I’ve been inside of a few churches, even attending a couple of latin masses, but I am not a Christian. I was raised, nominally, as a Jew, but never developed a strong religious affiliation.
I don’t know what I am now, not exactly. The particular label is unimportant to me, though I know it is very important to many of you. I am writing to you with a question, and I wish to first clarify my beliefs.
I am comfortable with the term ‘God’ because it expresses a sense of the unity of all things, which seems quite obvious to me. Whether God is an active, continually creative force, whether God controls everything –– or anything –– is an interesting question and kind of fun as an argument, but that’s not my question.
The most impressive thing for me about Christianity has always been... Jesus Christ.
I tried to read the Bible, once, but didn’t get very far. As a prospective agent once remarked about the first draft of my brilliant-but-still-unpublished novel, it was much too long and it didn’t grab me.
So I don’t know much about the Christian, or any other, Bible. I’ve seen the select quotations, naturally, often used to prove some point or other about something or other, but you can also find in there –– I am not making this up –– the straight-faced acceptance, if not endorsement, of selling your children into slavery or stoning your neighbor to death for unlicensed barbecue.
I am also onto the fact that ‘religion’ has been and is still being used by demagogues and crackpots everywhere to ‘justify’ barbaric and inhuman acts, so I am wary of the uses to which faith can be put.
But for me there has always been the Jesus thing.
Whatever your personal view, from the literal Son of God to a fellow with interesting ideas about brotherhood, there is pretty widespread agreement that Jesus had some things to tell us.
And that’s my question.
If your Messiah demands that we treat ‘the least’ among us with charity and good will, how come so many of His followers profess unconcern for the poor and the needy? How can anyone who sees His words as profound or prophetic express hatred for those who are different, those who struggle?
Jesus said ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, and we do not make peace.
This is all familiar, I know. Blah, blah, the dichotomy, who would Jesus bomb. I know.
But it’s a real question. I really want to understand this. You wouldn’t hear Jesus justifying bombing raids. He would not likely criticize the poor as ‘lazy’ or for being ‘welfare chiselers’. His speeches called on listeners to be better people, not to harm others. Yet that’s precisely where we’re at these days, in America, with self-identified Christians speaking of ‘enemies’ and ‘illegals’ and summoning images of cross hairs on human targets.
Do you think Jesus would support torturing people because “it’s a post-9/11 world”?
In one sense, we don’t know the story of the Tucson shooter. That is, we don’t know if he was prompted by voices in his head, the wrong medication, hypnosis (self- or induced), or pure, twisted meanness of spirit. In another sense, though, we knew before he did it.
We are living in a place and in an age where there is enormous, largely-unfocused anger, and this rage is being exploited for political gain by people who have no time for Jesus and no reluctance to recite His name.
It’s not that Jesus never got pissed-off. The ‘money-changers’, the credit companies and bankers of the day, He wanted to chase those people out of the temple. He did not ever, in word or deed, straight or bent, propose or hint at assassination.
One cannot kill in the name of Christ any more than one can hate in His name. Are we so dense that we don’t know that?