Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
What terrifies people most about Christianity? Pope Francis is just winding up his tour of the US and from a Quaker standpoint, his call to US Congress to withdraw from the Arms Bazaar (its main activity) and to focus on helping the people (what a concept!) seems entirely benign. My mom is clucking happily about it, and she's a world famous nuclear abolitionist. So what's the problem?
Catholicism is still smarting from the Galileo episode when the church was caught squarely on the wrong side of history. Christianity became too easy to demonize as anti-science, and what's worse, scientists began withholding discoveries (Descartes) or sharing them with others first! The Vatican could see itself paying a palpable price, and a big one, for its attack on Galileo and his astronomical views. They were losing the Cold War of their day.
Fast forward and the Vatican has built a state of the art observatory in Arizona (VATT) and its staff astronomers are second to none in participating in contemporary scientific conversations. The Vatican had as much input into the decision to demote Pluto from full planethood (or did they bring it back, I heard a rumor?) as anyone. Nor does the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit, make it hard to talk about evolutionary theories of the human being. Science and the Vatican seem more at peace with each other than ever.
Ah, but what about the Protestants, or lets call them the Sunnis of our Western Civ (Catholics being Shia). Or shall we go with Tutsi and Hutu?
Protestants are more like ISIS in wanting a Christian State in the Americas, and what they embrace, in their sectarian core, is their Book of Revelation, a map of the End Times, expected any day now.
Yes, that's what's most terrifying about Christianity: the mostly US-based End Timers who want to see God's Will for our planet in their own lifetimes. For this reason they need those nuke weapons to remain at the ready, as (clearly!) they're to play a role. Protestant End Timers are pro nuke because they expect God to push the button (through His instruments, his servants on Earth).
You'll notice how Liberal Quakers, even those who allow lots of space for the Bible (including Multnomah, with Bible Study every Monday morning, well attended, well led) still manage to avoid the topic of End Times and the Book of Revelation.
If you're shopping around for an End Times church, one that will give you a map to the End of the World, you'll find Quakers of all stripes mostly don't fit that bill. The hallmark of an End Times church is its people are on the lookout for an Anti-Christ. Just talking about Christ is not enough. You'll know you're getting warmer, closer to the radioactive core of Apocalyptic Christianity (the terrifying kind), when you start hearing about the Anti-Christ (and some horsemen).
Like the Catholics, I expect Protestants of this ilk, who alienate their religious peers willy-nilly, by saying we all (or most of us) deserve to die in a fiery all-consuming war -- because we're sinners and God wills it -- will pay a price. I'll be watching the upcoming Parliament of World Religions in Utah to see if there's any religious leader brave enough to take on the whole topic of Religious Terrorism, including of the Christian variety.
However, I'm not going to take the view of Official Washington and say it's OK to bomb religious terrorists, as that tends to be self defeating. On the contrary, I believe in religious tolerance and think small communities should be allowed to experiment with alternative laws and customs within their own sphere -- but we need to discuss limits. I was aghast when Texas took it upon itself to invade that Mormon compound and steal away all the children, what a travesty! So what if this sect practices polyamory in some form -- that's their religious freedom!
As one of the logistics supervisors (an overseer) for the Occupy Portland operation, I was never under the illusion that we could stay put for long. This was not Rajneesh Puram and we were not seeking permission to cremate our dead. The hallmark of a permanent community is it includes taking care of dead bodies. This is not anything terrifying and all religions deal with that aspect of mortal life. Occupy was a social movement, not a religion, but we wanted an opportunity to experiment with building community nevertheless. That's a strong hunger that humans have and we deny it at our peril.
Those practicing End Timer religions should be free to manage clinics, nursing homes, and mortuaries, not just schools. Bombing ISIS, rather than treating it more like a branch of Protestant, is Official Washington's big mistake. I'm hopeful the Eastern Orthodox, more cozy with the Russians, will prove an offsetting force that gives Official Washington an opportunity to rethink its dangerous policies. Don't bomb religious fanatics but don't arm them either. Listen to Pope Francis. Find another way to make money.
Kirby: It's the Book of Revelation, not "Revelations". This essay is packed full of sweeping generalizations and nonsense. Which side of the bed did you get out of this morning???
I want to see God's will for this planet in my lifetime. "Peace on Earth, goodwill to humans," the whole bit!
Also, your Prots would be the Shiites, not the Sunnis. More the underdog versions of these religion (though scary once in power.)
Here's where that pooped-out online scripture study did take up That Awful Book. It may, in fact mean various things:
Thanks William, I fixed it. Obviously I'm not that familiar with said title. Maybe it was the full moon last night?
Growing up, with the Coca-Cola view of Christmas (Coke invented "Secular Santa" as we know him, the fat chimney guy -- an oxymoron right there), then moving to Rome, I absorbed the view that Christianity is all about "Peace on Earth, goodwill to humans" and all that.
It wasn't until later, as I broadened my horizons, that I began to discover the uglier truth. But I've adapted.
Yes, these were sweeping generalizations (given ISIS is more Sunni, and I'm not afraid of Iran, I prefer to paint End Timer Protestants as akin to Muslim extremists). Think of this essay as more like a political cartoon, like this one, drawn years ago:
"Christianity" is what? People will and do have various ways of applying what they imagine Christianity to be; and many of those are ugly.
People have peculiar and sometimes destructive misinterpretations of a great many things -- but how can anyone get from "People have dumb ideas about X" to "The truth about 'X' is that it's bad, wrong, and ucky!!!"
As an idea about 'X', the reasoning behind that is so incredibly dumb that any person falling into it should probably shut up altogether about 'X' until learning what it really means.
Twaz my distinct privilege to attend the Parliament of World Religions (mentioned above in my blog post) in Cape Town (RSA) in 1999. The Dalai Lama told us to "be skeptical" and I advised the then Deputy Minister of Defense (a Quaker) that our testimony might involve introducing him by his personal name (Tenzin Gyatso) not just by his highfalutin titles (and that she did :-D). This was at a separate event, when he addressed a smaller number in an RSA parliament building. He sounded upbeat on humanity's prospects.
I do believe the highly performant in the different religions are able to get along, famously. It's mainly those who wallow in ignorance who persist in demonizing those of other faiths (including the various Atheisms and Humanisms).
The Americas welcome Islam with open arms and never will the USA be a "Christian nation" as long as it has any integrity whatsoever, praise Allah.
All religions are free to set up shop here.
The challenge is to keep them from treading on one another's rights. The right to "not be offended" is not among those rights. That's a petty bourgeois thing. Of course you'll be offended. Get over it.
Your mental fly was unzipped; and because I would rather know than not, when it's me, I have a bad habit of telling people such things.
When there are many interpretations of a teaching, would you prefer to know about those that make the least sense and most lend themselves to misuse? -- Or the ways that make the most sense and might be helpful, should you care to learn from them? It's easier, of course, to assume that other people are stupid and to keep on enjoying that habitual buzz of superiority -- but it's not good practice, in any religion.
Not just stupid, dangerous and hostile.
I'm not interested in just focusing on the happy / uplifting aspects of a religion if that's what you mean. I have my closet full of Islamic bugaboos as well. Humans are not a pretty animal (misanthropy comes easy, I agree with the "Fallen" diagnosis as in "one of God's mistakes" but then that's traditional Gnosticism, nothing new with me).
Anyway, I'm not for ignoring the dark side, if that's what you're asking (hard to know when you're just sounding childish -- maybe your style is to ignore what's ugly, three wise monkeys and all that).
Forrest Curo wrote: "When there are many interpretations of a teaching, would you prefer to know about those that make the least sense and most lend themselves to misuse? -- Or the ways that make the most sense and might be helpful, should you care to learn from them? It's easier, of course, to assume that other people are stupid and to keep on enjoying that habitual buzz of superiority -- but it's not good practice, in any religion."
Forrest, this comment speaks for me better than I could do myself! This is solid advice to which Kirby Urner ought to pay attention, but will he??
I do believe in the FBI keeping tabs on dangerous cults and subcultures, some of them "Christian" [tm] though in ways I'm sure the historical Jesus would neither recognize nor embrace.
"In God We Trust, but with Christians one must Verify" would be my idea of an apt national slogan I could get behind (the word 'God' of course remains open to interpretation, Praise Bob).
The rest of the world will breathe easier if persuaded the USG is most definitely *not* under Christian control (a great promise by a once great nation that may one day be great again, no thanks to End Timers). We shall see.
Kirby,what Christianity is about, to me, can be summed up in the title of William Penn's excellent book - "No Cross, No Crown." What Quakerism is about, in my opinion, is combining "No Cross, No Crown" and "There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition." The American church has largely abandoned the cross, but all that means is that we have adopted a counterfeit Christianity in place of the real thing. That doesn't change the Gospel or what it means to be a "little Christ" or Christian.
Based on the themes of your post, you may want to check out "The Power of Nightmares," which makes a compelling case that Islamic fundamentalism-fueled terrorism and neoconservatism are two sides of the same fear-based coin. It's a few years old now, but still packs a wollop.
Also, if you have never read Revelation, I highly recommend it. It was TREMENDOUSLY influential for early Friends (who were definitely Christians of the End-Times variety) and has a lot to say if read with an open spirit. Interpreting prophecy is always tricky, but the parallels between Babylon (and the Whore and the Beast) and our modern consumerist culture don't require a whole lot of guesswork. I don't know if you are familiar with Shane Claiborne, a progressive evangelical, but his book "Jesus for President" has a lot to say on this topic, and I found it very enlightening. Don't let the title put you off - it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, a description of why Jesus would never be a pro-war, anti-poor "patriot" of the type that often claim to follow him. It also has beautiful collage-style artwork, if that matters.