to demonize people with. He notes, taken out of context, almost any religious text can be used to put people down. In his words, that misses the point. He would look to those words in red in the Christian bible that say something like he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.

There is a reason some churches are seeing fall off in membership. Some of it is a self-fulfilling mission – when you teach a message of exclusion, people feel excluded and stay away. Even those who feel included may stay away as they don’t like the exclusive messaging. Religion is at its finest when it includes, but it is at its worst when it excludes.

A religious leader can make that kind of difference.


16 thoughts on “We need religious leaders not cult leaders

  1. Personally, I have little use for religion. I’ve been there, done that and have found much more peace and contentment in my life in the intervening years. I do agree with you, however, that if one is going to label themselves with a “religious” tag, they would do well to follow the tenet found in most all religions and creeds: The Golden Rule.

  2. Well said Keith, a worthy piece highlighting a man who has grown in stature after his tenure as president.
    Despite the ideals espoused in all religions the messages have been hijacked and misused for petty or hateful purposes. Very much like politics, scientific theories or even economics. Hypocrisy and mendacity haunt us at every turn. We must always be alert to the charlatans and the hate-mongers. As it is said in the Merchant of Venice
    “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
    An evil soul producing holy witness
    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, “

    • Roger, thanks. I love your quote at the end. It is sadly true. I don’t know if you have televangelists in the UK, but here they are all about money (yours for them). Keith

      • Mainland British folk tend to prefer their religion to be low-key, particularly now as atheism is the most prevalent opinion (although how much of that is just being fashionable is arguable).
        US televangelists have tried to get a toe-hold but they swiftly wither under the eye of the press and social commentators.
        The last evangelist to make an impression was Billy Graham and it didn’t stick.
        As you point out the whole think is tainted with money and outside of entertainment that hard-sell does not work here.

      • Low key is less salesy. Graham was one of the better ones, so if he could not gain traction, the other more salesy ones do not stand a chance. Keith

  3. There is such a responsibility in leadership. We do need those in these positions to take the commitment in nurturing our religious and spiritual lives as the responsibility and honor it is. Staying away from personal or institutional agendas is important and I agree, likely the reason for declines in membership.

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