From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
I don’t know of any phrase that is more meaningless and nonsensical than “a bible Christian.” You constantly hear it or else read it in letters to the editor.
To illustrate the point, I used to invite representatives from ten different Christian groups to speak to my university class about their beliefs.
Usually I would start with a Christian Science practitioner (who was always the best prepared). Next would be the Jehovah Witnesses (who always came in threes). Then: Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Pentecostals, a Roman Catholic priest, a Unity minister, Greek Orthodox, a Unitarian minister, Missouri Synod Lutheran and Methodist and/or Presbyterian. They all quoted from the bible to affirm and justify their positions. The students soon realized they were listening to ten totally different religions, all calling themselves “Christian” and all reading from the same book, to prove their beliefs.
No other religion studied by historians has been — or is — so completely fragmented and splintered as the one we call Christianity. Protestantism alone has disintegrated into more than 400 different denominations, all quoting from the bible to prove or validate their beliefs. Can you see why the phrase “bible Christian” is nonsensical?
All anyone can say, with any degree of honesty, is that “I am a Seventh Day Adventist, Protestant person, who finds what I want in a book called the bible, and I like to think that it makes me a ‘Christian.’” And that statement would be made by others in more than 400 different and splintered Protestant denominations, and by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics as well.
There is also the pathetic spectacle of many of these denominations telling other “Christian” groups — such as the Mormons, Unitarians, Christian Scientists and the members of Unity — that they aren’t really Christians at all, although they all are using the same bible. Added to this is the practice of some Protestant denominations — notably the Missouri Synod Lutherans — who refuse to allow any of the other 399 Christian groups even to enter their church and share The Lord’s Supper service with them. Protestants and Roman Catholics, just recently, were murdering each other off just as fast as they could find bombs and bullets in Ireland’s blood bath, and all are reading from the bible to justify their violence.
How well did Thomas Jefferson prophesy that “Christian creeds, doctrines, formulas and dogmas, the clergies’ own fatal inventions, will someday be the ruin of the Christian church and will make of Christendom a slaughterhouse, dividing it into castes, with intolerable hatred, one for the other.”
There is perhaps no other fight in society that is any more vicious than church fights, even within one denomination, or one building — whether it is over the new organist, the minister, the new rug, or what have you. And every faction offers the lamentable spectacle of being helplessly caught in the chains of its own imagined and phantasmic righteousness, trapped in its own dead-end creedal canyon.
Christian “love” has invoked or participated in some of the greatest blood baths in the history of civilization, from the Crusades through the Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials.
It is long past time for us so-called “Christians,” regardless of denomination, to take a long, hard look at ourselves, the games we play and the masks we wear that are totally antithetical to the Man of Nazareth and all that he represented.
We will never be redeemed by any archaic system of theology, but only by the birth of a new consciousness with an accompanying spirituality. New spiritual forms and symbols must be born. Our species and our planet waits.
All of the Christian denominations have the choice to participate in the creation of a new consciousness for the race, or the alternative, to continue to be a detriment to such an enlightened consciousness through the divisive creeds and doctrines of man-made formulas.
As Carl Jung wrote of his Swiss Lutheran pastor father: “My father’s bible stood as a great wall between him and the Living God.”
May all of the churches calling themselves Christian move with creativity, courage and risk-taking into the formation of a new consciousness for this perilous age.
And it just might happen that “swords will be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks,” over our entire beloved planet Earth.