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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Weaponizing Christianity

If you ask most of us religiously conservative American Christians whether Christianity is a religion of love, most of us would adamantly say 'yes.' However, certain groups of people have good reason to disagree with our self-assessment. That is they see our religion as a religion of violence and hate. How can there be such a divergence of opinion here?

First, we need to go through Church history. We should note that one of the most persecuted groups in Church history were the Jews.  For whatever reason, Western Christianity has a horrible record in terms of how it has treated the Jews. In fact, the creation of the state of Israel was due to European Christian anti-Semitism. One only needs to read Church history to see how the Jews were persecuted for their persistent unbelief.

But though there has been anti-Semitism practiced by Christians here, it has never approached the level that it did in Europe. However, due to Dispensationalism, one of a few schools of the study of the end times, a new group has been marginalized on their own land. That group is the Palestinians. Because of the popularity of Dispensationalism and because Displensationalism teaches that the second coming of Christ revolves around the Jews returning to the Holy Land, many religiously conservative American Christians have supported whatever the government of Israel does to the Palestinians to secure more of the Promised Land for itself regardless of the price the Palestinians have to pay.

Now one might not think a lot about the plight of the Palestinians because they are so far away, but a similar story happened in parts of the United State. After European Christian settlers established themselves here, some believed that the land lived on by Native Americans belonged to them. Why? Because some of these settlers believed they belonged to the New Israel and that the Native Americans were nothing more than the Canaanites were when Israel was taking over the Promised Land.

The LGBT community must be mentioned here as well. For though most of the news regarding that community has been recent, that is because this community too has suffered at the hands of many of us religiously conservative Christians through the laws that had been passed regarding sex, marriage, and discrimination protection. Homosexuality was counted as a criminal offense for most of America's history.

Of course Blacks should also be included in the list of those who have been marginalized by religiously conservative American Christians. After all, many, though not all, religiously conservative American Christians supported slavery from our nation's beginning until some time after the Civil War. Some of those who supported it did so because of what they believed from the Bible. While others may not have approved of slavery, they did believe in White Supremacy and segregation that followed slavery. And some did so because of how they understood the Bible.

We could probably include other groups as well. For example, many religiously conservative American Christians were very disturbed over Starbucks announcement that it was going to implement a program to hire 10,000 refugees from predominantly Muslim nations. The Facebook response by some conservative Christians was to ask why Starbucks  would not hire veterans instead. This question was asked in complete ignorance seeing that Starbucks was already in the middle of program to hire Veterans and their spouses.

In each of the above cases, Christianity has been used to rationalize the abuse and marginalization of others by its believers. Thus, Christianity has become a weapon that enables Christians to hurt others.  How has Christianity been revised so as to enable Christians to severely abuse so many people?

We should note here is that Christianity isn't the only religion that has been weaponized. Neither is religion the only belief system that has been weaponized. Nor is a belief system the only kind of identity that has been weaponized. What enables us to weaponize the different identity and groups we belong to? Perhaps the best answer can be found in Dave Brubeck's cantata entitled Truth (see http://ums.aadl.org/ums/programs_19740117b ). In part #5, called Speak Out, it says quite clearly how any identity can be weaponized. The weaponizing of a particular identity takes place when those who are advancing their own group's cause forget the needs of people outside their group. Those needs are for love, justice, kindness, mercy, and truth. Of course, maybe forgetting people's needs isn't the issue. Maybe we believe that some are not entitled to being treated well. When Christians believe that, it is because they have decided, for whatever reason, to ignore Jesus's parable of the two men praying.  In that parable, the Pharisee praises himself as he prays and shows disrespect for the publican who is also praying.

When we hurt others either as individuals or as members of some group, we often do so for the reasons Brubeck lists in the previously cited work. It isn't just us or the members of our group that need love, justice, kindness, mercy and truth, it is all those whom our own group comes in contact with. Thus, in seeking our own group's cause, we forget or choose not to care about others. As stated in Speak Out,  this can be done in the name of God, people, our nation, or our beliefs. But unfortunately, we often become the last ones who are willing to recognize how and why we hurt others while we put our group first.








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