If you follow my column, you know I sometimes find spiritual issues in the headlines. The headlines this past week proved full of unimaginable issues.
The first story that captures my attention is the upcoming Supreme Court case of Albert Snyder, whose son’s military funeral was protested by a self-described “Baptist church.”
I use the qualifying quotes because I can’t repeat what I call them. It suffices to say that it may enjoy IRS status as a church, but by no stretch of the imagination is it following the teachings of Christ, or the Baptist church for that matter.
Just a few observations:
First, to those who feel groups such as this one support their criticism of mainstream religion, it isn’t a religion, it’s a cult. It isn’t affiliated with any Baptist convention or association.
The Princeton University Web site concurs with the definition given during my graduate courses on cults. Cults are “followers of an unorthodox, extremist or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”
The charismatic leader of this cult has fathered or grandfathered most of his congregation. They definitely qualify as extremist in their belief that military deaths constitute God’s punishment upon the United States for tolerating homosexuality. It is a cult by any religious or social definition.
My second observation is for journalists. When referring to this cult, please use qualifying language such as “self-described Baptist church.”
When you call them Baptist, you not only stoke the flames of religious intolerance, but you allow them to highjack the religious heritage of millions.
It’s my heritage, and it started with the Anabaptists of Europe and came to America in 1638 with Roger Williams of Rhode Island.
This cult isn’t historically Baptist, and its actions tell me they’ve grossly distorted the message of the one whose name they claim.
The second story that caught my attention this week was the return of an adopted son to Russia by his American mother, something I find unimaginable.
The return set off an international incident, but as an adoptive parent myself, I can tell you the temptation to sever a troubled adoption isn’t rare. Still, only 2 percent of adoptive parents will return their child to the foster system.
This raises the question for all relationships: When is it time to give up on love? When and how do you know there is no possibility of restoration?
Nearly every relationship struggles over the question of quitting. Couples examine divorce. Children seek emancipation. Employees and employers seek terminations. Voters recall elected officials.
Relationships are complicated, and it’s normal to ask: What evidence do I need to justify the severance of a relationship? What level of hurt will I endure before I end this imprisoning association?
None of us can know what this adoptive mom endured, but I do know that when dealing with relationships, Anne Lamott, author of “Traveling Mercies,” was on target when she wrote, “Families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point, you forgive the people in your family for being stuck together in all this weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to forgive anyone.”
God created the family as a way to mature the whole family. The truth is that we are no more able to choose our family than we are able to choose who rides with us in our office elevator.
Like elevators, families can sometimes feel claustrophobic, and there comes a point where we’d like to discard a few family members between the mezzanine and a rooftop ledge. But we are meant to make the journey together.