Every so often I get into conversations with Well Meaning Christians. It’s something I try to avoid. They’re frustrating conversations. Mostly because it’s usually not about Christendom to start with. In the middle of a thread about spirituality or even study or other shrines, a Christian will offer their 2 cents and off we go.
I’m writing this for future reference so I won’t need to repeat these thoughts again and again to people who aren’t really interested in listening. No more than I’m interested in listening to them. It’s a closed loop, haha.
There’s no point insisting that Christianity isn’t like that. Everyone can see perfectly well that that’s exactly what it is. “Witch” children” are being tortured and killed in Nigeria.
Mary Sudnad, 10, grimaces as her hair is pulled into corn rows by Agnes, 11, but the scalp just above her forehead is bald and blistered. Mary tells her story fast, in staccato, staring fixedly at the ground.
‘My youngest brother died. The pastor told my mother it was because I was a witch. Three men came to my house. I didn’t know these men. My mother left the house. Left these men. They beat me.’ She pushes her fists under her chin to show how her father lay, stretched out on his stomach on the floor of their hut, watching. After the beating there was a trip to the church for ‘a deliverance’.
A day later there was a walk in the bush with her mother. They picked poisonous ‘asiri’ berries that were made into a draught and forced down Mary’s throat. If that didn’t kill her, her mother warned her, then it would be a barbed-wire hanging. Finally her mother threw boiling water and caustic soda over her head and body, and her father dumped his screaming daughter in a field. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she stayed near the house for a long time before finally slinking off into the bush.Mary was seven. She says she still doesn’t feel safe. She says: ‘My mother doesn’t love me.’ And, finally, a tear streaks down her beautiful face.
There are church groups around the world, frequently home schoolers, that promote the books “To train up a child.” Some of the methods include use of a length of plumbing conduit to beat a toddler. The mother is advised to carry the implement on her person during the day to remind the children of the consequences of disobedience.
Then there’s the institutions that are granted billions in public funding each year. Politicians who are elected on the basis of faith who cut public welfare programs in order to channel money to these religious groups. The school chaplaincy program in Australia is a classic example.
If you’re a Well Meaning Christian no doubt those stories horrify you as much as they do me. The teachings that enable such things desperately need revision and correction. Arguing with non-believers that Christianity is not like that is not going to accomplish such change.
It doesn’t bother me if Christendom wants to take a seat at a round table of world religions. The hassle is all the One True God, fire and brimstone preachers, those pushing for theocracy with the agenda that they be Theo. Until Christendom revises its core dogmas and theology regarding the singleness of God and the validity of other faiths, or no faith, there’s going to be these continuing waves of revivalists emphasising those things. Christendom is what it is until it changes.
Christendom has the potential to become part of a partnership of religions. If the dogmas and core teachings are revisited the Imperial politics can be filtered out. If you’re interested in progressive theology there’s some excellent resources around.
Alan Kreider’s The change of conversion and the origin of Christendom.
“Kreider traces the changing nature of the process of conversion across some four centuries, rightly emphasizing that it does indeed change. He describes it through a careful, well-directed choice of liturgical, autobiographical, homiletic, and theological texts. I know of no better treatment of religious initiation undergone by the most seriously committed Christians of the second to sixth century.” — Ramsay MacMullen, Yale University
MacMullen himself wrote Christianizing the Roman Empire, which is likewise to be recommended. It is a history of the early years of Christendom including a candid look at the violence which took place. This is a history. It is based on archaeological and other physical records.
It is an important book, and highly recommended for the general reader of history as well as the Christian who wonders how the ‘Jesus movement’ came, by Constantine’s time, to be the church we know. — Choice.
Unveiling Empire, by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther, is a review of the imagery in the Book of Revelation which takes Roman Imperial politics into consideration. This is probably the most important of the three with regards to this article.
What we know is that in the early years of Christianity, before it broke away from Judaism and became the Holy Roman Empire, the core theology was quite different.
I’ve written about this a number of times before and you can search for articles about these changes online. It’s no secret. There are many books about it. There are units of study you can take at progressive Theological colleges that examine it in detail. There are plenty of people talking about it. The ones who aren’t, who very much need to, are the folks carrying plumbing conduit.
Christianity could use a reformation. It’s not as if there isn’t scope to do it. There’s also plenty of stuff to work with within the world view itself. The Minor Prophets, particularly, are full of anti-Imperial sentiment. The Revelation is pretty much entirely devoted to descriptions of people of faith compromising with the social construct.
Oh yeah. One of the interesting places I found where Christianity overlaps with Veda, there’s a few, is also part of the Dao De Jing. The “world” it talks about not compromising with is not the physical, natural world. It’s the artificial human social construct. It’s history. The linear, ego driven construct. I found that fascinating to contemplate. How different contemporary preachers might sound if they were focused that way. Almost like the minor prophets and early Jesus freaks.
You wouldn’t hear it from prosperity gospelers, though. Whose message effectively makes Caiaphas the hero of the crucifixion story. With their strong words and demonstrations of traditional Holy Roller old time religion. It’s not pie in the sky when you die, it’s steak on the plate while you wait. Because the poor are always going to be there, right? They’re probably sinners anyway. Or being tested like Job. And who is a Minister of Religion to get in the way of God’s plan on Earth?
By viewing the Christian avatar as one of many, the drive changes. For the better. It’s no longer a be all and end all prospect, where you obey God or go to hell to burn for eternity. (We’ll do the hell thing in another article!) By viewing spirituality as an open table, you’re now absent the threat and fear. You choose to be in a relationship with your God based on the two of you interacting for whatever purpose you both desire. It becomes about personal attraction. It restores the spiritual experience as primary to the whole show.
Of course, that does away with the reasons for fighting wars over what to call God, or whether to have a God/dess or not. The use of spirituality to form a codified religion, that is part of the social construct and used to reinforce everything from patriotism to child abuse, is prevented. If you’re a Well Meaning Christian, that’s something you could consider.
There’s plenty of scope within Biblical tradition to do that. In addition to the warnings in the Revelation, the Hebrews of the Old Testament were well aware that there were plenty of other Gods around. Their deal was that they had a covenant with one particular God by virtue of their inheritance. One of the names for God was El, who is a Canaanite God and part of the original pantheon in that region. The idea of being one True God and all of humanity subject to Him was part of the Roman Imperial agenda, not the spirituality. Someone with more interest in connecting with other levels of consciousness rather than ruling the world might see the benefit in that. It becomes uniquely personal and positive rather than a one size fits all dogma of external observances and little, if any, real experience.
It’s something a lot of political leaders could do with hearing, too. Tell it to them. Either Christendom rediscovers its roots and provides something meaningful for its devotees, or its looking like being marginalised as obsolete emotional programming for an Empire that relied on domination by violence.