Even the most militant atheist must admit that the words of Jesus are good lessons by which to live. Who can argue with honesty, charity, and love for your brother? It’s a perfect plan for living, but so few are doing it.
When you hear the words that come out of their mouths, the only conclusion you can reach is that they’re illiterate, because obviously they’ve never read the Gospels of Jesus. It’s wisdom upon which to build a rock solid foundation for a moral life.
Today, churches are likely to be seething cauldrons of anger and hatred towards the least fortunate. It makes you wonder if Jesus isn’t coming back simply because he doesn’t want to associate with his followers. It’s no wonder that people are leaving the church in droves.
It begs the question, how can people take such a beautiful plan for living and turn it into something that’s despised by just about everyone else?
Honestly, anyone who’s been to a fundamentalist Christian church understands that they’re several genes short of a full DNA strand. It’s not a particularly bright nor literate population with which we’re dealing, so the expectation that they’ve read the Gospels for themselves is slim. That means they’re relying on preachers, many with questionable pasts and personal agendas, to receive the message.
Now that that rant is over…
Understanding his audience and realizing that for the most part his parables were falling on deaf ears, Jesus retooled his message and boiled it down to two simple commandments:
He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ~ Luke 10:29
Just in case they couldn’t remember the story of the good Samaritan or to hand over their cloaks, Jesus made it real simple. Love your neighbor as yourself. How could you possibly misinterpret this simple instruction?
I knew a big Rush Limbaugh fan, and I was over at his house on the day after Freddie Mercury, lead singer for the band Queen, died from AIDS. Every time Limbaugh came back from a break he played Queen’s song, “Another One Bites the Dust.” After the third time I mentioned that this was a particularly heartless and cruel attitude, and my friend just laughed.
He said that Freddie Mercury, and all gays, got what they deserved for being homosexual. He explained that it was important for Christians to let these people die rather than to help them, in order to save their immortal souls. Some radio preacher had convinced him that all homosexuals were going to hell, and the only way to love them was to treat them so brutally that they would repent their sins and find their way to the Lord.
This radio preacher had bestowed upon him the ability to determine who was bound for hell and who should be treated with Christian “tough love.” Over time the number of people who needed this new form of Christianity expanded to abortion doctors and women who had abortions, people on welfare, and any other group with which my friend disagreed. These preachers appealed to his dark side, and he willingly obliged.
This is fairly representative of the fundamentalist Christian movement today.
This happens when the Scriptures are taken out of context, however people that desire to hate will find a way to do it, Jesus or no Jesus. So the Jesus of the Bible, the one who urged people to live communally and to care for one another, lives no more in these churches. He’s been replaced by his evil twin, the one who was on the side of the money changers and the Roman emperors while his brother died on the cross.
It began right after Nicaea in 325 A.D., when men like St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas developed the Just War Doctrine. It wasn’t long before that led to the Christian Crusades against Islamic countries, and the Spanish Inquisition where Christians turned on their own kind.
Then along came men like Martin Luther and John Calvin and the doctrine of sola fide, or by faith alone are you saved. The atrocities of Protestants subsequent to this were no less than those prior bad acts by the Roman Catholic Church.
What would Jesus say about all this? That heretical radical who ordered his men to put down their swords as the Roman guards came to arrest him. What would he say about the millions of American soldiers who are dispatched to foreign lands to slaughter people still living in huts? And how would he feel about the churchmen who convince their parishioners that it’s God’s will?
Though I sometimes find militant atheists just as tedious as fundamentalist Christians, it’s hard not to cheer for them in the battles they wage against Christianity. Ultimately, however, what this will require of us is to cast off the artificial divides created to keep us from understanding our true nature. That so many can be controlled by so few is not their fault, rather it’s ours. We’ve allowed them to convince us of our individuation rather than our unification.
We allow unscrupulous men to distort and magnify the miniscule differences between us, and use them to frighten us that our very way of life is ending. We take arms and travel to the corners of the planet to stamp out the latest “threat,” all because we look for differences and not similarities.
People in Russia, Iran and the Sudan all want the same things as you and me, and that’s to find love, get married and raise children hopefully to have a better life than did they. They don’t sit around all day despising our freedoms, rather I imagine unless we’re in their country shooting and bombing them, they scarcely give us a second thought. That the self-proclaimed followers of Jesus cannot see this gives us an insight into the extent of the sickness in their souls, and we should minister them as would the Christ. Since they cannot figure out the true path for themselves, they must be shown.
It’s time for unification, to realize our differences pale compared to our similarities, and to accept every man and woman as our brothers and sisters. It’s time for a kumbayah moment. What’s ironic is it’s the followers of the Christ that need to be shown rather than being the ones demonstrating. I think Jesus would vomit in his mouth if he knew the condition of his church today.