Sunday, January 16, 2005

On a Horse Called Faith

This story about a philosopher/Christian, 'Doc' Mishler, on a pilgrimage across America engaging Christians in dialog about the teachings of Jesus is inspiring. He challenges those he encounters with the words of Jesus found in Matthew--the Sermon on the Mount; admonitions to feed the hungry, to turn the other cheek, to resist not evil with evil, to give to the needy, to clothe the naked etc. He summarizes their responses in this article and critiques their rationalizations--with respect though with bluntness.

How is it that so many who call themselves Christians can shrug off most of the actual teachings of the one they call 'Master' as though they were irrelevant? It is this very attitude that makes me cringe to hear the word 'Christian' today as it has become toxic with the accretions of patriotism, just war rationales, bigotry, hatemongering, holy war, prisoner abuse, commercialism, self-righteousness, 'compassionate conservatism' which in essence bleeds the needy to feed the greedy, and so much more that is antithetical to all that Jesus stood for in word and deed. I am struggling with anger at my nation's Christian community over these and related issues.

As I have mentioned here before, I came out of the fundamentalist sect into which I was born after 35 years and spent the next decade learning to think for myself and had just about found a certain peace with acknowledging my Christianity again when 9/11 happened followed by Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and accompanied by calls to silence dissent. This last especially disturbing for me, for after what I went through, I value my freedom of conscience more than my life.

Stories like Doc Mishler's are inspiring. I wish I had the courage he has. I hope he is able to get a genuine dialog on this issue going all over America. I believe the glaring lack of a concerted and passionate repudiation of the Abu Ghraib abuse by our nation's Christian communities is one of the most shaming episodes ever for the National and Global Body of Christ. According to Jesus' own words in Matthew 25 the treatment of the prisoners there and elsewhere amount to no less than abusing Jesus himself. There is no ifs, no ands, no buts. There is no justification from within a philosophy that can call itself Christian unless Christian has lost all connection to Jesus.

My heart is breaking not just for the hungry and ailing babies, lacking food and medical care or even love, (whether in war zones, quake zones or greed zones) but for every other suffering soul on this planet. Even for those who have perpetrated evil deeds, for I have come to understand that such deeds are always born of pain. And when such pain is allowed to fester by all those who witness it-- victim, perpetrator or bystander--the culpability for the consequences must be shared by all. This is the meaning of the Body of Christ. And it is the meaning of Community. Thus any social justice system that does not take this into account cannot safeguard either community or justice.

This is my current understanding of the Gospel after many years of reading in Psychology, Comparative Religion, History and the History of Christianity coupled with observing human nature with the trained eye of a writer. Coming to understand it this way made it possible for me to re-embrace my own Christianity. But I have found few who understand, let alone agree, and none face-to-face.

0 tell me a story:

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