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 Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 2, 2015 at 9:56pm

Y'know maybe it's just that no great Hollywood director has taken it on, this Book of Revelation.  All the literal "happening in your lifetime" videos seem cheesy and 2nd rate and I feel ashamed to be associated with such slop.  I thought the cinematic treatment of the Narnia novels was pretty decent, though I admit getting bored with battle scenes that go on and on.  I'll keep watching the marquee for a Revelation movie I can like, not saying it has to be Hollywood, and sure, animation is fine.

Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 2, 2015 at 10:37pm

I pray that doesn't happen although the Left Behind series does have a movie or two out there.  The beauty of the Bible is that it's a living spiritual book.  The reason I am a convinced Quaker is because I recognize that just as each of us is unique, we each have unique needs and paths we travel.  The Bible is like a road map that changes as your location changes on life's pathway much as today's software changes the map of where you are as you move around.  You can't pin it down for everyone.  How and when the Bible speaks to you isn't necessarily how and when it is going to or has spoken to another.  That's what it means to be a living book quickened by the Spirit of God.  A successful author writes to his audience.  God wrote this to every living being as only He can.  Only a foolish man can think he understands what the Bible is saying to others.  Each of us has to pray to understand what it is saying to us and are fortunate if we understand half of it.  Are there uniform truths in it?  Yes.  But we don't all get the ability(power) to live those truths out in our daily life and those who do don't necessarily get that power at the same time in our life.  The spiritual life is as complicated as free will and a God that is the Creative Power of Love.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 2, 2015 at 10:45pm

Yeah, Left Behind is what I meant by cheesy.  Pulp fiction.  Marvel Comics does better, much better.

I agree with you that no one interpretation should win out, but I wouldn't get all Taliban about it and ban Bible stories as a genre. There's a new Noah just out, right?  I haven't seen it yet.  Anyway, Cecil B. DeMille has already carved out the space, so that genii is out of the bottle. 

But yes, lets not all settle on one particular interpretation as the be-all-end-all Apocalypse movie.  Just because some people love Revelation by director A doesn't mean director B's can't be great too etc. etc.  I'm patient.  The whole Bible is fair game and there's no copyright, as far as I'm concerned (not that anyone needs my permission ;-D).

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 9:17am

There was some serious opposition at the time, but it got in because there were too many people insisting that it belonged there. Later on, it was one of a few -- like 'James' that Martin Luther wanted to throw out, but for the same reason couldn't.

Apocalyptic writings usually bloom when there is widespread need to have what's going on 'revealed', ie explained, 'Daniel' being maybe the first example. In other words, when there's a condition of unexpected suffering, like pagan occupation & exploitation of Israel, that doesn't make sense in the religious frame of the time.

A common Jewish viewpoint in Jesus' day: "We've got this infestation of Romans because we're still not right with God, are still suffering for our (collective) sins." The harsh, nationalist wing of the Pharisees who'd come to dominate contemporary Judaism [following a theological discussion in which they brought spears and clubs to the synagogue and smote Hillel's followers with sharp and heavy arguments] shortly before Jesus' day wanted to overcome this 'sin' by personal piety, severe treatment of lawbreakers, and insurrectionary plotting. Jesus' interpretations, largely in the tradition of Hillel, represented a different way of addressing the [collective] burden of 'sin' -- becoming 'a light to the nations' instead of whupping the national enemies.

'Revelation', parts of which may have actually been written fairly early, featured heavy punishment of The Land because of the people's persistent rebellion against God -- and then the coming destruction of Rome & divine renewal of Israel, "soon".  This has not really happened as advertised -- but people continue to see the inexplicable sufferings of their own time symbolically reflected in the book.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 11:41am

Those wanting to abolish slavery in the US came in two flavors, the "immediatists" who wanted to end slavery yesterday, and the "gradualists" who figured we needed to find a place in Africa first, where the slaves could be sent to be free (some elsewhere).  Many positions in between. 

Quakers sometimes took the view "it's not OK for me to have slaves but that's because I'm a Quaker; as long as the USG says it's legal, it's not my place to say anything to my neighbors about it" (the example of John Woolman notwithstanding).

Here we are in 2015 and we have another form of abolitionist: those wishing to rid the planet of nuclear weapons (of mass suicide / mass murder).  These things are an abomination and a shameful statement about the human species:  that we're ambivalent about God's gift of a viable a planet, a Promised Land. 

To blow it up is the ultimate middle finger to God, with our going very deservedly to Hell should we do that.  But of course many innocents don't even know of the possibility and wouldn't wish it on their worst enemy.  Only the mentally ill yearn for Armageddon in their lifetime, but then "desperately fearing" and "yearning for" are but microns apart sometimes.

What interests me is how the various religions either condemn and excoriate, or embrace and encourage, the development and possession of nuclear weapons.  I think our grandchildren will judge in this light and study the record regarding how we brought our self-destructiveness under control.

During slave times, the Bible was used as a tool of persuasion on both sides of the argument, pro slavery and anti.  "Jesus never said anything against slavery and the Bible is full of people having slaves" i.e. having slaves was considered Biblical, and here Biblical means the Way It Is, God's ordained order.  What this tells me is the obvious:  the Bible alone is not strong enough to keep its believers from Civil War.  But then what religious text is?


Those Christians embracing nukes are likely to (A) find justification in the Bible, in my experience probably in The Book of Revelation and (B) portray themselves as patriotically propping up some State that has them (at least in their own minds -- I'd say nukes are coming under supranational control at this point, with an eye to their eventual dismantling and demolition, with some of the radioactive guts diluted and bled out to the power plants, the ones safe enough to operate).

I expect Quakers to play a role in the abolitionist movement (against nukes); they already are.  One of our main allies in this movement is Iran, believe it or not, and it's a Good Thing that historically Quakers and Islam have a better than average track record, including recently.  The Native Americans thought we were among the least offensive of Christians as well.  Quakers have a lot of accrued capital, built up Good Will, and I'm looking forward to their not following their Protestant brethren in providing Biblical justifications for stockpiling these Satanic implements.

[fixed typos]

Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 11:56am

I don't think Christians like myself justify Nuclear weapons based on their being in the Bible so much as we take a closer look at Revelation because Nuclear weapons could bring about the damage mentioned in the book.  Hal Lindsey who wrote the Late  Great Planet Earth did a nice job on this in a book on Revelation in which he would compare things in the book with modern weapons not to justify the weapon but to try to show what an armed helicopter would look like to someone in the first century AD.  John wrote this before Jules Verne was writing about submarines and had limited access to Scientific America or the like.  After all he was just a fisherman.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 12:03pm

As you should have heard by now from other Quakes, bibles alone never were the point. (But sometimes people do find truth revealed in such places -- and in Arnold Lobel children's books (which used to knock me out, reading them to my kid (many ideas there snatched from the Talmud I learned later.)

Nothing in the world is accidental. And so it makes sense to consider the Bible, not according to "How are the fools going to misuse this?" but according to: "What might be revealed to me, at this moment, in this book?"

It is, after all, a rather prominent element of the Created world. And yes, one can also learn a lot from the Ching -- and that, too, needs to be seen critically.

Comment by Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 12:27pm

I'd say it's not either / or with the "means to me" vs. "means to them".  I'm not about to discount the latter as irrelevant, when slavery to nukes and the threat of using them, is the status quo.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 2:38pm

Well, maybe the Bible wasn't intended for little stuff like whether we monkeys should play with nukes or not. {Perhaps ~"That is left as an exercise for the student." For now, seeing as our 'leaders' and their owners did get it wrong, I hope something stops them before they kill again... but maybe we'll just need to reincarnate as toads in some remedial world or something. I don't think this was the Smart Class.)

Comment by Kirby Urner on 10th mo. 3, 2015 at 7:48pm

Must we care that much what the Bible was "intended for" in one culture or the next, that's not ours?  Maybe what matters most, to us, is how it's actually being used today. 

It's one thing to be the back packer heading to some cabin in the woods, or Robinson Crusoe with a limited number of titles.  "Hmmm, I brought the Bible along, might as well make the best of it, including the Book of Revelation, it's a long winter after all."

Someone on Peace and Social Concerns (PSCC or whatever abbreviation), has a different job description and had better keep up on which groups it'd be counter-productive to rent to, let alone host.  

It's a million dollar flagship Liberal Meeting and we don't want to be seen coddling up to the End Timer sort, mainly because we'll look uncoordinated / awkward ourselves, inept at pursuing our own agenda.

"Oh so Quakers say they're working for peace on Earth and yet rent to such-and-such who expect doomsday any moment now, thanks to nuclear holocaust?" 

We've already stumbled big time, in not paying attention to building use.  We need to do our homework. 

Squeezing the most wisdom possible from some random library for one's own personal edification is not the sum total of our practice as Quakers.  We need to stay more vigilant than that and remember our place as players in the grander scheme of things.

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