Maggy Whitehouse


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The Adulteress by Guercino.

You can always tell kindergarten-level religion because it focuses on the Sins of the Others, focusing on making them behave better. Heck, if you can change laws to stop the Others sinning, you’ll go to heaven, right?
Kindergarten religion is by far the biggest reason why people turn away from Christianity (and other faiths too). It’s on the rise big time – and you can spot it every time through its insistence on scapegoating.
Mature religion, on the other hand, focuses on working to dissolve the errors within ourselves on the understanding that if we’re a mess, all we will see in others is a projection of our own issues. It’s the essence of the Gospels, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her,’ John 8:7. 
The greatest of the errors that any of us can fall into, according to the alleged leader of the Christian faith, is hypocrisy.
I’m calling Jesus the ‘alleged leader’ because most kindergarten religion prefers St. Paul and the Hebrew Testament. This isn’t an article about LGBTQ issues but religious prejudice concerning those is totally based on St Paul and the Hebrew Testament and has nothing from Jesus who would appear to have had absolutely no problem whatsoever with what people did or didn’t do in bed.
Although there are times that St Paul is a fabulous mystic, he is also, at times, manipulative and off-balance. Generally, I prefer to focus on the teachings of Jesus. 
At the moment we have the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of American women in the matter of Wade vs Roe. This is the law that states that women’s lives are their own private business but is generally known as the abortion law.
The Supreme Court in the USA has just overturned Wade vs Roe so that women may not have legal abortions unless their own State says they may. The Justices almost certainly had the power to throw the first stone in this one particular instance, never having had an abortion themselves. But in assuming that you can pick and choose your sins before chucking rocks is simply another form of hypocrisy. I sincerely doubt that any of the Supreme Court members has never sinned.
All of this hypocrisy that we are seeing – everywhere! – today, is rooted in the story of the scapegoat.
‘Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness’ – Leviticus 16: 21-2.
This ritual, which was carried out for centuries, meant that you could throw all your errors onto the goat, throw as many rocks at it as you liked and go home knowing that all your own sins had been wiped clean. It’s rather a nice idea in principle – a bit like starting each New Year off with a clean slate and making resolutions to do better.
But kindergarten religions take it beyond the limit. Why? Because it’s so much easier! Kindergarten religion prefers to worship Jesus rather than following him. Worshipping him (which he never once asked us to do) is a complete cop-out if you are not acting the way he acted. Telling other people off for sinning is such a soft option and can help you feel gloriously smug without doing one darned thing to improve yourself.
How did Jesus act? He loved the Creator, valued himself and loved his neighbour and he said, quite clearly, ‘first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean,’ Matt 23:26.
Dear Justices Roberts, Alito, Coney Barrett, Breyer, Gorsuch, Kagan, Kavanagh, Sotomayer and Thomas, how are the inside of your cups looking right now? Squeaky clean and shiny? Because if they’re not, how dare you call yourselves Christians and condemn any Other?
I ask that because I would like to bring in St Paul, just for a moment. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, ‘They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
‘Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them,’ Romans 1:29-32.
This is not a piece that most people remember when they think of St Paul, simply because all these accusations that he is throwing at the Pagans are all things that we may be guilty of ourselves. 
No, the scapegoaters ignore all those sins they may be committing themselves and focus instead on the possible sins of the Others in the two verses beforehand – the ones that condemn the Pagan’ sexual practices.
It’s a cop-out and it is the height of hypocrisy. That nice guy from Nazareth deserves better.
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