vivid impressions I got of the spirit of Christianity was from the
movies on Biblical themes that Hollywood was making at the time.
Some of the films of this sort were THE ROBE, QUO VADIS, and BEN HUR.
A frequent theme of these films was the stark contrast between the
Romans and the Christians. Often, the hero has been banging up
against the brutality and harshness of the Roman empire, and then he
encounters some Christians.
These Christians are not wearing armor, like the Romans, but simple
cloth. They are not brutal, but gentle. They are not full
of angry energy to assert their power and dominance, nor full of
punitive rage toward anyone who opposes them; they are kind,
loving, conscious of other humans as their brethren, ready to forgive
even as their Lord forgave even those who nailed his flesh to the
In the presence of these Christians, the music of the soundtrack
switches away from the militaristic brass and drums that Roman legions
tromp along to, in the streets of Jerusalem or Rome, and become more
heartfelt strings and winds, expressing the human spiritual yearning
for Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men.
Was I misled in believing that the compassionate, forgiving,
peace-loving spirit these films portrayed captured something of the
essential heart of Christianity?
Now, in America, there is a political force that, more than any other
in our country today, identifies itself as Christian. And this
force has aligned itself with certain leadership-- a particular
political party, led by particular political figures and prominent
When we look at this political force, and at how it acts and how it speaks, what kind of spirit do we behold?
Where among the leaders this force support, where among these prominent
voices these conservative Christians heed, is to be found anyone who
expresses anything like the spirit of those Christians in those
Bible-story films? Dick Cheney? Newt Gingrich? Rush
How would these people look if they were placed down in the midst of
one of those scenes where the "Goodwill toward men" of the Christians
is being contrasted with the brutal imperial dominance of the Roman
What are we to make of the starkness of that contrast?