Guiding Principle # 7 Caring
Commonsense Statement: We trust those who demonstrate commitment to us and work for our benefit because they take a personal caring interest in us. We distrust those who do not show either a genuine concern or commitment to us. Trust loving people; distrust aloof or spiteful people.
Life Illustration: Those who stick by us in the hard times are our true friends. We all know this is so. Think of the hardest things you have gone through in your life. Now think about who stood by you during those hard times. I am willing to bet you treasure them as some of your best friends. You instinctively know these are your true friends, and you know those who ran the other way when you were in trouble proved untrustworthy. Love communicates! It demonstrates someone is working on your behalf. The caring person is not in the relationship just for what he/she can get out of you. And a true, caring friend certainly does not betray you for the sake of his own personal gain.
Connection to Faith: Religion should be measured the same way. There are those in all religions who want to manipulate you to gain your money, adoration, or following. Religion is a powerful force in the world, and they want to use it to gain an advantage. They have some angle. They want to get rich or famous off you. There are those who want to pull you over to their side as a convert to brag about your being in their ranks. This surely is not the love of your soul but the abuse of your soul. So when you look at faiths, ask yourself who loves you? Who is faithful to you? Who stands by you? Also ask how did the original leader demonstrate love to his pupils or disciples? If there is not a teaching and practice of love, and a commitment to loving relationships, this is not a religion which you should follow. The people will not be looking out for you but will take advantage of you.
Egregious Examples of Uncaring in Faith:
Militant Islam: Every religion has a branch which is considered by the rest of its adherents to be far off its central teachings. Whether this is true of militant Islam or not will have to be left to the scholars of the Koran to debate. What everyone who follows the news knows, whether Muslim or not, is that there is a radical militant arm of Islam in the world today (and has been for many centuries since the beginning of Islam in the 7th century A.D.) which uses military conquest or terror tactics and violence to advance the scope and range of their religion. Violence is the strategy for advancing their religion.
Of course, radical Islam boasts that it is truer to the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed than moderate Muslims. It believes it is orthodox in its use of violence. Rightly or wrongly construed, their idea of Jihad is to engage in a holy war to destroy all enemies of Islam – including moderate Muslims. ISIS or ISIL is only the latest example of this strand of Islam which has existed for centuries under various names. It is a brand of faith which purposefully murders innocent bystanders or forces subjugation on the part of all citizens to advance the cause of Allah. It does not allow for freedom of religion or speech. It squashes and destroys all opposing voices. It does not even have sympathy for women and children. It is as evil as it can get in religion.
There are so many examples of either this territorial conquest or terrorism across the planet, I imagine they cannot be counted. No place or country is immune from their evil reach. They regularly hit Africa, the U.S., the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. The types of terrorist attacks range from bombings, rockets launches into civilian locations, suicide bombers, stabbings, beheadings, hijackings, mass gun murders, etc… Death and bloodshed are their aim along with the aftermath of terror on the surviving citizens.
Of course, it goes without saying, that there is no love in these actions. There is no care for fellow man – only hate and destruction. There is no desire to build up mankind. There is no desire to lead them lovingly and patiently to salvation. There is little toleration for anyone who disagrees, including those who get recruited into this evil system. This is maybe the starkest and clearest example of false, uncaring, destructive religion on the planet today. It is all teeth and destruction. It is utterly indefensible, and anyone who attempts to defend it simply proves they are themselves utterly without knowledge of what is good. Only evil and misguided people are drawn to this religion, and only hateful people pledge their loyalty to it. This faith is the worst on the planet, and everyone should speak against it! It is a deadly cancer deserving only to be eradicated.
Legalistic Christianity: There is a divergent form of Christianity in America which imposes a whole slew of manmade rules upon its adherents in order to control them. It tends to squabble over many lesser issues and thereby shatter the unity of the Christian church. It is not Christianity as the Bible teaches it nor as practiced from the beginning of the faith.
Some in the media and Hollywood have tried to equate the evils of Muslim fundamentalism with Christian fundamentalism in America. I am certainly NOT attempting to do that here! Though there are slight similarities, the attempts to equate the two fail miserably due to several facts:
- First Fundamentalism in Christianity is not militant. Except for some extremely isolated cases most Fundamentalists are concerned with advancing their teaching not violence. Unlike fundamentalist Islam, it is a doctrinal movement not a militant movement. Children at Fundamentalist churches are not taught to hate anyone nor to apply violence to their understanding of faithfulness to God. This distinction alone makes the errors of the media who equate the two significant. It really is media malpractice!
- Second, it is not as influential or intimidating in the community of believers as it is in Islam where many moderates of their religion are literally afraid to speak against the militants. Unlike Militant Islam, adults in these Fundamentalist churches are not intimidated to speak against anyone who commits violence. Fundamentalism in Christianity itself is fairly well isolated and often spoken against. No violence is threatened in retaliation. Most of the leaders of Protestantism and Evangelicalism, for example, are not in the Fundamentalist camp. They have no fear speaking publicly against the errors of the fundamentalist movement, as they see it. (Including this author)
- Third, many churches which consider themselves to be fundamental preach love and care for neighbor and enemies alike. They may err in some ways, but they still serve as caring citizens and are involved in charitable acts for even those not affiliated with their religion. This usually goes unreported by a media who are generally biased against the conservative Christian church.
- Fourth, even in the tiny and extreme cases violence is expressed from isolate individuals in the movement, it is usually directed against some perceived evil, like an abortion clinic, where they believe abortion is the murder of innocent human beings – not to the mass of innocent human beings in the random acts of violence in Islam. This, of course, is not to defend the abortion clinic attacker. For a person has no moral authority against murderers if he is a murderer himself. It is simply to show that even in the extreme cases from within the realm of so-called Christianity, it does not equal the very common acts of terror against everyone indiscriminately in Islam.
There simply is no comparison between the two, and those who make it owe the Christian church an apology for irrational bias against the church.
However, having written that, we still do acknowledge that some Fundamentalist churches in Christianity deserve criticism for their tendency to be occupied with minutia rather than weightier and more important aspects of Christianity which build people up in love. Many churches caught-up in a desire to be uncompromising, or apply the Bible to every area of their lives, knowingly or unknowingly go astray by elevating smaller areas of practice to unnecessary and divisive heights. Some examples of this have become famous. Some ban drinking any alcohol, or ban women from wearing jewelry. Others, seeing the evils associated with gambling, go too far and ban all card playing or amusements. Though the cinema presents many evils on the screen, these go too far by banning watching even reasonable movies.
There are many other examples of this overzealousness which drowns out the historic approach to the Christian life. Too many measure their dedication to God by straining out these lesser gnats while swallowing the proverbial camel of a lack of mercy for their fellow man. Children and youth who grow up in churches like this feel that faith acts more as weights to keep them down rather than wings to help them soar to heights of accomplishment. Love is freeing; legalism is squelching. Christian law, according to Jesus, is the law of love above all others. There may be good people in each of these kinds of congregations, and they cannot be judged in their entirety, but their understanding of the Christian faith is missing something vital. It’s not healthy to a relationship with God who speaks of both love and holiness in His word. Therefore these kinds of expressions of Christianity should be avoided.
Guiding Principle #8 = Confidence
Commonsense Statement: Those who know the truth will usually speak confidently about their subject. Those who are unsure something is true usually speak with less confidence. This is not universally true, but knowledge breeds confidence and ignorance breeds a tone of uncertainty.
Life Illustration: Confidence in speech alone is not a good indicator someone knows the truth. So this attribute alone cannot guarantee that the message someone is conveying is correct. Plenty of insincere politicians or companies tout their wrong positions or claims with great confidence. Many are proven to overstate the greatness of themselves or their product. Confidence alone is not a good indicator of who to trust. However those who know their subject thoroughly tend to speak with greater confidence than those who don’t. So, if this commonsense attribute is coupled with some of the other attributes, it becomes a useful indicator of truth. For example, what would happen if you asked a friend, “Do you care about me?” only to get a half-hearted “yes?” That would be quite different than a warm “absolutely” without a flinch and with a look of assurance in her eyes. Confidence communicates if it coordinates with actions. Or what would you think of an electrical worker showing up at your home who was not sure he could fix your lighting problem? That would not instill as much confidence as someone who affirmed, “Look! This is what the problem is. This is what our company trains people to fix! We are experts at this! We have done many such projects before. Here is our booklet on what we do and how we do it! Relax, we’ve got this!” That would instill in you greater confidence that they know what they are doing.
Application to Faith: If a religion or faith is not really sure what ultimate truth is, if they are not sure if there is a god or not, if they are not sure what is right or wrong, how can it be trusted to guide you and your loved ones into truth, happiness, and bliss beyond this life? If all a religion has to offer are some philosophical musings (which amount to guesswork) or a mound of profound questions while offering few solid answers, how is that any better than anyone else who knows how to ask good questions but doesn’t know the answers? If the religion is uncertain about defining reality, why should you or I give it much credence? Why not just follow our own ideas rather than theirs?
Now, is it really true that some faiths admit they don’t know what they are talking about? I guess you might think this is crazy, but, yes, if you listen carefully to what they are saying, you will find out – they don’t have a clue about truth! You will find as you read various faiths that many never actually tell you what is true. They talk and talk and talk. They write and ask for your following. But pin them down as to what they are saying and …. nada! Nothing! No certain truth at all! They claim rather to facilitate your journey of faith without their asserting what is true or how they qualify to guide you. Yet how can someone guide you into the land of truth if they don’t know the terrain or where the final destination is found? This kind of religion is smoke and mirrors! Your mind and heart will tell you that it should not be trusted.
Christianity, for example, claims to follow a man who is the truth, came down from heaven to tell us all the truth, and rose from the dead to prove he knew the truth. He fulfilled ancient prophesies. Jesus claimed to be the eternal Son of God who could save anyone who came to him in faith. That is a very strong position of confidence for those choosing to follow the Man from Galilee. Compare that with the claims of other religions. They may talk with fancy words, but what are they really communicating? They sound like they are in the fog when it comes to defining truth. The answer you get from them is hazy and warped. It comes out sounding something like: “Well no one should say they know the truth, after all, religion is personal.” Ok, but how do they know that? What do they know about the truth that led them to that conclusion? Their answers only get foggier and foggier. “Well, if you ask the right questions you will find your way.” What does that mean? How does that help? What are the right questions, and how do you know those are the right questions? It sounds like either they are teasing you with the truth, playing with your soul, or they just don’t know and don’t want to be found out!
This kind of sophisticated evasion should not be admired but ridiculed and shunned. It is a strong indicator that they don’t know the truth and never have. Turn away from them; don’t embrace their message!
There are obviously other commonsense guiding principles. I hope these eight have proven a sufficient beginning to enhance your present level of discernment about qualities to follow and attributes to avoid. Trust has to be earned with …
- Consistency (not contradicting itself, especially in its core beliefs)
- Comprehensibility (providing answers to the most fundamental questions of life)
- Credibility (solid historical or factual evidence for many of its claims)
- Commonality (able to persuade and appeal to all peoples groups on the planet across wide boundaries)
- Certification (producing good people to show what following the religion will accomplish in you)
- Challenging (not promising you the moon without telling you the hard realities of life)
- Caring (people who demonstrate love and concern and do not manipulate or control people to their own ends)
- Confidence (speaking in a way which shows they know the truth)
Without these commonsense attributes, your venture into the world of faith will be misguided and potentially damaging. My earnest hope is that you have begun to see your way through the maze of beliefs and come to understand that they are not all created equal.
I know it is only an introduction to a thoughtful application of these attributes in the vast world of faith, but I am confident that these attributes will steer you correctly. There are many more religions we did not even mention which would need evaluating. You can continue to use these to measure each faith against commonsense. See how each one stacks up to your careful scrutiny. I think what you will find is that most don’t. Not even the skeptics position, agnosticism, does! The closer you look at various belief systems, the more they will fall apart, yes, including the current predominant mindset of Postmodernism.
So you can continue to use these principles and evaluate other beliefs one-by-one. Yet it may dawn on you that this will take a very long time. There are so many faiths – so many claims to evaluate! What is one to do? This process seems long, cumbersome, and daunting! Is this really the only way to discover the right trustworthy faith?
One helpful point is to realize that every religion is based on a worldview. And already we have eliminated all the worldviews except theism. We pointed out the fallacies of Atheism, Agnosticism, Pantheism, and Dualism. Really every religion has to rely on one of those worldviews. We have even pointed out some of the problems with some theistic religions like Islam and modern Judaism.
However, admittedly, if you keep using the Bottom-Up Approach, there will be more work you will want to do. At some point, as I wrote before, you will come to the end of your observations and commonsense. You will see the limitations of this approach, and you will want to know how you can know truth with certainty. This brings us next to the Top-Down Approach. This is where the One who knows ultimate truth reaches down to us and reveals Himself and His eternal plan. He also stamps His message with clear signs so you know it is Him communicating. We need to consider this Top-Down approach, and add it to the Bottom-Up approach. Together you will find what you are looking for!
However, before I launch into that, in the next post I want to reveal more about my faith and faith’s pursuits so you can know better where I am coming from. I want to explain my background so I can be as transparent as I know how. Every spiritual guide should reveal his premises and the influences which shaped him/her. Next I will do just that! If you desire to skip this, because you earnestly want to look at the Top-Down approach, just advance on to the entry beyond the next!