©David N. Dodson, Phoenix, AZ, 2012-2022
I believe that the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth weren’t really Christians as we define the term. I believe that these people were a thorn in the side of the Roman Empire for close to 300 years. They were outlawed and hung in significant numbers, fed to lions in the Coliseum and tortured in many ways. They followed the path that Jesus blazed but not “Christian” as it came to be defined. These early followers of the mortal Jesus were in direct opposition to the greed and grandiosity of the Roman Empire and its bullying and extortion throughout Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
“Christian,” on the other hand, was defined in 325 AD in the famous Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 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 “Hew 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.]
There is nothing about poverty in this new creed, nothing about generosity in the creed, nothing about forgiveness of others outside their religious circle, nothing about loving ones enemies, and nothing at all humble in any of their subsequent actions, lifestyles, or stated beliefs. Since literacy wasn’t widespread, the creed took on a life of its own without the earlier urgings of Jesus to be kind, gentle, compassionate and generous, so Roman life continued as it had before Christianity and pagan holidays, along with their temples, were converted to this new ostensible “faith.”
This declaration came from a group of Bishops (all men but without the Pope) who were called together by Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, also known as Constantine I, son of the previous Roman Emperor and future founder of Constantinople, the man who had legally ended Roman persecution of the followers of Jesus a mere 12 years earlier. The group at Nicea comprised about 25% of this previously outlawed religion’s leadership. Immediately after they issued the above creed, Constantine instructed his generals to baptize his entire army (by force), his mother to find Christian relics in Palestine (by force), and his courts to prosecute any and all forms of “heresy” not conforming to the Nicene Creed (again by force). Then he converted pagan temples in the region into churches for this newly-minted religion he had helped to found and supplied these recently-sanctioned bishops with political, military, and financial support, making them rich and powerful overnight.
This partnership in power continued throughout the Dark and Middle Ages. The Papacy acquired a dual role in both religious and secular leadership. The pope had his own troops, his own lands and his own serfs and served in a somewhat ambiguous role in the Medieval hierarchy. Some popes used their influence to make or break kings and some kings used their armies to make or break popes. The closest analogy today is the dual role of imams in Islamic societies which evolved from Christianity.
Before this drastic change, more than half of the bishops of Rome had been executed. Yet there is no record of any Christian uprising in all that time. There are stories like “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” where the early followers of Jesus went to their deaths as Jesus had, forgiving their oppressors and turning the other cheek. Followers of Jesus of Nazareth were generally poor, kind, humble, forgiving and generous as Jesus of Nazareth had been and as his teachings asked them to be, which made them excellent domestic slaves to tend (and influence) the children of wealthy Romans. There are rumors that many of the early leaders of these groups were women.
After this change in the lives and demeanor of “Christians,” this religion became dogmatic and closely followed the teachings and writings of Paul and his hundreds of devout “believers” rather than Jesus and his kind and compassionate “followers.”
It is my contention that, in matters of substance and in issues that mattered to the Roman Emperor and his military, economic, and cultural stranglehold on the lands surrounding Rome, Jesus and his ostensible promoter, Paul, were diametrically opposed to each other. I believe that, in these simpler times, Constantine I was able to, in a few short years, turn a constant thorn in his side into a political and economic ally through using the work begun by Saul of Tarsus aka Paul and his followers to change this anti-Roman, anti-violence movement into something completely different.
Jehovah, the “God” or “Father” of the Nicene Creed, was invented around the time of King David’s expansionist Jewish empire. Jehovah is intended to be the Creator, but he is clearly bigoted, sexist, and extremely (but ineffectively) violent. Not once in all of his violent acts did Jehovah curb what he interpreted as “sin” or “evil” in any significant way!! Further, having been invented by Jewish writers, Jehovah shows a clear bias toward an incestuous couple named Abraham and Sarah. Jehovah sends his angels to aid Abraham and Sarah in the statutory rape of a slave so that they can have offspring. Jehovah later reverses Sarah’s sterility, giving them a son of their own and illegitimizing and disinheriting the older son, causing the historical Semitic split between Arab and Jew. In condemning Sodom and Gomorrah, Jehovah decides to spare one family, but sees fit to turn the mother into a pillar of salt for the sins of curiosity and compassion, knowing that the daughters will subsequently rape their father. Jehovah is inept and yet craves validation, adoration and obedience from his creations. There is almost nothing modern humans might find commendable or trustworthy in the character of this Jehovah, were we not trained to worship Him and call him “Father” from an early and impressionable age.
Jehovah isn’t poor and he doesn’t reward, enforce or encourage poverty. He makes Abraham and Sarah rich by aiding their confidence schemes against two different leaders. Jehovah aids Joshua in conquests where the people of Jericho and neighboring towns are massacred and their wealth stolen.
Jehovah isn’t just. Jehovah sends a pestilence to the Pharaoh’s household,who didn’t do anything wrong. Jehovah drowns an entire force of men in the Red Sea just for attempting to enforce the laws which were common in the region when he could have easily spared them along with the people they were pursuing.
Jehovah isn’t kind. He creates the most curious species the world has ever seen and then leaves the “fruit of the knowledge of good and evil” for them to be tempted. When they do exactly what their natures pull them to do, he’s brutally spiteful punishing their innate curiosity that made the outcome almost inevitable.
Jehovah isn’t forgiving. He drowns everyone but Noah and his immediate family, mostly because they aren’t credulous and obedient. The human race would be extinct in one or two generations if parents parented like Jehovah or if this narrative had actually occurred.
Jehovah is cruel. He tells Abraham to kill his newborn son and relents only when it’s clear that Abraham will be obedient. He kills Job’s wife and children to score points in a bet with the Devil. This isn’t loving or kind and the values it teaches are false and improper.
Jehovah is very much like the pagan gods in his capricious manipulation of men and women.
Jehovah is fiction created to support the conquest and self-aggrandizement that has generally accompanied the dogmatic religious groups that “believed” and were “saved from damnation.”
The actual Creator didn’t invent the atom or gravity or energy just so He could make mankind as His penultimate creation. History tells us that dinosaurs lived for a span of something like two hundred million years, a hundred times mankind’s existence. The Hubble Telescope shows us light that has been traveling for over 12,000,000,000 years, more than twice as long as our local star has existed.
The most telling argument against Jehovah is that humans are spiritual beings, and killing them isn’t effective, since their spirits continue to exist and affect other spiritual beings. There is only one realm of spirit and we all are in it together, united and indivisible. There is no Heaven or Hell which divide “good” and “bad”, but there is “good” and “bad” in each of us and together, not separated, they make up each individual. No human is or can be made to be purely “good” and no human is or can be made to be purely “evil”, though some may try very hard to insulate themselves from the compassion and empathy which unites us but can also bring great pain and suffering. Had Jehovah been well-informed, he would have known this and not repeatedly tried the same violent but clearly ineffective methods which didn’t lessen “evil’, disobedience, or independence in men and women and didn’t move the world toward “peace on Earth, good will toward men” either.
It is obvious. once you think about it. that if Jehovah had been God, He made up the rule that Jesus had to be killed in order to grant grace to people and he made up the arbitrary and capricious rule that one has to believe all this in order to appease Him and gain the benefits of Heaven. The fact that the Twelve Steps work and don’t require believing in the blood sacrifice of Jesus, baptism in any faith or the absolution of professional clergy proves to me and millions of others in various 12-Step recovery meetings that grace is available through other means.
In sponsoring wars like the invasion of Jericho, Jehovah was encouraging criminal behavior and, by his students and disciples following his poor example, is partly responsible for horrendous crimes against innocent people throughout the many centuries when his example was the only example read about and his judgment thought flawless and perfect.
Jehovah isn’t spiritually aware. He isn’t an effective leader. He is totally ignorant of spiritual laws. His need for human credulity and genuflection is pathological. Jehovah is violent, sexist, bigoted, and ineffective. Even if Jehovah existed and were actually our Creator, worshiping Him would be a mistake. I believe that Jehovah misrepresents the Creator in most significant details. I believe Jehovah was probably created to make the conquests of surrounding areas and the accompanying expenses and sacrifices palatable to King David’s populace and has served similar purposes throughout His reign as our ostensible “God.”
“Christ” existed in human consciousness and literature long before Jesus of Nazareth was born. Christ was created for political reasons. Unlike the stories of Jehovah, which were supposedly “history”, the stories of “Christ” or “the Messiah” were future history, or prophesy. These “Prophets” were thought to have powers of foresight which are totally absent in today’s population and, in my own estimation, never existed in reality.
I don’t believe in Prophesy. I believe we all have been given free will and that our Creator allows us to choose what we will for each day without interference. In my own extensive 12-step work, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in free will; I couldn’t escape it except in short intervals. Each day I had free will and whether I used it carefully or abused myself and my life along with those around me was a choice I was given to make. What I chose had consequences, large and small and the ripples of each and every daily choice extended into the future for quite a while. I do not believe that mankind has been dictated a specific fate by a bigoted, short-sighted, and self-obsessed “God”.
I know that both individually and collectively, we cannot be divided up into “good” and “evil”; it cannot be done and maintain what our spirits are. It is our mistakes and misdemeanors which make us real and erasing them makes us flat like cartoon characters in a comic strip. It is our interpersonal relationships, with all their love AND hate that make us spiritual beings in the first place. Our spirits aren’t magically washed clean or discarded in Hell at death, but continue on as before.
While Christ is a work of prophesy and I don’t believe in prophesy, I do think prophesy can be made to seem valid after the fact. There are several methods to realize prophesy: you can rewrite history to match the prophesies and suppress all other historical reports. You make it happen by manipulating events to force the prophesied events to occur. Another way to support prophesy is to break it in two parts and rewrite the first part while pretending the second part is deferred until later.
The Gospels seem to have been written to match the Prophesies. It seems fairly clear that the writers (not those whose names are attached to the Gospels, either) used an imperfect Greek translation of the Prophesies in creating their “histories” to match the prophesies. The Gospels also break the Prophesies into two parts, pretending a “second coming of Christ” to mask the clear and undeniable refusal of Jesus of Nazareth to play the part “Christ” written for him generations before he was born.
A few modern Englishmen decided to make Palestine into a “Jewish Homeland” in 1919 and implemented an official Zionist policy in territory they had stolen from their Arab allies after the conclusion of the First World War. There were riots against massive immigration of Jews in the early 1920s but these racist policies, aided and abetted by Christian Prophesies, continued until England lost control of their colony in 1948 and the racist state of Israel was created by formerly American and European Jews in the heart of the Arab world, fulfilling the dreams of the Crusaders and many ardent Christians, my own mother included, but also creating a permanent thorn in the side of the indigenous and surrounding Arabs. With the ending of Apartheid in South Africa, Israel is now the only modern racist country in the world.
I do not believe in Prophesy as a reality, only as a confidence scheme, a scam, an illusion to trick unsuspecting “believers” into accepting something that would otherwise be confusing. Take Armageddon, a bloodbath where “good” and “evil” are “judged” by scriptural doctrine which values credulity and obedience over ethics and morality. Without Prophesy, what modern person in their right mind would plan to make “Armageddon” and the rest of it come about?
Can you actually imagine Jesus of Nazareth, the humble and kind healer, the teacher that enjoined us to love our enemies, presiding over such an atrocity? It is undisputed historical fact that he refused to do it in his first lifetime. I envision him rejecting the role AGAIN if he ever got a third chance to be the world’s dictator and toss all Buddhists, Communists, Agnostics and nonbelievers like me into the torments of Hell!
Because of the interweaving of prophesy with the story of Jesus of Nazareth, it is sometimes hard to sort the historical Jesus from the fictional Christ, but I have come to what I think is a credible, or at least effective, result.
Let’s look at some modern spiritual leaders and what they accomplished.
Mahatma (his honorary title) Mohandas (his given name) Gandhi was a well-educated spiritual leader in the modern world. He fought nonviolently against racism (the very disease of the spirit championed by Jehovah in the Old Testament) in both South Africa and his native India. Later, he led his country by fasting against the cast system and against violence on either side of the issue of Indian independence, refusing to wear English wool or use English products, living humbly and spiritually, but calling for restraint and compassion from all sides of this cultural divide.
The issues in modern India weren’t that different from the issues in Palestine during the Roman occupation when Jesus lived. The solutions offered weren’t that different either. Of course, in a more modern country where the voting public back home in England are seeing through movies and reports the true nature of their colonialism, where they know that heavy casualties of sons and nephews might come any day and who see this well-educated man whom some had known stand up in dark skin and native attire he had made himself and act on behalf of those threatened sons and nephews, this was far quicker and more effective than in Roman times when few people could read or write and where most “news” was local or greatly slanted by those in power. And having an understanding and compassionate man in Lord Mountbatten helped as well.
Nelson Mandela is another well-educated spiritual leader who avoided a bloodbath by using similar spiritual tactics. He took a racist country and former colony and avoided most of the imminent bloodshed by introducing inclusion and compassion into national policies. The people who had incarcerated him for 27 years were welcomed into his government and warmly treated as colleagues.
Often, the transition from colony to state had found bloodshed and then oppression, but Mandela found a spiritual solution and sold it to both sides of a deadly conflict which had showed all the promise of a massive and debilitating civil war.
In the United States, the civil rights movement began the end of a hundred years of racist oppression following a hundred years of slavery for persons of color. This, too, was, for the most part, a spiritual movement where blacks and whites joined in the common cause of justice and true equality for people of African ancestry.
Another spiritual leader in the modern world is the current Dalai Lama of Tibet who is living in exile in India but continues to call for moderation and rapprochement between his country and the Chinese people who colonized it and tried to stamp out Buddhism. I’ve heard him speak in person and read a book he wrote, “The Art of Happiness”. This book is a spiritual guidebook of great insight.
In spirituality, as opposed to certain religions, everyone wins, everyone is included, and everyone belongs in their entirety, not just the “good” parts. Exclusion in spirituality is rare and temporary. The best spiritual solutions are completely inclusive and involve loving rapport between victim and perpetrator, resolving old enmities and healing with true remorse and true forgiveness. In spirituality, all religious beliefs are equal, none are preferred or “better than” others. In spirituality, all races of humanity are equally “good”, “valid”, “important” and “blessed”. In spirituality, women and men, heterosexual and homosexual, dark-skinned, light-skinned, or brown-skinned are equal and gain precedence only through age or tenure or some other tangible system of merit and not through arbitrary prejudices. In spirituality, the highest desire, the strongest goal, the most important thing is belonging and universal inclusion.
In dogmatic religions, as in high school cliques, belonging has rules. The rules for “Christianity” were begun in the writings of “Saint Paul” and dogmatically reinforced in the many churches he founded. Starting in 325 AD, Paul’s dogma was legitimized and violently enforced. The cleric Arius was banished from the Roman Empire because he believed Jesus was a man. Others were killed for similar beliefs. Even today, many Presbyterians must say a revised version of the Nicene Creed to belong in the church. In most Baptist churches, members must not disagree with the concept of the Bible as “The Word of God” even though modern scholarship has made this assertion an absurdity. They must continue to exclude women from leadership over men in their churches because some ancient scholar in a letter to another ancient scholar thought that was a good idea. Catholics must not disagree with the bogus concept of “Apostolic Succession” which gives the Pope absolute authority over the lives and personal values of a billion members despite the fact that the “unbroken line of authority back to Saint Peter” includes pedophiles and possibly an assassin along with some very good people and despite this “succession” being several times brought about through force of arms.
Hypatia, a teacher of mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy at the University of Alexandria and head of her department was murdered by a Christian mob in 415 AD at the urging of their bishop. No woman was allowed to participate actively in formal academic life from then until the Eighteenth Century. There was no “equal but separate” about gender discrimination created and enforced by Christianity. There were no female clergy. Celibate men made rules about what women may and may not do about pregnancy, incest and rape. Celibate men ordered all families under their authority to force their children into being educated in this obsolete way of thinking and enforced these restrictions with the threat of exclusion, the most common was the threat of calling their children “bastards” if they didn’t accede to Christian demands and the most extreme was shunning and excommunication.
Religion pretends to teach moral and ethical values, but it fails at that as well. One basic flaw is the exclusions, which impair empathy for those outside their religious beliefs. Another flaw is that religious institutions are financially dependent and will not jeopardize voluntary funding by offending wealthy benefactors. A third flaw is that the values taught in their texts are WRONG: slavery is wrong; sex between people of unequal social status is wrong, racism is wrong; sexism is wrong; exclusion is wrong; brainwashing children until well into puberty is wrong; and a bunch of old, celibate men three thousand years ago, two thousand years ago, or today telling everyone how to live is wrong.
In the traditional religious circles following the teachings of Paul, women are supposed to be subservient to men; it is still in the traditional marriage contract and considered the natural order. Alcoholic husbands regularly abused their wives and the clergy regularly blamed the wife for not being obedient or subservient enough.
The wealthy descendants with large land grants from the Pope and Spanish or Portuguese monarchs operate today behind a 500-year-old system of terrorism and oppression, making virtual slaves of the descendants of the previous owners of the land and the current farmers of the land. They go to church and say confession and the ongoing crimes supporting their wealth go unnoticed because they believe that they have “saved” these poor and hardworking people from “eternal damnation” by bringing their religion with them along with guns, disease, and strong-arm tactics. Somehow, their religion, contrary to the teachings of its ostensible founder, Jesus of Nazareth, allows them to be rich, haughty, ungenerous and mean and still be “righteous” and in good graces with the senior members of their church hierarchy who know who to speak nicely to and who to shun. Archbishop Romero spoke against this system and was assassinated. The church backed down completely. Moral leadership has been rare and always tainted by ancient creeds and encyclicals. In a world where birth control is sorely needed to relieve an over-stressed ecology, the Catholic Church has consistently stood in the way of effective solutions.
When priests and pastors of many different faiths were molesting children, the response by church leaders was NOT moral leadership but cover-up after cover-up. Only when courts began rewarding substantial financial penalties to the churches for these cowardly and immoral attitudes did the major religious organizations begin to actually address the problem seriously.
Humility is missing. Loving ones opposition is missing or lip service at best. Poverty is missing. Generosity is missing. Just about all the values taught and practiced by Jesus of Nazareth are missing.
Instead, members drink “Christ’s blood” and eat “Christ’s flesh” and pretend that the evil that they continue to do in the world magically disappears. There is no accountability. In the spiritual recovery programs patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a thing called “amends;” actually fixing that which we messed up. This isn’t an apology. This isn’t “Hail Mary, mother of God.” This is giving back the money/property/land you or your ancestors stole or, at a minimum, helping and supporting the descendants of the people it was stolen from and using ones power and influence to support those who had been oppressed. This is paying for the medical bills of the guy whose jaw you broke when you were drunk, actually looking at the damage and facing the consequences. This is paying all your debts, public and private, formal and informal. And this is staying paid up and helping others stay paid up. Not everyone goes this far, but to really recover spiritually, it is what is required and it fits right in with the teachings of Jesus.
We know who Christ is. He’s the guy of Prophesy. He is the absolute dictator of the world for a thousand years when Christians are vindicated and everyone else is sent to Hell. He is the miracle worker and the being that rose from the dead and told his followers that everyone that didn’t believe he was now God was destined for eternal torture and damnation.
Jesus of Nazareth
For me, Jesus of Nazareth is the guy who promoted the Golden Rule, which says, “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” This rule requires empathy … and not just superficial empathy within ones church or tribe or nation but empathy for others with different beliefs, different facial features, and different allegiances, even empathy for those who might hate and revile us.
Empathy is something many religions interfere with. I noticed that after 9/11/01, every single “Christian” I knew was screaming about “evil” and “fanatic Muslims” and not one had an ounce of empathy (as I had) for the men who committed suicide in this protest against American military aggression overseas. Of course, the real reason for their act was never mentioned and, had it been, I would have been surprised if many patriotic “Americans” would have been interested. They wanted the lies. They were utterly disinterested in anything from the other side. They decided that since the perpetrators drank beer (which is common among moderate modern Muslims), they were just crazy rather than inferring that they couldn’t be fundamental Muslims and drink beer and so maybe the news had misinformed them. One of the al Quida pilots was an Egyptian named Muhammad Atta who had a Master’s Degree in Architecture from a university in Germany. He spoke three languages fluently and wasn’t ignorant or brainwashed or a fundamental zealot.
No fact or reason was allowed to interrupt “Christian” cries for revenge. Few turned the other cheek. Few asked, “What have I done to offend you?”, which, incidentally, is the perfect question for the situation. These Americans said they loved Jesus, but somehow they had lost him in all that fake blood and flesh, in all that prophesy come to pass, in all that focus on his two and a half days of being dead and then arising again and in the false comfort of the teachings of their priests and pastors.
For me, Jesus is the guy who created the Parable of the Good Samaritan; who taught us to love our enemy. This is a story about a man encountering the badly-beaten body of someone who was supposed to be hated and might be expected to hate one back, but taking the time and care to nurse him back to health; again a story of compassion and empathy overcoming enmity; of the implicit brotherhood of all people.
Jesus was a healer and is said to have healed people without payment. I don’t know if this healing was accomplished through miracles or in some other way or if it was just part of the made-up Gospels by using the translated prophesies as a template. But I imagine Jesus showing compassion, concern, and care toward whomever was brought before him. Since he was a smart man and a serious student, maybe he picked up healing arts somewhere. There is no indication that he refused to treat anyone out of race or gender bigotry.
There is only the incident with the money-changers in the temple to indicate that Jesus had a temper. He is portrayed, in the stories at least, as kind, wise, and patient; everything Jehovah was not.
Maybe Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I would certainly credit the first sentence, since I believe it is somewhat true…if “The Kingdom of God” isn’t Heaven. The second sentence may have been added as it sounds good, but it is less true but what people always remember. In any case, Jesus was continually saying, “Give to the poor.” He certainly didn’t live lavishly or ungenerously. What he did have, he shared. And his sermons often underscored poverty and generosity. Of course, the revised Christianity, being supported by the wealthy and powerful, tried to somehow wheedle this into something else, but I think it is difficult for a rich man to practice compassion, generosity, and humility and still stay wealthy.
Worldwide Corporate Capitalism
In the modern world, a wealthy person may own undifferentiated wealth in mutual funds or stock in companies that own many other companies. Behind the scenes and possibly unknown to him, the bank that he owns part of is foreclosing on people they encouraged to get over their heads in debt and, for the sake of profit, hardworking people will become homeless. He may be unaware that a factory he has a part ownership in is closing because the company is moving its manufacturing to China or Indonesia where labor is cheaper, environmental restrictions easier, and so the profits will be higher even though the American economy and the Chinese and Indonesian environments will suffer. He only knows what his return-on-investment is and he naturally wants his investments to be as profitable as possible.
What employee in this structure can do otherwise that to accede to the demands of the stockholders and find ways to maximize profitability? What other ethics are allowed? Can the Board of Directors work against the stated wishes of the stockholders? Can a CEO take it upon himself to go against the stated wishes of the Board of Directors? At what level can anyone do anything ethically but maximize profits if that is the wishes of their major stockholders? (And it almost always is.)
If spirituality is always win-win, corporate capitalism is generally win-lose, with the winners almost always the people with money and political power. To the extent that a wealthy person can create win-win situations, I think he can be spiritually healthy, but it isn’t an easy thing to do – or to maintain.
Corporate Capitalism is the global system where the goal of every worker is to maximize profits for anonymous owners who, for the most part, were born into wealth and influence, to make money for the owners of stock who had enough already that they could afford to chance the excess in risky ventures. This is our system today and we worship it like a religion, not seeing that we work like slaves to satisfy the selfish and self-centered whims of the already wealthy and privileged. This system no longer rewards “hard work” which wasn’t actually hard work but was the ability to pay workers less than they earned your company and pocket the rest. John D. Rockefeller regularly called in arsonists to burn out wildcatters who wouldn’t sell their newly-discovered oil wells to him at pennies on the dollar. Even the benevolent Andrew Carnegie, who endowed many libraries in later years, amassed millions in steel by disappearing to Europe while his partner brought in a hundred armed goons to kill and disperse workers striking for mill safety equipment, a say in the running of the mill, and equitable pay for the hazardous work they performed daily.
In today’s economy, it is buying congressmen, senators, and presidents and selling junk bonds or legalizing improperly-classified derivatives in a foolishly, possibly criminally deregulated market. It is sending young men overseas to impose economic and military sanctions on Third World nations who won’t bow to our improper and illegal demands or who take umbrage at our backing the racist European/American enclaves stolen from Arab allies after World War I; places like Israel and Kuwait where the real rulers behind the façade are business interests in the US and England.
And it is bankers foreclosing on the homes of workers displaced by the ensuing financial meltdown that they caused and then personally profited from, wresting a property from people who have worked hard all their lives and leaving it empty or selling its ownership to someone else who seeks greater riches by buying homes and quickly reselling them at higher and higher prices.
Corporate capitalism takes money from those who work and produce and gives it to those who don’t work and are already wealthy and so don’t really need it.
This system, along with its religious and nationalistic self-righteous rhetoric invaded a Buddhist country, Vietnam, with bogus stories that the Vietnamese “invaders” were allied with China and the Soviet Union and would be aggressors against our allies in the region if left alone. During our stay in Vietnam, we dropped agent orange, a carcinogenic defoliant which is known to cause birth defects, on a significant part of the country and in massive quantities. We declared open war on civilians in large rural areas designated “free fire zones” by General William Westmoreland. We killed over a million people while losing close to seventy thousand of our own young men and quite a few more due to the debilitating after-effects of their service: physical, emotional, and spiritual. My first cousin committed suicide a month after returning from his second tour of duty in Vietnam. Two good friends were significantly traumatized by their experiences there. Many others were addicted to booze and drugs in response to their experiences and quite a few had PTSD for the rest of their difficult lives.
It turns out that the only two things “communist” about Vietnam were its surface-to-air defense around Hanoi and its need for land reform and a redistribution of wealth after two centuries of foreign domination including the Chinese, the French, the Japanese, the French (again), and the Americans. All the fears and lies about our “enemies” in Vietnam turned out to be false, but anyone who said so (the most famous being the actress Jane Fonda) was hated and reviled as a result of their compassion and honesty. Then, of course, there was John Kerry, an articulate Vietnam Veteran who testified about what our nation was doing and who was subsequently bought off by the established powers as was Jane Fonda. It is indeed difficult for a rich person to stay honest and compassionate when all their friends and allies are arrayed against them.
It is very clear that overall and in non-military terms, the Vietnam War was lost by both us and the Vietnamese people, as, I believe, are most wars in the modern era. And if we had “won”, the taxpayers would have had to foot the bill for an occupying force to sustain the succession of military dictatorships we established there and would get no benefit from the expense. We were clearly the invaders in a civil war between wealthy people who had profited by allying themselves with their invaders and the general populace of Vietnam who wanted their country back. The “democratic” elections in the South were a hoax, as was the country itself, created not by the Vietnamese but by NATO. The “invasion” by North Vietnam was another illusion. The leader of the “North” was born within 10 miles of Saigon and the “North” and “South” existed only as a convenience for French withdrawal. Imagine how people who have had their own nation for 1600 years might feel after two centuries of foreign oppression. Think how you might feel if pilots speaking a foreign language strafed your town or dropped agent orange on your farm or dropped leaflets demanding that you abandon your farm and its crops and livestock and allow yourself and your family to be relocated in a concentration camp as prisoners for an indefinite period of time. Try applying the Golden Rule.
One might have thought that Vietnam would have taught us a lesson, but it didn’t. Americans, especially Christian Americans are well-insulated from learning from their mistakes.
A generation later, we found ourselves embroiled in another foreign civil war almost entirely of our own making: the War in Iraq. First we created an English/American colony in Kuwait after World War I, encompassing massive oil reserves of the region and effectively annexing the deep-water port naturally belonging to what was to become Iraq. We helped them slant drill under their border with Iraq, stealing Iraq’s oil and selling it to us at discounted prices. Then, in 1990, we enticed Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, into invading Kuwait, falsely promising US noninterference (April Glaspie transcript), which gave us the excuse to send a half million troops to Saudi Arabia and drive Hussein back across his border during “Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm.” Nobody in the US was told that the reason the Iraqis torched a massive number of oil wells was that they were slant-drilling under Iraq for their oil. For the next ten years we embargoed this fairly wealthy and modern country and established extensive “no fly” areas within Iraq patrolled by the US Air Force, disregarding Iraqi sovereignty. When that didn’t work to dislodge the tenacious ruler, we trumped up false charges against him and invaded. There were no WMDs in Iraq. There were no members of al Quida (or any other anti-American terrorist organization) in Iraq when we invaded. Saddam Hussein didn’t even gas the Kurds. None of the charges supporting our unilateral and unsanctioned invasion were true and the top Mid East adviser Richard A. Clarke was fired for telling this to our very “Christian” President Bush before we invaded. It is now clear that Saddam Hussein himself wasn’t the problem either because we deposed him and he was publicly executed and yet the “problem” (whatever it really was – Could the fundamental problem be our own troops stationed in the Middle East and our own profligate use of oil?) continued to escalate.
Why do Americans rush to violence? Why cannot the ostensible followers of Jesus muster compassion for any culture or cause other than their own? How do a people maintain such opaque blinders to the truth? I think it is our early religious indoctrination which immunizes our children against common sense or compassion for others outside our social and religious milieu. I see others able to do this, but very few “Christians”. They fund missions and send missionaries, but the primary goal always seems “to save their souls”, the egocentric belief being that God will exclude them if we fail in indoctrinating them into our religious views. I remember my own religious indoctrination and it included a great deal of false and demeaning caricatures of Arab Muslims pulled directly from the Bible and preached as Eternal Truth.
What is most clear is that we have lost contact with most of the spiritual teachings of our ostensible mentor, Jesus of Nazareth. Our wealth and our power over all other countries has inflated our egos and blinded us to honesty, compassion, common sense, and even long-term self-interest. We are proud of our wealth and our power over others, violating everything Jesus tried to teach us.
Americans seem incapable of humility. We clearly blundered in Vietnam and again in Iraq, but we still wave the flag and say we are proud of the “work” our troops are doing. A picture of this process of reducing a modern nation to barbarism and bloodshed is available to us (Baghdad Burning). We ought to know that an invasion is going to be resisted. How could an invasion by a foreign country end well? What circumstances would make it OK for anyone to send armed troops into someone else’s homeland? The military uniforms of the United States are feared all over the world. They are clearly up to no good when outside our borders and, while we may have thwarted other empire builders in two World Wars, we built an empire of our own in the process, betraying Arab allies in the end and establishing military domination and/or intimidation throughout almost all of the old Ottoman Empire as well as significant parts of the rest of the world.
It is this military intimidation and political domination of the Arab world that gave rise to al Quida and their desperate tactics of suicide terrorism (Robert Pape), and not Islamic extremism. It is our own illusions and self-righteous delusions, our pretenses and grandiosity that sustain a great deal of the animosity and conflict in the modern world. And, ultimately, it is our selfishness and greed, our intrinsic belief that we have a God-given right to consume a quarter of the World’s resources while contributing maybe five percent in return that maintain these senseless and debilitating international conflicts.
If we don’t believe in Prophesy, we can’t believe in Christ. And if we still believe in Christ and his violent takeover and eventual destruction of the world, how can we believe in Jesus and his admonitions to humility, poverty, compassion, love and forgiveness for our enemies? To be modern “Christians” is to turn our backs on spirituality, to embrace racism, privilege and self-interest over compassion and generosity. We cannot have both. It isn’t really possible.
In relation to the people of the time of Jesus, even the lower middle class in the US are wealthy beyond the wildest imaginations of people of the First Century! Certainly major stockholders have far more than they need. Why can’t we be generous? Why can’t we be compassionate? Why can’t we be forgiving? What’s to stop everyone from thriving? What is standing in our way?