April 1, 2013 By Jack Jodell.
The Lenten season, with its call for introspection, sacrifice, and charity for all, has now passed. It is replaced by the Easter season, a celebration of new life over death. In the Christian world, this marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died, and buried, only to rise triumphantly again, victorious over evil. This is, then, a season of renewal and rebirth. Let us all resolve to make it a season of new understanding, cooperation, and acceptance.
It disturbs me greatly to hear progressives rebuke the Christian church (as many do) with scorn and hatred. Their ridicule and castigation of honest Christians is unfair and self-defeating. Why? Because true Christians share in the progressive goals of ending discrimination in both our society and economy. They were among the first to decry slavery, racial prejudice, and income inequality. They share the progressive belief that fellow human beings must be properly cared for rather than being exploited for material gain. They also believe that our individual lifetime goal must be the pursuit of justice rather than merely pursuing profit at any cost. They share the progressive belief that we are mere stewards of the earth rather than owners of it, and our duty must be to preserve and protect it, so that we may pass it on to future generations relatively unscathed. True Christians believe in peace rather than war. In all truthfulness, rather than being dismissed and rejected by some in the progressive community, true Christians should be welcomed as different brothers fighting for much the same cause!
We have heard a lot of talk over the past few decades from the religious right, and it has proven to be very infuriating to progressives. This religious right believes in an angry, dictatorial, authoritarian god who will tolerate no deviance whatsoever from his plan. They unfortunately practice the politics of rejection and division. They believe that all religious and civil authority must not be questioned and must be obeyed no matter what. They further believe that it is their Christian duty to act as God’s personal policemen, judges, juries, wardens, and executioners. They tend to be uncompromising absolutists. This type of mentality led to the burning of so-called witches and heretics s at the stake. It was the type of ignorant mentality which made ancients believe that the sun and stars revolved around the earth, and which caused the brilliant scientist Galileo to be threatened with excommunication for having correctly believed otherwise. It has led to intolerance and repression, We members of the religious LEFT, however, see things quite differently. We believe, with good reason I might add, that the Judeo-Christian God is a loving, forgiving, and merciful God. We see the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as proof positive of this. After all, Jesus preached repeatedly that the poor, sick, and downtrodden should be cared about and provided for, rather than being ignored, scorned, or exploited. He spent his adult life consorting with lowly fishermen, prostitutes, and other sinners and outcasts rather than with princes and kings or other members of the ruling class. He even angrily threw greedy, profiteering merchants out of the Temple. He also challenged the leaders of his day, incurring their wrath and desire for revenge in the process. He sought justice and fairness, but received the death sentence for his quest. Yet, through His death and resurrection, the son of this supposed angry and unyielding God (as the religious right portrays Him) offered humankind the seeming paradox of the very gift of salvation! This proves to me, at least, that God is indeed a kind and merciful deity rather than a vengeful and angry one. He is to be loved and respected, not merely feared with blind, unquestioning faith.
I recognize that the Christian Church has made many mistakes over the years. It waged war for profit during the Crusades and persecuted and killed many Arabs and Jews in horrible, bloody pogroms. Most recently, Protestant televangelists preached a message of racist hatred against Muslims. and derided gays unmercifully. It also used its various denominations to fraudulently acquire vast sums of great personal wealth. Catholic priests abused their role as authority figures by forcing innocent youngsters to engage in sex acts with them, and many Catholic bishops protected these priests by hushing the matter up and simply moving the guilty priests to a different location. These actions are reprehensible and the guilty parties should receive great punishment. They were not mere victimless crimes but instead did great damage to millions of innocent, trusting people. The Catholics have also taken relatively unpopular stands on birth control and abortion, and have strongly opposed same sex marriage. They have been criticized for sitting on estimated billions of dollars of art treasures in Vatican City when the sale of these could greatly aid the international campaign to end starvation in the very poor countries of the third world. All of these criticisms are legitimate, and each simply illustrates my point that the Christian Church has made many mistakes in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
We demand perfection from our institutions, even though all are composed of fallible human beings and none will ever actually achieve perfection. We rant and rave about costly mistakes our government has made, yet nobody I know of is seriously advocating walking away from it altogether. The same cannot be said of our churches. In the case of them, many progressives simply refuse to cut them any slack at all. I find this to be a real tragedy. Clearly, they have erred nu trying to protect pedophile priests or by selling religion for profit. But I would like to remind everyone that for one thing, churches are literal hospitals for sinners, not gleaming showcases for saints. This should never absolve them of their offenses, but it does explain their occasional wayward behavior. For another, many churches (the Catholic and Lutheran ones in particular) do a fabulous job in feeding the hungry and caring for the sick. Perhaps they could do far more, but what they currently accomplish is noteworthy. Many of their workers freely volunteer their time and services out of genuinely felt unselfish Christian love. These efforts must therefore mot be trivialized or besmirched. Rather, they should and must be encouraged.
My Easter season wish for the world is that it will stop using war and violence as means to an end. That the insane paranoia and gun-craziness so prevalent in America will disappear or become greatly reduced. That peoples all across the globe will make a dedicated effort to cut back on selfishness and greed. That everyone will make a concerted effort to become more tolerant and understanding of the wants and needs of others. If we, each in our own individual way, will dedicate ourselves to these aims, we will see a profoundly good change come about in this world. We can realize the great goals espoused by the late great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that are also espoused today by more current true Christian, progressive leaders like Jim Wallis, the social activist who founded the progressive Christian magazine, Sojourners. Above all else, let us not ignore or diminish in any way the very positive effect the Christian Left exerts upon this planet!