Crucial question. Crucial answer.
It's the day after Easter. The chocolate Easter bunnies have given up their retail space to Mother's Day cards and purple vestments are tucked away in church closets. Easter lilies and cymbidium corsages* may see another week of life but most of the trappings of Easter must wait resurrection in the coming year. Easter, the very soul of Christianity, its raison d'etre, will be stored away like Christmas ornaments.
Today's Christianity, the one we see on
television, the one posted relentlessly on YouTube, the one touted endlessly in
GOP campaign speeches, however, will not be tucked away for future use. Its
vehement chest-pounding was seen in Pastor Dennis Terry's introduction of the
"Jesus Candidate" Rick Santorum.** It's hypocrisy was seen in Pastor
Terry's back-peddling response to criticism in the ubiquitous "...but we
Andrew Sullivan's recent views on today's Christianity certainly brought home the fact that Christianity has been ruined by the last 50years' worth of televangelists, moralizers, priests, politicians... and people like Terry.
"There's so much bad religion right now in
this country that I felt it was important as a Christian to say, 'This is not
what I believe. This is not what many of my fellow Catholics believe. We want
to return to the message of Jesus and the gospels, not these obsessive battles
over contraception or gay marriage or these other, I think, political issues,
where Jesus really, really avoided politics at all costs," Sullivan said.
And the "Bad Religion" Sullivan speaks of is reeking havoc on everyone: last Friday, Lou Engle rewrote Scripture in calling upon women to emulate Queen Esther in fasting and prayer, demanding that they humiliate themselves for all the abortions they had. And Pastor DL ("Down Low") Foster insinuated that gays are worthy of death while advertising his "retreat" for men fighting same-sex attractions.
POLICING THEIR OWN
It's all well and good for some
conservative and progressive Christians to say "They're not one of us!
They don't speak for us!" but such response is ...lame. And while we
realize that freedom of religion restrains the "other" Christians
from pummeling their righteously arrogant brothers, stronger means of
chastisement are called for. But what? Excommunication? Hardly.
Take, for example, the situation with today's Southern Baptist Convention and
its steadfast 14th century views about women, gays and sex. Then look at its
stranglehold on Tennessee. In order to bring Tennessee back into the 21st
century, we would have to virtually eradicate the Southern Baptist denomination
in that state altogether. True, Southern Baptist churches claim autonomy, but
autonomy is a mythical beast trotted out once in a while to cover up the fact
that churches who stray from the SBC agenda are severely chastised -
financially as well as socially.
So if they can't chastise the Christian Right,
can't curtail the charlatans, the Fundamentalists, the Religio-political
Establishment, what is the rest of Christianity to do? Can Christianity be
More to the point, is Christianity worth saving?
This is where qualifiers come in: Christianity may be worth saving, but today's Christianity may not be worth the
Today's Christianity, as Sullivan points out is simply bad religion. Another qualifier: dangerously bad religion, with political power disproportionate to its numbers. And therein lies the seed of its demise: the political arena.
That is, if the politicians would have enough courage to unchain themselves from today's Christianity. They're perfectly capable of doing so. The power of the First Amendment could be used to undo years of oppression. But then again, the Right's fictional "war on religion" would become amplified, giving it the advantage of a persecution complex.
The religious movement that Jesus Christ started was essentially a simple one based upon love and compassion. Today's Christianity is a frustrating complexity containing elements of megalomania and fear-mongering and in Christ's eyes, would not be worth saving.
Yes, the situation is incredibly frustrating, and gives us pause to think: maybe it's time to scrap everything and start
all over again.
* My mother loved cymbidium orchid corsages because she could put them in the refrigerator and they'd last until the next Sunday. I loved them too because they were easier on my allowance.
**Terry's now infamous speech framed the Christian Right's hatred of dissenters with two words heard over the internet: "Get Out!!"