In recent months we have seen a number of events that test our mettle as Christians. Floods, famines, immigration, Haiti, there seems to be no end to the carnage. Then comes the circuit court's review of prop 108 and the gay marriage issue, and then the possibility of a Mosque within three blocks of the World Trade Center disaster, both of which provoked a response so divided and so deep that no amount of rhetoric can be salving.
As I have said in many previous essays the problem is that we are really not Christians in this country, we are Paulinists, separating justice and mercy; worshipping Jesus but not following His teaching; creating doctrines rather than witnessing for love. For Paul, a big issue is who is worthy and who is not and what are we to do about it. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom 1:18) Paul goes on to say all sorts of things about salvation through "Faith". Those in the modern church seem to have taken him to heart in that they seem to believe "if I have faith in Jesus, I don't have to go out of my way to love anybody."
When people ask "have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?", our skin begins to itch because of the implications in the question. The questioner is really asking whether or not we have accepted a set of doctrines and creeds, a belief structure, rather than questioning whether we love our neighbor and what we are doing about his misery.
What is called "Christianity" has become just that..... a belief structure. Being a Christian means accepting certain tenets and constructs. There are no options for acceptance of virgin births, sun "standing still" in the sky, biblical literalness and inerrancy, judgment of the "wicked", the eschatology of Revelations or the Blood Atonement for the sins of the world. Adam and Eve are real people and the devil is incarnate. And the whole shlamoozal is 15 thousand years old. If you don't believe it you cannot call yourself a Christian.
Contrast that concept with the earliest followers of Jesus who were known as practitioners of "The Way". "The Way being a euphemism for the unbelievable love they showed one another; so profound that the Romans were amazed. "Who are these people, they really LOVE one another", they exclaimed.
Their faith was simply to follow Jesus teaching as there was not yet a set of Biblical or church concepts other than the old testament to hang one's hat upon. Jesus teaching, his greatest commandments, had to do with Love of God and one another and dwelling in the "Kingdom of God". This latter was identified in parables and can only be defined as reiterating the greatest commandments through action. So, these early Christians tried to Love "Everybody" including Samaritans (read Muslims) and Gentiles, Jews and pagans, Romans and everyone else to the point of distraction. They shared their food, their possessions, their money, their time and their love.
As I have often said, "scripture is the lens through which we see God and we ought not worship the lens." But to even vaguely suggest that the Bible is not an object of worship in this modern Christian Church is to beg for something akin to vegetable pelting at the least. We will not abandon our cherished icons and idols but we have no problem judging and vilifying others. No regard is given for inconsistency in scripture, or simple scientific truth.
You will hear believers say, If God wanted the sun to stand still in the sky, he simply willed it and it occurred. We must suspend all belief in Natural Law. We must first avow it is the Sun moving in orbit and not the earth. We must then believe God suspended the effects of gravity or lack thereof to achieve this desired result. In short we must believe God interferes in Natural Law when it suits Him. No question is asked of why he interferes to help the woman lift the Buick with the child trapped underneath, but does not help the millions of starving African children? Is one child more privileged than another? Was Calvin right and some of us are elect and others not? How can we seriously believe God interferes in Natural Law but still permits suffering. Is he evil? When we conclude God cannot interfere in Natural Law without violating his own creation, where does our belief structure then go?
If we continue to insist on a dichotomy between God and Science we are lost. There can be no conflict or God's creation is at fault. How can God make a world where science is wrong? If He created Natural Law how can it be wrong? If science is wrong Natural Law is wrong. Science IS the study of Natural Laws. If we need to claim all scientists are in error because the Bible says so, we are idiots who need to re-read some passages.
This is not some Liberal v. Conservative or Republican v. Democrat issue. This is an issue of a faith gone awry, wherein Christians do not act toward others with love, but hate. They use scripture to defend a set of un-Jesus beliefs that fit an agenda.
Gays and Lesbians are not welcome in this church because.......No Mosque may be built near Ground Zero ....but a Cathedral would be OK............We worship Christ and go to church every Sunday but won't lift a finger to help Haiti or our neighbor in New Orleans......
We have become a sad group of quasi-Paulinists. To call ourselves Christians is disgusting. It perverts the teaching of Jesus in both Spirit and Law. In order to believe this modern dogma one needs to first believe in hell. But not just any old hell. No, the hell of eternal burning punishment for misbehavior and unacceptance of dogma entitled "Belief". Will a good Jew or Muslim go to heaven? Hell no, he doesn't accept the same principles I do, so God will punish him. God's principle is Love and brotherhood for all. But our Christian principle sure as hell isn't. Ours is all about retribution, punishment, sin payment and finite evil in an infinite universe. Our version of Christianity has God's wrath more powerful than his love, God's divine and infinite vengeance against little old finite man with his finite sin. His love doesn't overcome. His wrath overcomes.
Even the cross has become a place for vampire Christians who want Jesus only for his blood. Without the blood sacrifice Jesus becomes nothing. Just human. We see Jesus as suffering and dying for us but never see Him as living for us. The exuberance of his love is lost in the misery of his death. It is a backward set of worship standards. All his teachings, all his words, all his love disappear in the passion play. All that is left is the misery and suffering and none of the joy.
We ignore his admonishment to the good thief even as he hangs there. There is no room for love, only for judgment. His blood sacrifice is what we remember, not his words of love.
Even as Jesus says, He that believeth in me...becomes corrupted to " He that worships me but loves no one but himself and those who think like him."
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:39 NIV. What does belief in Jesus mean? Is it intellectual assent to his deity? Or is it emulation of his actions and his words? The two are sometimes not harmonious. Even if we acknowledge his deity, are we done? Are we great Christians who say "Here is what I believe" but I will do nothing to help our neighbor because he is .........................(fill in the blanks...Muslim...illegal alien....black...gay...lesbian...indigent...Hindu...Jew...creepy...smells bad or looks and acts differently)?
We cannot have a Mosque near ground zero because we hate Muslims, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with what a few radical Muslims did to us or what they may still be trying to do with us, or else all of Jesus teachings about "who is my brother" and turning cheeks goes directly in the shitter. You cannot claim to be Christian while you hate.
This last few decades have perverted Christianity to the point that we must suffer the Abundant Life nonsense that Jesus wants you to be wealthy. I have even heard a pastor extol why Jesus wants you to have a gun! Pure and simple garbage!
To support this kind of belief structure one needs only a few well chosen scripture verses, and boy! They are sure in there. Leviticus teaches us God not only hates homosexuals, but it is ok to own slaves from a neighboring country.
Lev 25:44-46 44 "'Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. NIV
But these are God's words inerrant and complete aren't they? Canada here we come in the name of God!
We must stop this!
We must Stop! In the name of God! We must Stop!
There is no hope for the future if we hate. No hope for ourselves. Every time we say "I got mine now you get yours."; every moment we waste in failing to help those in need; every day we sit at home and ponder our devotion to God, how holy we are.......is wasted. It is wasted in pride and hate and sloth and envy and all of the things Jesus warned us of.
We as a Christian nation have embraced the pagan truths totally and utterly. We are lost if we go on this way.
The First Century Christian