As much as I love religion, I never forget it is a very dangerous craft. A religious community is a very human institution, which means the more it believes it speaks for God, the more insane it has actually become.

It’s relatively easy to see in the Catholic Church that when followers are asked to submit to God, the priests have some very specific and very Catholic ideas in mind. Invariably the follower ends up submitting to God only as understood by the church hierarchy, which actually means submitting to the hierarchy itself.

In the Protestant church, we’re much cleverer than that.  We say, “If you want to obey God, just obey the Bible. Sounds fair enough, but then, we insist that there is only one correct way to interpret the Bible, which just so happens to be our own denomination’s method. That’s how we disguise what we are doing.  We pretend that the Bible is all we care about, but our interpretation of the book keeps putting us in control of other people: Christian over non-Christian, men over women, straight people over gay. We insist we aren’t trying to control others — it’s just one of those darn things that just keeps happening. Reading the Bible literally (which means not realizing that we are interpreting it through our own bias) keeps putting us in charge.

Someone once said of Noah’s Ark that if it weren’t for the rain on the outside, one could not stand the smell on the inside. So it is with every religious community. We are not fully human if we do not share life in community, but it is also a fact of the religious life that the more we try to mimic the angels, the more we play the devil.