We have the Oscars for the movies and the Emmys for TV and now we have the Darwin Awards for escapades that can only be described as “truth that’s stranger than fiction.”

In short, the Darwin Awards are handed out annually to those who are the least evolved among us. (Apologies to Darwin are duly offered)

This year’s runner-up winners include the chef at a hotel in Switzerland who lost a finger in a meat-cutting machine. After a little hopping and a lot of bleeding, he submitted a claim to the hotel’s insurance company about his lost finger. The company suspected negligence on the part of the chef and sent out one of its claims adjusters to investigate. He tried the same machine and lost a finger too. The chef’s claim was approved.

Another runner-up included the Arkansas man who wanted beer but didn’t have the money to buy it. So he heaved a cinderblock at the window in order to steal what he wanted. The brick bounced off the liquor store window and hit him on the head, knocking him unconscious. You guessed it:  The window was made of Plexiglas and yes the whole event was caught on the security video system.

Finally there’s the winning story …

When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a holdup in Long Beach, a would-be robber did something no one expected. He peered down the barrel of his misfiring gun and pulled the trigger. This time the gun worked perfectly.

All of us do dumb things on occasion. Some are funny but most are embarrassing. Of course our friends and family remember them vividly and can tell them at the worst moments imaginable.

Even religious stories qualify on occasion. There’s the pastor in North Carolina who recently “churched” those members who voted for John Kerry last fall instead of George Bush as the pastor thought they should have. Under enormous pressure and the censure of the national news coverage, the pastor resigned and started his own church.

Then there’s yet another North Carolina pastor who put on his church reader board the message, “The Koran Should Be Flushed.” Never mind that he was adding negatively to a recent national news story of how Muslim prisoners are interrogated by means of mental and religious torture by insulting their holy scriptures, a national embarrassment itself.

Like his Tar Heel colleague described above, the pastor bowed to pressure and removed the message from the church sign saying he “did not realize how people of the Muslim faith view the Koran–that devoted Muslims view it more highly than many in the United States view the Bible.” You think?

We live in perilous times. We who consider ourselves people of faith can be more hateful and insolent than those we condemn. We insult the faith of others while condemning them for their opposition to ours. Religious intolerance is a blight on faith itself.

Intolerance of any kind is hardest on those of us who are most certain that our truth is greater than the lesser truths of those who believe differently. At its heart, our intolerance is a sign of our self-importance whenever we believe we are the holder of ultimate truth. We wield our truth like a sword, cutting down all those whose beliefs come from other sources. As believers in the Way of Christ, we are insulting to others whenever we do not extend to them what we expect for ourselves.

Living the faith is tough enough without adding to it our boneheaded arrogance and ignorance. Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way.

Keith Herron is senior pastor at Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.

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