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Christianity  


Christianity started out as a breakaway sect of Judaism nearly 2000 years ago, 30+ CE.* Jesus, the son of Mary and her husband Joseph, believed by Christians to be conceived through the Holy Spirit, was bothered by many of the laws and practices of his native Jewish faith and began preaching a different message. During his travels he was joined by Mary Magdalene and twelve disciples who followed him in his journeys and learned from him. He reportedly performed many miracles during this time and related many of his teachings in the form of parables. Among his best known sayings are to "love thy neighbor" and "turn the other cheek." At one point he revealed that he was the Son of God sent to Earth to save humanity from sin. He was crucified on a cross for his teachings. He then 'rose from the dead' and appeared to his disciples and told them to go forth and spread his message. See Editor's note.


Christianity's and Judaism's Old Testament Bible

Since Christianity and Judaism share the same history up to the time of Jesus Christ, they are very similar in many of their core beliefs. There are two primary differences. One is that Christians believe in original sin and that Jesus died in our place to save mankind from that sin. The other is that Jesus was fully human and fully God and as the Son of God is part of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. All Christians believe in heaven and that those who sincerely repent their sins before God will be saved and join Him in heaven. Belief in hell and satan varies among groups and individuals.

There are a multitude of forms of Christianity which have developed either because of disagreements on dogma, adaptation to different cultures, or simply personal taste. For this reason there can be a great difference between the various forms of Christianity. These may even appear to be different religions to many people. --

"If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all."

A Christian gives thanks that
America is not a Christian nation

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
-- The Declaration of Independence

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof
..." -- First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

"These foundation stones of American democracy were laid a century too late to save Mary Dyer's life. Dyer, a middle-aged mother of six, was hanged in 1660 for defying a Puritan law that banned Quakers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Christians who cruelly deprived this woman of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness were dead certain (so to speak) that they were on a mission from God, protecting their "divinely ordained" civic order against Mary Dyer's seditious belief in the Inner Light.

As a spiritual descendant of Mary Dyer, I'm profoundly grateful that America is not a Christian nation. If it were, my Quaker convictions might get me into very deep oatmeal. And as a Christian who does his best to take reason as seriously as I take faith, I find impossible to understand America as a "Christian nation" -- and I believe that there are vibrant possibilities in the fact that it is not.

Whatever America's founders believed about Christianity -- and they believed a wide range of things -- they clearly rejected the idea of an established church. That's strike one against the curious conceit that we're a Christian nation.

If being a Christian nation means asking ourselves every day, "What would Jesus do?" about a political issue, then doing it, that's strike two. To take but one example (without forgetting things like slavery, justice for those who can afford it and peace through war):

"If [America] is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it." -- Stephen Colbert

If a Christian nation is one whose popular culture is dominated by Christian convictions about what's good and true and beautiful, I'm afraid that's strike three. Just look at the fact that our nation-wide Christmas festivities begin on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a day that celebrates consumerism, our true civil religion. And if anyone wants a fourth swing of the bat in hopes of getting on base, let me pitch this brief theological reflection.

If, as Christians believe, God is the Creator and Redeemer of All, then there's no way God favors Americans above people of other nationalities. Strike four.

As a Christian, I'm passionately opposed to American pretensions that we have special standing with God; to political office-seekers who play on our religious differences; and to the religious arrogance that says, "Our truth is the only truth." But I'm equally passionate about the urgency of creating a culture of meaning that responds to the deepest needs of the human soul. This is a task we have been neglecting at great peril, a task that demands the best of all our wisdom traditions, a task on which people of diverse beliefs can and must make common cause.

Viewed from this angle, the fact that America is not and cannot be a Christian nation is very good news. America's freedom of religion, and freedom from religion, offers every wisdom tradition an opportunity to address our soul-deep needs: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, secular humanism, agnosticism and atheism among others. These traditions are like facets of a prism, each of which refracts a different wave length of the Light that overcomes darkness, including the darkness created from time to time by every nation and every tradition.

The philosopher Jacob Needleman has said that "one of the great purposes of the American nation is to shelter and guard the rights of all men and women to seek the conditions and the companions necessary for the inner search." In this society, where religious and philosophical diversity is one of our most precious assets, we can take a big step toward opening our culture to the "inner search" by shaking off the mistaken notion that this is code language for the search for God.

Inner-life questions are the kind everyone asks, with or without benefit of God-talk: Does my life have meaning and purpose? Do I have gifts that the world wants and needs? Whom and what shall I serve? Whom and what can I trust? How can I rise above my fears? How do I deal with suffering: my own, that of my family and friends, and that of the larger world? How can I maintain hope? What does any of this mean in the face of the fact that I'm going to die?

These are not questions that yield to conventional answers. They are the big questions that must be "lived" so that we might "gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers" (Rainer Maria Rilke). Do our schools give young people a chance to wrap their lives around questions of that sort? Do our religious communities listen for the questions that are alive among us instead of answering questions that few are asking? Do we offer spaces of public life that are safe for vulnerable explorations of meaning, spaces that are not Roman arenas where demagoguery slays reflective, rational and factually grounded discourse?

American democracy gives us a chance to do all of that and more, free of ideological restraints. That's why I'm grateful that America is not and cannot be a Christian nation.

Of course, we can continue to have pseudo-theological food fights over questions like, "How can we save our nation by making all Americans into God-fearing souls?," or "How can anyone be so ignorant as to believe in God or the soul?" Or we can take advantage of the fact that American democracy offers us an open space in which to pursue questions of personal, communal and political meaning, illumined by multiple sources of light.

Which will it be? That's a question worth wrapping our lives around, with gratitude for our political inheritance."

Parker J. Palmer
Center For Courage and Renewal --

*The dates are given in BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). These years correspond to the same dates in BC and AD but by defining the current period as the "Common Era" the nomenclature attempts to treat all religions and beliefs as equal.

Editor's note: In the eyes of the enlightened student of religion, there is only one God. The same God worshipped by various religions and known by various names and descriptions, i.e., Islam it's Allah, Christianity and Judaism it's God, Hinduism it's Brahmin, the same God masquerading via the diversity of creation and wearing the mask of what Sikhs, Hindus and others call Maya.


The Jesus Painting

The Easter Date

In the gospel tale, there are two dates for the crucifixion: the 14th and the 15th of the
month of Nisan, and within Christianity the date for Easter was debated for centuries.
There continue to be two dates for Easter: the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox,
thus demonstrating that this holiday is not the historical date of the actual crucifixion of
a particular man. The dates are, in fact, astronomical, astrological and astrotheological.

 

      

POINTS TO PONDER

The Woman Pope

The Sistine Chapel

Religions of the World

Early Christian Writings

The Stations of The Cross

The Essence ... You Are IT

May We Always Be Grateful

Please Respect My Religion

Why Hindus Wear A Red Dot

The Greatest Story Ever Sold

 

 

 

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