Religious Alloys by Charles Franklin
An alloy is a mixture of elements, usually designed to create something better than its individual parts. Steel, for example is an alloy of iron and carbon that is harder and stronger than iron. But some alloys – with the addition of base elements – create a weaker mixture. Like sin and religion. When a respected religious leader, for example, embezzles money from his congregation or engages in an affair, and the faithful fall away.
Some alloys cause controversy and division. In 2015 the Boy Scouts voted to lift the ban on openly gay and transgender scouts and scout leaders, and began including girls, and in 2018, As a result, Latter-day Saints severed ties with the Scouts. “The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us,” said M. Russell Ballard, a member the Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The direction they were going was not consistent to what we feel our youth need to have.”
And the United Methodist Church has split over LGBTQ issues. While liberal congregations have embraced gay marriage and ministry, conservative Methodists do not, and will form a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church.
Meanwhile, perhaps the latest “alloy initiative” is to add religion to drug legalization efforts. “A psychedelic trip can be among the most sacred experiences of a person’s life,” begins a Rolling Stone article, “and yet, that impulse to take a psychedelic for a spiritual reason is often overlooked as a reason to lift prohibition for psychedelic substances.”
One might posit that the idea is less about religion and more about getting high. “If a Catholic physician can refuse to perform an abortion because of religious reasons,” this illogic goes, “I should be able to use psychedelics because of religious reasons.”
If you’ve been following World Religion News for the past year, you’ve seen case after legal case challenging the First Amendment. Challenging the right to free exercise of one’s religious beliefs because religion is deemed “non-essential,” by politicians during COVID, because education must have no religious content, because gay rights trump religious rights, because religious organizations should not be allowed to decide who they hire or fire or place foster children with.
All these are attempts to force religions to alloy with other ideas, ideologies and principles, whether they are contrary to the religion’s ideas or not. The United Methodist Church is carefully sorting through what they accept and what they don’t, what alloy is acceptable and what isn’t. The United States Supreme Court is sorting through the legality of some of these issues, but in the weeks and months to come – as society barges ahead with radical new trends fads and social programs – churches, mosques, synagogues and temples will be faced with deciding what to do.
Questions such as “What do the scriptures of my faith actually say?” will become more relevant than ever. As well as “Just how inclusive should we be?” Or “what would Jesus do?” And the answers? They alone will determine whether the alloy will be stronger and better, or will crumble from the addition of base elements.