Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Quarrels With Christianity

It seems odd, doesn't it?  A Christo-Pagan who has capital-"I" Issues with Christianity.  But it's true.  I've said before that I do have a lot of problems with things related to the faith that makes up about half of my current spiritual life.

Actually, my problem isn't even with Christ himself.  (I'd hardly be a Christo-Pagan if that were the case, after all.)  Even when I was most adamant that I was not in fact a Christian, I thought that Jesus was a pretty cool dude.  He embraced the people that most of his contemporaries hated and scorned; he helped the ill, even those with leprosy, that most-feared of Biblical diseases; he comforted the grieving; and he told us in no uncertain terms that we were to love each other, no matter what.  Even in his final hours, he tried to cheer up one of the other men who were being crucified when he was, and he made sure that his mother, who was now a widow and totally without the means to provide for herself, would be taken care of and provided for.  For all that his name is invoked by hordes of extremely conservative folks whose sense of compassion (particularly for non-Christians) is very nearly non-existent, the stories that are told of him are very clear about one thing: he was a loving and compassionate person whose gentle subversion of the status quo was so threatening to the leaders of his time that they thought that the only way to keep control of their people was to have him killed.  He was held to be extremely dangerous just because he told people to help each other, to love each other, and to take care of each other.  Son of God or not, I've always thought that he was pretty awesome just for that.

What I do have a problem with, though, is the way that Christianity has been used over the centuries.

It's the tremendous harm that so many Christians have inflicted upon other human beings while using their religion as a convenient excuse.  It's the tremendous power to do good that so many Christian groups and denominations have, but that they ignore because doing what's actually right isn't held to be Biblical because it would help poor people or same-sex couples or women who've had (or are seeking out, or may someday have) an abortion; I get a strong feeling of "those people are garbage and deserve what they get" from a lot of these folks who use the name of Jesus as an excuse for their hate.  It's what's been done in the name of Jesus by people who claim to love and follow him, even if much of what they actually do is very much opposed to what we're told he taught and what we're told he did.  It's the quoting of the infamous speech in which Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword; this passage is so often taken so badly out of context that practically nobody pays attention to his next statement: that the sword he was talking about was metaphorical and he came to cause controversy, not to incite violence or start a war.  It's the subjugation of women, discrimination against LGBTQ (etc.) people, and the hate, fear, and suspicion of people who are "not like us" that I object to.

In short, it's all the ways in which Jesus has been used, mis-used and abused in the name of kicking people who are down and grabbing hold of as much power as is humanly possible.  Because the Jesus we see in the New Testament is totally not like that.  And because so much of this has gone down in his name, perpetrated by people who claim to love and follow him, I really cannot blame people for becoming jaded about Christianity.  Despite the fact that at its best, Christianity can be a force for tremendous good in the world, it's more often a tool of oppression and subjugation.  We see more closed-mindedness and hypocrisy in the pews than we're prepared to admit exists in the world at large.  And you know what?  As a Pagan and as a Christian, I utterly loathe that.  I can't stand that a message of love has been perverted into a doctrine of hate. I abhor the way that people like me have caused so much damage to the world in the name of their God.

And as a Christo-Pagan, someone who's embraced the love of the Goddess as well as the love of Jesus, I believe that there's a better way.  It's not just down to whether or not we have common ground; it's that we all need to show a lot more love and a lot less judgementalism, no matter what path we're walking.  Christianity's exclusionary approach to life, while hardly unique, is extremely damaging, particularly in view of the large majority of people who still, regardless of church attendance, claim Christianity as their religion.  What we need isn't more struggles for power or stricter rules governing what can be done to aid the most vulnerable in society.  What we need isn't more kyriarchy, the "wealthy white male supremacy" thing that's been getting so many boosts in recent years.  We don't even need greater church attendance, though as a church-goer myself I do admit that it would be nice.  And we certainly don't need greater power in the hands of the churches; we've already seen what happens with that.

What we need is for Christians to pull our heads out of our collective backsides and start actually living by the words we claim to respect instead of using the Bible and the Cross as weapons of war.

Come on, folks.

We can do it.

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