Religion, if it’s any good at all, has always been under attack. Not because of its claim of righteousness, or its attempts at some lofty holiness, or because of its fundamentalism. Historically, the best religion, the healthiest and courageous and most dangerous religion, has been attacked because of its struggle against systems of corruption, of injustice, of brutality, of exploitation and other crimes against humanity.
Jesus was crucified for these very reasons. People of religion over the years created these elaborate and complicated and puzzling and sometimes preposterous doctrines and ideologies about salvation and atonement and the rapture and the second coming and eternal damnation and so forth as a way of attempting to interpret scripture. But Jesus was not killed for any of that. He was killed for attempting to stand against the cruelty and injustices and inhumanity of the Roman Empire. He was killed for his impatience with institutional religion and his call to reform it. He was killed by politicians and the most religious people of his day.
They are still threatened by him. By the real Jesus.
All of the mean hyped up Christianity of today has nothing really to do with the historical Jesus. It’s mostly selfish and phony, shallow and close minded, and often harmful and destructive. Robust Christianity, courageous real Jesus following Christianity, should clearly and courageously be for civil rights, gay rights, abortion rights, and women’s rights. It should be a forceful influence on government. It should be a healthy example to society. But it has no business running the government, which too much of contemporary Christianity seems obsessed with doing. Government has always worked best when it has been allowed to be a secular, human institution of laws and services for its citizens. It is weakened and corrupted when it attempts to be the voice of any religious persuasion.
If you are opposed to gay rights, to abortion, to equal rights because of your religious views then fine, stand your ground defending your views—in your church, in your life. But don’t go be a politician or elect a politician in order to get the government to promote your religious viewpoints. And if you’re going to be a Christian then at least study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. He was not a fundamentalist right wing Republican Tea Party millionaire capitalist. He was not a person of means. He wasn’t even married. He was humble. He was intelligent and well educated. He taught simple lessons of compassion and grace. He fought for the sick and the left out, for children and widows, for people possessed by addictions and mental illness. He loved others with gracious generosity. He had no ambition for power, affluence or control. If you tell me he would turn away gays or women who have had an abortion or people struggling with alcohol or not fight for the rights of minorities, or be callous towards women and their right to care for their own bodies, then I would tell you go back and read your New Testament. If all you read is the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), then you cannot morally defend the loud hostile cries of Christians today against the most vulnerable in our nation and in our world.
We’ve been through Easter and Passover and believers are back to the hard task now of living out their faith, of putting into practice all of that death and resurrection and high festivals and holy days, living it out in the home and the workplace and wherever humanity meets them. That is where the real tests happen and where if you have any faith at all it should unfold in acts of love, of courage, of standing for the vulnerable and the hurting, and standing against the corrupt and angry and selfish and exploitive systems of our day.
The late British philosopher, Karl Popper, once wrote, “I am therefore in favor of democratically elected, constitutional government, which is quite different from rule by the people. And I am in favor of accountable government—accountable first of all to those who elected it, but also, perhaps still more, morally responsible to humanity.”
Accountable government morally responsible to humanity. That is far different from rule by the people, which has become a fascination with fundamentalist right wing religion and politics.
Religion that stands for the former will most likely get attacked, and for all the right reasons.
© 2013 Timothy Moody