January 11, 2007

An Upside Down World

Today, there is a group of people living in America who come from diverse backgrounds but who share a spectrum of subversive characteristics. These people tend to be vehement supporters of fundamentalist religious views. They believe in violence as a solution to their perceived problems, so they support the use of armed force to achieve their aims. This group believes that the poor should be taken off any social benefits and made to fend for themselves. Many of them would like to enforce the death penalty for a wide variety of crimes. These people would like to grab the reins of power in order to implement their extremist views. Generally speaking, they are strong supporters of the right to bear arms, and various other 'survivalist' ideas.

So, who is this seditious sounding group that has infiltrated the heartland of America? Is it the rising Muslim population? If you haven't guessed, it's none other than the so-called Christians! And when I speak of Christians, I refer to the vocal element of church-goers who are led by men with political aspirations or who support candidates embracing their ideologies. Yes, isn't that interesting-- the Christians of contemporary America have, incredibly, managed to stand the primary principles of Jesus Christ on their head. For those who can't believe it, let's take a closer look at the situation.

At this writing, the USA, the mightiest nation on earth, also regards itself as the stronghold of Christianity, being the bastion of every hue of that faith. In fact, the ranks of Americans who profess affiliation with a Christian organization is very high, around 75%. Some Christians have professed that if there were enough believers in society they'd be able to usher in the Kingdom of God on Earth. You'd think three out of four ought to be enough, wouldn't you? You'd think with all these church-going Christians in the population that the USA would be a pacific, generous, altruistic force in the world, bringing peace and prosperity, along with the gospel, everywhere on earth. But-- is that what we see?

Isn't the one, unique, distinctive feature of the Christ-centered faith embodied in the word 'grace?' The concept of grace surely embraces the notion of forgiveness; forgiving as opposed to retaliation. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, gave G.W. Bush a singular opportunity to show the world how a Christian president, of a 'Christian nation' responds to a foreign attack. After all, George Jr. claims to be a Christian, even 'born again,' to use the tired phrase. Did Bush announce a response of reconciliation, of grace, of Christ? Hardly! The president's response was predictable, vengeance-based, militant, and certainly not Christian in any way, despite his calculated invocation of the name of God in support of his cause. Regardless, the reaction from 'Christian' churches in America was largely to swear allegiance to the president, to wave the flag of patriotism and equate it with the banner of Christ.

What about the use of force to achieve noble ends-- isn't that justified, even for Christians? When the mob came to arrest Jesus, one of his disciples pulled out a sword and struck the high priest's servant. This was an unruly gang coming to drag away the founder of Christianity by force. Wasn't it reasonable to resist with force? Jesus told the disciple to put away the sword, for those who live by violence will perish by it. Another time, Jesus told his followers to 'turn the other cheek' if they were struck unjustly. Does that sound as if Jesus was quite okay with the use of violence? Does that Biblical fact have any influence on the Christians of the USA? Apparently not. In the wake of revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib, and of 'extraordinary rendition' of prisoners to countries known to use torture, where were the spokespersons for the American Christian church? Silent as church-mice, they were. That is more than shameful, 500 years after the infamous inquisitions! The 'moral majority' as they modestly call themselves, should be outraged by the abuse of human rights taking place at 'git-mo' and in Iraq-- 'should', but no; instead they applaud the tough line taken by their lawless leaders. Christ help us.

Consider also the way we deal with the 'underclass' of modern society, such as the unemployed, unmarried mothers, homosexuals, AIDS carriers, and so forth. These are precisely the kinds of people Jesus hung out with in his day... and he was roundly condemned by the good, establishment, synagogue caste as being an obvious sinner by association. So today; who are the people giving help and hope to those underdogs among us? Is it the Christians? Sure, a few churches are involved in charitable works; it's good PR. But as a voting block, individual church members tend to be very reactionary in their attitudes towards the 'scum of the earth.' Those who are ministering to these despised 'losers' are, quite often, people of liberal, tolerant, socially progressive views, often agnostic or even of 'New Age' beliefs; certainly not what today's Christians want to identify with. The social gospel is swept aside by a wave of Christian indignation over what? The horror of 'gay marriage?'

While the practice of homosexuality is certainly condemned in scripture, nowhere does Jesus advise his followers to hate those caught up in specific sins. Plainly, the invective hurled forth by the moral majority Christians against gays and lesbians has really achieved nothing in terms of exalting the name of Christ... nor in containing the emergence of the 'gay community' as a force in contemporary society. Perhaps by displaying a more Christ-like attitude towards gays and lesbians, the Christian community might have had more influence in mitigating the stridency and demands of that group. Instead, by their irrational, fear-based reaction, they virtually ensured a stronger effort from the gay side to advance their agenda. One could go farther and ask whether, at the end of the day-- or of the World-- is it really a matter of rational religion to focus the Church's indignation against the pathetic sins of the weak flesh... while turning virtually a blind eye towards the rampant portrayal of gross violence that has taken such root in contemporary America as to be taken as a cultural granted?

The issue of abortion is the other, big case in point. Again, the response of the majority of Christians is to get militant in their opposition to abortion. There seems to be little offered in the way of dialog, of attempts to understand, of exploring better options to abortion, and so on. While the imperative to preserve life is, indeed, noble and worthy, again we have to wonder whether it is worthy enough to require a response based on use of force. When confronted with real-world situations that challenge the Christian ethic, the unfortunate reaction of too many contemporary church-goers is to use the same tactics as the secular world. They instantly forget all about the 'love your neighbor' ideal of Jesus, and fall into the pattern of worldly, force-based confrontation. Some in this camp are stridently anti-abortion... yet have been equally strident supporters of the US-led sanctions on Iraq that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of children in that country. Where's the moral logic?

The USA sings anthems to itself as the 'land of he free'... while it incarcerates more of its citizens than any other 'democracy' on earth. How does a Christian nation not only keep a high proportion of its people in prison, but pride itself for the fact? The ironic imprisonment of 'losers' seems to enjoy strong support among the bench-warmers in those buildings with the cross on top. I say it's due to that horribly warped perception of the faith, rooted stubbornly in the misunderstood Old Testament mentality of legalism... either follow the rules or you go to the American gulag.

In all the challenges outlined above, one has to wonder, 'Where are the Christian leaders and spokespersons, and what is their position on these issues?' The answer, over the last several decades, has been that they are in the forefront of leading their flocks in the charge against those designated dark forces of evil. But, aren't they supposed to know what the Bible and Jesus really teach about living in a sinful world, and dealing with those who have very different views and behaviors? Of course; but apparently they either don't know scriptural teachings... or they do, and prefer to ignore them.

So; I think the point is clear-- we are living in a truly 'Post-Christian' world; one where Christians are no longer in touch with the reality of their faith. It is even an upside-down world, where it's become almost impossible to distinguish the 'bad guys' from the 'good guys' because they seem to have changed places! This is a very serious state of affairs for the Christians of the world-- one that ought to provoke some anguished and sincere soul-searching at both the individual and collective level. Is there any indication that leaders in the organized churches are taking any action to address this dangerous inversion? Hardly! One should, rather, ask if there's any indication that leaders are even aware of the perversion of the Christian faith.

Indeed, the opposite seems to be the case. Prominent Church figures, far from recognizing the absurdity of modern Christianity, are in the vanguard of reinforcing the unholy inversion. Preaching from their TV pulpits, their mass-rally stages, their innumerable books, tracts, and now, websites, the thought-molders of the Christian faith aggravate the situation, using the specified 'abominations' as convenient pretexts for appeals for funds to fight the battle against their favorite pariahs. How do they get away with these un-Christ-like behaviors, year after year, despite occasionally exposed scandals? These men are cynical opportunists, using the weapons of fear and ignorance with skill in deceiving the masses of church members. And after years of mind-conditioning, too many lethargic believers are vulnerable to the Bible-babble and theatrical antics employed in the unholy cause.

Certainly, there are many sincere pastors in the churches. But they have come up through a system that has become distorted with the compromised views of modern scholasticism, and more ominously, conditioned by Christian celebrities who are media manipulators. For example, the popular, Evangelical belief in 'the Rapture' of Christians from the face of the earth prior to a final cataclysmic war is presented with utmost conviction and theatrics... yet it rests on erroneous, if not outright fraudulent Bible interpretation. But the idea, as weird as it is, has been marvellously effective in selling books and videos pumped out by the eager ministries promoting this nonsense. That is perhaps the most egregious example of how modern, American-style Christianity has become the haven of money-loving hucksters who know how to use the naivete of believers to accumulate great wealth... often tax-free, at that!

In ages past, it was the Catholic Church that was guilty of keeping its flocks of believers in ignorance of the Bible, and using that cultured innocence to the advantage of the hierarchy. Today, anyone has access to the scriptures and countless auxiliary publications, and there is no real excuse for the lack of knowledge so prevalent in the Christian churches. Yet, having gone through two major, 'Christian' church systems (denominations) in my spiritual journey, it's clear to me that the institutions have developed very carefully crafted and covert means of indoctrinating their adherents... without exactly appearing to do so. It's all part of what has evolved into the modern concept of the Christian Church, and it doesn't seem to matter what denomination one happens to select. By means of cradle-to-grave programs, using 'guided studies' and denominationally sanctioned literature, every church has found ways to keep the faithful informed of only the 'right' material, and understanding Biblical scripture in the required orthodox manner. I'm not saying that these techniques are invariably conspiratorial; however, they have become such an unquestioned, inherent part of modern 'Churchianity' that their employment and consequences escape our notice and suspicion.

The other essential ingredient in the corruption of Christianity is the use of fear in motivating and mobilizing the faithful. At one time the appeal to fear was quite explicit and characterized as 'fire and brimstone'. Today, we are more sophisticated, so the use of fear is usually more subtle. Yet, in fomenting indignation against homosexuals and the pro-abortion lobby, the opinion leaders most often appeal to fear. It's the fear that a gay teacher is going to teach your kids to follow his sinful lifestyle; fear that if abortion is approved then your disabled grandmother will be next; and so on. Now the pro-Zionist Evangelicals use the fear of terrorism as a key tactic in their biased support of Israeli state terrorism against Palestinians. Fear is probably the basest human emotion, arising in the most primal, limbic region of the mind. Once excited, history amply demonstrates that fear can lead to actions that are unimaginable under calm, objective circumstances. In the extreme, fear will justify any atrocity as acceptable for survival of the threatened. As experience in Rwanda in the early 1990s vividly demonstrated, professed Christianity is of no avail whatever in preventing mass mutilations and murders, once the spirit of fear and madness is unleashed in a society. Even some of the leaders in the atrocities were prominent figures in Christian churches.

That is Africa; the same can't happen here, we smugly assure ourselves. Yet, wait a moment. What about the so-called 'Patriot Act' (a.k.a. Homeland Security Act)? 'Well that's to fight terrorism,' is the ready reply. Really? What that legislation represents is a contract whereby the population agrees to give up many civil liberties in exchange for the vague promise of protection from terrorism. Using fear as the lever, the Bush administration is given power to exert autocratic authority over the populace. And who constitute a majority of his supporters in this exercise of worldly hegemony? Why, the Christians, the 'moral majority', of course! With their Freudian fixation on sexual sin, the Church-goers have been easily duped into throwing their votes behind the wolf in sheep's clothing.

In modern society, though, fear prefers to be disguised in subtler garb; better yet, to secret itself in an attractive Trojan Horse. In the modern Church, the vehicle is legalism. After all, who wants to stand up against 'high standards' in his church? Who would dare to appear to oppose the 'Laws of God?' But underneath the 'upholding of the law,' there is a spirit of fear. To begin with, the whole point of laws is that one is supposed to be afraid of breaking them... either because of immediate reprisal from the law-giver (God, for Christians), or of ultimate, dire consequences (damnation). Today's Christians state that they keep the laws (generally, referring to the Ten Commandments) out of love for God, not fear. Yet they will use fear-based schemes, such as shame, guilt, etc. to keep the faithful in line. Ultimately and unavoidably, laws are rooted in fear; the link can't be circumvented. That's why Jesus came along with a 'better law' - the law of love. It is written that God is love, and John goes on to add that 'perfect love casts out all fear.' That is key! (Why the Christian Church continues to promote an ostensibly Christ-based message of salvation, yet packages it with an Old Testament, fear-based theology is subject for another essay!)

So you see-- that is the crux of how and why modern Christianity got so inverted. Whereas the early Church was freshly a love-based institution, after a few short centuries characterized by accommodation with the pagan world, it regressed to a fear-based organization, highjacked by opportunists who used it to gain wealth and power that persists to this day. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the modern Church has lost most of its moral authority in the world, and has had little choice but to revert to the strategy of attempting to gain political office (speaking of the USA, the self-acknowledged citadel of the Christian faith in a secular, unholy world). In so doing, the Christian Church bears an uncanny (and unflattering) resemblance to the harlot, apostate religion, riding the beast of government, depicted in the book of Revelation (ch. 17).

Given a pattern of characteristics, of behaviors, anyone with maturity and a degree of wisdom can predict with some accuracy the logical outcome. With the accumulation and convergence of the negative stories reported in the web alternative news, it is not hard to project that the USA, and the world, are destined for very difficult times; and in not a long time from now. Soon, the co-opted 'Christian' (apostate) church will be fully linked with a corrupt, despotic government, and there will be unparalleled havoc abroad in the earth. Those of us who can see it coming must trumpet the abhorrent message, wherever and whenever we can, and prepare souls, especially ours, for the time of trial about to come. One of the hardest audiences to reach will be the nominal Christians who have not investigated the soothing claims of their crafty leaders, and who think they are safe simply by virtue of membership. They will be unraveled in this upside-down world.

No comments:

Post a Comment