Saturday, April 03, 2004

violent disciples

"Must Christianity Be Violent?" This is the title of the book that I am reading. Its very interesting though I am not even half way through the book. It begins to try to answer this question by giving the history of oppressively violent actions all done in the name of Christ. In the first chapter, I am reminded that the Crusaders slaughtered Muslims and even many Byzantine Christians all in the pursue to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. To rid the region of the unholy "pagans" was in itself a holy act, done to the glory of God and for the sake of Jesus' name.

In the second chapter, I am reminded of the mass murder of the Native Americans by the Christian "Conquistadors." Though there were prophetic priests such as Las Casas who condemned the brutality, warrior clergy such as Cortez dominated the scene. The rule was convert or die. The Americas of the southern region belonged to Spain and the rule of the Queen meant the rule of Catholicism.

Likewise, chapter three reminds me that in the name of Christ slaves were owned. And in the name of Christ a bloody war was fought for their freedom. Brother killing brother, North raping South. Murder and war in the name of freedom and God. This too is a harsh reminder as it hits home in the US. I cannot remove myself so easily from this picture because it happened upon the soil on which I now stand.

Worst of all the Holocaust. Recent in the memory of history and still impacting world-views to this day. Not only a country but a continent full of Christians, both nominal and devout, who either participated in the horrific genocide of the Jews or stood by and watched. To this day, the Holocaust museum in Israel has on record 14,000 names of "Gentile" people who took part in helping to save a Jew in the midst of this nightmare. Of that number only about 20% considered their faith as one of the reasons for their heroic action. An even lower percentage considered it the prime reason for helping to save the life of another.

These are wonderful reminders to me. Especially in a day and age when it is so easy to point the finger and be utterly astounded at the devastation brought about by "jihad." When we study history, Christians have been involved in more gruesome and prolonged "jihad" than any other religion this planet has every known. Historically, the only theology more destructive to life has been Marxism. My heart grieves over this horrible history of Christianity.

How can we begin to paint a picture of Jesus as the "Prince of Peace" with a backdrop like this? How can we ask the world for forgiveness? How can I be so angry at "jihad" when we have been the prime examples for their model of "ministry?"

Even worse than the past may be the present. Christianity has been the backbone of morality in America, until recently, since the Declaration of Independence. And our fruit as a nation is consumer capitalism, quite possibly the most oppressive economic structure since Lenin's Communism. Though capitalism is quite a bit more intelligent about its oppression. We tend to oppress the nations which grow our food, sew our clothes, and mine our diamonds. That way, it is out of sight and out of mind.

We, as a nation, avert our eyes while we buy our double, decaf, non-fat latte. But the coffee bean farmer in Latin America who can barely feed his family knows of the plight of capitalism. I wonder if this is what it was like to be a German "Christian" at the brink of WWII. Its that feeling of being a bug drawn to the blue light of the bug zapper. Part of you wants to do something to correct the injustice and the other part of you realizes that it is just easier to go with the flow.

Though we are not a Christian nation, I dare say that plenty of us Christians fully support our "American way." We give capitalism God's blessing and wave our flag at our shopping malls. After all, God is for us so who can be against us. God will certainly bless our wars against the evils of Islam. They may have Allah on their side, but we have the mighty warrior Jesus. If that is not a misnomer I don't know what is: "mighty warrior" Jesus?

While the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. "And what of the middle class?" we ask ourselves. But only the rich have the luxury of this question. We like to think we are middle class because of the harshness of scripture toward the wealthy. Indeed, in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of God we are the wealthy. But lets hangout in this fiction a bit. Lets assume we are middle class. It seems that we are just rich enough to live without too much pain and yet just enough in debt to be distracted. Its the bills of the middle class person that often blind us to oppressive systems of which we are a part. But is blessed ignorance violence? It seems to me that the means by which the ends of oppression are accomplished have to be violent.

I have gone a bit off course. In the end, the reality is that the violent history of Christian people is present today. The past stories which we hate to hear about are the same stories being made today for the next generation's history books. How will my story be told? Will I be just a modern day Crusader or Conquistador? Or will I follow in the prophetic line of Christians like Las Casas and the German Christians who risked their lives for another? Though my story is not yet finished, I fear that my bug eyes have stared at the blue light for too long and I will only "stay the course" until my death.

Father, forgive us...we know not what we do.


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