There is a myth that can be traced from ancient Egypt to America by a trail of murdered bodies, and this myth is directly linked to the immoral actions of Christians. Jesus said,
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
I know some very kind, loving Christians, and their only link to the trail of murdered bodies is the label: Christian. These kind, loving Christians might protest that the people responsible for the carnage that stains historic Christianity were not actually Christians. Consequently, for the intents and purposes of this blog, we must accurately define “Christian”. But this is easier said than done. After all, Hitler was a “Christian”. And there are well over thirty-thousand denominations in Christianity who disagree (sometimes dogmatically and tyrannically) with one another about the definition of “Christian”, how one goes about becoming one, whether one can be Christian and _____ (fill in the blank with the sin of your choice), whether one can be a Christian and then become unconverted on purpose or by accident, etc.
Perhaps the kind, loving Christians I know might claim that the historical wake of evil in the Christian’s path is the result of a misguided few, who should never have been given the power to make the horrible decisions they made. In this way, they deflect fault away from so-called genuine Christianity to unfortunate circumstances, as if the source of the power of the misguided few were somehow self-generated and then imposed upon the many. This is simply not the case. The real source of the power of the misguided few arose from an external cause: fear. At this point, we should remember that Jesus instructed His followers (Christians) to FEAR NOT. The many were persuaded to either actively support or passively permit the actions of the misguided few, for fear of what might happen if they were to stand in opposition. And what could have happened? Well, that depends on whether they were active supporters or passive permitters. If they were the active supporters, then they clearly shared in blood-guilt. If they were passive permitters, then standing in opposition to church authority would be inadvertently standing in opposition to God Himself. And what consequences do those who stand in opposition to God face, according to orthodox Christianity?
Rotten fruit. What does it look like? Perhaps it is moldy or squishy. It might be full of maggots, discolored, and smelly. When it comes to spiritual fruit, here’s how we know if it is rotten – it will be the opposite of good fruit or the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. This list has been provided to you by Paul, in a letter he wrote to believers in Galatia. He also added, “…against such there is no law.”
Should acts of love be illegal? How about acts of kindness? Of course not! But when we consider the opposite, the rotten spiritual fruit, then it makes sense that the law should be involved. Should acts of hate be illegal? How about acts of cruelty? Yes, they should.
In a previous blog, “Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Abomination”, I asked, “What is the source of and the result (fruits) of first-century Jewish beliefs?” In that blog, I partially answered the first portion of the question. The reason I write “partially” is that the source of the Jewish first-century religious leaders’ doctrine of post-mortem torment in fire can be traced even further back than I traced it, back before writing as we know it today was invented. Hence, the ancient Egypt reference. The second portion of the question requires quite a bit of research. Sometimes I like to keep it simple and just say, “Do your own homework.” Read some books about the history of the Christian institutional church that are written by people who are not Christians. The reason I say this is that many Christian books on the history of the institutional church gloss over the horror and focus on the less-shocking political accomplishments. Only when one takes a close look at church history, can one see what kind of spiritual fruit the so-called institutional church has produced since the doctrine of eternal torment became orthodox, back before laws against the most extreme “bad fruit” were established.
But am I taking this too far? Is the institutional church, with its insistence on eternal torment and its imitation of the behavior of its god, to blame for the giant pile of rotting fruit in human history? Of course the church is not solely to blame. After all, it only mirrored the secular legal system. Justinian got his ideas from pagan law. So, then, is all humanity to blame? Well, yes and no. You see, “God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on [us] all.” But this doesn’t negate the fact that God has called believers to be salt and light in the world, and “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
As a disciple of Christ, heed His warning when you decide who you allow to influence your beliefs:
Not every one who is saying to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, lord, have we not in thy name prophesied? and in thy name cast out demons? and in thy name done many mighty things? and then I will acknowledge to them, that – I never knew you, depart from me ye who are working lawlessness. Therefore, every one who doth hear of me these words, and doth do them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain did descend, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and they beat on that house, and it fell not, for it had been founded on the rock. And every one who is hearing of me these words, and is not doing them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain did descend, and the streams came, and the winds blew, and they beat on that house, and it fell, and its fall was great. And it came to pass, when Jesus ended these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority, and not as the scribes.
So my point is not so much to blame as it is to demonstrate how Jesus’s fruit analogy rings true and to encourage anyone who wears the “label” to examine some fruit! It is a reliable way to determine whether someone who claims to have spiritual authority actually has it. And more importantly, the fruit test is a good way to determine whether to oppose the abuse of authority. Sometimes God brings change by calling out just one or two among many. If you recognize the modern form of pastorial-permitted torture in the church (shunning, fear tactics, hostility, hateful words, etc), oppose it. Speak up for the outcast. Do what you would have others do for you. Don’t be like those in history who were controlled by fear. Don’t passively permit by being part of a system that destroys. And definitely don’t actively participate in the destructive behavior!
The slaves in Egypt may have had their bodies beaten into submission, but Pharaoh and his good ‘ole boys could never have taken away their fruit-producing abilities. Is it possible that a system that defames the name of God on a regular basis can produce good fruit? I ask myself this question sometimes. I always rediscover, NO. Only individuals within the system can do this, by the grace of God. Does the system tend to produce very underproductive (and fearful) trees? Yes.
In closing, it is interesting to note Hitler’s justification for his (as well as those who agreed or complied) campaign of ethnic cleansing, as described in Hitler’s own words in Main Kampf:
Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition… Providence did not bestow her reward on the victorious sword, but followed the law of eternal retribution.
*emphasis is mine
Next blog in this series: Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell: Obama Is Fat