Last week, Cornel West was posed with a question concerning the past of not only evangelical Cristianity, but of Christianity as a whole.  Basically, what was asked was how Christians are supposed to reconcile the evil done in Jesus’ and in God’s name.  Of course, evil performed in God’s name has always plagued people since the dawn of man and it will continue until the end of man.  But, within the growing numbers of progressive Christians (read: Christians actually following the nonviolent and nonjudgemental teachings of Jesus) the horrible aspects, of which there are indeed many, of Christian history are sometimes coveniently locked away.  Of course, Dr. West answered up to this by saying that if we are foolish enough to say we are religious in post-modern society, then we must own up to the transgressions of our religious past.  I agree with this, wholeheartedly, and believe that his words resonate far beyond the recent past.  Christianity, being the relative religious toddler that it is (with its siblings Judaism and Islam), has much to answer for in its 2 millenia or so of existence.  The history of the world can coincide with the history of God.  Even before the advent of organized religion, people worshiped what seemed to strike awe in them as we all still do today.  Organized religion, though, has been successful in melding the awe that God strikes in us all with the selfishness of our own humanity.  Only with infallible human minds and weak human hands could we ever even think we have the strength and the intellectual fortitude to wield God as a spear and to wear God as a suit of mail.

To this day, Jesus’ message is often clouded in hazy clouds of greed, power, and domination and the roots of this are plain: we are humans.  Humans have fully the power to wield the staves of peace or the swords of war.  Humans are responsible for the writings contained within the Bible as well, which, if you follow my logic, means that the Bible can be and is quite fallible.  I know that many Christians believe in the follied notion that the Bible is the infallible word of God, which, scientifically and historically speaking really isn’t.  But, I do believe that the Bible can be the word of God (note the missing word, infallibility) especially if you believe, as I do, that we humans and the world (i.e. the universe) with which we coexist are the entirety of God’s expression.  Understanding this, then whatever we do for ill or good is an expression of God.

Taking Jesus’ life into consideration brings a more human view of the the human itself.  Jesus’ presence during the early days of the Roman empire spoke antithetically to the greed and gluttony of imperialism.  In the eyes of the empire, Jesus was an activist for the rights of the poor (social justice), a prophetic figure that railed against the worship of riches and goods (idolatry), and a proponent of pacifism (anti-war), all of which are the evil step-children born of imperialistic myopia.  This begs the question, how can Christians who support President Bush even consider themselves as such when the accounts of Jesus’ life seem to counter the actions of America’s president?

I just read an excellent article concerning this entitled Pharisee Nation, written by Father John Dear.  The article caught my interest immediately with the following opening:

Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. “Now let me get this straight,” I said. “Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ which means he does not say, ‘Blessed are the warmakers,’ which means, the warmakers are not blessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq.”

With that, the place exploded, and 500 students stormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, “Bush! Bush! Bush!”

So much for my speech. Not to mention the Beatitudes.

This is a sickening example of idolatry over Christianity.  I could hardly believe that students of Christianity would with such fervor blatantly reject the basic teachings of Jesus in worship of a president that embodies none of what Jesus calls us to do as Christians.  More:

We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls “stiff-necked people.” And we do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God.

It may seem that I harp on this aspect of bastardized Christianity and I would agree that I do.  It needs to be done.  We have had these very un-Christian ideas hammered into our Christian heads for so long that those of us that thought we were Christians no longer decided to affiliate ourselves.  We, indeed, as John Shelby Spong puts it, have been in exile.  But, life works as a pendulum and the waves have made an about face with the tide.  Reason, humanism, spirituality, and Jesus can and do coexist peacefully and this is the message that needs a good heaping spoon of evangelism.