Since the Fourth Century A.D., Christian churches have sanctified nationalism and wars rather than insist on the non-violent teachings of Jesus, leaving many misguided Christians to explain later why they became implicated in war crimes, a predicament that Gary G. Kohls says is repeating again in modern America.
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.
More and more, the Republican Party is becoming a Christian fundamentalist movement with attacks on “secularism” and demands for school-run prayers for students, but many of these same politicos express shock when people in the Middle East turn to Islamic-oriented parties, Lawrence Davidson notes.
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.
Republicans are fond of throwing the charge “class warfare” at anyone who seeks to reverse the rapid division of modern society into haves and have-nots. But the ancient story of Cain and Abel is a cautionary tale about the violence that class stratification inevitably brings, writes Rev. Howard Bess.
It might seem odd to anyone who understands what Jesus taught that the U.S. presidential candidates who most stress their Christian devotion are often the same ones urging more wars. But this defiling of Jesus’s message of peace is not new, as Gary G. Kohls recalls from an inspiring moment in World War I.
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.
Curiously, it has often fallen to the U.S. military to take the lead in changing the society’s patterns of discrimination, even as churches sometimes lag. After World War II, the military took up the fight against racial bias. Today, the target is bigotry against gays, as Rev. Howard Bess notes.
Some neoconservatives, Christian fundamentalists and right-wing Jews insist that a “clash of civilizations” is underway with Islam – and that peaceful coexistence is not an option. But Rev. Howard Bess, a Baptist, sees hope from fair-minded scholarship about the Bible and the Qu’ran.
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.