Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Part #4: Saved to Slay? "The Immoral Arc of the Religious Universe"

No, this article isn’t going to end with one of those Christian appeals
where all will be solved if only everyone gets saved
or claims the mythical Rapture will happen in this generation
and solve all problems.

Every historian knows that often “getting saved” is the first awful step to evil, to later committing mass slaying and lying and stealing as the religious wars of the last 500 years horridly show. Consider what the other Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, said after he “got saved”:

“When it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism…the stubborn sectaries must be put to death."
“Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"
Martin Luther, On the Pope as an Infallible Teacher, 25 June 1520

“Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly..”

And for Jewish people: “set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians…”

“I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.”
Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543)

And there are countless other examples from Cromwell, Calvin, Augustine, the Puritans, the Popes, etc.

Where is the moral arc of hope if not in Christianity, not in religion since those so often cause evil and despair?

We must be realistically pessimistic. Our own troubled lives are so finite, so brief, so very short. Like Scripture says, we are a “vapor,” then gone.

While God “has been our dwelling place in all generations,” we have to admit we don’t usually see the Good triumph NOW, and won’t in our whole lifetime, or the many future lifetimes of our great-grand kids and descendants after them, on into a thousand years, or a million.

Seldom, even when we do our very best and pray our hardest and finally cry out with Jesus to God,“My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”

And the very worst fact is that Christians like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day are, too often, the very ones doing evil in the name of God.

As explained earlier in the article, Christians have imprisoned and killed many millions of humans.

Thousands of nonviolent Brethren and Quakers were persecuted and killed in the 1500 and 1600’s. Those followers of Jesus died young and largely forgotten by everyone. They never saw “the arc of the moral universe…bend toward justice.”

How many people have heard of the witness Michael Sattler? The Christian leaders of Austria wrote, “Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic."

Hutterite Large Chronicle, quoted in William Roscoe Estep, The Anabaptist Story 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 19960, p. 57.

Or Mary Dyer, the Quaker evangelist, who was hanged in Boston by the Christian authorities?

“Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’

There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, ‘Truth crushed to earth will rise again.’”
Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Gospel Messenger

Then he got murdered, shot down in a motel while he was seeking to bring justice to humans seeking better working conditions.

So, you see, there is no real slick answer, no easy fix-it, no doctrinal foundation that doesn’t shake when it comes to confronting evil and asking why God doesn’t act soon!

Rather, we have the never-ending job of Job—to wrestle with the God we seek, asking why He doesn’t act and why his followers so often are numbered among those who cause evil, rather than oppose it.

But we don’t lose hope, because we do have this impossible ultimate, future hope like Mary Dyer and Michael Sattler and Martin Luther King Jr. and Tom Fox and so many others, a great cloud of witnesses for truth, so many who refused to accept wrong, who were determined to bring in goodness, who trusted, against all doubt, that God is, despite all the evidence against that incredible hope.

No matter how many future centuries or many millenniums pass, no matter how much evil in all its forms—the petty and the ghastly—continues to destroy…

Good will keep rising,

and failing
until it will, eventually and completely, be defeated.

And then God’s eternal communion will come.

Peace will replace conflict.

Justice, truth, love and mercy will fill the Earth.

Let it become.

Choose to act for justice and mercy, love and kindness, truth and joy-- today, now, this very moment.

No matter how LONG it takes.

Yes, God, lover of all.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

No comments: