In the midst of the corruption caused by right wing extremism and imperialism masquerading as 'Christian' I thought it might be good to define and then profile some REAL Christians.
Gospels as historical sourcesGospels are not purely historical documents, but rather they are polemics, and it is often the case that Gospels are 'history' written to agree with doctrine, rather than doctrine being created to agree with the historical facts. What this means is that Gospel writers were not averse to inventing historical fictions in order to provide the required 'history' to authenticate a doctrine.
For example the three synoptic Gospels tell us that the Jesus figure was crucified on the eve of Passover, which would be like crucifying someone on Christmas Eve. The Gospel of John is the only Gospel which displays a profound understanding of Judaism. It was probably written by and for cosmopolitan Jewish people, in that it consists of a blend of Jewish mysticism and Greek philosophy (the doctrine of 'the Word being with God, for the Word was God', comes from the Greek Philosopher Hericlitus, who lived in the 6th century B.C.E., and there are lines in the first three chapters of John that are almost verbatim quotes from Hericlitus, and the concepts are taken from his philosophy of the Word, and are not uniquely Christian in origin). Because these authors were steeped in Judaism they understood that you do not crucify people on the Eve of Passover, and so we find the John contradicts the three Synoptic Gospels on when the Crucifixion was said to have taken place. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John invented the Passover crucifixion scene in order to create history which would agree with the doctrine that 'Christ was the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed to pay for sin.' Here history was invented to agree with doctrine, and not the other way around.
Jewish people have protested from the beginning that there was no 'massacre of the Jewish babies' during the reign of Herod. The Jewish people remember Esther and they remember the massacre at Massada, but they do not remember that time all their babies got killed, because that never happened. Josephus wrote about Herod in a most unflattering manner, and one would think he might mention that time Herod killed all the babies in the country, to really prove how bad Herod really was, but he has nothing to say about it. Matthew made up the story of Herod's massacre of the infants, and used a line of prophecy out of context to prove it was predicted, in order to create a story of how the Jesus figure was not born in Nazareth, since it was well known he was from Nazareth, but instead was born in Bethlehem, which is what traditional interpretation of prophecy indicated must be the case for the Messiah. Thus Matthew invented history to agree with doctrine. Matthew also invented a non-existent prophecy to prove that Jesus only grew up in Nazareth because that was predicted as well ('He shall be called a Nazarene.' There is no such prophecy. Like Herod's massacre of the infants that caused Jesus family to move to Nazareth in the first place, this was invented.)
There is much more to be said about these Gospels, and one might also mention that these books were only chosen in the fourth century by the vote of an established elite of priests who were by that time working with Caesar to rule the empire, and therefore one must suspect their agenda, in that Christians were prolific book writers, but only these documents were chosen, and the rest ruthlessly destroyed (they also destroyed the Great Library at Alexandria, one of the great crimes of human history, and a damned shame, and this shows just how profoundly reactionary these church fathers were in those days). I introduce this brief critique of Gospels as historical sources only to make the point that Gospels are polemics, pushing a certain agenda, even if history has to be made up to push that agenda, for I do not want anyone to assume that I am endorsing those Gospels as uncritical source materials.
Fortunately copies of some of the destroyed manuscripts of the early church have surfaced in the twentieth century, during a time of church decline, so it was no longer possible for churches to finish off the job of destroying the last remaining copies of so many of those documents. What we have discovered is that many of the parables found in the official Gospels were taken from original sources and then worked into a polemical framework which then forced a certain interpretation onto these parables. The same parables appear in such banned documents as The Gospel of Thomas, hear set within the frame work of 'the doctrine of enlightenment', which held that the problem with humanity was one of lack of understanding or knowledge ("Gnosis') rather than 'original sin' (which is the defining frame in all accepted church documents). When the same parables are interpreted according to this doctrine of enlightenment they suddenly have a new meaning, and furthermore, some of those parables belong in the tradition of the doctrine of enlightenment, and are awkwardly out of place when interpreted according to that doctrine of 'sin', which is also quite interesting to note, in that once again this brings into sharp focus the clear agenda of those writers of our official gospels (they forced everything to agree with an accepted doctrinal interpretation). In the future I plan to finish a commentary on the Gospel of Thomas which will demonstrate what I am saying here.
So then the point to be made here is that while Gospels are not historical sources, they are polemics intended to promote a narrow set of doctrines, the parables and some of the sayings in the Gospels are from a source outside the established Gospels, in that they appear in early primitive works such as the Gospel of Thomas. Furthermore, the fact that some of these sayings and parables must be tortured to make them fit the doctrinal framework is also strong evidence that these sayings originated in a source outside the official gospels, since it was felt necessary to torture those sayings to make them fit, and thus protect doctrines.
Salvation by means of mind controlWith all that having been said, I feel that I can refer to those sayings, without the fear of having anyone assume that I am promoting the myth that Gospels are historical sources which can be uncritically accepted.
There are various definitions that could be given to answer the question, 'Who or what is a Christian.' For example there is that bit about how people are saved based upon their opinion as to the truth of a postulate from philosophy. This notion is taken from the Gospel of John, in that whoever accepts this philosophical concept is saved, otherwise they are already damned and condemned because they did not believe the correct concept from philosophy. This is the strange notion that people are saved based upon their opinions as to whether a certain thought concept is factual, and it is the result of a fusion of the Greek Philosophy of Hericlitus, and his doctrine of the Word, and what I would call a hard nosed attitude towards dogma, in that if anyone doesn't believe that the philosophy of Hericlitus, and his doctrine of the Word being God, goes to hell. What we have here is salvation by mind control, and the long term consequences of such a narrowly defined 'mode of salvation' is that it tends towards fascism and the extermination of dissenters and undesirables, since in such extreme right wing states you are also not allowed to disagree with the chosen doctrines, or you will be killed. For this reason we find the Jesus figure condemning to hell the Jewish people who are called 'devils' in John's Gospel, because they did not believe in the correct thought concepts, but instead used critical thinking, or entertained other ideas other than the philosophy of Hericlitus, and thus got themselves damned to hell.
Now having said that I will then say that I am not interesting in defining 'Who is a Christian' based upon their opinions about some speculative philosophical theory found in a Gospel that agrees with just about nothing in those other three Gospels, and my main reason for rejecting this definition is first that it is ridiculously narrow minded, and second I am not a fascist, nor do I intend to become an extreme right winger, and when mind control becomes the modus operandi of 'salvation' this leads to that form of ridiculous intolerance for free inquiry characteristic of Christianity throughout the ages. Soon enough one is presented with a list of such 'approved dogmas' and it turns out one is not allowed to dissent or disbelieve the doctrines on that approved list, lest one go to hell for having a brain. So then one must believe Matthew's fraudulent virgin birth story as an explanation of how 'the Word became Flesh' and 'the Word was God', even though that story is based on a mistranslation of a passage from Isaiah ripped right out of context, and is surrounded by obviously fraudulent history and more passages ripped out of context or just made up all for the obvious purposes of supporting some doctrine. When one considers that there is hardly one passage in the Gospel of Mark that was not edited by Matthew to make it agree with his doctrine this hardly adds credibility to the requirement to believe such a doctrine to be saved, and in fact it is a good example of why one would want to avoid 'salvation by mind control' since it is obvious that the purpose of such a mode is to simply stifle dissent for the purposes of preserving some dogma. Therefore one must assume that people were created to serve religion and its dogmas, and the self serving nature of such a polemical position is transparent.
Another good reason to be a critical free thinker and reject that ridiculous mind control concept as 'salvation' is the fact that not only is the Bible contradictory, but it is also riddled with racism, murderous genocide, bigotry of the vilest sort, the oppression of women, and all sorts of other really bad things are found to be dumped onto humanity, leading to such obviously cruel and unjust historical crimes as the invasion and plundering of the third world, leaving them flat broke like they are today (while outrageous demands are made that they make monthly payments to keep up on what they supposedly owe, even though they only owe because money was funneled to elites to squander to keep them on board as proxies for imperialism). Then there is that mysterious disappearance of the Indian nations in places like America. For you see America was not a 'vast empty wilderness', but rather there were already several nations with governments, organized into states present in America, and one must ask just how massive the scale of the genocide in America really was in order to exterminate entire nations, as described and advocated on the pages of the Bible. one must point out. As the Bible tells us, 'kill all the natives of the land. Show them no pity.' And that it turned out like that, and that they built churches on the bone yard, all this is hardly a coincidence, and is another consequence of that harmful doctrine of thought control found in both the Gospel of John and in a variant form in the letters of Paul, for it turns out that you also have to believe all that murderous outrage as well, and they did, which is proof positive that this mode of salvation is criminally dangerous, and thus not worth considering given how monstrous it all turned out when people shut their brains off to avoid going to hell.
Who is a Christian?At the center of the Christian faith, once all doctrine and dogma is stripped away and discarded, we see the symbol of the crucifixion. This manner of torturing someone to death was employed by the Roman state to quell revolution and punish dissent (for example Spartacus led a revolt by about five thousand slaves against Roman power, and the result was five thousand crucifixions along every road leading into Rome...we are told that the stench was unbearable, and the terrifying spectacle was clearly intended as a warning, and a display of just how ruthlessly Roman imperialists intended to be in the protection of their privileges and their wealth, which depended on the labor of compliant slaves). According to Josephus, Herod had John the Baptist executed, because he feared that John might become the central force in a revolutionary uprising, and quashing revolution was a constant preoccupation of Roman imperialism, and led to the creation of one of histories most effective and well trained military forces to patrol and control the Roman empire, a policy which was so ruthlessly enforced that often just the appearance of the Roman legions was enough to crush a revolutionary uprising and inspire a surrender to the Roman military.
Therefore we know that crucifixion was a method of torturing to death dissenters who practiced civil disobedience or fomented resistance against Roman rule, and this form of gruesome torture was used rather than a club to the head for no other reason than to inspire the same fear and terrorism that was also inspired by the Roman Legions, and for the same reason, for Rome relied on this level of fear in order to maintain the Imperial Empire and to control the slave population that did all the work that generated all the wealth of the Roman elite, since slaves often outnumbered citizens. The threat this posed was kept in check through the maintenance of high level of terror. Therefore we can see that the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection were the symbols of a revolutionary movement that sprang up in ancient Rome, in that the intended function of this symbol was to defeat the terror inspired by the Romans through faith in this symbol of victory over Roman brutality.
This symbolism explains the rapid spread of the faith throughout the Roman empire, and also explains why the earliest Christians consisted only of what one Roman writer referred to as the lowest of the lower classes, the dregs of society. Only slaves and women were found to join that religion, this Roman stated, and no Roman citizen would be found in their number, which only proved, he insisted what a debased superstition this was, fit only for the lowest of human animals. Another document preserved in the Bible (Corinthians) describes the early Christians by saying that they were not of noble birth, they were not powerful, they were the weakest of the people in the Empire, but, the writer stated, God had chosen the very weakest and lowest citizens of the empire to overthrow the established Roman order.
When we consider all this we can understand better the way that these Roman slaves would have understood certain parables and sayings. For example, one definition of 'who is a Christian' stated that 'if you do not pick up your cross and follow me you are not a Christian.' This was a call to repeat the acts of civil disobedience that led their leader to the cross, and which then led to some Christians being killed in the Colosseum. In another passage we are told that no one can be a Christian unless 'they eat my flesh and drink my blood.' This gory sounding parable refers to the conquest of the fear of persecution or even the fear of death, which is inherent in the symbolism of the cross.
These definitions of what it means to be a Christian are found to be consistent with the inherent symbolism of the crucifixion metaphor, unlike the other doctrine of salvation by means of mind control. The call to civil disobedience is a call to pick up the cross, and thus we see a line of continuity, whereas the doctrine of mind control is oppressive and thus we see a discontinuity. In addition the doctrine of mind control has within it no connection whatsoever with the reality of crucifixion as a system of oppression, but rather it is isolated, a narrow and empty philosophical dogma in which there is no real connection to the struggle against domination in pursuit of liberation. It is meaningless, while the doctrine of carrying a cross, of civil disobedience is joined right to the heart of the crucifix symbol, since, after all, this is what crucifixion was all about.
So then for this reason I am going to ignore the to widespread notion of 'salvation through philosophy' and answer the question 'Who is a Christian' by saying that a Christian is someone who carries a cross, who practices civil disobedience, and that true theology is liberation theology and is not found in esoteric abstract philosophical notions that are not found to be grounded in the resistance to systems of oppression, which is the core meaning of the crucifixion symbol.
Cindy SheehanSome people might not know that Cindy Sheehan is a Christian, and her anti-war protests are inspired by her faith.
Bill O'Reilly described Sheehan in the following way. "Sheehan has criticized Israel, saying it is occupying Palestine, has called Iraqi insurgents "freedom fighters," has accused Americans of killing people ever since we stepped on this continent, has threatened Hillary Clinton with the loss her job unless she calls for a pullout of US troops from Iraq and has called the US action against Afghanistan a failure. Quite a resume." I assume that this was supposed to be a slam against Sheehan, but I consider it to be a fine resume. She is radical, and she is persecuted, and as one of those Gospel sayings has it, no one can be a Christian unless they are willing to stand up to the persecution that results.
Sheehan has said that she has adopted another Christian, who was carrying a cross, Martin Luther King, as a role model , and recalling King's famous speeches on the Vietnam War, she stated that,
"I believe a Christian person does not murder people. Jesus was a prince of peace. But when you look at the damage that the religious right has done to this country... Those of us who are Christian need to go back to our core gospel values and teach George: Thou Shalt Not Kill. We need to change the whole value system we're operating under. People have been drawn to George Bush because they thought he was making them more secure-George Bush is making our world less secure. You don't promote peace by killing people; you don't make people free by killing them...We need to replace neglect and apathy toward our people-and militarism toward the world-with love, with community, with respect, with equality, with education, with cooperation, with diplomacy. We need to explore new paradigms of peace and democracy that are based on justice, truth, cooperation, and community...I admire Martin Luther King, Jr., and I would like to emulate his ways. War is very, very unjust to the poor. Many people are drawn to the military because they see it as a possible way out of poverty. And so the poor get sent into these wars in unjust proportions...we all need to speak to our employee, the President of the United States...The will of the people is greater than the presidency..."At the recent anti-war rallies on September 24th, 2005, in Washington, D.C., while most speakers were calling for pressure tactics to be used on the Democratic party, Sheehan was calling for action by the people, independent of the established political machine. This is a perspective I share and it was good to hear that someone else in a position of influence understands that people are just not pawns of the powerful, but are able to exercise power on their own. ("Just say NO!"). This perspective is the polar opposite of the doctrine of 'obedience to the authority figure' so constantly preached by the religious right, and the reason for the difference in perspective is that Sheehan is carrying a cross, and thus challenging authority, rather than adopting that servile attitude of deference to authority or the powerless attitude of those who believe in seeking the favors of authority.
"We need a people's movement to end this war. My good friends in the media aren't doing their job. Most of our friends in Congress aren't doing their jobs, and George Bush certainly isn't doing his job. So you know what? We have to do our job.... We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control criminal government..."
It was so refreshing to see Cindy Sheehan suddenly appear on the scene with a display of civil disobedience this summer (I thought to myself, 'finally, some decent dissent has emerged in that place'), and it was equally refreshing to find out that she was a Christian. She intended to carry on her protest in front of the White House, but that was declared to be illegal, in that she needed a permit and she couldn't get one, so in another display of civil disobedience she protested without the permit, and got arrested. She says that she 'does not understand much about strategy', but so far she has managed just fine on instinct, and as far as I am concerned, if this government can lie and violate the constitution and trample the system of International Law and spill blood for imperialist domination over oil wells, and face no opposition worth mentioning from any high place in the land, certainly one woman should be allowed to set up a lawn chair outside the White House without facing arrest.
Her attitude towards power and her acts of civil disobedience indicate that she is a REAL Christian.
The Saint Patrick's FourThese four Catholics entered a military recruiting station and in protest against the Iraq War they poured blood onto the flag. In a display of just how panic stricken the American system is by any sign of dissent, they were then arrested and prosecuted under ridiculous charges of endangering and threatening lives through their protest actions. They were acquitted on those ridiculous, trumped up charges. Once again this act of civil disobedience are the distinguishing characteristics of REAL Christians.
Pastors for PeaceEarlier this summer as Cuba was recovering from a hurricane, the Pastors for Peace organized a shipment of food and medical aid for the people of the Island, and then in an act of defiance of the laws banning any contact with Cubans, they drove the entire convoy to the Mexican border, where they were promptly detained. When told that the government had made contact with Cubans illegal, they replied that they did not recognize the authority of the government to pass such a law, and pointed out that giving food aid to people is not a criminal offense.
Eventually after a delay they were allowed through the Mexican border, and this display of civil disobedience exposed the ridiculous hypocrisy of the ruling system, wherein giving food to Cubans would be illegal, but carpet bombing the place like Fallujah would be legal. This was an example of a very shrewd form of political protest, and its impact in exposing the ridiculous fear of the American elite of any system even remotely socialist in orientation, and its exposure of the self serving nature of what passes for 'law' in the United States (where it is legal to bomb and destroy, but such things as food stamps are legislated out of existence, since the system of law has been twisted to serve the interests not of humanity, but rather a narrow elite).
Voices in the WildernessNot all members of Voices in the Wilderness are Christians, but some of their members are and some of their most prominent spokes people are Christians. The term 'Voice in the Wilderness' is taken from Isaiah and from the Gospels, and describes the role of the prophet as dissenter. (Prophets such as Isaiah, who was a revolutionary, were exiled and driven away from society, and thus were forced to carry on their activities from positions out in the wilderness, becoming then not silent, but rather Voices in the Wilderness. While attempts were made by the corrupt powers of the day to silence them by driving them into the desert, their persistence eventually led to respect and then fame, and we find that the dissenters of the Jewish tradition outlasted their persecutors, and the crucified retained a voice that still resonates today (a thought which should be inspirational to those who are also 'in the wilderness' because of their dissent and civil disobedience today...sometimes the wilderness is the right place to be if you are thinking long term...and sometimes the wilderness is the only safe place to be, for when you come out of the wilderness you can get crucified, as happened to the Jesus figure who refused to go into the wilderness, but rather preached in towns, and was killed because of his refusal to flee into the wilderness, or they can get shot like Martin Luther King who also dared to come out of the wilderness and suffer the consequences, making him into a real giant in American Christianity for that very reason...).
Even if all the members of Voices in the Wilderness are not Christians, they certainly deserve to be considered Honorary Christians, because they are doing the job that Christians are called upon to do, which is carrying a cross. Probably one of the most radical voices with a Christian connection, people such as these are the ones who are certain to be the most seriously persecuted, and high on the list of targets for crucifixion by the state, for the simple reason that they are uncompromising in their call for justice and do not shrink back from telling the uncompromising truth. This is so good to see in a place where so much of what passes for religion or protest is either just that, empty religion or protest as pressure politics, or consists of weak protests against the most monstrous injustice, that is, if there is any protest coming from established institutions at all. So often Christian organizations seem to be concerned with protecting or coddling the powerful oppressors, making polite appeals or attempting to 'influence', which is the same as contributing to the brutalization of the oppressed and denying them a voice.
According to their web statement VIW practices civil disobedience in direct defiance of the law, in an act of resistance against the Iraq War. Given that the Iraq war is an example of naked imperialist aggression and a violation of International Law, which is also a violation of the Constitution of the United States, which means that the government is criminal, this is the kind of statement and civil disobedience one would expect from REAL Christians. Watered down statements or 'going through official channels' or 'lobbying' are not appropriate, but rather this is a situation which calls for carrying a cross.
Since its founding in 1996, Voices in the Wilderness has campaigned to end economic and military warfare against the Iraqi people. We have done this by organizing over seventy delegations to Iraq in deliberate violation of UN economic sanctions and US law. We have lived alongside ordinary Iraqis before and during the US invasion and throughout the current US occupation of Iraq. In defiance of the sanctions, we publicly delivered modest amounts of medical supplies to children and families in need.
ConclusionThe call for withdrawal from Iraq is often met with the most hypocritical racism which recycles the old argument about 'the white man's burden', in that the white man must stay to tend to the violent and out of control brown herd of Iraq, lest there be chaos and destruction when the white man leaves. This argument often seems justified to some people, who see the increasing levels of violence and internal strike in Iraq as evidence that the white man must assume that burden of maintain good order in Iraq, or, failing that, as is obviously the case, the white man must at the very least try to keep a lid on the violence and keep it from getting any more out of control.
What this hypocritical argument hides is the fact that the strike in Iraq is being deliberately stirred up by the white man, in pursuit of that oldest of imperialist colonial strategies, 'divide and conquer.' So the white man tries to push through a constitution which divides Iraq up into Federations, with the oil in the south going to the Shi'ites, the oil in the north going to the Kurds, and the Sunnis and Shi'ites in the middle getting nothing but the oil-less desert in the middle. Naturally this cynical attempt to turn Shi'ites and Kurds against Sunnis would result in that dreadful internal strike which will then be used as the propaganda excuse for the white man to carry through the privatization of Iraq's oil wells, which is the most serious crime that can be committed under International Law, since looting and plunder is the root cause of every other war crime on the book. In exchange for some kickbacks to elite Shi'ites and Kurds the white man will set up a puppet government to manage the process of siphoning off Iraq's oil wealth, and give it the gloss of being an 'internal Iraqi decision', all this being once again nothing more than the old imperialist modus operandi recycled for today. The Dutch used the same tactics in Rwanda, with predictable results as the divisions and elitism they created deliberately in order to effectively control their colony erupted into violence, and the same violence is being instituted in Iraq, and given that British soldiers have been discovered driving around disguised as Arabs, while carrying high explosives and heavy arms, one can only wonder if the white man isn't blowing up a few Shi'ite mosques to fan the flames.
As I stated, all of this manipulation is old stuff. Classic imperialist strategy and its all been seen before, all been done before. Under these circumstances there can be nothing more immoral than weakened, watered down protest that allows oppression to carry on unchallenged. For this reason the carrying of a cross is called for, which means that the strong language and the uncompromising truth telling of the types of REAL Christians described above is the only acceptable response. Anything less than that is not only not Christian, it is criminal, since silence equals consent.
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