Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reality Check
      Part 1

Am I the only one these days who feels like they're part of The Truman Show? My lovely neighborhood, the peaceful surroundings I work in, it all seems like a carefully constructed, totally artificial stage set. What’s worse, I have this gnawing suspicion that a malevolent someone or something is lurking behind the picture-perfect scenery.

I know I’m not supposed to peak behind the set. I should ignore the special effects guy behind the curtain. If I had half a brain, I’d go about my daily business and enjoy the serenity that my government provides for me instead of fretting about 300 prisoners subjected to physical and mental torture in Guantánamo Bay prison, or 600,000 Iraqis who have perished since our country’s leaders decided to take the fight to the enemy. Nor would I be troubled by the immorality masked by the lovely façade. After all, America is a Christian country.

Could it really be that Jesus Christ, whose titles include Christus Victor, Rex Coelestis, and Christus Pantocrator, was once simply Jesus of Nazareth, Yehoshua? Before he started appearing to emperors in their dreams and making promises like In hoc signo vinces, did he actually go around saying crazy things like, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you? When the Roman soldiers showed up to take him away, did he really order his followers, Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword? Well, if he did, it seems that things got back to normal soon enough. The secular and religious authorities built imposing cathedrals to impress the faithful with his glory and majesty (as well as theirs) and the itinerant rabbi and healer was locked securely in a tabernacle where he couldn't do any more harm.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in October 2005 revealed that two out of three citizens of our Christian country believe that torture is justified under certain circumstances. Three out of four American Catholics hold that torture is sometimes permissible,(*) while over 80% of evangelical Christians support the administration’s doctrine of pre-emptive war. (See reference to Borg's book below.)

It’s not that I’m picking on Catholics or evangelicals. The cited statistics simply illustrate the degree to which Christianity has become part of the woodwork. Few Christians bother to peer behind the set of this long-running, captivating production called The War on Terror that features pre-emptive warfare waged in the name of Christ and prisoners who are systematically denied their human and legal rights …a carefully scripted performance in which pacifism is denounced as unpatriotic and an argument must be made for notdropping bombs…the blockbuster Broadway hit in which the US is cast as the good guy in the white hat and –of course—the winner.

Small wonder that Marcus Borg writes about “the imperial captivity of much of the church in the United States.” (Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, 2006, ISBN 0-06-059445-4

This is not reality the way Yehoshua taught us to see it. He said that all human beings were sons and daughters of a divine Father so generous and compassionate that he causes the rain to fall on the obedient and the disobedient alike. A Father who watched day after day, from the highest window of the house, for the return of his delinquent son and then ran to embrace him as soon as he spotted him schlepping down the road toward home. Jesus’s teaching was unequivocal: You are to be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate.

And for his teaching he paid the real, the ultimate price.

*Tom Carney, "Americans, Especially Catholics, Approve of Torture." National Catholic Reporter, (March 24, 2006) v42 i21, p5.

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