Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Preach Peace and Practice War

But I wanted to be closer to the Christians.  They talk in riddles.  They preach peace and love in the midst of performing incredible violence.
There's a structure, a purpose to what they do that is beyond my ken.  They're changing Norskk, changing it with words and with iron and with blood.  I need to understand them better.
- Black Road #1
by Brian Wood and Garry Brown

There exists a disconnect in Christianity between believing in Christ and practicing the teachings of Christ. We preach peace and practice war. We preach love and legislate hate. This is nothing new. Nor is this anything old that is no longer relevant.

Where does this cognitive dissonance come from? How can we not even realize that we constantly betray our own beliefs? I think it is partially, if not mainly, because our faith is so entwined with the state that we can't differentiate where the two differ. Actually, many Christians are taught there is no difference, that the church and the state should be one and the same, and that their interests always align.

This, of course, can be traced back to Constantine when the church found favor within the empire, eventually giving rise to Christendom. Of course the desires of the empire always come first, enlisting the support of the church even when those desires run contrary to the teachings of the church. As Brian Zahnd writes in his book A Farewell to Mars, “Post-Constantine Christians have learned to be quite comfortable in claiming the peace of Christ while waging war upon their neighbors.”1

Actually, I think the teachings of Christ, which we claim to follow, blind us from the realities of our behavior.  The beatitudes are so ingrained in our mindset that we think we embody them even when we are so clearly acting in violation of them.  And then we have the audacity to get up and complain that critics of Christianity hate us because we are Christian. But they don't hate us because we are Christians. They hate us because we are assholes. They hate us because we are assholes hypocritically under the branding of Christ, whom taught the opposite of our behavior.

This is similar to the fallacy that terrorists hate Americans simply because we are Americans and they hate our freedom. They hate us because the West has been selfishly meddling in the politics and economies of the Middle East for the past century. What's worse is we don't even remember or acknowledge this. Have you ever been mad at someone and they don't even realize what they did to upset you?

We've oppressed, enslaved, and slaughtered countless in the name of Christ. Then we shrug it off like it doesn't matter anymore, if we even remember the events at all. And we wonder why people don't like Christians? Our self-righteous superiority in the face of such atrocities only fuels detractors, and rightly so.

But the church has also accomplished so many good things throughout the centuries. This is true. However, all the hospitals, schools, and orphanages do not erase the harm the church has done from the annals of history. Downplaying, brushing it aside, or simply ignoring it only furthers the harm. We cannot change the past, but the very least we can do is acknowledge it and admit that we need to do better.

We have traded the Prince of Peace for a god of War. Do we even want the Prince of Peace? We pay lip-service to this title but prefer the “might makes right” deity that vanquishes our enemies instead of forgiving them. We want the god that crucifies our enemies instead of the crucified God that died with whispers of love and forgiveness on his lips.

In our worship we praise him but in our actions we say fuck the Prince of Peace, for Jesus failed to conquer the world so we are going to do it for him. Pick up your cross? That's not how you stop your enemies and become the world's Superpower. Jesus, what are you, stupid? Put down your cross and pick up a sword, gun, fighter jet, or drone. The world was saved by the spilt blood of the Lamb? Nonsense. The world is only saved by spilling the blood of our neighbors, by amassing power and wealth, and by uniting people like me under a common banner. Jesus Christ is such a banner. He's a propaganda tool and nothing more.

Love and peace doesn't signify one is a follower of Christ. No, no, we are much to focused on abstaining from sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, swearing, dancing, and Target bathrooms to bother with a stupid little thing like peace. However, discrimination, oppression, and even violence is perfectly okay as long as it is done in the name of Christ or a “Christian nation.”

The objection will easily come that Islam claims to be a peaceful religion as well. But I am not talking about Islam, and it nor any other religion should play any role in determining whether being a Christian involves following what Christ taught, especially the bit about loving your neighbor, which really was the grand, overarching theme of his ministry.

What another religions claims is irrelevant to this point. What do you claim? Do you claim to be a follower of the Prince of Peace, of the crucified Christ? Or do you follow a god of War, yet another generic tribal deity that humanity has waged war under since time immemorial?

Now, before anyone accuses me of being un-Christian or unpatriotic (which I'm sure has already happen), let me say that I completely understand all the violent motives of a sovereign state. If terrorists attack us, you bet my gut reaction is to launch cruise missiles down the chimney's of every last one of their desert huts. You come at the United States and we come back at you with the full might and power of the greatest military force to ever exist. I get vengeance. Vengeance makes sense. I enjoy watching Liam Neeson methodically inflict pain upon every person involved with kidnapping his daughter.

But while these feelings, reactions, and motives are natural, I also understand that they are not Christlike. Loving your neighbor, your enemies, and turning the other cheek is Christ-like. Vengeance, retaliation, and repaying violence with violence is decidedly anti-Christlike. It may be the best course of action to guarantee the security of the state, but it opposes the teachings of Jesus. However, we have done wonders in convincing ourselves otherwise.

Christians have engaged in violent wars, crusades, and inquisitions all in Christ's name. Maybe it's that history that has desensitized us to our own violent ways. Maybe it's why we've seemingly lost the ability to perceive any contradiction between such violence and such hate, and the teachings of Christ about peace and self-sacrificial love that we still claim to follow.

I said before that all the good done in Christ's name doesn't erase all the bad. Likewise, all the terrible things Christians have done does not undo all the good things. If we are to embrace Christianity's positive contributions to society, which we certainly should, we must also acknowledge the travesties our religion has caused. A well rounded understanding of the church's own history and actions is required if we are to seem, nay, if we are to be less of the self-indulgent, hypocritically judgmental assholes the world see us as.

*A note on the content: You may have noticed that I utilized explicit and excessive language in this work in an attempt to convey the importance of this issue. If you find yourself more offended by the mad swears than the larger abhorrent theme of committing violence in the name of Christ, then you have both missed the point of this piece as well as proved that there is something appallingly amiss with Christianity's moral priorities.

1Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2014), kindle loc. 1393.

1 comment:

  1. A most interesting blog, thank you. The Russian religious philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev wrote, "The distinction between the things of Caesar and the things of God is constantly being erased in our fallen world, and this always indicates that the Kingdom of Caesar is attempting to swallow up the Kingdom of God."