Friday, February 20, 2009

Finding our place in the world

A memorable line in The Screwtape Letters: "He thinks that is he finding his place in the world, but the world is finding its place in him."

Christians fell in love early with the idea of redeeming the world by capturing the state, and then using the state to impose Christianity in the world. We've had lots of Christian states since the Roman Empire and its successors in Europe. Shining examples come to mind like the Byzantine Empire; the Holy Roman Empire, which was none of these; Roman Catholic imperial Spain, which in Hispaniola made Hitler look inefficient and restrained, and much much more.

If "Christian" has anything to do with what the Bible says - a disciple of Jesus - then we ought to see what Jesus said about it in the gospels. You look at his basic teachings - the stuff he says we ought to be teaching the nations so as to make disciples of them - and you don't see much of that in any Christian state in the world, any time in history. But you sure see the world and its values capturing the Christians that get tangled up in these projects, 100% of the time.

Jesus told us how he sends Christians out into the world with the gospel: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves," not as vultures following predators, like the Christian missionaries who perched in Amman in 2003 waiting to follow the invaders into Iraq. Jesus was thinking of the conquest of Canaan by his predecessor and namesake, Joshua the son of Nun. The first step in that conquest was for the Jordan to be parted by God, so that the people crossed over and were circumcised at Gilgal, becoming helpless in the midst of their enemies, protected by God because they could do nothing to protect themselves. He says "Behold" because this statement is something to behold, the way people behold a big traffic accident: they gawk at it, giving it their full attention. We need to give this saying of Jesus our full attention.

In the wilderness, Satan offered Jesus a deal. Bow down and worhip Satan, and you can have the kingdoms of this world. Satan is not in fact worshiped by saying black masses and doing things at night to naked virgins on altars, just as God is not really worshiped in church services. Satan is worshiped by believing what he says and doing it, just God is worshiped by believing what he says and doing it - as Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and you do not do the things that I say."

The word of Satan, as Jesus described it, is that lying, killing, stealing, and destroying are the way to solve problems in the world. The deal offered was thatJesus could have these kingdoms if he too would place his reliance on these activities. That's the deal that is always accepted when Christians rely on lying, stealing, killing, and destroying in order to make a place for ourselves, to extend God's kingdom as we imagine.

Thus the Spanish conquerors brought "Christianity" to the New World through their service to Satan in mass murder and robbery. The Crusaders "took the cross" and conquered Jerusalem, slaughtering Jews on the way, serving Satan in murder, plunder, and rape, and supposing along with the pope that sent them that they were doing service to God. The Vichy regime in France that collaborated with the Germans called itself a Christian regime, and many Roman Catholics enthusiastically supported it. The pope was a big friend of Ante Pavelic, whose Roman Catholic "Independent State of Croatia" slaughtered about 250,000 Serbs from 1941 to 1945 as they went about forcing them to become Roman Catholics, and the pope helped Pavelic get away after the war. He died in Spain under the protection of General Franco, whom the Roman Catholic Church helped into power and enthusiastically supported in exchange for his favors.

Closer to home, Christians in the US have always claimed that this is a Christian country, and they've done what they can to make it so, but if you compare the behavior of the US in the world with what Jesus taught in Matthew 5-7, can't we see a few differences? Jesus said there to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, rather than worship Mammon, but when has the US and its people not worshiped Mammon? The American state has been very competitive in lying, stealing, killing, and destroying since the Pilgrims were robbing Indian graves in 1621. Our efforts to make it and its people say "Lord, Lord," have worked well enough, but as far as doing what Jesus says, when have we ever seen that? For 50 years the world has had to listen to American Christians whining because the state stopped sponsoring wimpy little prayers in schools invented by politicians to to be heard by men, like the hypopcrites standing and praying on the street corners - and we wonder, in our contempt for the plain words of Jesus about that, why the world doesn't listen to us about this Jesus whose words we so clearly despise.

Yes, indeed, Satan's offer in the wilderness was a deal for suckers, and Jesus was right not to take it. That's one of the things he taught us that he told us to go teach the nations, when we get around to believing Jesus ourselves. Until we do, why don't we shut up and stay home?

Think about it: Christian states never turn anyone into real Christians - disciples of Jesus, that kind - but they sure turn Christians into disciples of Satan, lukewarm, indistinguishable from the worst in the world.

Now one more amazing thing is that Jews have felt these Christian states upon their skins for over 1500 years, and they have clearly seen how the Christians that have built them have thereby banished the words of Jesus from their own lives. Unlike the Christians, Jews did know better until about 100 years ago. They knew that they couldn't make their own state and worship it as their refuge without losing Judaism, because as Moses said in Psalm 90, God is our refuge in all generations.

But then the Zionists imagined that Jews could do as the Christians did, make their own worldly state, so that Jews can be safe. They wanted a state just as in Samuel's day they demanded a king for themselves - because they rejected God. It certainly hasn't done anything to make Jews safe, and in lying, stealing, killing, and destroying Israel gets better and better all the time - just like all the "Christian" states we have hoped in over all these years.

Yes, indeed. When Jesus was offered, "Fall down and worship me, and I will give you all these kingdoms and their glory," he answered well, "Out of my face, Satan, because it is written, ' You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve.'" And that worship and service is to learn from him to do the things that he says, no other way.

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