Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Child in Religious Fundamentalism

In this day and age when many of us unwillingly are being drawn into a struggle between good and evil in a manufactured clash of civilizations, it is time to ask ourselves; how could this happen? How could a minority of fundamentalist hijack the future for all of us?
Polls show that 31 percent of Americans believe in an authoritarian God that is angry at sin and punishes the unfaithful or ungodly. Believing in an authoritarian God and that we are responsible for our actions, is in itself not fundamentalism. However, when we add this number to the 36 percent of Americans who believe that the Bible is the word of God and to be taken literally, and the 46 percent who believe that it is important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians, a troubling picture begin to emerge. This pattern gets even more troublesome when we find that the same amount of people who believe in an angry God, 31 percent, also believe that violent conflict with the Arab world is inevitable.
Now, these patterns of belief would not be dangerous where they kept within the churches and not mixed with the foreign politics of a superpower. But in the 2004 presidential election, 79 percent of 26 million Evangelical Christians voted to re-elect George W. Bush, and polls show that 71 percent of these devoted believers supported the war in Iraq. Whether Bush himself actually believes in his "crusade" or Carl Rove put him up to it for strategic reasons, does really not matter. What matters is how could so many believers in a loving and compassionate Jesus vote for the horrors in Iraq that we see every day on TV? How could Jesus want this kind of suffering?
Part of the answer can be explained in one word: Fundamentalism. But how does a believer in a loving God fall asleep in Christ? To answer that we will need to look deeper into the roots of fundamentalism. The Bible does state that Jesus is "the way and the truth" (John 14:6), but what exactly is the way and the truth? If we look at the original Greek meaning of "truth" we find that "aletheia" means "reality" as that which is true and real. The true nature of reality exists in itself and by itself, independently of any claim of ownership, and the truth cannot be framed only pointed towards. While the understanding of truth does lead to the understanding of reality, and even though Jesus might have been a great transmitter of truth, John cannot issue a patent for Jesus.
To the ancient Greeks who created the invaluable foundations of our western civilization, the opposite of true was not false, but unreal as mere appearance. The Greek mind would not condemn the opposite of truth but lead the unreal out of ignorance through a kind and compassionate Socratic questioning that would lead into a deeper understanding of reality. It is first later, in an Imperialistic Latin mind that ignorance is rejected aggressively by its opposite of "falsum" as false. Similarly, we also find that the Greek meaning of "sin" meant to "miss the target" of truth and to "go wrong" as in turning consciousness away from truth by having false consciousness. In an ancient Greek understanding the fall of man was not done with enlightened "evil" intent, but caused through "error of judgment" due to ignorance.
When we today look at the Iraq war with its amount of error of judgment (WMD, etc.), it clearly seems like it is Christians who are the "sinners" by being the cause of all the destruction and chaos. Of course, with 59 percent believing in the End Times there is enough fear within Christianity to make the 0.8 percent of Muslims who are actually extremists look like 100 percent and thereby paint a doomsday scenario designed to pull more moderates on both sides over the edge. But Christian fundamentalists also uphold their justification through so-called true Christian values that transforms Jesus into a coldhearted killer. Christian leaders make God pro-war through the literal interpretation of the words of Jesus: "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." While this line in Matthew 10:34 taken out of context does give a different picture of the intentions of Jesus, he is here not talking about war but about the truth being a sword that will divide families apart. For Christians that wish to look deeper than the skin, this interpretation is confirmed by Luke in 12:51 where the word "division" is used instead of "sword."
Still we have not unearthed what makes the fundamentalist say: My way is the only way. While the Catholic Church officially renounced its "no salvation outside the Church" in 1953, this position has during our modern crusade seen its fall back. After first calling Islam a violent religion of the sword, Pope Benedict XVI told the ancestors of the millions of South American Indians killed by the exported mind of "purification" from the Inquisition that they where secretly longing for Jesus. Then in July of 2007, the Pope cemented his new course that he had been plotting by saying that "Christ established only one church," and that other communities, even Christian, were not true churches because they did not have apostolic succession. With the time of kings and dictators being a thing of the past in the western world, it seems an ill fated strategy to re-unite the Church and get westerners living in democracies to fall back into ranks by recognizing the primacy of the pope out of fear of not having the "means of salvation."
This form of "sin," which in religious terminology would amount to blasphemy, has roots in the understanding that Jesus was the only son of God and that this literally makes Christ God. In the early years of the Church, Christians where seen as fanatic and dangerous fundamentalists. Having many Gods and the religious freedom to choose to believe in any God, the Christian "my way is the only way" posed a challenge: How does an open system of religious freedom incorporate a fundamental view that rejects all other views? While Christians where first prosecuted, they, like today, entered government through the Roman emperor Constantine, whereby Christianity were later made the official state religion. However, the debate on whether Christ was God or man would go on for more than one thousand years, and as we can see today it is still alive and well.

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