Sunday, March 06, 2005

What kind of Christianity is this? 

Why am I reading such scary stuff about Christianity lately?
There's this -- Eschaton: Bobo's World about a 6-year-old first grader being suspended from a Christian school because his mother refused to spank him.
And there's this, from Buzzflash -- Bill Moyer's article on how the belief in the Rapture appears to absolve Christians from doing anything to protect the environment or advance political welfare. Moyers writes:
There are millions of Christians who believe the Bible is literally true, word for word. Some of them . . . subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the nineteenth century by two immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them with their own hallucinations into a narrative foretelling the return of Jesus and the end of the world. Google the "Rapture Index" and you will see just how the notion has seized the imagination of many a good and sincere believer . . . The plot of the Rapture—the word never appears in the Bible although some fantasists insist it is the hidden code to the Book of Revelation—is rather simple, if bizarre . . . Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned the Messiah will return for the Rapture. True believers will be transported to heaven where, seated at the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents writhe in the misery of plagues—boils, sores, locusts, and frogs—during the several years of tribulation that follow. I'm not making this up.
And the Globe had a terrific feature in Saturday's paper about mega-churches in the States (it doesn't seem to be listed on their website) which talked about how these evangelical churches are moving into stadiums, their services are so large, and how they offer a total-lifestyle, shopping-mall experience to their thousands of member families.
Now, I grew up in the United Church, and I have also attended an Anglican church sometimes. These churches were, at heart, humble -- the ministers took their texts from the Bible and didn't talk about crazy stuff like the Rapture. The congregations were a hundred or two hundred famlies, at best - large enough to support the church's ministry, but small enough that the minister could personally visit any members who were in hospital or grieving. And many of the people attending these churches tried sincerely to be Christians in their daily lives -- tolerant, kind, self-effacing, helpful.
Now the Christianity I read about is intolerant, boastful, mean, spiteful, and infested with hate talk about gays and Muslims. Considering how the support of the gay marriage amendment has translated into open season on all kinds of intolerance and hate against gays in the States, I worry that if the Supreme Court allows municipal displays of the Ten Commandments, the Christian Right will inflate this into state endorsement of their own brand of evangelical, militant Christianity, declaring open season on all other religions and on any disagreement with their beliefs. It's scary stuff -- and what would Jesus do?

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