Kevin: Ed, The quotes of Jesus you cited do not establish that Jesus told his followers to persecute anyone. They show that Jesus himself made judgments about certain people.
Ed: You originally said that Jesus was just judging their “teaching” (sic), but now you admit he was judging the people themselves. Well, thatʼs a step toward reality.
Now consider why the words of the Bible have led to so much persecution over so long a period of time, and why Christianity (just as equally if not more-so than all other other religious or political movements with absolutistic teachings) has waded in blood, slavery and bigotry for two thousand years. (Compare the far fewer wars that Buddhists have fought over their religion. In fact, there as a wise Buddhist king who reigned in India and brought peace to rival religious sects, but making laws of sane tolerance, during the same time when Europeans were suffering the Inquisition, Calvinʼs insufferable laws and persecutions in Geneva, Lutherʼs anti-Jewish venom and anti-Catholic venom and anti-peasant venom, and anti-anyone-who-disagreed-with-the-Apostleʼs-Creed venom—since Luther signed a paper demanding the death penalty for anyone who did not accede to the Apostleʼs Creed, and when Catholic and Protestant Christian nations were engaged in a Thirty Years War)
Indeed, there is no evidence that Christianity today would Be a “world religion” unless it HAD taken control of the reigns of government and (one sect of Christians, the Catholic one) instituted itself as the supreme religion by means of force (outlawing paganism and all rival Christian sects), accommodation (to pagan festivals and ideas), and bribery (the first Christian Roman Emperor spent lots of money, offering a gold coin and a robe to “converts” or at least to get pagans to outwardly acknowledge Christianity). [See the historian William Ramsayʼs book Christianity And Paganism In The Fourth To Eighth Centuries]
Furthermore, it is because of the absolutistic demands made in the Bible, linked with hellish fear for society as a whole, and fear for the souls of Christian kids (if “non-Biblical beliefs” ever “got loose”) that drives people and societies over the edge. Absolutistic fears drive the engines of bigotry and persecution. And thereʼs also the Bibleʼs judgmentalism. For all that Jesus SAYS about “not judging,” he does a helluva lot of it himself, and weʼre supposed to be like Jesus, (especially when the “Holy Spirit” moves us).
One might also consider the words of the Bible in which God commands the destruction of the worship places of rival religions (which the first Christian Emperor made into a command to destroy non-Christian temples, art and literature), or biblical commands to execute those who believed differently or who blasphemed the God of the Bible. Even in the N.T., God strikes Anais and Saphiris dead because they held back some money from the common church fund. (By the way, that story was one that C. S. Lewis found unbelievably reprehensible, along with the alleged city-wide slaughters and treacheries of Joshua, neither of which Lewis believed to be true history nor attributable to a moral Beingʼs just commands.)
Kevin: I concede that if we assume that Jesus is not God, then this seems inconsistent. But if he is, then it is entirely within his prerogative to do things himself that are not the prerogative of his followers.
Ed: Like telling Christians to “love their enemies,” while God gets to Damn his for all eternity. But my point is not what individual Christians do or how they shall act. Letʼs assume that on an individual basis they act like saints (they do Not all act like saints of course, far from it, as history shows, but rather many have acted more like devils). Still the question remains how should a Society act? What laws should IT make? Do you think society would work better if all thieves and murderers went free? Forgive and love all your enemies? Every last one in all cases? All they have to do is repent? (And how do you know their act of repentance is genuine or not?) Is that your proposed answer to the question of what laws society should institute? Well Luther and Calvin proposed that the answer was this…
It was the duty of individual Christians to love their neighbors and enemies in so far as the case may be non-religious personal affronts, but when the neighbors become blasphemers and affronted God or his holy Book, then it is the duty of each Christian to serve God rather than man, and not accept such blasphemy, and it is likewise the duty of civil magistrates to do their duty and follow Godʼs laws in the O.T. when it comes to blasphemy, in order to preserve society, and keep it from being judged by God for being too lax. This is also the view of Missouri Synod Lutherans and Conservative Reformed Churches, and the Reconstructionist Christian movement. Go argue with THEM is you want, or read chapter two of Leaving The Fold, and learn the exact Scripture verses that Luther and Calvin used and what argument they made, based on the Bible. If you think Luther and Calvin were wrong, argue with THEM and with fellow living Christians. Iʼm not making this stuff up. God to the Chalcedon Report webpage, argue with those Reconstructionists. Tell them how wrong they are. Go ahead, and get their Scriptural replies in return. If you can make some converts out of them, I for one will bless you. Reconstructionism is even being funded by some Christian millionaires who are trying to elect Reconstructionists to American government posts, like in California. I have an article on that I can send you.
Ed: Not to forget the parable about cutting off oneʼs offending hand lest you go to hell with both hands, which has inspired some to fear hell so much that they cut off their own hand
Kevin: I suspect that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole here, or else he would have, for example, told John to cut out his own tongue for speaking overly harshly about some people.
Ed: Of course he was speaking in hyperbole. The point is that it is such strong hyperbole it has inspired people “cutting things off” (like hands and penises in the case of Origin, and Skoptsie Russian Christians and in various isolated cases since then), and “cutting off” relatives and friends, etc. Itʼs the fear of eternal hell that this hyperbole is emphasizing, and fear as I said drives people crazy. Fear is the mind killer as the author of Dune once put it. If God inspired the Bible then he must have known the power of hyperbole and its effects, and foreseen the disasters that lay in wait after composing such a fear-based verse. Of course, such talk was common in the apocalyptic days of first century Palestine. Just compare the books of Enoch (which even the author of Revelation copied from), or passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls (another apocalyptic group awaiting the end of the world). The soon end of the world was the Reason why you had to save your own soul and avoid hell at all costs by acting so completely nice to even your enemies, and turning the other cheek, because otherwise you would be cast into the fire after the Son of Manʼs soon arrival. In other words, Jesusʼ perfectionistic teachings are based on the premise that the world was soon going to be judged, and we shouldnʼt judge but wait for God to soon do so, and we should keep ourselves as pure as possible because the final judgment was near.
Ed: as well as figuratively cutting off their own relatives from their family, all because they Jesus said so. Not to mention Jesusʼ teachings that he has come to bring fire to the earth and how he wished it was already kindled, along with the teaching that every branch that does not bring forth fruit shall be cast into the flames, and his teachings about families hating one another and coming to set a father against his own children, and vice versa.
Kevin: I think these types of things can be a result of families being divided over Jesus; not that this is Godʼs preference.
Ed: Of course families were divided over “Jesus.” Jesus is portrayed in the synoptic Gospels as an apocalyptic prophet expecting to initiate what is called “the tribulation” in his lifetime. As in verses in which Jesus said, “I have come to set father against son, mother against daughter, etc.” and, “I have come to cast fire on the earth.”
“Think not that I am come to send peace; I came not to send peace but a sword.” “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (spoken in a parable in Lk.) “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth…and men gather them into the fire, and they are burned.” (a verse in John cited by the Inquisition) Jesus looked at the Pharisees “with anger” Mk. 3:5, called them blind fools and sons of vipers and sons of the devil, and called his generation an evil and adulterous one (as all of todayʼs apocalyptic prophets call our own generation), and said that certain towns of his day deserved and would receive greater judgment than Sodom. And in one spectacular curse, Jesus says, “Depart from me ye accursed into the hellfire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Need I discuss the self-fulfilling nature of how the divisive apocalyptic categorizations that Jesus employed also created centuries of human strife?
Ed: And Jesusʼ teaching found only in the Gospel of John in which Jesus speaks condemnations on the whole Jewish people rather than just the clergy, declaring numerous times “the Jews” this, and “the Jews” that.
Kevin: Letʼs have a little context though. The apostles were all Jews. This leads me to think that Jesus was talking about a group in general, not about each and every member of the group, else the Twelve should have packed it in right then. I think he was saying that a personʼs identity as Jew would not cut it; this idea is hardly unique to John.
Ed: This idea of blackening a whole “peopleʼs identity” (as you admit) happens to be the very essence of bigotry.
Ed: Of course, one may argue about the “analyses” of these and other verses. But if you think Jesusʼ message was simply one of “love, love, love,” then you havenʼt read everything Jesus said and did, including his using a whip of cords in his Temple tantrum.
Kevin: I dodnʼt say that Jesusʼ message was “love love love” and nothing else. Clearly he spoke of judgment too. Just because the idea is distasteful it doesnʼt mean itʼs untrue.
Ed: “Distasteful?” No, itʼs reprehensible, especially in the fearful effects it has produced in the human psyche. It was C.S. Lewis who once admitted in a letter (written near the end of Lewisʼ life) to his universalistic friend, Dom Bede Griffiths (who hosted a Christian-Hindu ashram in India): “Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lordʼs time - ‘Ye know not what spirit ye are of” (John of all people!) I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse…Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.”
Ed: Neither have you considered the dilemmas faced once Christianity became a nationwide power instead of merely a minority of individual Christians. Once “Christian” governors and governments arose, they had to decide what laws to make, and they had to use their own “analytical” judgment to formulate laws based on “the Bible.”
Kevin: I too would place the word “Christian” in quotes in this context. Indeed, how could people who profess to follow the one who said “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were then my servants would fight” proceed to rule tyrannical regimes? Only with a great deal of rationalization.
Ed: The fact that you canʼt imagine “how they could” strikes me as the most naive answer imaginable. You havenʼt considered the psychological effects that all the apocalyptic preaching and raving in the N.T., and pictures of a “jealous” God as portrayed by jealous men in the O.T., has had on humanity? Page after page the Bible depicts God as a mass murderer, and in the N.T. as inventing an eternal hell and judging everyone and “casting” them out, and you say, “Gee, how could anyone ever get the idea that the Bible is about maintaining the reign of a tyrannical king, kingship, or government?”
Ed: Well, you canʼt make laws out of the N.T. because it doesnʼt deal with them. Only the O.T. contains inspired laws for a “nation,” such as killing blasphemers and stoning anyone who threatens the life of your child (how much more a threat is it to teach heresies that threaten the Eternal Life of a personʼs child?) Hence, Christians made laws condemning and Persecuting And Punishing/Executing non-Christians. Read Luther and Calvin for the Scriptural justifications of such laws, or read chapter two of Leaving The Fold in which I cite Luther and Calvinʼs Scriptural justifications for such laws.
Kevin: These laws were given to a specific people in specific circumstances, and misappropriated by an imperialistic church trying to legitimize the acquisition of wealth and power. Contrast this with, say, the Celtic church, whose humility, detachment from wealth and power, and self-sacrifice to scholarship and missionary activity shamed the “servant of the servants of God” enthroned in Rome, whose worldview was adopted by some of the reformers later on (specifically, re: church and state).
Ed: So, instead of whining about how the Bibleʼs been “misappropriated” (sic), why not tell me exactly HOW do you set up laws for a kingdom in THIS world based on the Bible? Which laws do you make and enforce, and WHY those and not others? Huh?
Glad to hear you align yourself with Celtic Christianity rather than some megalomaniac Catholic church hierarchy. At least your heart is in the right place, though I believe the heart of a person like ou would also be in the right place even if you werenʼt a Christian, but a devout Buddhist or Taoist or Confucian, or even charitable atheist.
Of course, since you praised Celtic Christianity so highly, I can almost hear you adding that the Irish “saved” civilization, like the claim made in the book of the same title. But of course, one has to wonder how civilization got into such trouble that it needed “saving” after Christians have been ruling it for a thousand years prior to the Irish having to “save” it. For instance, the rise of Christendom a thousand years earlier, in the Roman world, led to the burning of the central pagan portion of the library of Alexandria (with the bishopʼs approval), and led to the library falling into a state of disrepair and disuse until some Moslems came around and burned down what little was left, and how Christians burned the books of Greek and Roman Christian critics, killed pagan philosophers and mathematicians like Hypatia in the street, and replaced the pursuit of pagan learning and scholarship and mathematics and politics with vast treatises on the dangers of religious heresy, the dangers of not maintaining oneʼs virginity, and signs of Jesusʼ soon coming, and warnings of Satanʼs snares (he was everywhere!). You can read Augustineʼs works for yourself, they are on the web, and see which of them is not concerned with Satan, virginity, and rooting out Christian heresies of one sort or another. No wonder the Roman Empire fell. Problems were not dealt with as they should, but were instead preached to the people in churches across the empire as being either signs of Jesusʼ soon return, or of Godʼs or Satanʼs wrath. Again, you should consult the recent book by William Ramsay I mentioned above.
As for the rebirth of civilization in Europe, I watched the series Connections on PBS (and read the book) and learned that the revival of learning in Europe (after Christianityʼs thousand year blight of diseased minds that hunted cats because they were “emissaries of Satan,” which led to the abundance of rats and fleas on the rats that spread the great plagues),as I was saying, the revival of learning in Europe coincided with some Christian crusaders taking the city of Seville from the Moslems, a city which contained the largest collection of classical literature that had been preserved since the Fall of the Roman Empire, by Moslem scholars, not Irish priests. This windfall soon reignited scholarship in Europe, Praise The Romans And Greeks who originally wrote such books, and praise those Moslems who preserved such literature essential to getting civilization back on track after a thousand years of Biblical darkness.
Kevin: As to the perceived universality of the Mosaic law, consider that Moses himself appears to have been the offspring of a union later proscribed by the Mosaic law. This alone, apart from the NT, should be sufficient clue that the Mosaic law was intended to be limited in scope.
Ed: If itʼs so “limited in scope” then I suppose Luther and Calvin were idiots to point out that Jesus said, “Not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away until all things have been fulfilled,” and, “whomever teaches this little one to disregard even the least of the law, it would be better for him if a millstone were placed around his neck.” And Paul who wrote, “Do we by this, obviate the law of Moses? No!”
Instead of hemming and hawing about the O.T. only being “limited in scope” please tell me Exactly How Limited. And tell me why youʼre at it how Christian people could NOT read the O.T. and understand that a society Needed to make and obey specific laws to please God and avoid Godʼs wrath or Satanʼs ruin? The question remains WHICH laws can a society of concerned Bible readers ignore, and which should it enforce? Christians have NEVER agreed on that, nor does the Bible (nor the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which “leads us into all truth”) seem capable of leading to any ultimate agreement on such matters, yet laws must be made. Laws against killing for instance. Thatʼs not “limited in scope” is it? What about “killing someoneʼs immortal soul” by the spread of “false doctrine” that “kills souls?” All the original American colonies and nations of Europe at that time had laws against non-Christian words and publications, not just non-Christian acts. Those laws go back as for a thousand years to Constantineʼs edicts against paganism and all Christian sects other than the Catholic church. During those thousand years the Catholic and Protestant churches of Europe grew powerful and wealthy. There was NO religious competition. It had been outlawed for a thousand years. Since the advent of the Age of Reason and democracies (democracies/republics being post “kingship” and hence, post Biblical, mentalities), the Christian churches had not had the power to outlaw rival sects nor rival religions, and so in a mere hundred years, the previous two thousand is being undone, quite quickly, I might add. It took earliest Christianity three hundred years before it gained the clout to outlaw paganism and rival Christian sects. Even then, it took another four hundred to complete the near obliteration (and accommodation) with paganism, and Christianity was rent with further schisms after that time. But in a mere two hundred years, since Deists in Europe first began questioning the Bible, and opened the way for historical scholarship and examination of the Bibleʼs documents, the Christian world is having to react to more different religions and challenges than can be counted. In four hundred more years, If Laws For Religious Tolerance Remain In Place, Christianity today (the phenomenon, not the magazine), will cease to exist, and have been replaced by perhaps 100,000 or more different sects (in the past five years the number of Christian sects have grown, according to the last two printings of Oxfordʼs Christian Encyclopedia, from 20,000 to 30,000!), and a wide variety of alternative religions and non-religions.