Monday, January 10, 2011

Bible Studies...

Hokey, Dokey: I have a question for you all: What is a Christian?

Did I tell you that I am taking a Bible course? Well, as one might expect, I am getting more, not less, confused. The one that came up this week for me was this one about who - or what makes - a Christian.

I am only reading the Old Testament just now, and I will tell you that the prevalence of rape, and pillage, and murder in our world is no surprise when you read about the behaviors of YHWH. That is one violent god. (If you think that I am out of my mind: comment below and I will tell you how the New Oxford RSV translates it. I am totally shocked.)

So I got to wondering why there is this big story of a loving god. Well, YHWH sings his own odd little praises in Exodus, but... do Christians actually believe that about YHWH?

I started looking at all of the folks who call themselves Christians and I am just at a loss as to what the common ground is. I mean in New Mexico women pray to our Lady of Guadalupe, in New York prayers get sent to any number of saints, and in Georgia men pray to Jesus who is their personal savior. Now the Hindus and the Hopi have multiple divinities too, and I have no problem with that, but why is Christianity called a monotheistic religion? In any state there are Christians who either regularly or pretty much never go to church. In any city you could get a really good argument going over whether Jesus is or isn't a god (again: back to the monotheism question.) Inside the membership of many churches there are lots of different interpretations of the Bible including whether or not God, Moses or the J, E, P etc. sources wrote it. And no matter where you go there seems to be this ferverent urge to chit-chat about original sin and what a bunch of loosers we all are. Is that really the link: that the Christian notion of god is a guy who makes wrong people?

No. That cannot be it.

So I keep thinking about who call themselves a Christian. There is the lovliest minister at the church where I am taking this class. I love to hear him preach about how he brings various theology to bear as he walks through the lives of his community and his family. It is hard work to be a loving person and he doesn't shy from the hard tasks, nor from the delight he receives as he gets support from the god of his understanding. It is an inspiration to listen to him.

But then I looked up Hitler in the encyclopedia. He was a Christian. He actually thought a lot about how his murder campaign was doing "God's work". (You can read about YHWH's cleansing campaigns in Genesis either in the Noah story or in the Soddom and Gommorah story. Or various other stories.) And Robin Hood was a Christian. As was Richard the lionheart. Which is why they both went on crusades to cleanse Jerusalem of the Muslims.

Teresa, and my mother and my father were/are also Christians. So are most of my neighbors I think. So are Southern Baptists, the Amish, Episcopalians, and Catholics. So are the Quakers, who won't fight for religious reasons and GW Bush who started two wars and has the blood of hundres of thousands of Iraqi's, Afghani's, Europeans, Australians and Americans on his hands. And so far my list shows no glaring resemblances.

My big question this week was about whether Christians worship YHWH. Or did the notion of god change by the time Jesus was teaching? (And has god changed more in the last 2000 years? Is god different now?) Because YHWH kills in the OT. A lot and often. He threatens harm and disertion too. And don't even get me started on the cutting babies in exchange for stolen lands deal. Eeew. So how many Christians think that all of this murder and pillage is OK? These teachings seem to be taking their toll on our modern times. Ask Ms. Giffords.

Because I'd say that none of the folks at this class I attend kill or steal anything. They all work daily to be hard working and compassionate people. They sure are being kind to me as I stumble and throw-up my way through the Pentateuch.

Clearly, I have a point of view, but comment to me. What is a Christian? I will stand educated.