Saturday, March 29, 2014

Persecution, Faith, Social Religion, Bangsamoro etc.

Preachers always talk about Christian persecution. This is understandable because the scriptures especially Paul's letter is filled with the call and exhortations to be steadfast  in times of troubles and persecution.

Reading Paul's letters, it is only natural to contextualize Paul's letters to our era, and when Paul urges Christians to be steadfast in times of persecutions and sufferings, we naturally, interpret that the same is true with us as with the early Christians. Should this be the case?

Thinking about this, I find it necessary to think about the persecutions and suffering endured by early Christians so that in today’s settings, especially here in the Philippines where there’s freedom of religion, Paul’s call for long suffering and steadfastness can be understood and focused to how (and where) it applies today.

  • Early Christians were persecuted for many reasons.They were persecuted by the Romans for their beliefs and the main reason for this was that they did not worship the Roman emperors. The Romans were generally tolerant people and most races under their empire were allowed to practice their religions as long as they pay homage to the emperor, but such an act was unacceptable to the Christians, Jews and other monotheistic religions.

  •     The Jews hated them for their blasphemy and their heretical teachings. Jesus did not really want to create a new religion or a new Judaist sect, he wanted to reform it but his teaching went so far to the letter (yet central to the Spirit) of Judaism that his followers, especially with the coming of Paul, had to, by choice or circumstances, create a new religion. But things within Christianity got weirder when the Roman Emperor Constantine introduced the doctrine of Trinity through the Council of Nicaea and things got weirder and murkier since then on (a PhD or a degree in Advanced Theoretical Physics will not help in understanding the Trinity, only belief will, according to St. Augustine). There’s no way the monotheistic Jews could accept Jesus as the Christ.  In reality, the doctrine of the Trinity is more of a Pagan-Greek influence. The Jews could not and will never accept such theological nonsense, and many Christians reject it too.

  •    The general population disliked them for their peculiarity. Early Christians worship in houses and were believed to feast on human flesh; they eat the flesh and drink the blood of their Lord. Frankly, the idea that Christians were cannibals then is understandable because even in today’s Lord’s Supper or communions the very word “eating the flesh and drinking the blood” are recited on the altars. There are even stories from missionaries, of natives, when hearing these words during communion, running away from the service.

If I were living in that era and I had a neighbor singing unheard of hymns and praying in different god and saying stuffs like eating flesh and drinking blood, I would organize a posse and drive them out of the neighborhood.

From our perspective, we think that the early Christians were being persecuted for simply being Christians but such thinking is completely biased. There were sane and valid reasons to distrust and fear the early Christians but mostly it's human nature: people have always feared what they do not understand. It is not only Christian who have suffered from persecution and it  is ethnocentric (or selfish) to think that only Christian were "rightly" martyred then. Look at today, it may not be the Christians anymore but the sinful attitude of persecuting and destroying what is new, strange, not understood and even weird is still is true. Sad to say that many of the persecution were committed by Christians.

Things are quite primitive then and looking at it and judging it from our era is impossible, to quote Thomas Kuhn, there’s an “incommensurable discontinuity” – people living in different historical periods with different paradigms live in psychologically different worlds. 

Persecution has driven Christianity and it is one of the factors that contributed to the spread of Christianity. By taking on the teaching of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount, Christianity offered hope to the poor, to the weak, to the persecuted. Revenge will come from the Father; your suffering will be rewarded in heaven etc. Even now, such teachings not only from Christians but also from other religions, continues to be an effective hook. Of course intellectuals like Nietzsche attacked this missionary teaching even calling it the slave mentality. According to Nietzsche this could destroy humanity; abhorring the strong and idealizing weakness, laziness, etc.  (Nietzsche was an acidic critic of Christianity but it must be understood that he was sympathetic to Jesus.)

Now hearing from pulpits pastors talking about persecutions here…what the hell are they talking about?

Of course, spiritualising the message of Paul is a good thing and allegorizing persecutions is, may I say, natural and understandable.

Some stuff to think about:

Religious Hegemony: Is Christianity the one and only religion that can offer salvation? Of course, to the Christian faithful this is a no brainer and one who asks this question may even be considered disrespectful or even heretical. But if one is honest enough to really think about it…

Preaching and teaching continues to idealize common Christians as continually under persecution both in spiritual as well as physical (or social) realms. I was listening to a TV news broadcast and there’s this Christian Pastor who was fuming about legislation banning mandatory prayers and the reading of the Bible in many US schools. And I supposed, that as Christians, it smacks of persecution. He was virulent and kept on babbling using slippery slope argument about the loss of values, of the US going to hell etc. Unfortunately, this Christian has forgotten his church history, early Christians were forced to pray and pay homage to idols and when they refused they were persecuted for it, and n today's setting, it will be wrong to require other people and other religion to pray to a god and to pay homage to a book not their own.  And anyway, this kind public prayer and bible reading relegates Christianity to a social religion which is not what Jesus, as I understood it, thought of..

Evangelism does not work this way.

I saw something yesterday during the signing of the Bangsamoro Peace Pact: Evangelicals, Catholics, Imams, Lumads, Christians, Muslims...all praying and participating in the peace process. The world is a tapestry people and of faiths.

Hmmm...(just thinking. this is really a stupid post).

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