The other night, as I spoke at the ISD on domestic partner benefits, I was not surprised to hear boos and hisses when I mentioned that Jesus never said anything against homosexuality. I was on the clock, so I couldn’t use the moment to teach Bible 101, but I remembered how many Christians get their view of religion from a preacher, and how few get it from Jesus.
Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek, to share our world fairly with all, and to refuse to sit in judgment over others. How different Christian history would be had we been able to prevent ignorant bullies from taking over our faith. Our story would not be stained with the blood of innocents had not bullies like Constantine taken over and changed a call to love into an absurd faith claim that no one could test and which could only be defended by coercion. Constantine conquered Christianity not by the sharpness of his understanding, but by that of his sword.
What the Constantinians who call themselves “Christian” most have to fear is that, in the middle of the book they wave in the face of their enemies, is a sermon by one who called himself “a friend of sinners.” It is a little homily called the Sermon on the Mount by the one they say they follow, but who said he had come not to judge but to serve.
So, whenever you speak on human rights in the name of Jesus, do not be surprised to hear “boos” from Christians whose claim to special privilege feels to them like a holy calling. Remember that they are good people who have been besotted with fear. They have good minds, but because they believe in the cruel Christ of Contantine, they also fear the fires of hell and would sell out their grandmothers to avoid it.
Sometimes it is those who lift highest the Cross of Christ to which the humble words of Jesus sound most heretical. So when you are being biblically assaulted for promoting kindness, remember this little dictum:
“Never assume, just because someone is beating you with a Bible, that they have read it.”
While I agree with the core message, the tone is clearly sitting in judgement over others”. Passages like ” they believe in the cruel Christ of Contantine, they also fear the fires of hell and would sell out their grandmothers to avoid it” and “prevent ignorant bullies from taking over our faith” are insulting and not showing tolerance. Frankly, this comes across as hypocritical as a core theme is to not be judgmental but the tone is clearly judgmental. It is a good message but it falls flat when you are judgmental when stating others are judgmental.
I don’t consider standing up to bullying the same as judging. As long as people don’t don’t use religion to try to control others I don’t have a problem with them, and would defend them if someone tried to take away their rights as well. But “judging” in the biblical sense had an element of power and control to it that made it different than discernment.
Thank you for the reply. My issue is with the tone, not the core message. Additional illumination on this passage and it appropriateness would assist me in better understanding your point. i personally think the rhetoric is too harsh. I cannot believe you truly believe they would sell the soul of their grandmother. If you do not truly believe that, then the tone is too harsh. If you do, then although i agree with parts of what you have said, I cannot completely agree with you and cannot agree with that passage at all.
“They have good minds, but because they believe in the cruel Christ of Contantine, they also fear the fires of hell and would sell out their grandmothers to avoid it.”
I appreciate your caution. Thanks for the challenge. I’ll explain where I am coming from and can tell me what you think.
I’m not referring to specific people, but a specific theology. When someone is motivate by fear of eternal damnation, then “salvation” means escaping that terrible fate. The fact that one’s own grandmother might not make the cut, is enough to try to convert her, but few who believe in hell would refuse salvation to stay with her. That’s what I mean by selling out one’s own grandmother. To be willing to live in heaven while others one loved are tortured eternally below requires that we write them off.
I’m saying that whereas the energy behind Jesus’ teachings was love, the energy hell based Christendom is fear. I’m not attacking specific people, but I am attacking a specific theology. I’m saying that religion which begins in fear, ends in cruelty.
Again, thank you for being concerned about my consistency and kindness. Let me what you think.
“Selling out their grandmothers” is a pretty effective visual image to catch your attention, and while the initial reaction is to start denying that we would ever be guilty of doing such a thing, the truth is that our “grandmothers” are being sold out, as are our brothers and sisters all over the planet who may believe a different faith, come from a different family background, be of a different orientation, etc. We sell out our “grandmothers” every time we righteously step on their heads and proclaim our religion to be superior and the only way to heaven. Jim used strong language, but I feel it was effective to get people emotionally involved in thinking about how to apply Jesus’ teachings to our lives, experiences and relationships, versus just blindly accepting whatever you have been told (by someone who benefitted from promoting their narrow view.)
I appreciate that some think I went to far with that image. I just believe hell based religion tends to make us focus on saving our own soul rather than living in universal solidarity. Those who worship a torturer God are too afraid to trust reason or compassion beyond a certain point. If Plato and Gandhi are in hell and televangelist are in heaven, only fear of torture would make me choose heaven.
I very much see your point about a hell based religion and I never had considered the implications of that. However, words that harsh can go against the goal of universal solidarity as they can turn away those with whom you need to communicate with the most; the “booers” for instance. This is a public web site so if I found this, so could they. Your words, if read by them, would increase division, not lessen it. While I do not agree with the people who showed such disrespect, it is not hard from an outside perspective to see what anger your words would cause in them. In fact, that is what prompted my initial response. Universal Solidarity can only be accomplished when all involved accept the same message. That starts with listening to each others’ messages even if not agreeing with them. I think I am at the same place I started, that being my only issue is the tone. I have learned a good bit in the process, though. I am not sure if we will come to an agreement about tone but I am willing to hear more of what you have to say if you think I am missing something basic. It would not be the last time I would have. If not, I appreciate your time and consideration and have enjoyed the conversation.
As an aside, I looked at your blog and was not aware of “Citizens United” from “A president cannot afford to remain unbought”. So if a corporatism is a person, do they get to vote too? (sorry, bad joke) It is nice to see the message of presidents being bought and paid for getting out even more!
I understand and appreciate your concern. I agree that when one is simply having a discussion, one should be as gentle as possible. The context of my words, however, was an event where religious people had organized to deprive other people of insurance. In other words, it wasn’t simply a discussion, it was a power play. When well meaning people treat such attacks as a mere difference in opinion, they are leaving out a critical factor- the pain of the people being oppressed.
The purpose of my harsh tone was to make that cruelty more tangible to everyone in the room and to help my Christian brothers and sisters feel the violence they are doing against their neighbors.
If they read it, they will feel it, I just hope the correct message is received! I think your last words will help in that respect. Thank you for clarifying.