Have you decided to change the course? Do you now support violence as a means of spreading the gospel? Specifically, do you endorse the new video game Left Behind in which "Christians" battle the forces of evil to the death? The video game is based upon the best-selling "Left Behind Series" of doomsday novels in which armed Christians resist evil and wage war against the one world government of the Antichrist. The claim is that all this is based upon what the Bible says. They also act like you, Christ, are itching to come back with an army of armed Armageddon avengers to slay unbelievers and sinners. So, if you were a teenager growing up today, which weapon would you use, Jesus, to blast straight to hell the followers of the Antichrist in the Left Behind game?
The Antichrist is for everything that you, Jesus, were against. That's how is this simple-minded country boy learned it. Obviously, I must have learned it completely wrong if this new Left Behind video game is what you would want your followers to play.
Jesus, have you rescinded the directives about turning the other cheek and putting our swords in their sheaths? Is the objective now to beat plowshares into swords? Did you reconsider your original purpose of bringing peace to the world and now realize that they only way you can get a little peace on earth is by waging a whole lot of war? Did God and you review the evidence and conclude that your blood wasn't enough and the whole world needed to be baptized in blood? Have God and you decided to get some payback?
Obviously, I'm confused, Christ. Please have mercy on me. I did not have benefit of receiving the new revelations as has the religious right. Yea, master, I have been left behind with my backward thinking while all these modern prophets, Pharisees and scribes have been lifted up in righteous rapture of esoteric understanding. Whereas the Son of Man might not know the hour of judgment, these modern prophets know it down to the second and location.
Have mercy on me, Jesus, for I'm so stupid and outdated as to still hold your words as the definite word of your divine message. Dumb me, I did not know that we are to ignore your teachings on loving one another and doing unto others as we would have done ourselves. I'm so old-fashioned as to have believed that we are to love our enemies and pray for their well-being. Hell, I was so gullible that I thought you really meant it when you said that if somebody didn't want to hear about you that we are to leave them alone. Mercy, Jesus, I even was silly enough to have believed that you actually want us to be perfect in loving each other as God is when letting the sun and rain fall on all without distinction.
Please forgive me for not realizing sooner that your real message was that we are to conquer the world in your name in order for you to be able to return and rule the world. How ignorant of be it was in believing that we are actually supposed to try practicing the beatitudes before securing the world and killing off all the bad guys and nonbelievers. Please forgive me for not having known that when you said that blessed are the peacemakers that you meant for me to pick up an automatic weapon and start sending sinners straight to Satan.
Pity me, Lord. If I had only not been raised in an extremist cult that preached love, kindness and humility instead of indoctrinating me into what you really want. The clues were there all along if only I had studied the holy words of all those saintly men who explained what it is that you really want. I failed to appreciate that you had been superceded.
Among the earliest was St. Augustine of Hippo who wrote not long after Rome and the church merged that "The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. To love with sternness is better than to deceive with gentleness. . . . In Luke [14:23] it is written: "Compel people to come in!" By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to his Son." The great Saint formalized the notion of Cognite Intrare, which means in Latin, "Compel them to enter." In other words, use force if necessary to bring them to Christ. Augustine also promoted the notion of holy war by talking about justified war in "The City of God."
Following that logic Pope Innocent IV declared that Europeans, being Christians, were compelled in the name of Jesus to defend the souls of all people on the planet, including non-Christians. So was born the institutionalized doctrine of the "right of conquest" in which Christians have the right and duty to conquer and rule the world. Think of it as an early version of preemptive strike.
Of course, when Innocent issued his bull, the Crusades had already been going on for a couple hundred of years. During the first Crusade when the Crusaders finally captured Jerusalem, they slaughtered nearly everyone, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, so that the crusaders "waded in blood up to their ankles . . ." Another account stated that"men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins." Someone else wrote that the corpses were "dragged . . . before the exits of the gates and arranged . . . in heaps, as if they were houses. No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids, and no one knows their number except God alone."
Only God knew. Such reasoning would also be used during the one European-based Crusade that Christians fought against the Cathars, their fellow Europeans. When asked by the Albigensian Crusaders what to do with the citizens of the besieged city Beziers, who were a mixture of Catholics and Cathars, the commander, Arnaud-Amaury, the Abbot of Citeaux, said "Kill them all; for God will know his own."(Tuez-les tous; Dieu reconnaitra les siens.) That sounds like a catchy jingo for selling a video game even today.
Of course, such a generous attitude of malevolence was also extended to other non-Christians like the Jews. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_antisemitism that "as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude and thus the lords of the lands in which they dwell may take things from them as though they were their own - with, nonetheless, this restraint observed that the necessary subsidies of life in no way be taken from them." Then there is the slight matter of the Jews ran out of Spain and the ones who were tortured and executed during the Inquisition.
Then the original version of Eternal Forces got new scenery with the discovery of the Americas. Pope Alexander IV pronounced that Christians had a"right of discovery" which gave them immediate title to any land they came across that wasn't ruled by officially sanctioned Christians. And as Africans discovered, it also meant that Europeans had a right to the inhabitants.
In the New World, the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather thought that the devil had lead the "miserable savages" to America "in hopes that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would never come here to destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them."
But came did the attitude of kill them all, let God sort them out. As the priest Bartolome de Las Casas wrote
"The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed. . . . Their insatiable greed and overweening ambition know no bounds; the land is fertile and rich, the inhabitants simple, forbearing and submissive. The Spaniards have shown not the slightest consideration for these people, treating them (and I speak from first-hand experience, having been there from the outset) not as brute animals - indeed, I would to God they had done and had shown them the consideration they afford their animals - so much as piles of dung in the middle of the road. . . . One fact in all this is widely known and beyond dispute, for even the tyrannical murderers themselves acknowledge the truth of it: the indigenous peoples never did the Europeans any harm whatever; on the contrary, they believed them to have descended from the heavens, at least until they or their fellow citizens had tasted, at the hands of these oppressors, a diet of robbery, murder, violence, and all other manner of trials and tribulations."
Of course, Jesus, not all Christians were or are bad. Once a church official asked Indians why they liked one group of friars and not others. "Because these go about poorly dressed and barefoot just like us; they eat what we eat; they settle among us; and their intercourse with us is gentle," was the response.
Even Gandhi said that "If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today."
Dear Jesus, the problem has been that too many Christians over the centuries have acted anything but Christlike. As second president John Adams put it: "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"
So don't get me wrong. Jesus. I think your teachings of love and peace are what's needed to be put into daily action. The problem is these whackos who think that you want people to go around killing and conquering in your name. The attitude is pervasive and filters down even to the most mundane parts of everyday life. Listen to this gem from former NFL quarterback Sammy Baugh about a linebacker: "He knocks the hell out of people, but in a Christian way."
Dear Jesus, I can appreciate the sentiment expressed by the English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton that the "trouble with Christianity is, not that it's failed, but that it's never been tried."
However, I'm not wanting to throw the baby out with the bath water. There have been plenty of people who have tried to practice your teachings. Even now, there are Christians who are standing up for your message of peace. Take for example the Christian Alliance for Progress, CrossWalk America, the Beatitudes Society and The Center for Progressive Christianity. They are trying to get Tyndale House, a Christian publishing business, to recall Left Behind. The coalition says that the video game and corresponding books of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins represent
"a relatively novel way of interpreting the book of Revelation and the biblical passages that treat the end of history and the coming kingdom of God, whose origin is less than 200 years old. . . . Worse, rather than seeking to close the gap between neighbors, as Jesus did in his ministry, the game's purpose is to drive a wedge between people, teaching teenagers that what God intends is for them to slaughter those who do not share their beliefs."
Anybody outraged about Jesus being used to advocate religious violence can sign a petition asking Tyndale House to stop selling a violent video game in the name of Jesus.
LaHaye and Jenkins, authors of the "Left Behind Series," said that they "were blown away" when they saw the finished product. "Through this game, a seeker has the opportunity to receive Christ. Can you imagine the outreach possibilities?" Gee, what better way could there be to bring out brotherly love and peace on earth than unbridled war to win the world?
Let me know what you think, old friend. As much as these people are into outward signs, I'm thinking of wearing a t-shirt that says: "Don't shoot! I love Jesus."
Love and peace,