Friday, November 7, 2008

Christian Terrorists

Let's talk about the Christian Terrorists for a moment. They don't exist, you say? Christians are too nice and loving to ever be terrorists, because our religion is all about love, forgiveness, turning the other cheek and whatnot? That's just Wrong. What do you call someone who bombs a medical clinic whose practices they disagree with? A terrorist. What do you call someone who starts wars in the Middle East so they can get Armageddon started? A murderer, and let's remember folks, murder is still a deadly sin. What do you call someone who beats up and kills someone because they think their sexuality is a sin? A murderer. What do you call people who pass laws to prevent other people from committing what they perceive to be sins according to their religion? Well, in the old days, they probably would have been Pharisees. Is it Christ-like? No. What Would Jesus Do? Jesus would have hugged them, talked to them and told them about God, hoping to convert them. If he wasn't successful, he would have walked away. And guess what - that's the most effective way to bring someone to your religion. Give them a taste of the best of it, be kind to them, and if they don't convert right away, leave them be. Let the seed you have planted have time to take root. Give them time and space to reflect on their lives and how this new relationship with God might give them the hope, peace and guidance they need. Legislating morality and religion was the way of Romans and Greeks, not Christ.

Please, I beg of you, quit reading the letters of Paul and the Apostles. They're interesting and can tell you a great deal about the beginnings of the Christian religion, but they don't give you a guide for how to act toward each other. They are full of admonitions, rules and messages in code to the leaders of early churches on how to survive the political attacks on them. Early Christians were often imprisoned, enslaved and killed for their beliefs. They had to write to each other in code because their messages could easily be intercepted. Early Christians had to obey some of the standard culture they lived in, and let's remember, in early Greece and Rome, women were slightly more than slaves.

Here's my plea for rational, Christ-like vision: please remember that Paul was a converted Pharisee. Before his vision on the way to Damascus (I like the expression "his epileptic fit on the way to Damascus) he was a Pharisee who persecuted and killed Jews. After he converted, did his nature and habits completely change? No, obviously they did not. In his militant violence, was he being truly Christ-like or more of a powerful leader who successfully spread the new religion? The latter.

Here's the big question: Should we take our queues on morality, how to behave toward one another, from the Apostle Paul, or from Christ? The answer should be obvious.

READ THE GOSPELS. Read them a lot. Reflect on what is consistent and makes sense, because some of it is confusing. The messages to us from Christ's blameless life:

1. Do not covet wealth. If you have wealth, use it for good and get rid of as much excess as you can because it will corrupt you.
2. Do not commit violence against others. Do not beat, attack, hit or kill others. That includes Holy Wars, Inquisitions, Holocausts, domestic violence, rape, murder, bombing, incest, molesting children, beating up gays, blacks, Mexicans, women, children, people with blue hair, etc.
3. Respect your superiors. That means God, your parents and in most cases, your pastors. Pastors don't always deserve respect so you have to keep an eye on them. Are all parents good parents? No, sadly, it's clear that in the modern world, at least a quarter of parents are pretty lousy at it. Respecting them does not mean accepting their abuse and neglect. When we have parents like that, we must turn to God to be our parent until we can get away from the abuse, and if it's at the level of being illegal, turn to the police.
4. Take care of those in need. Take in the traveler with no place to go. Take care of the poor, downtrodden, weak, sick, crippled, needy, etc., INCLUDING THE SINNERS. The money lenders, tax collectors, prostitutes...all those people we revile, Christ reached out to. He didn't try to pass laws against them, beat them up or kill them.
5. Do not steal. I see this as the over-all commandment. Nearly every other commandment can be re-written as a statement about theft. For example: Do not steal the respect due to God, the Sabbath or your parents. Do not steal another's life, wife or things. Do you see what I mean?

This is important. Extremists Christianity and even many mainstream varieties of Christianity have gotten off-track and fallen away from the path of Christ. Are we Paulians or Christians?

Me, I'm a Christian. I try every day, in every way, to do what Jesus would have done. In many cases, that is not what Paul would have done. Who was a sinner like us and who was the Messiah? Please, read the Gospels. Jesus died for us and is our salvation, not Paul.

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