ConsortiumNews’ writers have weighed in heavily on this subject in a series of thought provoking articles. This one examines how Christianity has morphed into something that allows its followers to wage war, death and destruction on enemies real and imagined and in the process stray far away from its core values.
The first Christians tried to be faithful to Jesus’s commandments to “put away the sword,” ”do not repay evil for evil,” “do unto others that which you would have them do unto you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” “pray for those who despitefully use you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “love as I have loved you.”
Jesus’s earliest followers regarded the human body as the holy temple of God here on earth, and, knowing that violence to a holy place was considered an act of desecration (and therefore forbidden), they refused to kill or maim other children of God, and therefore they also refused, out of conscience, to become killing soldiers for Rome.
Martyrdom, in the first three centuries, was regarded as the ultimate act of social responsibility. And the church flourished!
The Roman Emperor Constantine first recognized Christianity as a valid religion around 311 CE and he made Christianity the official state religion within decades.
He showered the now-legal church with the goodies of the Empire and the Christians accepted them, not aware that property, dominative power, wealth and the tight connections to militarism were eventually to become curse for the church.
Before long Christians began endorsing, and then participating in, un-Christ-like acts of homicidal violence in war.
n 311 CE, you could not be a Christian and be a killing soldier in Rome’s army. By 416, you couldn’t be in the Roman army unless you were a Christian! It had all turned around in 105 years, and Christianity has been a war-tolerating religion ever since….
Massacres of non-Christian “infidels” in the Crusades were soon followed by massacres of fellow Christians. In the Middle Ages, the organized church actively persecuted, tortured and murdered millions of women who were feared as intellectuals, midwives and “witches.”
The use of atomic bombs against the civilian targets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was perhaps the spiritual low point in Christendom’s history of un-Christ-like cruelty and inhumanity to man.
It is a little known fact that Ground Zero for the second bomb was the largest Christian church in the Orient. The Nagasaki Urakami Cathedral and most of its members were vaporized in nine seconds by an all-Christian bomb crew on Aug. 9, 1945. American Christianity remains unrepentant.
And then there was the horrific example of German Christianity, easily Nazified because of its historical connections to Prussian militarism, and therefore allied to Hitler’s policy of perpetual war.
Many “good Germans” had good-paying healthcare-related jobs but they found themselves obediently participating in the extermination of the mentally and physically deformed “useless eaters.”
Many “good Germans” earned their livings participating in the oppression and extermination of gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists, liberals, communists and Jews; and many churches consented to those atrocities by their silence.
The Jewish Holocaust occurred in part because the German churches had, for centuries, falsely blamed the Jews for killing Jesus (a myth), ignoring Jesus’s commandment to “love as I have loved you.”
The movements of Gandhi, King and Jesus, as well as a multitude of other examples of successful nonviolent, faith-based resistance movements throughout history, are proof that nonviolence can work, but they are only for the faithful and the courageous.
Far more courage is demanded of unarmed resisters who may be forced to jail or to their deaths, than is asked of modern super-patriotic warriors who do battle using highly lethal, high-tech weaponry that almost guarantees their physical survival.
Most likely the founding fathers were good students of history. They realized that if the State endorsed one religion, Christianity for example, over another it would lead to the corruption of that religion which could be easily pliable in the hands of the omnipotent state and thus loose its religious character and meaning. Maybe that’s why they weren’t too keen on insisting that America was to be a Christian nation; they possessed crystal balls that allowed them to peer into our future and see how religion could metastasize into large mega churches with their own television stations that would swindle people out of their money and their souls while feeding them into the meat grinder of an expansionist state that needs bodies to fight wars of empire. This might be one of the endearing legacies of our founding fathers, that in refusing to refer to America as a Christian country they hoped that would make us more Christian. Sadly, such is not the case.