An addition to our "Belief Statements" column. The latest article appears below.
***************************************** On Christianity, By jar
Recently the question was asked whether or not I consider Christianity to be evil and if I think Fundamentalists and Evangelical Christians are evil. For the record, I do not think Christianity is evil, nor do I think Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are evil.
So now that that part is out of the way, how do I really feel about it?
As a Christian I think one of the first things needed is some personal honesty. That is, it seems to me, a basic tenet and requirement of the faith, the religion called Christianity. It is inherent in the confession. We are expected to honestly look at ourselves, our lives and our behavior and see where we have done wrong, where we have failed to do right, to acknowledge those failings and try to do better in the future.
When I was little, (probably about three or four because this strange new man had joined the family; my dad who had been overseas when I was born), Dad would take me for walks. I remember that one key part of every walk was that I herd the baby ducks and keep them together. This was hard and demanded full concentration. Often one of the baby ducks would dart off on its own and only because my dad saw it and called out to me was I able to catch it and direct it back to the others.
Other grown ups passing by would often ask what I was doing. “Herding baby Ducks”, my father would proudly say. While he talked with them, it was my job to make sure the big folk didn’t accidentally step on one of the baby ducks. Most big folk, you know, can’t see invisible baby ducks. Only I and my dad could see them and we had to keep them safe.
Were the baby ducks real? At the time, absolutely. They lived in a special place under the front porch and only came out when I called them. They were MY responsibility, and I kept them safe.
Would I teach a three year old today to herd baby ducks? Absolutely.
Would I expect the three year old to eventually grow up and realize that invisible baby ducks are only possible when in the presence of a Daddy and his new son, that they are a wonder and creation of the age and time? Certainly.
When I was little I also believed, believed very strongly that Christians were good and everybody else was wrong. Then we moved into a Jewish neighborhood. Ours was the only goyim family. I knew that Goya had been a great painter so being called a little artist didn’t bother me much. Then I learned exactly what goyim meant.
One day one of the big kids was picking on my little brother, knocked him down and called him a dirty goyim. I totally lost my temper and headed straight towards the bigger kid. He must have seen the look in my eyes that said “retreat is the better part of valor” because even though he was bigger than me by a good bit, he took off running for home with me right behind. He reached his door just as my hand reached out to grab him and he slammed it shut.
Were the big folk that stepped on baby ducks evil because they simply couldn’t see them? Was the big kid, who later became a good friend by the way, evil?
As we grow and learn more we hopefully gain from the mistakes we made in the past. Today, when I talk with a dad whose three year old son is diligently herding invisible baby ducks I am careful to make sure I don’t step on any, and when (as always happens) I do almost step on one I am careful to thank the lad for warning me and to always ask before I put my foot down if there is a duck beneath. Today I try to remember what it felt like to be goyim, and the rage and fury I felt when my little brother was knocked down and called dirty goyim.
We are the sum of our experiences.
I am also a Christian. As I see Christianity is both a set of teachings and also the body, the communion of Christians down through the ages. Some Christians were great, some evil, most simply forgotten. All though were Christian.
Later I learned more of the history of this thing, this communion called Christianity. What I learned was not always pleasant, much in fact was horrific. Very little was as simple or serene as what I had been taught.
What I learned was that down through the ages many horrific things were done in the name of Christianity and by Christians. Protestants oppressed Catholics, Catholics oppressed Protestants, and both oppressed every other religion. Down through the ages the Jew came in for special attention, being expelled from nearly every country and their property seized. Time after time it happened.
I learned about how the Native Americans were taken from their homes, given new names, had their hair cut, forbidden to speak their own language, sent to Christian Schools where they had to learn a new religion, how their old religion was mocked and forbidden.
I learned how the Codices and tablets were burned by the Padres that accompanied the Conquistadores, what happened in Hawaii, what happened throughout South and Central America.
I saw the white church members standing at the curbs shouting “Let the dogs loose” or “Turn on the hoses”, and saw the Christian Schools popping up like toadstools as the white Christian parents pulled their kids out of public school so they would not have to sit next to a monkey. I saw churches that had been bombed or burned out, bodies of people working for equal rights after they had been shot, sometimes mutilated.
I look around today and see other Christians shouting “God hates Fags” and voting time after time to ban same-sex marriages and claiming that Islam is barbaric.
Christianity must, IMHO, accept responsibility for the evil as well as the good done in its name.
In discussions at EvC and at other places, when the more horrific acts are brought up, one response I often hear is “They were not real Christians” or “That is not what Christ taught.” I disagree with the former, and agree with the later. I also think that using either as an excuse or as a way to shirk responsibility is dishonest. Granted it is not what Christ taught but it IS what Christians did, and in every case I examined, the people were honest, sincere and believed strongly that what they were doing was right and that it was the Christian thing to do. They were all sure that they were morally right.
The Missionary teacher that helped bring the poor savages to the Missionary School, who clothed the kids, cut their hair, gave them good Christian Names, taught them to read and maybe even write, taught them about GOD did so to save the kids souls.
The Padre that accompanied the Conquistadores and that burned the Codices did it for what they saw as the best of reasons, saving souls. This refrain has been repeated time after time and over issue after issue. It is only later, when we look back on the sermons written on how to civilize the savage, what the place of the Blackman in society is, on the terrible wrong we did in destroying cultures and beliefs that we realize how wrong we were.
If we are to avoid make such errors in the future, I believe we must honestly acknowledge what we have done in the past, that “but by the grace of GOD” those people could be us and that we too are capable of committing such horrific acts. If we try to claim that they were somehow different than us, that they were not real Christians, then I fear we are bound to continue down that path.
Looking at things today, seeing the Christian support for denying civil rights to homosexuals, the growth of Biblical Creationism and the ID movement I have little hope.
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