America as the beacon of human rights and dignity is but a dream yet to be realized. While the dream has lain dormant, amoral opportunists have busily unleashed their nightmare on billions of human beings. And all the while they have trumpeted the many virtues of the United States as a Christian nation.
There are many admirable aspects to our country, but these are often over-shadowed by the actions of the Machiavellian, ruthless, and avaricious individuals who have long dominated the social, economic, religious, and political institutions comprising the power structure United States of America. While a nation is an abstraction encompassing many aspects and dynamics (i.e. its people, culture, government, resources, etc.) that are in a constant state of flux, there are at least four elements of the United States which have remained relatively consistent throughout much of its history:
1. A wealthy White patriarchy has monopolized most of the power and wealth.
3. Disseminating powerful propagandistic messages through a corporate-owned media and a public school system designed from the top down to produce obedient consumers and workers, the ruling elite in the United States has convinced generations of citizens that their nation is a moral icon and that American Exceptionalism justifies the slaughter of millions of innocents.
4. Many in the United States assert that the United States is a Christian nation. "Christianizing" the "heathen" Native Americans and the Filipino "savages" provided a rationalization for annihilating millions of human beings.
Given that the psyche of most Americans has been battered with the notion that our country was founded by Christians intending to form a Christian nation, and that many of those besieged psyches have acquiesced and accepted this assertion as dogmatic truth, perhaps an analysis of the founder of Christianity would be instructive.
Jesus Christ. Was he deity, man, or myth? The answer to that question depends on one's point of view. Christians embrace him as the son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity. Followers of Islam consider him to be a prophet and holy man who performed miracles, but do not believe in his divinity. Some of us in the "pagan" realm simply view him as an inspirational moral leader. Others doubt that Christ even existed.
Whether he was god, exceptional human or legend, almost all of our knowledge about Jesus Christ is derived from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And these three books of the Bible do reveal a story of a remarkable being.
Jesus was a radical agitator and social outcast who challenged the establishment of his day. A carpenter by trade, Christ would have been considered one of the working poor. As is common knowledge, he defied the Sanhedrin's insistence on strict adherence to religious law to the extent that they eventually saw to his crucifixion.
In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was stigmatized as a bastard and shunned as the son of an adulteress. Joseph is believed to have adopted him, but that apparently did little to alleviate the situation. Jesus eventually embraced a new "family" in the sect that followed John the Baptist. Jewish leaders, whose power was largely dependent upon their Roman occupiers, came to view John as a serious threat as he preached loyalty to God over Caesar. Jesus' equally tenacious commitment to placing the will of God above that of a political leader ultimately led him to martyrdom too. Both men represented serious threats to the social order and it was virtually inevitable that the ruling class would kill them.
Aside from the fact that he claimed to be the Messiah and seriously threatened their authority, the Pharisees feared and hated Jesus because he developed such a mass following throughout much of Galilee during his three year ministry. He won hearts and minds with his messages of redemption and compassion. Whether it was through the placebo effect, alleviation of psychosomatic illnesses, or true divine intervention, Jesus performed many miraculous cures and exorcisms. Encouraging his considerable throng of followers to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law and asserting corruption in the Temples, Jesus demonstrated that he was an anarchist capable of initiating a successful rebellion against the status quo.
Excepting his martyrdom, perhaps his crowning achievement as a spiritual leader was the Sermon on the Mount. As he spoke, he shocked his listeners with the Beatitudes in which he defined the blessed in ways that defied orthodoxy. According to Christ and his Beatitudes, the blessed and the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven include mourners, the hungry, the persecuted, the merciful, the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers.
Note that his criteria for blessedness did not encompass the aspects of humanity which Americans have been programmed to worship, including winning; accumulating wealth; attaining power; being thin, youthful and beautiful; succeeding; heterosexuality; regular attendance of church; being Caucasian; and patriotism.
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