New Civilization News: Religion and Politics: An incendiary combination    
 Religion and Politics: An incendiary combination0 comments
picture2 Mar 2003 @ 16:40, by Quidnovi

"The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity."
---G. W. Bush (State of the Union Address, 2003)

Well, so much for G. W. Bush's electoral promise to conduct our foreign policy with humility.

As a dear friend of mine recently put it:

"Being filled with the spirit of Christ is something amazing, It is the best pair of glasses a man can have."

But then, again, if such glasses of which he speaks lead to such clarity, why is it that Christians argue with other Christians and sometimes slaughter each other and their fellow human beings over such arguments? Fanaticism (and sadly Christianity had its share of it) has lead throughout history to some of the most brutal, heartless, and senseless madness known to man. The historical examples are not difficult to recall: the Crusades; the Inquisitions; the Witch-burnings; the St. Barthelemy; and many more.

In more recent times, America has seen a growing number of Fundamentalist Christians becoming more and more prominent. I am concerned over the quality of the glasses they are wearing. I do not trust their narrow brand of Christianity. I do not care for the kind of prejudices they have been encouraging nor for their neglect of some very important social issues that are at the heart of Christianity.

I think it can be said, in general, that both Christians and most humanists alike show a great deal of respect for the teachings of Jesus as exemplified by his sermon on the Mount. The Fundamentalists do not own Christianity. Christianity is larger and more generous than that and ALL EMBRACING!

Let me see. Didn't Jesus chose a tax collector as one of his apostles? Didn't he used a Samaritan to teach a lesson on brotherhood? Many of his disciples were women (he spent time eating with them and teaching them, which was unheard of at that time---it was thought that women wouldn’t understand what the men were talking about anyway.) Neither one of these actions could have pleased the Pharisees, the orthodox of his era.(1) The fundamentalists of those days were HIGHLY PREJUDICED---the result of many centuries of development, some of which were based upon being the "chosen people of God".

The funny thing is that when one think of the teaching of Christ, strangely enough, one of the figures that comes the most readily to mind, is Gandhi. Now, Gandhi was not a Christian, so why is it that I feel that his message (and his way of life) was in many ways closer to the spirit (and heart) of Christ than what the Fundamentalist Christians have been preaching here at home?

According to a recent Time/CNN poll, 59% of Americans believe that the events in Revelation are about to come true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the September attacks (Time, 6-23-02). Hence the phenomenal success of the Left Behind series (50m copies sold): 10 volumes, part futuristic novels and part practical guide for the end of time, which promise to unlock the mysteries of the Apocalypse.

It is a disturbing thing to me that many in fundamentalist circles look at the events in the middle-east with a sense of exhilaration.

On September 28, 2000, Sharron's provocative visit to Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif to Muslims) started a cycle of violence that shows no signs of abating. According to the scriptures, it is on that sacred spot that the Third Temple will be erected, as a prelude to horrific eschatological wars. From that perspective, a peaceful solution---or a territorial compromise---would jeopardize or delay the realization of Biblical prophecies. In the words of Reverend Hutchins: "There will be no peace until the Messiah comes."(Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2002: "Which God is on whose side?")

And those are the same people who denounce the dangers of a fundamentalist derive of Islam in the Middle-East?! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

This is the danger. This is what happens when politic and religion mix. Something we already have had a taste of in the past when not so long ago, during the Reagan era, for example, Interior Secretary James Watt (a Pentecostalist) did not worry much about polluting the planet because he "didn't know how many future generations we can count on until the Lord returns." (!!!)

Awaiting the Second Coming? Is that what Christian Ethic has come to in America? Is that all Christians care to retain from the Bible?

Whatever happened to:

Learn to do right!
Seek justice,
Encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless.
---Isaiah 1:17

If I have denied the desires of the poor
If I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless-
If I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or a needy man without a garment,
and his heart did not bless me
for warming him with the fleece from my sheep,
If I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
---Job 31:16-28

We are in 2003 and I look at the state of the world we live in. No one is innocent.

But, as Tom Robert from the Catholic Reporter (10/11/02) put it:

"in recent decades the right-wing element, based on a fundamentalist view of the world, has asserted itself like never before. In the hands of right-wing religious leaders such as Pat Robertson or the Rev. Jerry Falwell and others, our sacred texts become blueprints for an equally right-wing American political agenda. And the Book of Revelation becomes a literal point-by-point guidebook on the countdown to Armageddon, with Jerusalem smack in the epicenter.

It may seem appalling to some that such extreme views would hold any sway in serious political circles, but more recently the convergence of the Christian Fundamentalist and Jewish Extremists has made for a powerful, if bizarre alliance. It is unlikely that very many in any administration in Washington sit around sifting through Robertson's or Falwell's takes on Armageddon. But it is unmistakable that political leadership feels both Christian and Jewish extremists fervor in the form of political force and pressure. What is more distressing is that political leadership too often caves in to such pressure.

Reading the Bible as a set of predictions about the future sends chills through many mainstream theologians. "No reputable mainline Catholic theologian and certainly no reputable Protestant theologian would look at the Bible this way," said Jesuit Fr. John R. Sachs, who teaches at Weston Jesuit School of Theology near Boston. Americans' growing interest in the apocalypse forms part of a worldwide phenomenon, said Sachs, with conservative, literalistic, fundamentalistic movements in religion taking place in vast areas of the world today.

Unlike G. W. Bush I cannot claim to speak for God (I suppose I do not have the kind of "humility" and "compassionate conservatism" it takes) but it does seem to me that the Christian theology and its sacred literature have fallen into strange hands and is at the service of strange gods indeed.


========== Footnotes ================

(1) Some of the most stinging rebukes Jesus issued were directed toward the Pharisees. Probably the strongest diatribe is recorded in Matthew 23. At least seven times in that chapter, Jesus pronounced the following condemnation: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He condemned and illustrated their rapaciousness, their selfishness, their inward spiritual emptiness, and their emphasis on “scruple” while neglecting the “weightier” matters of justice, mercy, and faith.
For a representative treatment of the Pharisees, see The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Emil Schurer. T and T Clark, Edinburgh, 1979, Vol. II, pp. 381-403. For an older but sympathetic and thorough treatment, see The Pharisees, R. Travers Herford. Macmillan Company, New York, 1924.

Art Credit: The trio of images in the center of this post is from the QATSY TRILOGY by Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass.
KOYAANISQATSI (from the Hopi Indian, "Life out of balance") was the first installment of the QATSI Trilogy.
The second installment was POWAQQATSI (from the word "Powaqa", I, a negative sorcerer who lives at the expense of others, and "Qatsi": life)
NAQOYQATSI, completes the trilogy.
Na-qoy-qatsi: (nah koy’ kahtsee) N. From the Hopi Language.
1. A life of killing each other.
2. War as a way of life.
3. (Interpreted) Civilized violence.
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