Basic one, the first “weightier matter,” is probably to love God with heart, soul and strength, plus other people as yourself. It seems that while all the practitioners of toxic Christianity claim to love God, many (not all) of them seemed not to love others enough. They will say they love, but they allow their love to become theoretical and spiritualized. For example, someone among them may say: “I love my children and want what is good for them. It is spiritually good for children to grow up in a Christian home and not in a secular school, so even if my 9-year old cannot read yet, I am loving her and doing what is good for her by home schooling her.” Love should be practical and care about the practical reality too. After all, you are alive today partly because you never, at any stage of your life, stopped eating, stopped looking before crossing streets, or otherwise stopped caring about the practical. And you should love others as yourself.
Qualities of Christian love include that love is patient, kind, etc. The fruit of the spirit also include things like peace, patience and kindness. Beating your children if they do not obey immediately, without even considering the circumstances is not in accordance with the love that is kind and patient. (The child could have misunderstood. Or his current action could be “being friendly” to a sibling, and such good, loving, fruit-of-the-spirit things as friendliness are actually too important in God’s standard to drop immediately for obedience to a human.)
Another thing poisonous religion often do is to pay less attention to justice, mercy and helping the oppressed, the least of these, than to obeying human authority. God asks for justice and mercy and helping the oppressed from early in the Old to late in the New Testament. It is a recurring theme of the Bible and expresses the nature of God. Some ways of interpreting the texts on (for example) female submission is simply not in accordance with justice, mercy and helping the oppressed. Allowing a child molester at the church access to children, because he said he was sorry and won’t do it again, is certainly not caring about the least of these.
It seems to me that texts on human authority in the Bible was not meant for bondage, to tell people to be even more obedient than the leader will enforce. It told the people in a highly hierarchical society to work along in ways that would prevent unneccessary troubles. But the same
Act 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.
We must obey the God who said to show mercy, to care about the oppressed. Someone who go along with an oppressive church leader or husband, at the expense of her children or fellow church members who are the least of these, obey man rather than God.
Toxic Christianity also seem to forget distinctions between the physical and the spiritual. Our war is not against flesh and blood, says the Lord. Wanting the rod to augment or replace the Holy Spirit in encouraging a child to do right is a confusion of the physical and the spiritual. It could only bear plastic fruit, not spiritual fruit. Having ten children to ensure a Christian population is to attempt fighting a spiritual war with physical means. And, of course, killing infidels as was done in some long ago crusades is also confusing the spiritual and the physical.
Some such religious views confuse the physical and the spiritual in the opposite direction: Instead of making solutions to spiritual matters overly physical, they make solutions to physical matters overly spiritual. Someone with, for example, a chemical imbalance in his brain would be served better by using pills to restore the balance than by going to counseling that tells him to confess his sin. Jesus was often concerned about physical healing and feeding, not just spiritual.
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It seems to me that God’s will can be a lot more knowable, and we would hurt others a lot less with our religion, if we never lose sight of a few basic things. We should probably try to explain other texts around the basics, but religion seem to go bad when we do it the other way round.
Reader, would you like to add to what we should see as basics, the things that will keep us from hurting others in the name of Jesus?