There would seem to be few things in life more ugly, corrupt, twisted, and utterly repulsive as religion. Religion seems to be a club for the weak and the hateful, the misguided and the downright evil. I find it hard to believe in God when I look at religion, and when he looks at religion I think God must find it hard to believe in us too.

Religion seems to me to be the evil twin of faith which suffers in the face of confusion between the two. There are many faithful people whom I have a great deal of respect for, people who seem to be able to avoid falling into the trap of becoming religious rather than faithful, unwittingly going over the ‘the dark side’ if you will.

I can see how faithful people get sucked into religion. It’s surely down to a number of contributing factors. The company they keep, the teaching they receive, their ability to question and interact with their leaders. When one is in a church there is, as with any kind of social club, the pressure to conform and to do things the way they are expected to be done. We raise our hands in worship here, we talk in tongues, we speak out prophetic words from God, and therefore so must you. It might not be quite that simple but it’s easier to follow that lead. It is perhaps one of the most subtle but serious of hurdles for the faithful, one of the many diversions from the path of faith to the wider road to religion.

Watching the news this week has been troubling. Israel have dramatically reacted to unprovoked attacks from Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon leading to a most obscene amount of violence that now seems equally unjustified on both sides, and still two wrongs aren’t making a right.

What made me mad this week though was a story in the news about how more than 3,400 evangelical Christians went to Washington D.C, to lobby lawmakers as part of the first annual summit of a group calling itself ‘Christians United for Israel.’

Led by a Texan pastor, John Hagee, the group who have representatives from all 50 states, had 280 meetings to attend on Capitol Hill to urge the US government “not to restrain Israel in any way in the pursuit of Hamas and Hezbollah”, he said. The event wasn’t planned in response to the fighting between Israel and Lebanon, it was apparently planned months ago but Hagee says the military conflict “certainly makes our meeting more significant.”

According to his book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, the Bible predicts that Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God. What will then follow, according to Hagees interpretation of the Bible, is a confrontation over Israel between China and the West led by the head of the European Union who is actually the anti-Christ.

It angers me that any right-minded individual could believe that a loving God would stand by and support the slaughter of innocent people anywhere, and that would seem to be a daily truth at this time between Israel and Lebanon. World leaders, including the British and UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, have called for an immediate ceasefire yet here are American evangelical Christians having 280 meetings on Capital Hill urging the government to sit back and do nothing to try and stop the violence being inflicted on Lebanon by Israel.

That offends me as much as an Islamic extremist who thinks he is doing Gods great work when he blows up a train full of people on their way to work in the rush hour. It’s a nonsense, a warped understanding of the world through eyes blurred with religion. What kind of God do they believe would sit back and rejoice as the limbs of children are ripped from their bodies?

These evangelical Christians who are working so hard to to exert their influence seem only a little less deranged to me than young men who strap explosives to their chests. While the immediate effects of the evangelical Christians actions might not be as apparently violent the long term effect very well may not be dissimilar. Just because these Christian extremists wear suits and pray with open arms to nice music in well lit televised church services, it doesn’t make them any less worrying to me.

I hope, heck I might even pray, that the work of the faithful overcomes the work of the religious.

Evangelical Christians plead for Israel
Pro-Israel Christians Lobby in Washington
Evangelical: Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith
Christians United For Israel (C.U.F.I.)
Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas