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Toxic faith and COVID-19

Since the start of the coronavirus, religious fanaticism has become even noisier, revealing the dangers of toxic faith. Our country is too small to be ripped apart by toxic faith. Far too many faith believers are being misguided by spiritual leaders who are blinded by poisonous teachings and practices. They misinterpret scripture and make people feel guilty when they disagree with them. It seems as though the biblical passage of 2 Timothy 4:3 is being fulfilled today: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

Toxic faith is dangerous for one’s mental health and emotional well-being. It is toxic teachings that are making many emotionally unwell, not governmental protocols.

Some are asking for a religious exemption to avoid taking the vaccine. Some believe that their faith is strong enough to battle the virus or that taking the vaccine will express doubt in God’s power. Sadly, since the beginning of COVID-19, many faith believers have died from the virus. Some, while dying in a hospital bed, refuse to admit that they even have the virus. That is the result of toxic faith, a faith that cripples and destroys. Faith alone is not a good enough reason not to take the virus. The greater good must be considered.

Many are claiming religious freedom and freedom of conscience as a reason to oppose rules and orders regarding COVID-19. The problem is that the “freedom” they want is dangerous to society. They do not want the government to dictate their behavior. Many of these same believers are not even following the governmental protocols of wearing masks and physical distancing. They forget that obeying governmental laws is biblical. This is more important when the laws prevent illnesses and save lives. Romans 13:1-2 says: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

“Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Religious freedom and freedom of conscience do not make stupid the importance of living in a community and protecting the safety and health of all. This is why the lepers as mentioned in the book of Leviticus had to quarantine, and priests had to wash their hands before sacrifice.

I have previously written about my rights and freedom ending when the other person’s safety and health begin. I have the right and freedom to drive 120 miles per hours on the highway. I have the right and freedom not to wash my hands and use a head covering when I cook in a restaurant. However, the laws of the land say that doing such things will endanger lives and can even cause death. Hence, my rights and freedom to do what I want ends, so that others can live. It is toxic faith that is unreasonable and violates Christian principles.

In a previous article, titled, “Identifying Poisonous Teachings … When Religion Causes Pain”, are these words: “Toxic faith or poisonous religion freezes people in a state of legalism, rigidity, and oftentimes aloofness. When religion should be bringing us closer with a spirit of kindness and compassion, far too many religious leaders are actually creating members who are judgmental, harsh, and self-righteous. The concepts of understanding, tolerance, and sensitivity have lost their importance in many religious houses. There are many erroneous theological teachings that have mushroomed in our churches that are really a corruption of teachings we’ve held for centuries. For example, spiritual leaders “demanding” that God answer a particular prayer. They make statements like, ‘I declare in the name of Jesus that you are healed.’ We have no power to declare anything. That concept is toxic that leads many committed believers into depression, severe doubt and feelings of rejection.”

For your enrichment, here are erroneous beliefs that can fuel toxic faith found in the book “Toxic Faith”:

• When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it.

• If you had real faith, God would heal you or the one you are praying for.

• Material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength.

• The more money you give to God, the more money He will give to you.

• I can work my way to heaven.

• Problems in your life result from some particular sin.

• I must not stop meeting other’s needs.

• I must always submit to authority.

• God only uses spiritual giants.

• Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until He does.

• If it’s not in the Bible, it isn’t relevant (all truth is in the Bible).

• God will find me a perfect mate.

• Everything that happens to me is good.

• A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain.

• God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me.

• More than anything else, God wants me to be happy (free from pain).

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? What are you doing to live a balanced, healthy life in your community?

In The Bahamas, we claim to be a people of religious faith. However, far too often the faith displayed is toxic. There is too much damning and condemning, and not enough encouraging. There is far too little teaching that transforms lives and too much teaching that frightens people into the kingdom. Far too many church members are not being taught to think for themselves or are not taught that they really should think for themselves. Are you thinking wisely? Do not be fooled by poisonous teachings and toxic faith.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org, call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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