By Kovi Katz, NFTY-SO Social Action Vice-President
All Saints Episcopal Church recently posted a statement on their sign, “Faith does not condone bullying.” A photo of this sign was posted on Facebook by the producers of the movie Bully, a documentary aired in theaters that depicted the true horrors of bullying that exist today. When I saw this post, I quickly had a rebuttal to the church’s statement; one can have faith that a race will bully another and therefore faith can condone bullying. As the debate continued on in the comments, people began to interchange the word faith with religion. Some said that select religions, such as Christianity, do condone bullying as shown throughout history. For example, Benjamin Witte mentioned the Spanish Inquisition and all three of the crusades.
It is thoughts like these that hatred and prejudice grow. One should never single out a religion for the actions of its people, but rather single out the people who acted upon their interpretations of their religion. First of all, I would like to make an important distinction between the words faith and religion. These are not synonymous with one another.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, faith is defined as,
“Complete trust or confidence in someone or something”
…while the word religion is defined as,
“the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”
It becomes apparent when looking at the definitions that these two are definitely not synonymous, but time and time again people mistake the words for being one in the same.
When looking at real-life applications of the words, one can see that a person with no religion can have faith, but a person with a religion must have faith in the doctrines of the religion. The line between the two words is fine, but in order to stop this prejudice we must be aware of this difference. Some commentators have stated that Christianity has a history of bullying other religions. For example, one poster points out “the Church of England, during the time of Henry VIII, incarcerated, burned, and tortured the Catholics in order to force their support of his divorce.” Another poster, a preacher, also commented on the post stated, “I regret that so many of us have misrepresented Christ to such a degree that so many of you want nothing to do with Him.” Most of the time, the religion is not at fault, but rather it is those who misinterpret the religion that cause the bullying to occur. The poster continues with a list of apologies for the things done in the past, in the name of Christianity, and states that Christian teaching does not condone any of them.
Christianity is not alone, for there are those in all religions including Islam, Judaism, and more who distort their religion to hurt others. Faith may condone bullying, but religion does not.
The views expressed in the NFTY Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the North American Federation of Temple Youth.