The further something gets from its source, the more likely it is to be corrupted. The water that begins fresh and pure as it melts from a mountain glacier gets dirty as it meanders between pasture lands and human settlements. The clean water from our taps is fouled by greasy dishes, dirty feet and stained clothing. As we let such water down the drain, we know that it did not start out that way.
Yet when it comes to faith traditions that have become corrupted, people today so often dismiss the whole enterprise and determine to have nothing to do with faith or religion whatsoever. It does not have to be this way, however.
Consider American slave Frederick Douglass, who published a concise narrative of his life in 1845. Douglass had every reason to reject Christianity because the oppression of Black slaves was justified by so-called devout American Christians during his lifetime. In one incident he recounts that one of his masters attended a revival meeting and became more serious about faith. Sadly, the way he treated his slaves did not improve but became more harsh and brutal in his treatment of them. Douglass perceived that the evil system of slavery did not line up with Truth. With the help a master's wife, he was introduced to the alphabet and gradually taught himself to read. When he read the Bible, he found the pure source of truth.
In the appendix to his narrative, he wrote, "What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference."
Two years after the publication of this narrative, Charlotte Bronte wrote the novel Jane Eyre. In this story, Jane is an orphan who eventually lives at an orphanage run by a harsh clergyman named Brocklehurst. After leaving the orphanage, Jane later admits to her employer, "I disliked Mr. Brocklehurst....He starved us when he had sole superintendence of the provision department." Those who lived at the orphanage were punished without reason to keep order and terrorized by readings about "sudden deaths and judgments." Despite this unflattering portrait of a religious leader, the novel does not reject the Christian faith outright. Sympathetic characters, Helen Burns and Jane Eyre herself, find genuine faith in the Lord, who comforts them in their sorrows and guides them in living nobly and rightly.
It is a great error to reject God even if some who claim to represent him have strayed far from his ways. One of the definitions of the word "corrupt" is to contaminate or to alter from its original form. Where we see corruption, we are wise to go back and discover what the original goodness was and return to it. Go back to the Source by reading the ancient words that have sustained and guided countless men, women and children. Meet the Christ who taught and sacrificed himself for the good of others. Hold fast to what is stable and secure while living in such uncertain times.
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