Magi Mike's Blog

Another WordPress blog about politics and religion

Get this you Christians: Fighting the Good Fight is not killing other People

with 4 comments


Is it any wonder that the Christian nations throughout history have been so monstrously callous, aggressive and warlike—even though Christ was, according to the gospels, not at all aggressive, rejecting swords, refusing to retaliate and rebuking a disciple who did—when the teaching of the man Christians believe to be God Himself are distorted into their opposite. S Paul is considered by most Christians to be the author of Ephesians, and we read at Ephesians 6:11 that we must “put on the whole armour of God”. Now, in defence of Paul, even a non-Christian can see that this is a metaphor not to be taken literally, but the trouble is that Christian priests and pastors are only too ready to let their flocks of Christian sheep believe otherwise.

Not all though. In a sermon, the Reverend Jane Florence, First United Methodist Church, Omaha is reported as having said:

I’ve cringed to see children’s Sunday school classes take this passage quite literally by having children cut out kid sized paper swords, shields, breastplates and boots of military apparel. They then decorate the cutouts with crayons and tape the pieces to their pint-sized bodies while singing songs about “marching in the infantry, riding in the cavalry, shooting the artillery” and shouting the chorus, “’cause I’m in the Lord’s army”.

Indeed the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers by S Baring Gould, remains popular still. How can a man who considered swords in a bad light possibly want his followers to imagine themselves as soldiers, to the extent that they dress up their children in Christian soldier suits? The Reverend Jane continues:

The nonviolent message that Jesus taught about resisting social and political oppression became the battle cry for just the opposite.

This Methodist minister is right to maintain that modern Christians have in general lost the metaphorical aspect of this passage and similar passages, so the girding on of swords and armour ought not translate today into indiscriminate use of “AK-47 assault rifles, explosive tennis shoes or smart bombs”. The armour is spiritual armour, as the passage makes utterly clear, and the battle is a spiritual battle, not a material one.

Unfortunately the metaphor is all the more confused because Paul was here being at his most Gnostic, and Christians early on rejected Gnosticism as a heresy. It was, though, already too late to reject Paul whose distortions of Christ’s message filled much of the New Testament. Paul speaks of “the rulers of the darkness of this world”, as the King James’s Version has it, making it sound as if Christians have a duty to take out the evil living rulers of this world in Christ’s name!

Yet, in the very same verse, the sense is repeated as “spiritual wickedness in heavenly places”. The confusion is that the belief understood here is that the ruler of this world is the Devil Himself, not God, so the rulers of the darkness of this world are the Devil and his attendant demons. John 14:30 refers to “the prince of this world”, and the temptation of Christ suggests the same when the Devil offers Christ all the kingdoms of the world, but he refuses the offer (Mt 4:8-9). Gnostic duality existed at the very root of Christianity, but Christians should have nothing to do with it, if the early tradition is to be accepted.

Zoroastrianism was clearer. Anyone had responsibility for one spiritual fight only—one’s own. It was your own personal fight to preserve your life against wickedness. If everyone won that single battle, the world would be good. Nevertheless, the same is true of Christianity, for it derived much of its teaching from the Zoroastrianism that preceded it. To presume you are God and make judgements on others meant you had lost your personal war against wickedness—it was the sin of hubris, pride. Christians have to be humble, and humility is not swanning around claiming to be already saved, when that is another judgement to be made by God.

The Christian is not allowed to correct faults in others until he has corrected his own faults—they must not try to remove a mote from a neighbor’s eye when they have a plank in their own. In short, how can they pick out tiny faults in other people when they cannot see clearly through the huge faults they have themselves? To think otherwise is hubris.

Nor must Christians judge—for the same reason: “The one among you without sin, let him cast the first stone”. Judgement is God’s job, and if anyone should judge others adversely, then God will judge them adversely. It all cautions Christians that their battle is a personal one, and that is hard enough for anyone to have to concentrate upon without imagining that they can tell others what they ought to do.

All of this is what Christians should believe, because the teaching of the Christian God is a clear and easily comprehended morality that even a child can follow. Even an atheist can follow it! Why then cannot Christians? It is what is necessary for society to thrive, and has evolved as a moral instinct for that reason. Jeremiah said the covenant of God was to be written in anyone’s heart—it is inborn into all of us that are fully human, and when we try we can feel it there.

Why then are so many Christians apparently not fully human? And not just Christians. It is because they have allowed their clergy, their priests and pastors, to dictate for their own benefit and that of imperialistic churches, what morality is, rather than encouraging them to use their instinct.

To teach that morality means sexual abstinence is absurd. That is a simple choice. To accept and even endorse that one man should seek to put down or exploit another as capitalism requires is against Christian teaching because it is counter instinctual. To promote greed as a human virtue suits the capitalist but ought not to suit any Christian. Christ favored the poor!

A healthy society requires us to rely on—and therefore trust—the honesty, goodwill and empathy of our neighbors. Christ called it love!

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4 Responses

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  1. Mike,

    It is hard for me to tell if you are against Christianity or against organized capitalistic religion that poses as Christianity, or perhaps both.

    For the most part, your points are well made and should strike right to the heart of many people. What kind of feedback do you get from both Christian and Non-Christian readers?

    Alan

    4 April, 2011 at 4:23 am

    • Both! Christ was not keen on hypocrites, so most of the modern Christian stock would, in my view, offend him as did the Pharisees. The US claims to be the greatest and most Christian nation. Both might be true, depending on how greatness and Christianity are defined. Modern Christians mainly simply profess Christianity and think it is sufficient to be good (or saved). That does not seem to be the right reading of Christ’s message, which is, as I said in this post, not difficult to understand. Ignorant and illiterate people seemed to get the gist of it right 2000 years ago, but most people today do not. Modern science is showing that core morals are instinctive, so people ought to be able to feel them. One has to conclude that today’s clergy are not transmitting the right message, and many indeed seem to be selling something utterly different, and/or the mores of our western social economics and politics are not Christian and actually contrary to it, and so people are utterly confused about what is right and wrong.

      Capitalism seems to be based on the premise that we are all in perpetual competition with each other, as if we were solitary animals in a wild state. We are social animals living in what purports to be a civilized society, one that is concerned for its citizens and aims to make life enjoyable for them. That I think is the practical point of Christ’s teaching, and perhaps civilization in the west can, at least in part, be laid at the door of Christ’s teaching and lifestyle as told in the gospels. Regrettably, since the industrial revolution, capitalism seems to be intent on undoing Christian morality, natural morality I think, and replacing it with an erroneous form of social Darwinism that amounts to “let the strong rule” which translates into “let the greediest, most selfish, and most ruthless rule in their own interest while the rest can fall into destitution unless they serve us and our interests”! Christians are encouraged to do the latter, and so are dupes of the over rich. The message of Christ is that Christians have to earn salvation by behaving properly in this existence. It is not a free gift, it is a reward for righteousness, and Christ makes it clear as crystal that by that he means loving your neighbor whover he or she is.

      I am naturally pleased that you think my points are well made, and you can see that there is little feedback to these notes. At one time, I used to get a lot more, via email, but now I get little of that too. I suspect it has a lot to do with the extent of the site. Those interested are intelligent enough to realize that the answer to their questions might be on some other long page elsewhere, and so feel disinclined to question what might already be answered. Mostly replies were critical of my evidence and arguments which is mainly material and historical, whereas mostly my critics had been beguiled by spiritualism, or the alleged infallibility of the bible, and could rarely recognize anything that had not been expressed in a citation from Paul’s epistles. Not usually, though, any statement attributed to Christ, aka God. Paul is the real messiah for Christians.

      I note that you called your own latest post “a short farewell”. I assume it will be short because you are planning a new series. Best wishes, Mike

      mikemagee

      4 April, 2011 at 3:17 pm

  2. I’m not sure if I misunderstood, or you just write poorly, but did you acuse the man who authored Romans of perverting the message of Christ?

    If you did, ”seriously”

    Ted S

    22 December, 2011 at 5:42 am

    • You are, I believe, referring to the last few lines of the penultimate paragraph of my previous reply. There I am simply saying that most Christians have vastly more respect for Paul, and he has therefore had much the greatest influence on how Christianity is now understood, as the preponderance of citations to his works by Christians show. He therefore is the real messiah for Christians who, in comparison, neglect or ignore the teachings of their own God incarnate.

      The distinction would be irrelevant if Paul taught the same message as Christ. He did not, so, “Yes! Seriously… !”, Paul did pervert the message of Christ. It is not hard to see, and I have written about it elsewhere on these pages and yet more at askwhy.co.uk.

      Mike Magee

      22 December, 2011 at 9:40 pm


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