"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Longer A Christian

Dear Friends,

I started this post one day (and then promptly forgot about it) back when the Israelis were hammering Gaza day in and day out; such madness! On that day I heard that the Israelis were considering holding a three-hour truce every other day as a humanitarian gesture; I was touched. Would not a true humanitarian gesture have been for the Israelis to stop the massive military offensive altogether and stop the killing!?!?!? Aside from a minority of voices in the Christian community, where was the outcry from the churches to stop the violence??? Oh sure, there was plenty of anger at Hamas and the Palestinians; but what about any anger towards the Israelis??? But I digress. I am writing this post as a sort of confession as well as a pledge.

For me, the journey down the peacemaking road has been (and continues to be) a wondrous adventure. It has its highs and lows, its laughter and tears, its elation and frustration. I have met many people who have helped me grow into my various roles as a peace activist, and I am grateful to all of them. Ironically though, my greatest frustration has been with what I see as the failure of an institution that has so much potential to build a better world, a world in which everyone has a place at the table and all are valued as equal, fellow human beings.
I'm speaking of the Christian church, that tenuous experiment begun roughly 2000 years ago when a Jewish carpenter started shaking things up and overturning tables in the temple, and sat down with prostitutes and tax collectors, and spoke of unspeakable things like loving one's enemies. That was so NOT Hebrew Bible stuff. He was one radical fellow, and quite ironically, the very church that claims him as its own has been, to a large degree, unable or unwilling to honestly follow him.

It all went pretty well for the first 300 years after his death, but then things started going downhill, and it's been pretty much of a mess for the past 1700 years (thanks in large part to Constantine). Now, let's be clear. There are many people in the church for whom I have great respect; people who really do try to follow Jesus' teachings. But then there a great many for whom the church is just a patriotic piety club, a place for socializing and pot lucks with some charity thrown in (to make us feel good about ourselves). But speak of real, across-the-board justice, and the sanctuary goes silent; you can hear a pin drop.

So I confess that I am not really a Christian. Oh, I AM a follower of Jesus and (among other things) his call to nonviolence. Whether or not he was truly the Son of God, who really knows; of course that's what faith is all about. But one thing I do know - he was one heck of a rabbi. He taught the greatest lessons that we can learn. But the thing that sets me even farther apart from the church (as I have experienced it) is that I embrace all that is good in all the world's religions, whether Buddhism, Judaism, Islam or any other. One of the greatest gifts in working with people outside my church has been the opening to (and understanding of) other spiritual paths. It is so wonderful to see the similarities while experiencing the richness in the differences that other faiths present.

Perhaps one day the the film will fall away from the peoples' eyes and they will see the contradictions with which they have lived for so long, and on that day the church will announce that it will no longer send its children to war, that it will welcome all people no matter their sexual preference or color or nationality or faith, that they will renounce violence of any kind, and that they will not support a government that squanders its treasure on war while abandoning social uplift. One day.

So, I have made my peace with the church. I am happy to do my best to just follow the ways of Jesus. But I will also embrace Buddha and Muhammad. So there is my confession. As for the pledge, rather than leave the church, I will continue to be a thorn in its side, as that seems to be what I do best. And, I will continue to embrace the world (ever the wandering Jew), seeking that elusive commodity - PEACE.

On the journey,


Photo Credits:
Peace symbol (sculpted by hikers in 2005) at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, near the Trinity Site where the first nuclear weapon was tested in July, 1945 (photo by Momatiuk-Eastcott/CORBIS).
Antiwar protesters at Heroes Square in Budapest, Hungary, 2005, marking the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (photo by Zsolt Svigetvary/epa/CORBIS).

No comments: