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Rev. Michael Nabors: To fight rogue religion, elevate others

The Rev. Michael Nabors of the Second Baptist Church. Credit: Richard Cahan

It is always dangerous to write about rogue religion and corruption operating in the guise of faith. I get it. But I no longer care about the danger.

Because when narrow-minded bigots use religion to support narrow-mindedness and bigotry, their religion becomes rogue.

In the past 30 years or so, I have watched a dangerous narcissism become a dominant theme in the teaching of many religious leaders and groups.

The current surge of hatred fomenting from the derelict mouths and twisted theology of many current Christian religious leaders is not new. In fact, such a tunnel-visioned view of the world was often the foundation upon religious expansionism. Rogue religious leaders today are using the same playbook that has been used century after century.

When their own congregations, their own constituents, their own kind begin to fear the steady beat of change and how it may negatively affect their lives, these leaders resorted to fear and manipulation.

Willie Shaw of the Evanston branch of the NAACP proudly joins the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism along Ridge Avenue. Shaw, who has lived in Evanston since 1972, says this is a critical moment for the Black community. “The census will show our population is dwindling,” she says. “The major problem is housing. It is just unaffordable in terms of purchasing and rental, even more challenging for families with children.” Shaw says some friends who love Evanston have had to move. “It has a lot to offer, but they get more for their money somewhere else.” Credit: Richard Cahan

These religious leaders themselves became afraid of losing the tiny fragments of power and position that they have been holding.

As always, there were and are two options for these rogue religious leaders; change and be transformed, or fight change and strive to remain “as is.” Of course, remaining “as is” also possesses a subtle caveat of returning to the “good old days.”

So then these clergy and lay leaders of rogue religion in the United States in 2022 have clearly made their decision.

Current hatred pouring forth from these clergy and lay leaders under the banner of rogue religion is coming in many forms.

I know the impact of this hate.

  • Abortion clinics have been bombed.
  • Nightclubs where LGBTQI men and women gather have been targeted for mass shootings.
  • Churches and synagogues have been burned and worshipers have been shot and killed.
  • Anti-immigration is hurling darts of hatred towards immigrants in their effort to move into the United States in pursuit of a better life.
  • Islamophobia is hurling darts at Muslims for their desire to praise and worship Allah through their own Islamic faith.
  • Antisemitism is hurling darts at Jewish people because of their faith and culture.
  • Homophobia is hurling darts at men and women because of their sexual orientation.
  • Racism is hurling darts at Black and Brown people because of the color of their skin.
  • Anti-Asian Americanism is hurling darts at Asian Americans because of their ethnicity.

All of this mind you, is being done under a rogue Christian religion. Because the Christian religion at its base is about love, not about hatred. It is about inclusion, not exclusion.

So much of this is occurring because judgments of the United States Supreme Court are giving license to such divisive beliefs and actions.

So much of this continues because elected officials are spouting words of hatred and cruelty followed by legislative actions at local, state and federal levels.

Make no bones about it, these appointed and elected officials are attending many of these “so-called houses of worship.”

None of this is fair or just. Jesus said, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. He did not say kill those unlike yourself. Jesus also laid down the Golden Rule to do onto others as you would have them do unto you. And this rule is not unique to Christianity.

No, this hate is not ordained by a loving God.

So, we know what we need to do to fight this. And we are doing it.

Over this past weekend (November 19-20) the Evanston community gathered a number of times.

An ensemble gathered by the Second Baptist Church sings at a gathering against anti-Semitism and racism at Beth Emet Synagogue. Credit: Richard Cahan/Evanston RoundTable

On Friday, the Interfaith Community of Evanston gathered at a local synagogue for a Community Call to Action Service to denounce the rise of antisemitism and racism. A dozen clergy attended with over one hundred in the audience.

On Saturday as the Evanston/North Shore NAACP’s 58th Freedom Fund Banquet. It was a sold out event with seven people honored for their work and service to the community.

At the end of the official program, when the DJ began playing R&B classic, two rabbis, a Baptist pastor and folks from various faiths and denominations stormed the dance floor… a time of fellowship and enjoyment.

On Sunday, Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita, the first Asian American woman to serve on the board was sworn in at Evanston Township High School. Six different clergy persons offered short invocations including Protestants, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Buddhist.

None of this means that Evanston has it all right.

But what I do not see here is dominant voice from rogue religion. And I see a town working together. This town passed the nation’s first municipal reparations program for Black people.

The faith community is working with diligence and great effort to increase the impact of reparations. And here is our answer:

Josina Morita, the first Asian American on the Cook County Board. Credit: via Facebook

  • We work together.
  • We talk to each other.
  • We eat together.
  • We find common ground even in the midst of our many differences.
  • While we are steeped in our own respective faith traditions, we collaborate and network in an effort to strengthen our entire community.
  • We are respectful of each other.
  • We are kind to each other.
  • We like each other.
  • And we often sacrifice our time and effort in supporting our community.

This is not just engaging under a canopy of civility. But it is based in authentic faithfulness to our respective religions and our common civility.

We hold fast to the belief and conviction that love must always be the order of the day — a love that is endearing, comforting, and also demanding.

We demand the best of ourselves because it is only by doing so that we can begin to lay down the building blocks that lead towards Beloved Community.

And if we join together to make so many things happen, we can join together to stop things from happening as well. Let us talk about rogue religion as a cancer causing the country to fester. Let us talk together about how rogue religion is encouraging violence and not faith.

Our town simply must be, could be and is trying to be a community for all. It can never be for just those in one group, one ethnicity, one race, one religion, one sexual orientation or one political affiliation.

This is our community, the one we longed for, dreamed of, live for and we must choose to keep it on track.

This Thanksgiving, I will choose to recognize what evil looks like, use my faith to spread love and elevate the others who join me.

Michael Nabors
Second Baptist Church

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