Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Red Jesus, Blue Jesus...

When will the church get its head out of its collective ass, and realize that fighting amongst itself and selling itself out to a particular political ideology is NOT what Jesus wanted when He created the church? A very funny, but now discredited Christian comedian named Mike Warnke had a line in his act that so describes the state that the Christian Church finds itself in. The line went like this: "The Mighty Church of God, clothed with the Breastplate of Righteousness, shod with the Preparation of the Gospel, carrying the Shield of Faith, wearing the Helmet of Salvation, wielding the Sword of the Holy Spirit, spends the vast majority of its time either polishing its armor, or fighting amongst themselves." Truer words were never spoken, Mike. Everywhere you look all over the Christian landscape, as far as the eye can see, liberal and conservative Christians are engaging in savage verbal combat with each other, and are totally forgetting what the Author of our Faith, and the One who's Name we are so proud to take as our own taught in the Gospels.

I have read the Gospels more than a few times, and while I do not have a seminary education, I think I have a pretty good idea of what Jesus was about. The Jesus that I read about spoke of loving your neighbor, caring about the children and the elderly, turning the other cheek when struck, and not getting all geeked up about temporal things that will break and fade away, but to set our sights on the world to come, and to lay up heavenly treasures. The Jesus I read about hung around with the poor, the lame, the outcast, the nobodies, the downtrodden, the homeless, and the rejected. The Jesus I read about gave a damn about the status of women in His day, even to the point of appearing to Mary Magdalene after his Resurrection before appearing to his disciples. The Jesus I read about wasn't afraid to get in the faces of the high and mighty, and the powerful and tell them about themselves. The Jesus I read about saw the possibility of the leaders of the church selling out to commercial interests, and nipped that in the bud when he chased the moneychangers and profiteers out of the temple. The Jesus I read about knew that he was being framed on trumped up charges, had the ability to call down ten thousand angels to pull him off that cross and lay the smack down on everyone at Calvary had he so desired to utter the word, yet he allowed himself to be subjected to humiliation, degradation, and a savage and evil crucifixion, so he could save the very people who five days earlier treated Him like a king when he rode into Bethlehem. The Jesus I read about stayed Death's hand just long enough to usher one dying thief into His Kingdom. The Jesus I read about would be sick to his stomach to see the way His people are carrying on in his name. The Jesus I believe in would not be living in the lily white suburbs in a 3 bed 2 bath ranch job with the 2.5 kids and the drolling Lab, and the 8 gallons to the mile Mammoth Motors Ginormous 2000 SUV, with the "W", NRA, and prolife bumper stickers fore and aft. The Jesus I believe in would not get his news from Fox, champion the destruction of the environment for the benefit of oil corporations just so we can have cheap gas, and would not sanction sending out troops into a war based on faulty intelligence, and with no escape plan in place. The Jesus I believe in would not be pressuring school boards to take on "Intelligent Design curriculums, suing high schools because the valedictorian slipped in a reference to God in his or her speech, and really would not care if "Under God" was in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jesus said that "in as much as have you done unto the least of these, you have also done unto me." I'm sure that he's not too thrilled about how the richest nation on the earth is spending billions of dollars fighting a war waged on shaky ground, that could have been better spent insuring that children in America and all over the world would not have to go to bed hungry. I'm sure that Jesus is more than a little miffed that his American church has sold its soul for the most part to the Republican Party, and is more obsessed in guns, gays and abortion than feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, comforting the dying, and showing the world that Christianity is actually not a bad faith to latch on to.

One of the things I hear from the Evangelical types that makes me roll my eyes is that the church in America is under attack. That it is being persecuted from the evil Satanic forces of liberalism, secularism, and worldliness. This is from Christian leaders who apparently have no clue of what real persecution is all about. This is the United States of America where the vast majority of the population claims to be Christian in some way, shape, or form. The largest churches in the country are Christian. There is a multi-billion dollar Christian multimedia industry that ensures that the Good News gets blasted into everyone's head by print, TV, Radio, Internet, and smoke signals. There are churches in the country that have sanctuaries that can seat 10,000 people, have organizational structures that rival Fortune 500 companies, multi-million dollar budgets, live freaking animals for their church pageants and pay their pastors six-figure salaries. And all these televangelists come on TV with their Brylcreem Prophet hairdos and $2000 suits and their $100,000 sets, and their bucks-up ministries that fleece the old and gullible out of their shekels, telling me that the church in America is under persecution? What are these people smoking, and better yet, can I get me some??? Have I just been plucked out of reality and dumped into Bizarro World??? Give me a freakin' break!!!! You wanna know what real persecution is? How about going to places like Libya, Iran, Syria, the Sudan, and places like that where Fundamentalist Islam is the official religion, where sharia, or Islamic law is in place and to be a Christian is the quickest way to get your head lopped off. In those places, Christianity has to go underground, with secret services. Here, bibles are in short supply, so clandestine churches have to take what Bibles they have and rip the pages out of them to share and circulate amongst themselves. There ain't no Moral Majority or Christian Coalition here to distract the faithful from serving Christ the best they can, with idiotic campaigns promoting "family values", "traditional values", "defense of marriage", and all the other crap that the American church gets all excited about. Over in the dangerous places where Christians have to practice extreme faith, there aren't any churches that double as community centers, movie theatres, yoga studios, daycare facilities, TV studios, that offer tithing by credit card, and welcome you into their midst until they find out that you aren't a member of the George W. Bush Fan Club, and don't consider Fox News to be the industry standard in journalism, whereupon they will treat you like a turd in a punch bowl. I have a feeling that when we all get to heaven, those who truly suffered and died for their faith will get head of the line privileges, cause Jesus also said something to the effect of " the last shall be first and the first shall be last."

Then we the get the Pro-Life types that are totally against abortion, will picket abortion clinics, the more extreme of whom have been known to vandalize and even blow up abortion clinics and threaten the doctors and staffers that work in them. They will defend the right of that unborn child to be born even if the mother' s life suffers in the process, but once the little darling makes its grand debut, they will then say, "Well, our work here is done, you're on your own now sweetie, time to go off and save another unborn baby." These folks generally are the same people who voted for Congressmen who voted against funding organizations like Head Start, and Women, Infant and Children Programs, because they think that the church can do it better. Maybe so, but there are a lot of women, infants, and children that want and need help, and not have a Bible shoved into their face, or sermonizing and moralizing about any bad choices they've made as a condition of receiving such help. I believe that abortion is a horrible thing, and must be avoided unless in the case of rape or the mother's life is in danger. And I think abortion for the purpose of contraception and gender selection is just this side of evil. But I won't tell a woman what to do with her body. I am a man, I can never experience childbirth, so why the hell should I tell someone who can experience that marvelous event how to deal with it. I'll give my opinion, but she has to make that decision. So I guess that makes me pro-choice, but I'd rather see abortions as legal, safe and RARE!!!!!

Then there's the whole flap about school prayer. I mean geez, don't these half wits understand that not every kid in school is Christian? So the Christian kids get their daily prayer mixed in with the meeting notice of the Varsity Tiddlywinks Team, and the birthday announcement of the head of the cheerleaders, Buffy Toocute, and that who ever put the ferret in the Senior Chemistry teacher's pants must report to the Principal's office immediately, and so on. What about the Jewish kids, the Muslim kids, the Hindu kids, the atheists and the agnostics, how about the Wiccan kids, and the weird sophomore who worships the piece of gum he found on his shoe a week ago? Don't they get a chance to worship their God, (or not) in school? Are we going to have a "prayer of the day? I can just hear the Principal's Morning Announcements in home room: " Well, it's Tuesday, that means that the prayer of the day will be for that weird sophomore in Room 413 that believes that the wad of gum he found on his shoe last week is the living incarnation of Wrig-Lee, the God of Chewing Gum!!!" As long as there are tests and report cards, kids will pray!!! They don't need official sanction to do it. Do you really want our public school system to teach and promote religion, given the state of education in America today. We've got kids that think that the Middle East is somewhere around Syracuse, NY, but can recite the latest Brangelina or TomKat gossip, and think that Classical Music is Aerosmith!!! C'mon church, don't get sidetracked with rinky dink issues.

And don't think that I've saved all my vitriol for the fundie right wingers!! You liberal mainstreamers have a little coming to you also. The liberal church spends sooo much time cursing the Radical Right, and finding ways to poke holes in their ideology, that it gets distracted from Christ's greater message. Christ wants his Church to be one, and unified. Now yes, we all have our ideas and opinions. But I'll give the righties credit in one area. They stick to their message, they stay together and on point, and they don't latch on to 500 different causes that dilute their message. They focus their energies on a few issues, and tolerate dissent on the things that don't matter.

To organize liberals is like trying to herd cats. They all want to do their own thing, they want to their cause celebre to be the main focus of the group, and when they demonstrate to the world, it looks like a bunch of people going their own way, but more or less forward. Also because the liberal church does allow every ideology to have equal time in discussion, No one really knows what their core beliefs are. You don't hear liberal churchpeople talk all that much about sin and redemption. Those are quickly dismissed as offensive, and products of an earlier unenlightened age, and that today's educated and progressive Christian just doesn't need to hear about such unpleasant ideas. Jesus did speak about sin, and his whole life dealt with the concept of redemption. But there are clergypeople in the liberal church who all but deny those most important core beliefs of the church, and the governing bodies of those churches pretty much let them go. The Right obsesses on sin, and the Left ignores it. More than anything, people want a core, unshakable, set of rules that are the root of their faith. They don't want to hear mushy, nebulous cotton candy- speak that sounds pretty, looks nice and has no substance. Righties to their credit, put those core beliefs out there so that all can see them. And they hold their believers accountable for those beliefs. The Left proclaims that its core beliefs are subject to the individual's interpretation, and muddies that core with the whole "come one, come all, anything goes" crap.

As a result, the liberal church completely sold out to the Democratic Party, allowed its influence to be frittered away, and has become more and more irrelevant on the world religious stage, as church attendance continues to fall in mainstream churches. The liberal churches need to reclaim Christianity from the Republican Party, start to grow a little backbone (or some testicles) , and show those who are looking for a faith community to participate in, that they do have a clear message that can answer their spiritual questions and not require them to check their brains at the door.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a lot to offer the world. At it's best, it is a community that is welcoming, loving, tolerant of differing viewpoints while still remaining firm to the teachings of Christ and His apostles. At it's worst, it's a petty divided church that has allowed politics to push Christ's teachings to the side inpursuit of political access and influence. There is still time for the various wings of Mother Church to get their act together, so that when Jesus does ultimately judge His Church, we'll be able to stand proudly, with our heads up knowing that we changed the world for the better.