won't get into a detailed definition about what Christianity is, so
let's just say that it is the organization that supposedly follows the
teaching of Jesus the Christ of Nazareth as set down in the four
Gospels of the Bible's New Testament. Anything more than that should be
left to Biblical textual critics like Bart Ehrman and scholars of
religious philosophy like Karen Armstrong. Yes, I respect these people
very much, but the truth is that they haven't been allowed to make any
real headway in teaching today's Christians about their own religion
and about their own Bible.
Maybe their works will be published in the form of coloring books someday.
Hey, everyone knows I have to take a snipe at today's mass of "faithful." O.K., so I'll qualify myself: most (but not all)
of today's Christians don't have the slightest knowledge of their own
religion. They know nothing of early Christianity except the part about
Romans and lions. They know nothing about Christianity's founders past
a ragtag group of apostles whom most cannot name. They think that the
Bible was always composed of the same number of books from day one
(Christ's birth on December 25th). They're in the dark about the Dark
Ages. They may have heard about Martin Luther and his split from Rome,
but about popes even Catholics know very little. They know that some
Christians in history were a bit anti-Semitic, but that's where their
knowledge of Jewish persecution ends. They may have heard about the
Crusades and how brave, chivalrous knights tried to sweep away Muslims
from the Holy Land, but they don't know that the roots of Christianity
and Islam come from the same source and that, like Judasim, they are
Abrahamic religions. Witch burnings and the like, of course, they save
for Halloween and Hell Houses. Read Gary Laderman's account of Christianity throughout America's history. Lederman is the Director of Religion Dispatches and
Chairperson of the Department of Religion at Emory University. He
really gives a case for Christianity being a dangerous religion.
Neveretheless, today's Christians DO
know that - whatever it is - Christianity is the ONLY, TRUE religion.
That's what puts them a notch higher than everyone else. Whatever
Christians did in the past, there was a Divine Reason. The TRUE
religion doesn't have to apologize for anything. The TRUE religion is
always right in whatever it believes. God loves Christians and has (at
most) a kind of benign contempt for everyone else.
don't all of those vagaries give today's Christians a rather skewed
vision of their own religion? Of course. It could then be argued that
the more narrow and self-righteous view a people have of their own
religion, the better it is to control them. As with the contradictions
and complexity of the Bible, a simple but very narrow, very definitive
construct is the best way to keep control: today's Southern Baptist
preacher, for example, would never encourage scholarship in any form
from his congregation. To do so would mean answering questions which
threaten to make Christianity look less unique. Instead, tell them that
the Bible is the exact word of God and tell them to forget all that
In other words, keep 'em stupid.
Beck's recent Restore Honor rally gave a wake-up call to some Christian
leaders, however: maybe they've let Christians in America become too
Russell D. Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
point that Rev. Moore touches on (but marginally) is what I've said in
several past articles: America has made a religion out of entertainment
and an entertainment out of religion. And in being dumbed down, today's
masses of the Christian Right look more like Coliseum Romans being
entertained at the sight of other people being denied rights or
discriminated against. Francis Schaeffer's own own, Frank Schaeffer has
soundly denounced today's Christian Right:
"In the mid 1980s I left the Religious Right, after I realized just how very anti-American they are."
what was our Founding Father's perception of Christianity? Glenn Beck's
"historian", David Barton, insists that their view was the same as
today's, but, alas, it was much different: they were men who were
educated in the European Enlightenment tradition. They knew about Plato
and Aristotle as well as Erasmus. Many of them were actually educated
in England. They had to be, if they wanted to have any standing at all,
even in the "outback" of the colonies. They strove (as was the educated
lifestyle of the time) to be "Renaissance" men and to know as much as
possible about all things. Jefferson and Franklin were both
practitioners of science, literature, mechanics, physics and even
(horrors) metaphysics. Some were Freemasons. They did not envision a
democracy as we see it, but a plutocracy run by men of education and
property. This last precept is the reason why the populace were not
invited to vote for senators nor were they allowed to vote for
Founding Fathers had also known of the disastrous coupling of
government and religion and not just from England: by that time, Europe
had seen some 400 wars in less than 350 years and religion had its hand
in every one of them. They knew about the Salem Witch trials and knew
that many Native Americans had the fatal contempt of local "Christians"
who even fought with themselves (Puritans, vs. Baptists vs Anabaptists
vs Holy Rollers, etc. etc.). They certainly wanted everyone to worship
as he pleased, but not to the detriment of everyone else. They would
never have approved of the kind of yoke Constantine imposed upon the
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