There’s been another upsurge in Christian politics – in fundamentalists involving their religious beliefs in the affairs of our nation. They have campaigned to be part of our educational system, our legal system and our foreign policy. And they have been instrumental in electing a President and a Congress dedicated to supporting this infringement on the Bill of Rights.
This isn’t something new, but it is something that would have upset most of our Founding Fathers. (see chapter 13 on religious quotes)
The vast majority of the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies had either fled religious discrimination or were descended from religious refugees. We know this. What seems to have escaped our notice was that all of their persecutors were Christians! There were no other religious powers in Europe! Christians didn’t limit their harsh treatment to other Christians, either. They regularly and systematically discriminated against Jews throughout most of Europe throughout the Dark and Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance. Hitler didn’t invent injustices against Jews. The First Crusade, a mob called together by the Pope himself, robbed neighborhood Jews before ever leaving their homelands and marauding their way to the Middle East where they were unwelcome and no longer useful. This rather significant error in understanding and judgment by their leader should have alerted Christians to a problem, but didn’t.
Religious persecution of others, both of other sects and of other religions, has been a hallmark of Christianity since its inception, though it is rarely recognized or talked about.
The very first thing Christianity did after being formalized by the Council of Nicea, the absolute first order of business was to create and prosecute “heresies,” forbidden beliefs. The penalties inflicted on members of their own group were harsh: excommunication and banishment.
This is what Christianity officially declared in the year 325, just twelve years after being legalized and after centuries of persecution – the original Nicene Creed in its entirety:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not,’ and ‘He was not before he was made,’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’ – they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]
Christianity officially began with a condemnation of people in their own group who had a slightly divergent set of beliefs1! And this wasn’t really the start of it either. The very oldest Christian writings are those of Saint Paul who used to be Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians. These writings are intolerant, demanding and condemning of anyone who doesn’t believe what he believes. Paul writes to a church he founded in the highlands of what is now Turkey saying:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ [referring to himself and a fictional character of prophecy], for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
But even though we, or and angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
For I would have you know,brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia and returned once more to Damascus.2
This diatribe goes on in the same vein for quite a while. I consider it the ravings of an egomaniac, a person so filled with self-importance that the humility which Jesus advised isn’t possible.
Controversy and discord aren’t the product of our beliefs so much as our dogmas, our convictions that others should believe as we believe, that there is only one valid set of beliefs and that we have a clear and unambiguous hold on absolute Truth and anyone who disputes this in any way must be condemned and scorned – or, in Saul/Paul’s translated words, “accursed.”
Christian politics is about imposing religious beliefs on others, about scorning or otherwise penalizing others with even slightly differing ideas and opinions and it comes directly from Saul of Tarsus.
Christians have had little academic freedom since their religion was officially created in 325 ad. Their leaders have – from the start and continuously ever since – dictated “proper” and “accepted” beliefs to them. And they, in turn, bullied their children into similar beliefs or allowed religious instructors to do it for them.
Bullying is part and parcel of the Christian tradition and I find it unacceptable.
I find Christianity in politics to be a blight which seems to infect us periodically despite efforts to eradicate it. Like McCarthyism, it demonizes all opposition. It pretends to a scholarship which turns out to be fairly vacuous.
Recently, a friend introduced me to the book Origin by Design written by Shawn Boonstra. In this book, the author tries to discredit Darwin and proposes a return to Creationism as a valid scientific theory. This friend of mine was smart and fairly aware and yet had been taken in by a notion that is preposterous in today’s world.
We take antibiotics for the full prescription because antibiotic resistance has evolved in bacteria. We see thoroughbred dogs, cats and horses that mankind himself has evolved to suit his own needs or fancies. We eat contrived wheat and evolved corn and meat and milk from animals culled for their usefulness to us that could not survive without man’s help. We have a whole branch of science called paleontology which studies fossilized remains of animals and plants vastly different from any in our world today and have dug up – all over the planet – a clear and consistent record of evolution from the smallest organisms. As I write, many species are threatened extinction by the predations of man through loss of habitat and poaching.
Long after sensible persons would give up, Christians cling to their delusions and seek to instruct the rest of us with their moral and ethical superiority. Having subjugated much of the rest of the world, they see other beliefs as abnormalities to be cleared up through the magical powers of “proper” belief, by reading scripture, eating pretend flesh, drinking pretend blood, and being immersed in special water or having it sprinkled upon themselves.
©David N. Dodson, December 2016
1Arius and his followers were excommunicated because they considered Jesus of Nazareth a man and not God. This “heresy” persists even today. I believe Arius was right and that the founders of Christianity were wrong, not only in their beliefs but in their attitudes and methods. Today, Christian methods are more subtle, but just as wrong.