If Christians are people who try to apply the teachings of Jesus to life, and the word has no meaning if this isn’t the case, they are one of the smallest religious groups in the world. Jesus somewhat cryptically said many are called but few are chosen. I’ve never quite understood what that means but it’s certain, very, very few choose to follow his radical version of the Jewish justice tradition despite their proclaim of his divinity, his status as the one savior of the world whose words are the commandments of God. Attempts, such as St. Francis’, to literally follow these teachings, are inevitably deemed to be too impractical before they are actively and, often, violently suppressed.
While there are a number of points that could be discussed, about the only instance in the gospels of Jesus consigning an individual to hell is the rich man at whose door the destitute Lazarus died in abject misery. Nothing which is commonly identified today as a sin or fault in the rich man is mentioned in the parable. Jesus only felt it necessary to say that he was rich, well clothed, well fed and well housed while a poor person lingered on his doorstep. Yet he is about the only individual Jesus condemned to unquenchable fire, refusing even the request that he be allowed to warn his brothers that the same was waiting for them. This is shocking when you consider the role of “christianity” as one long condemnation of the majority of humanity to hell for things never mentioned by Jesus. Why is this one sin, wallowing in luxury in the midst of poverty, not the cause of active concern among the bible toting, bible thumping and, especially these days, gay hating “christians”? Don’t they care to save the souls of these sinners?
In today’s “christianity” wealth is taken as proof of God’s favor. Those who have enjoyed the greatest success while posing as ministers of Jesus’ message have most typically laid aside his explicit instructions to preachers of his message. They are to not take money with them, to have the most minimal of clothing and to depend on the charity of those they are preaching to for food. They are to eat what is set before them, heal those who need healing and to go on their way. If someone rejects them they are merely to leave. And they are, apparently to go on foot, not in a Mercedes or Jet bought for their use by “the faithful”. Obviously Prada and designer clothes aren’t to be worn. The most basic and clear instructions about their chosen career from the Son of God are found to be inconvenient and are given the status of minor rules to be disregarded.
In the most successful changing of the subject in history, they replace the clearest messages in Jesus’ teachings, justice, remembering the poor, treating them as you would treat yourself, with tabloid style obsession with other peoples’ sex lives. Not that it keeps many of them from enjoying quite exotic sex, themselves. Jesus was almost silent on the subject of sex except to point out to the bible thumpers of his day that prostitutes and tax collectors* would enter into the Kingdom of God before they would. In his most well known treatment of the subject, he pardoned a woman caught in the act of adultery and refused to judge or participate in the prescribed penalty for adultery. Another teaching that doesn’t seem to have taken hold.
Those most constant servants of imperial power, the media, in the past forty years have defined “religion” as being the fundamentalists because of their political utility to the imperial order which the media serves. These religious hypocrites have covered up the justice teachings of Jesus by appealing to the worst in human character, racial, ethnic, gender and religious hatred and subjugation, selfishness and stinginess, cowardly hatred of the poor and powerless. And there is a reaction to this disgusting spectacle.
For the most part liberal religion of all kinds is ignored and so not discussed and so doesn’t exist. Those who the corporate media wish to kill, they ignore.
It’s striking how many active in the current anti-religious agitation are the product of fundamentalist “christianity” and, to a lesser extent, it’s lesser known cousin, integralist Catholicism. They identify “xians” as the target of their anger but their particular indictments are aimed at fundamentalists who have entirely rejected the core teachings of Jesus. Those who bring the person of Jesus into disrepute are those who invoke his name as an excuse for practicing evil. There are none better at generating hostility to Jesus than conservative “christians”, those who are pretended to be the most fervent in their belief but whose every action belies that they don’t really believe in Jesus at all. The most potent weapons of anti-Christian propaganda are the hypocrisies of those who proclaim Jesus loudest while refusing to follow him.
So, what am I proposing? One of the greatest needs in the Christian world today is for those who really, truly, believe in the teachings of Jesus to do as he instructed, to act them out and to proclaim them. And they have to point out the hypocrisy of those who pretend to Christianity while practicing a modern version of Roman imperialism here in the United States. I challenge those who really believe in Jesus to insist on justice, equality, the common distribution of the things people need in order to live. And justice is first and last a matter of economic justice for everyone including the alien and even your enemy. Christianity may require many beliefs in things unseen and taken on faith but one thing is as clear as can be, Christianity cannot exist in someone who doesn’t act as if they believed its central message, economic justice for real people in the physical world. That justice isn’t an extra to be forgotten while setting up a manger scene on public property in an effort to rub the noses of unbelievers in the political power of “christianty”. Where there is no justice there is no Christianity. In the United States during this period of conservative ascendence, it has become almost extinct.
* Yes, tax collectors, a group even more reviled than prostitutes, for whom many of the most vocal “christians” have a most definite use. The “christians” don’t seem to believe Jesus on that point either.
Note: Today’s column by Rich Barlow is as good a Christmas piece as I’ve yet read this week.