So What's So Terrifying About Christianity?

What terrifies people most about Christianity?  Pope Francis is just winding up his tour of the US and from a Quaker standpoint, his call to US Congress to withdraw from the Arms Bazaar (its main activity) and to focus on helping the people (what a concept!) seems entirely benign.  My mom is clucking happily about it, and she's a world famous nuclear abolitionist.  So what's the problem?

Catholicism is still smarting from the Galileo episode when the church was caught squarely on the wrong side of history.  Christianity became too easy to demonize as anti-science, and what's worse, scientists began withholding discoveries (Descartes) or sharing them with others first!  The Vatican could see itself paying a palpable price, and a big one, for its attack on Galileo and his astronomical views.  They were losing the Cold War of their day.

Fast forward and the Vatican has built a state of the art observatory in Arizona (VATT) and its staff astronomers are second to none in participating in contemporary scientific conversations.  The Vatican had as much input into the decision to demote Pluto from full planethood (or did they bring it back, I heard a rumor?) as anyone.  Nor does the philosophy of Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit, make it hard to talk about evolutionary theories of the human being.  Science and the Vatican seem more at peace with each other than ever.

Ah, but what about the Protestants, or lets call them the Sunnis of our Western Civ (Catholics being Shia).  Or shall we go with Tutsi and Hutu? 

Protestants are more like ISIS in wanting a Christian State in the Americas, and what they embrace, in their sectarian core, is their Book of Revelation, a map of the End Times, expected any day now. 

Yes, that's what's most terrifying about Christianity:  the mostly US-based End Timers who want to see God's Will for our planet in their own lifetimes.  For this reason they need those nuke weapons to remain at the ready, as (clearly!) they're to play a role.  Protestant End Timers are pro nuke because they expect God to push the button (through His instruments, his servants on Earth).

You'll notice how Liberal Quakers, even those who allow lots of space for the Bible (including Multnomah, with Bible Study every Monday morning, well attended, well led) still manage to avoid the topic of End Times and the Book of Revelation

If you're shopping around for an End Times church, one that will give you a map to the End of the World, you'll find Quakers of all stripes mostly don't fit that bill.  The hallmark of an End Times church is its people are on the lookout for an Anti-Christ.  Just talking about Christ is not enough.  You'll know you're getting warmer, closer to the radioactive core of Apocalyptic Christianity (the terrifying kind), when you start hearing about the Anti-Christ (and some horsemen).

Like the Catholics, I expect Protestants of this ilk, who alienate their religious peers willy-nilly, by saying we all (or most of us) deserve to die in a fiery all-consuming war -- because we're sinners and God wills it -- will pay a price.  I'll be watching the upcoming Parliament of World Religions in Utah to see if there's any religious leader brave enough to take on the whole topic of Religious Terrorism, including of the Christian variety.

However, I'm not going to take the view of Official Washington and say it's OK to bomb religious terrorists, as that tends to be self defeating.  On the contrary, I believe in religious tolerance and think small communities should be allowed to experiment with alternative laws and customs within their own sphere -- but we need to discuss limits.  I was aghast when Texas took it upon itself to invade that Mormon compound and steal away all the children, what a travesty!  So what if this sect practices polyamory in some form -- that's their religious freedom!

As one of the logistics supervisors (an overseer) for the Occupy Portland operation, I was never under the illusion that we could stay put for long.  This was not Rajneesh Puram and we were not seeking permission to cremate our dead.  The hallmark of a permanent community is it includes taking care of dead bodies.  This is not anything terrifying and all religions deal with that aspect of mortal life.  Occupy was a social movement, not a religion, but we wanted an opportunity to experiment with building community nevertheless.  That's a strong hunger that humans have and we deny it at our peril.

Those practicing End Timer religions should be free to manage clinics, nursing homes, and mortuaries, not just schools.  Bombing ISIS, rather than treating it more like a branch of Protestant, is Official Washington's big mistake.  I'm hopeful the Eastern Orthodox, more cozy with the Russians, will prove an offsetting force that gives Official Washington an opportunity to rethink its dangerous policies.  Don't bomb religious fanatics but don't arm them either.  Listen to Pope Francis.  Find another way to make money.

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Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 4, 2015 at 2:43pm

Great rant Kirby.  Would have loved to have heard it rather than read it but I'll settle for reading it.  I have a great bumper sticker that says "no love equals no peace".  If people don't know you love them, they are not going to trust you, and though we don't seem to believe it, you can't buy love.  We can't buy it with money and we can't buy it with the blood of American soldiers, unfortunately our politicians don't care so long as it's not their money or there relatives.  Quakers as a group have lost their way because they don't believe in the power of prayer.  When faced with a question of what they would do to stop ISIS they don't have an answer because they don't believe God can actually help them or at least direct them.  One of our simplistic Christian sayings is that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The God that guided King Jehosaphat is the same God who waits to guide anyone who seeks Him.  Being a Liberal Quaker doesn't have to equate to not believing in a living God.  Without a hub to draw strength from a wheel will fail.  The reason Christianity is held in poor regard is that too many of its leaders are more interested in personal gain than in hearing from God and God's true prophets that walk this earth are more interested in their relationship with God than being acknowledged as a Prophet.  Many people who meet Jesus are sucked into the commercialized religious world and like the seed that gets choked by the cares of this world never grow to bear the fruit of a righteous life.   Sorry I guess I caught your "rant bug". :)

Comment by Olivia on 10th mo. 4, 2015 at 4:19pm

Thank you, James.

Comment by Olivia on 10th mo. 4, 2015 at 4:36pm

Hey Friends,

I don't know if it's pertinent anymore but maybe worth sharing:  I thought, when initially seeing the title of this discussion, that it might be about what's terrifying about what I'll call Actual Christianity -- actually following Christ.  I thought: now that's rich!  There are many things to discuss about that!

Most of what we seem to be focused on here is instead what's terrifying about not really being a Christian but saying you are.

In addition to seeing the hypocritical behavior of others, one thing we may wish to do is to recognize that cynicism is a spiritual problem, too.  What we see wrong in the world matters, but also WHAT WE SEE when we look at the world matters and is insight about where we are placing our own spiritual energy (Jim's great mention of ISIS and Quakerism as an example).  

The world has severe problems...but having a cynical heart, if you find that you do, also blocks the Gospel truth from getting through (and from coming through us to others).  It makes a person think they see clearly when they don't see the whole picture, but it also makes them bitter and less effective.  So I'm not sure we're called to take issue with various other people's beliefs to this degree:  perhaps just forgive them and be in that state of Divine acceptance and listening, ready for whatever bridges God intends to mend?   I mean -- I think the spiritual energy coming from this discussion at the very least has not come to fruition, but at the most may be a lot darker than the Light we wish to shine out. 

I've heard that communities affected by ISIS have had remarkable and unexpected success at sending a counter-message that's a message of Light, not the darkness of the violent hordes....simply working with Hope and the changes the communities need to have more Hope and be less suceptible to that fear and related patterns of thought and decision-making.  So tell that ol cynical heart and cynical clarity about the world that a truly Christian message just might have some Good News in it!   Don't be surprised if it does, and from where you least expect it!  ha  

Comment by Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 4, 2015 at 6:08pm

Yeah, it's hard to not get cynical about religion once one sees how it's harnessed by the temporal powers to their own ends.  Emperor Constantine learned his lesson:  if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, i.e make the Roman Empire officially Christian and you'll have the tools to keep growing. 

Mass produce Christian baubles for the gift shops, and the faithful will follow you blindly, as their "blind faith" (so very similar to blind loyalty to one's King) is built right in as a virtue, at least in the more decadent brands of pyramid scheme hierarchy. 

Obedience, not defiance, is what to cultivate in the masses.  Any religion able to do that is worth more than gold. 

Religion is used to create that state of reverence and solemnity, gravitas.  The Cross gets planted on some South American beachhead, and voila, miracle of miracles, this is now Papal Property.  Amazing.  It's downright Biblical!

Unfortunately for emperors and dictators, crime bosses of all kinds, Christianity is not quite tame enough to support a Borg Cube forever.  Whereas most humans seem eager to the point of desperate to surrender their free will to experts, professionals, pundits of all stripes, a tiny minority seems hell bent on doing its own thinking.  Irreverent Quakers pop up, questioning authority, refusing oaths of loyalty.  WTF!?  Where does the operator's manual say how to deal with Quakers?

As a result of such obstreperousness, micro-fractures emerge, and every so often, we get a meltdown, like the 100 years war twixt Catholics and Protestants.  Or the Civil War in the US.  Or maybe even something good happens.  A shakeup in world religions might be just what the doctor ordered.

For whatever reason our species refuses to settle into any one Kingdom or Reich.  I consider this hopeful and positive.  The Tower of Babel is maybe my favorite Bible story.  Silly humans, thinking they could create One System to Rule Them All.  Ain't gonna happen.

Thanks to some divine spark within common humanity, the peasants, handed a gun and a picture of their God, sometimes disobey their "superiors" and refuse to kill the enemy, seeing through the manipulation.  They see The Man behind the curtain, and, like Smedley "Fighting Quaker" Butler say out loud that War is a Racket.

However, to see religion as a tool of social control is not to see the falsity of all religion.  Cynicism of that variety is simply too easy.

Rather, the many religions and psychologies, not to mention philosophies, do indeed give us insights into something both collective and transcendent about the individual human mind. 

One could simply say "religion is the power of God's mind combined with the human being's endless ability to distort it".  The idea that humanity is simply a distorted image of what true angels must be like is an old one and I think I'll land it there for now -- a friendly / familiar airport.

Comment by Olivia on 10th mo. 5, 2015 at 10:14pm

I appreciate the amount of idealism and joyfulness about the Quaker potential that comes through your words.  I also appreciate knowing about you that your favorite Bible story is the Tower of Babel.  ha    It would be interesting to hear how you tell that story.

I know and love someone whose favorite Bible story is story of Job.   I don't think I actually had a favorite Bible story in this way...I find "you people" remarkable...and I like what it says about a person.  My sense so far is that when one of those stories is someone's favorite they can mine allllll kinds of interesting stuff out of the material without even trying, just by being themselves.  My loved one -- I'm not sure if she would ever analyze Job -- but in her life she has struggled... kind of as much (!!) ...and she loved that story from the time she was a child.  It has helped her to get through a lot, and with a really amazing attitude.    A totally different experience is surely being had by someone who has always loved the Tower of Babel!  It would be very enlightening to learn more.   Something about the terrifying power of fake Christians, maybe?

Comment by Kirby Urner on 5th mo. 24, 2016 at 9:23pm

I link back to this blog post from this other blog post:

It's not just Christian End Timers that like to jump the gun and prophecy about the distopian future to come.  The imams like to scare us with a lot of the same stories.  "The end of the world is at hand" and yada yada.  I call these the myopic-minded and agree they should have free speech.  I'll maybe catch up when I've got a free moment.  Some of us really work for a living.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 5th mo. 25, 2016 at 1:01pm

Oops, "jump the gun and prophesy" (verb) not "prophecy" (noun).  Thanks to grammar police!

Comment by Howard Brod on 5th mo. 26, 2016 at 12:31pm

A little side bit of information you provided Kirby in your post is this:  Liberal Quakers do have Bible study at their meetings, contrary to popular opinion.  I do believe there was a decades long period when this was rare.  But over the last ten years, I have noticed that many (if not most) larger liberal Quaker meetings have weekly or monthly Bible study for those who are interested.  The large liberal Quaker meeting here in Richmond has been doing so for years now.  My small liberal meeting in Richmond routinely uses the Bible in our weekly adult Spiritual sharing; although, those sessions are not exclusively geared to the Bible (too small to dedicate our sessions just to the Bible).

Most liberal Quaker meetings have again become aware that "liberal" includes Christianity, and a healthy liberal Quaker meeting wholly recognizes and cherishes that the founder of our tradition of love, forgiveness, and compassion is none other than Jesus, himself.   Further, because of this healthier spiritual atmosphere, Christians (or, at least "Jesus friendly") persons are routinely joining our numbers.  They are bringing their understanding of the message of Jesus to us (again), and we are bringing to them that that message can appear within many traditions.  It's a love-fest happening among liberal Friends!  And those meetings that refuse to open-up to this improved spiritual condition, are missing out on all the fun.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 5th mo. 26, 2016 at 1:08pm

Yes Howard, this is true.  Some of our most Bible-oriented are entirely accepting of atheist-Buddhists and others who huddle in the same Quaker tent.  The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is an ally, not a threat (ditto Subgenius). 

Those who advocate violence (which I'm sorry does not include sarcasm or computer games), such as carpet bombing (Ted Cruz) and/or condone owning nuclear weapons (most DCers), are the ones we still need to reach.  They may be a lost cause.


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