let’s try Christianity

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  Gilbert K. Chesterton

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Mohandas Gandhi

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What is there to dislike about Christianity? Why would Gandhi publicly say that?  He obviously saw something in the practice of Christians which does not emulate the “Christ”; otherwise, he would like Christians.  Perhaps Gandhi was having a bad Hindu day when he framed that famous quote.

Or perhaps Gandhi saw the truth of a religion which had become arrogant, self-serving and dominionized since the days when the man from Nazareth said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Undoubtedly, Gandhi was aware of Christian missionary zeal which enslaved indigenous people and slaughtered thousands in the name of God.  He would have read about the Christian Crusades from 1095 through 1258 which decimated Muslim and Jewish populations.  And surely he, an advocate of non-violence, knew about the violent nature of America’s Christian leaders interacting with other world governments.

Gandhi understood our Christian culture better than we do.  Oh, we profess to be seeking the peace of God and goodwill toward men, but our behavior betrays who we are.  We cheated Native Americans out of their lands, stole Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War and then abandoned our territory to poverty, and murdered or otherwise deposed international leaders with whom we disagreed.  We continue to harbor racist attitudes toward members of minority groups, we demean the LGBT+ community, and we trivialize the importance of immigration.  We fear the growth of Islam, the advance of brown and black citizens, the decline of aged, white, Christian America.  We harbor outdated ideals of nationalism and isolation.  That’s why we, Christian Americans, are hated and distrusted.  That is probably why Gandhi liked our Christ but not us.

But it could be different.  Jesus, that man from Nazareth who taught the Way to his disciples, is still teaching today.  Just read the words, follow the examples, understand the parables and learn what it means to be a Christian.  Then follow.  Remember the verse about wolves in sheep’s clothing?  That’s what Christianity has become.  We have become a brood of vipers speaking from both sides of the mouth and miserably missing the message of Jesus, the Christ.

Those of you who disagree with my assessment, please don’t wax eloquent about your concern for my soul.  I would sooner see your concerns directed to the homeless, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the orphans and widows, the millions displaced by war, the children ravaged by human slavery, the thousands standing on our southern border hoping for a better life.  I would rather hear your prayers for black and brown brothers and sisters, gays and lesbians, transgenders, Muslims, the poor suffering discrimination, battered women and children; yes, pray for them rather than for my salvation.

Today I am a disturbed Jesus follower.  I would be the one standing aside Jesus overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple.  I would be with him challenging the Pharisees over their obtuse obedience to man-made laws.  Jesus is our Christ.  He is both human and divine teaching us how to conduct lives of humanness and divinity.  He is our example showing us how to love unconditionally.  Jesus never instructed us to worship him – he only told us to follow him.

I am the way, the truth, the life.  John 14:6

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injustice – elie wiesel

“Injustice may inspire anger or rebellion, but must not create despair.  Injustice has been part of our world since its beginning……..despair is when you no longer believe in anything.” ELIE WIESEL, The Night of the Uprooting

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Yes, this is an appropriate quote for the season of Christmastide.  Why do we think the concept of a Savior and Deliverer was introduced to the world with the story of Jesus, born in Bethlehem?  Why do we marvel that this babe was announced to shepherds, the lowest class of Hebrew society only a step above lepers?  The world of Judaism 2000 years ago is a case study in oppression and social injustice from not only the Roman conquerors, but also the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Elie Wiesel suffered the most inhumane form of injustice at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Hitler.  He could not approach the significance of his internment for several years after being freed by the Allied Forces.  Fortunately for us, he eventually saw the writing of his story as a duty to the Jewish nation and the world.  He shared the pain and the horror of the Nazi atrocities in his subsequent books.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Any of us today, me included, would surely “be inspired to anger or rebellion” if subjected to the same treatment as the Jews of 1930s and 1940s.  Justifiably so.  But, how many of us would  not curl up in despair?  Whom among us would be able to sustain faith, hope, and love while starving in the humiliation, the cold, the desolation of a prison camp where survival is a daily challenge?  I pray that neither you nor I ever have to suffer those consequences.

Despair is our enemy.  Not having hope is a death sentence of the soul, but faith in the unknowns of this life inspires hope and defeats despair.  The Christmas story, whether I believe it to be reality or you believe it to be myth, tells us how to relate to a world filled with violence, hatred, oppression, intolerance.  The life and teachings of Jesus portrayed by ancient scriptures is a blueprint to living life abundantly with faith, hope, and love in the midst of man’s inhumanity toward man.

We are witness today to unfathomable social injustice which should make us angry and rebellious.  But it does not need to devour us with despair.  That is the essence of the gift presented to us by the birth of a child 2000 years ago.  It is up to you and I to make it a marvelous myth or a life-saving reality.  Our concept of Jesus is hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Let it be real as the morning sunshine, the stars in the nighttime sky, the singing of angelic children.  Let us discover, now, in the midst of turbulence and injustice the strength of faith, hope and love.  Lead us to defeat despair with the power of his eternal story.

philippians 4:7

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