For years there has been a debate over not only who Jesus was but whether he existed. Historians remain split on many Jesus-related questions – and the issue is fraught with religious overtones – but Rev. Howard Bess believes enough is now known about Jesus to put him in context for his (and our) times.
Though founded by a pacifist, Christianity has justified some of the most brutal slaughters in human history, from the wars of the late Roman Empire to the Crusades to the Inquisition to world wars to genocides against “heathens,” Muslims and Jews. Yet, Gary G. Kohls says the essence of Christianity can still be reclaimed.
It is an inconvenient truth for mainstream and right-wing Christians that Jesus was crucified for taking his protest against income inequality to the power center of Jerusalem, where he challenged how money had perverted religious principles. Now, that tension is returning with the Occupy protests, Rev. Howard Bess says.
In the holiday season, many Christians take pride in helping the poor – by donating food and toys – but U.S. religious leaders have stayed in the background of challenges to an inequitable economic system, leaving that Jesus work to mostly secular young people of the Occupy movement, the Rev. Howard Bess observes.
The core crisis of Christianity is how could a religion based on the teachings of Jesus, who called for peace through love and generosity to the poor – and who disdained the rich – have grown so tolerant of war, greed and inequality. The Rev. Howard Bess traces this conundrum to the Church’s early days.
Friction between Christians and Muslims is growing, as the world’s two largest religions – with a long history of conflict and animosity – collide in a shrinking world. The Rev. Howard Bess sees some of that friction as unavoidable but urges dialogue and understanding to avert the worst.
If Christian conservatives truly understood and accepted the teachings of Jesus, they would not be at the Tea Party barricades fighting to protect the money, power and privileges of the rich; they would be demanding what Jesus wanted, a radical redistribution of wealth and decent treatment of all, as the Rev. Howard Bess notes.
Prophets and priests have served rival and often contradictory roles throughout history, with priests officiating at society’s rituals and prophets addressing society’s injustices. Recently, the Rev. Howard Bess found himself in a position to serve both functions.