Any topic that qualifies as a complicated conversation generally contains a lot of heated passion from every side, regardless of the topic being explored. I will of course be talking from my own point of view, so go with the assumption that it is my opinion. When I give facts, I will also provide the appropriate links so that you know it’s NOT my opinion.
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“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”
(Shakespeare, “Henry V”)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27)
The Old Testament is the Holy Book of the Jews, with the first five books making up their Torah. So the Jews would tell you that they are created in the image of Yahweh. Christians also believe that they are made in the image of the Creator. The next logical step is that if you are a reflection (in the image) of the one who created you, you should exhibit traits and characteristics of that creator. We come into a major controversy at this point because based on the Old Testament, Yahweh (Jehovah, God) is jealous, brutally violent, vengeful and generally Not A Nice Person. His behavior and words in the Old Testament would not commend him as a god to follow and emulate. But don’t take my word for it. I found a graduate student who has done the work for us. There are over 80 battles listed, against all kinds of enemies. Here is the link which leads to this list of all the battles in the Old Testament and God’s part in them: https://constantlyreforming.wordpress.com/every-battle-in-the-bible/
For those of you who don’t want to go look, let me just hit some of the “God” highlights:
Num 31: 1-2 “The LORD spoke to Moses, “Execute vengeance for the Israelites against the Midianites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”
Josh 10:8 “God says that he will defeat them, throws them into confusion, then sends hail storms.”
Josh 11:8 “For it was the LORD’s intention to harden their hearts, so that they would engage Israel in battle, be completely destroyed without mercy, and be annihilated, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.”
Judg 9:23-24 “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem. They treated Abimelech deceitfully, so that the crime against the 70 sons of Jerubbaal might come to justice and their blood would be avenged on their brother Abimelech, who killed them, and on the lords of Shechem, who had helped him kill his brothers.”
There was also a great period of civil war, which spawned two separate Isreali kingdoms: the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. During this time, Zechariah was assassinated and Shallum ben Jabesh took the throne and was king of Israel. That didn’t last very long because Menahem came along in his turn and killed Shallum. His 10 year reign was distinguished for its cruelty–especially when the city of Tappuah would not recognize him as their king–he had every resident killed, including the pregnant women.
So now that we’ve waded through all of these examples of God and his ideas of war–and his followers’ ideas of war, let’s talk about today’s modern Christians. They will say, “God made us in His own image” and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is that they seem to cling to the Old Testament for the laws and religious rules for their behavior. If they are going to follow the Old Testament, they should convert to Judaism. If they are going to be Christians, perhaps they need to re-read the New Testament. No, just the gospels. Pick one. I have chosen the first book of the New Testament, Matthew (New International Version), for the purposes of our discussion.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Jesus spent a lot of time preaching about love and trying to convince those listening to him that he was not out to replace the Pharisees. Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Jesus gave us the Golden Rule: Matt 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (From Gal 3:24, Christians are told: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”.) He was very clear about his mission: Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
He made a point of reaching out to those who needed Him, whether they were “clean” or “unclean” by the standards of the Law: Matt 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And He chided those who questioned Him about this practice: Matt 7:1-2 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
He also preached about the need for us to reach out and connect with those around us: Matt 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus Christ also spent a lot of time on hypocrisy and righteousness: Matt 5:20 “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”. And Matt 6:1-8 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” He again reinforces that later on: Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
He very clearly differentiates between good and evil, in actions and words: Matt 12:34-37 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” He even takes on the laws about the Sabbath and food practices when He says: Matt 15:18-20 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Jesus also dealt with the topic of preachers, teachers and church leaders who love their positions more than they love their fellow man. In Matt 23: 1-12 “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Incidentally, He is very specific about people who think they can maintain a certain lifestyle and still get into Heaven: Matt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Then He hammers his point home with this passage: Matt 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
All of that seems dire, but that’s not why Jesus was sent to this Earth. Indeed, He told us the NEW commandments (only two of them) that his followers were to use for their lives: Matt 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus was “gentle and humble of heart”; he healed the sick and fed the hungry; he preached about Love and praying for those who persecute you. He made the point about doing things for people you don’t know because it’s easy “to love those who love you”. Being a Christian is a life of giving up the material things that the world says you should want and living a simple, loving life, living like Christ. Two rules: love God, love your neighbor. Should be real easy to be a Christian then, right?
Can anyone tell me why so many Christians think that God made just them “special”, to be apart from the rest of us, to feel superior to those who are not Christian–and worse, to feel superior to those whose color is not theirs? Who believe that it’s perfectly all right, in fact God-ordained to refuse to follow the laws of the land whenever it refuses to let the Christians’ religious rights supersede any other religion? Please tell me where Christ ever said no birth control or no abortions; where He mentioned homosexuals as being “bad”, and why he would approve of violent threats against others just because they do not follow His Word? And why there is such a number of loudly “Christian” people who are fomenting religious overthrow of our Federal government, who believe that the Law of the Land should be the Law of Jehovah?
I have a meme that I trot out occasionally:
“I do not respect your religious beliefs. I respect your right to have them.” Where did this vocal group of zealots lose this concept, so that they feel free to ram their religion down other people’s throats? (Yes I said it. Ram.) If Jesus of Nazareth called for any revolution, it was of the soul and heart, certainly not a political revolution. The Pharisees feared him because he had popular support and he represented a threat to their power base–because they were political creatures disguised as Godly, Law-abiding priests.
And somehow, the lessons that the Pharisees imparted seem to have made it through the centuries better than Christ’s own message of love and acceptance. They taught fear and conniving; they showed us what hypocrisy could look like and it looked good. They taught violent methods to remove those who stand in your way–and in doing so, they returned us to the Old Testament, with its “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” mentality. They “re-infected” us, if you will, with the concepts of Sacred Violence that Jesus was trying to remove.
Sacred Violence. The idea that your religion is so right, that you are so justified in anything you do because, hey, you’re fighting for God! It means looking at war and battle as the first move, not the last or not at all. It means getting “them” before “they” get you–even if “they” aren’t even after you. Pre-emptive strikes. Necessary police action. Maximum force, first time out. Take no hostages. Scorched Earth.
We are accruing too many examples of Sacred Violence in our world today. We have religion being brought into the most innocuous places as a valid reason for invalid and illogical actions. We have the mention of God invoked when someone crosses them and they justify their retaliation with the words “Will of God” instead of acknowledging their completely irrational behavior. We see severe splintering in our country’s population as people choose between “doing God’s will” and following the secular law of our country. Those who choose God then make it their mission to take over the country. They long for a theocracy, where everyone is living by the laws contained in Exodus and Leviticus.
Hey fellas! That’s Old Testament. It’s so 2000 years ago. We have two laws: love God, love your neighbor. Be like Jesus Christ: humble and gentle, accepting and always doing the good work–feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, comforting the sick, visiting those in prison. But these poor, deluded bastards, goaded on by ministers and pastors who dress in Armani suits and live in a freaking mansion (serving money), think that this image of a Christian is wrong, it’s “weak”…it’s not “sacred” enough to actually be the thing to do. Many of the “foot soldiers” live under the poverty level; they’re not always well educated, and they long for something more. And the false prophets promise them all that they want and more, if they will just follow God’s will, as told to this false prophet just last night after the 11 o’clock news.
It’s our “sacred” duty to go into the Middle East and fight the local populations because…wait for it….they are not Christians, they are those damned Muslim terrorists. Well, I won’t argue about the terrorist part for some of them–but you don’t have to be Muslim to be a terrorist. Look at Timothy McVeigh. (Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Incidentally, that “sacred duty” is a lie. It’s all a big sell by the Big Oil companies to ensure that their money will make more money, no matter how many of our young men and women have to die to keep that money flowing.
Conversion by the sword (or by torture) is also NOT a uniquely Muslim practice, see the Crusades and the Inquisition. “Gay Therapy” (aka “Pray the Gay Away”) denies the very sacredness of the human being who is not heterosexual and Christ’s admonishment to “love one another as I have loved you” is completely ignored. He never asked the tax collectors to be other than tax collectors, or the non-Jews who chose to follow him to suddenly become Jewish before He’d accept them. He accepted every person just as they were, without trying to change fundamental parts of who they were–He only asked that each person make the choice to follow His teachings, living the things He taught and loving others without hesitation, like Him.
Threatening another person with “You’re going to Hell” is exactly that–a threat. Not only is that NOT what Jesus taught, He also admonishes us to “judge not, lest ye be judged”–and the kicker to His words about that is this: however we judge, whatever method and measures we use to determine our judgment…is how we ourselves will be judged. No thanks. Saying someone else is “evil” falls under this same umbrella, with the same consequences.
Threatening people to make them do what you want, what YOU think they should be doing, is not a good way to get anyone to do anything. If you want to see a truly spiritual change in the people around you, you must be a truly spiritual person yourself. First off, so that you’ll recognize it in others. Secondly, so that your actions and your words match and you are an example of the love of Jesus Christ, open and accepting to all without judgment. Not many of today’s visible “Christians” can claim this with any truth.
Not ALL Christians are like this. Let me reiterate: the portion of Christians I am speaking about do not fully represent all Christians within our nation or within our world. The ones I am talking about are probably a minority–but they are vocal, they are visible and their actions prove what they are and what they want to do: sacred violence. They are jealous, brutally violent, vengeful and generally Not Nice People. And there are modern Pharisees, political figures who make use of them by pandering to their desires and showering them with false praise of their resolution and determination to “do God’s will”. The media, controlled by politics and foreign interests, also controls them, either by tacitly agreeing with their world view, or through the fear of “God-less heathens” and “those who will not listen to the Lord, or his servants”.
They do not respond to logic or facts; they are emotionally centered on their views and deem any disagreement or disbelief as coming from “Satan, to test me”. And they perpetuate the Sacred Violence here in America. Others have that duty elsewhere in the world, based on their own beliefs of their religions but the end result is the same: hate, fear, and war. Sacred Violence has no limitation, no act too heinous to be done in the “name of the Lord”.
These zealots have no idea that the people who control them couldn’t give a rat’s ass about their lives or the quality of those lives. They are simply there to be used until no longer needed. Believe me when I tell you that the leaders don’t care if we get a theocracy or not–mostly because they’ve already established an oligarchy. If religion is needed to keep the masses in control, well it’s just one more tool at hand to be used. They are so sure of their control over the zealots that they aren’t even subtle about doing things that will directly affect their support base. Things like reducing funding for all sorts of social services; perpetuating propaganda about not needing public schools; vilifying unions and other labor measures that would provide a living wage without have to work to death. They want to completely gut things like OSHA, the EPA, the IRS and almost more importantly, the SEC.
These false prophets are political creatures who are psychopathic. They have no concern for anyone or anything besides themselves. They do not care about the environment, the sufferings of their fellow man, nor the future generations who will inherit the Earth that is left to them, in whatever condition it is. These creatures view war as a long term, money-making scheme and consider it an excellent way to line their pockets with even more money. They will do what it takes to get support from their blind followers for war, up to and absolutely including a religious association.
But Sacred Violence is more than war or killing people for their lack of (your) faith. While doing battle is a large part of it, let’s talk about other forms of Sacred Violence. The current disturbing trend of our police becoming more militarized as well as the “shoot first” mentality is obviously violent. But I would suggest that it is also Sacred Violence from the aspect that many of the police espouse the same zealousness as the portion of our Christian population that is so vocal these days. So the police feel that they are doing God’s will by killing those they deem for whatever reason, inferior.
I also think that Sacred Violence occurs whenever the commandments of “love God, love your neighbor” are not followed and are actually, actively, broken into pieces. For example, the rising amount of legislation designed to essentially make it a crime to be poor; the laws against sleeping in public or feeding the homeless. Or from another point of law, allowing rich and or white people to commit crimes but not face the same kind of treatment and punishment given to those who are poor and or of color. Failing to provide adequate wages, failing to have sufficient and strong social safety nets for those who need help, these are also forms of Sacred Violence.
And it’s not just done on a governmental level. Sacred Violence can be done by just one person who declares belief in God against just one other person who disagrees. The name-calling and threats on the Internet are a prime example of this behavior. Most people do not follow the first rule of interaction in the cyberworld: If you wouldn’t say it out loud to a person, don’t type and send it online. When my children were young, I explained the Internet to them in this way: the Internet is like a huge city. It has areas that are not so good to go into, that you should probably avoid. It has lots of places to meet other people. But you don’t just walk up to someone on the street and start cursing and screaming at them. And if you hear someone say something that you don’t agree with, you don’t make death threats. In real life (IRL), that can get you seriously hurt…or killed. Likewise, you shouldn’t these things on the Internet.
Most people lack the technological savvy to know that even though you may have chosen a pseudonym and hide behind it to perpetuate your version of Sacred Violence, there are people who ARE savvy and can find your real identity and personal information if you give them a good enough reason to do it. Even without that ability, it’s also possible to completely shame you on the Internet in return for vicious words. Bad enough to do this kind of thing (or as it’s called online, “trolling”) for personal or political reasons. But to feel that God has given you the mandate to be violent in your words against the “unbelievers” is the worst sort of delusion.
Violence has never been the best answer for any of the world’s problems. Heck, it hasn’t even really been an answer. Violence that is considered sacred because it was ordered by your God is still violence and it’s still not the solution. Jesus Himself suffered violence against him; the scourging, the crown of thorns, and of course, the crucifixion, but He never fought back. He prayed for his enemies, for those who committed this violence against Him. He chose love instead of violence–which was His whole mission.
Love God, love your neighbor. Because God, the Father, loves His children. And that means everybody, no exceptions. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Something the zealots need to learn and follow. Maybe then we could end at least Christian-driven Sacred Violence.