Responsibility and Religion?

Imagine that a member from the KKK entered King's College and started burning crosses and shouting racist remarks about how African-Americans should not be attending King's College because God hates them.

Would we ever say something like, "Oh, this person is just an extremist and does not represent the organization of the KKK. This person clearly is not a true Klansman, so you can't blame the KKK for the bad things that happened."

Imagine that a Roman Catholic priest went on television tomorrow and said that Jews will not enter into Heaven and will be punished for all eternity.

Almost immediately, this person would be publicly rebuked by many Roman Catholics and we'd hear the following chorus of press releases saying, "This person is just a fundamentalist and does not represent Roman Catholicism. This person isn't a true Roman Catholic, so you can't blame the Catholics for this one."


There is a huge double standard in cases like these and I hear it quite often from Catholics. Yesterday, I attended a luncheon with several different persons of faith and objected to the Catholic teachings on gay marriage, the backwards beliefs of condoms, and the non-stop effort that the church is pursuing to contest homosexual marriage.

Almost immediately a woman objected and said, "You can't just say this and lump everyone together! The people make up the church and are the mouths and feet of Jesus (whatever that means)."

Of course not every Catholic is a bigot who hates homosexuals and wants to deprive two people of the ability to enter into a legal contract for marriage. Of course not every Catholic does not say that condoms may make AIDS worse...but you know what? Churches and individuals ought to be accountable for their actions. We can't use the "get out of jail free card" just because we claim to be following some divine authority.

Beliefs inform actions. If the church teaches that condoms are evil, a person may act on this belief and cause tremendous harm. Where did the idea come from...the church.


There needs to be a great deal of responsibility on behalf of individuals for the acts of their organizations and the organizations for the acts of their members. Surely we can't invoke guilt by association, but there still is a level of responsibility that one must have when their parishioners do terrible things or when organizations do bad things.

Why should the rules be different for religion? If the CEO of AIG made a public statement about how homosexuals are disordered, there would be a massive outcry, boycotts, and angered customers. We wouldn't say that the CEO does not represent the organization or dismiss him as an extremist, but rather would hold him accountable.