Christianity and Middle-Earth

Monday, May 02, 2005

Mommy, There's a Christian Under My Bed!

As I have mentioned before, I grew up in a church that took, in many regards, a Cromwellian approach to Christianity. While amusements such as theater, dancing and alcohol use were not on the roster of no-nos, Christmas and Easter certainly were, as were birthday celebrations and pretty much anything smelling of Catholicism.

Rome nurtured the Anti-Christ in her Babylonian bosom, you see. Sooner or later, a Pope would conquer the world and true Christians would be persecuted and even slaughtered as the great Fallen Woman waved her bottle of Cracklin’ Rosy Saints’ Blood in gleeful, drunken triumph over all.

Unfortunately for the Lord Protector, however, he would not have been of that prime and special vintage. You see, he went to church on Sunday. And that was—ominous drumroll here—The Mark of the Beast.

We had lots of other loonybiscuit doctrines, all much strengthened by the conviction of being right in God’s eyes, but the larger theological heresies I grew up with aren’t really the point of this post. Belief or disbelief in the Doctrine of the Trinity doesn’t have much direct bearing on how an individual operates in day-to-day life: what does is what I will call, for lack of a better term, Old Testament Christianity.

My definition of Old Testament Christianity is a religion that teaches that not only do Christians have to live by the New Testament, but they are required to live by the former as much as is possible without actually nullifying the latter. Thus we did not make literal animal sacrifices, because that had been done away with by Jesus Christ, but the commands to observe the Mosaic holy days were still in effect. Instead of sunrise services and Christmas trees, we got Levitical dietary restrictions, fasting onYom Kippur and ‘land Sabbaths.’ I probably know as much about unleavened bread and Sukkot as most practicing Jews.

Now it’s one thing to try to live a traditionally Christian life and another to try to live a traditionally Jewish life, but having to attempt a selective combination of the two is quite a challenge. Existence becomes an endless sequence of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s and you're definitely the neighborhood weirdo. If you are of an idealistic, earnest nature, desirous of pleasing God and man, it can become an obsessive-compulsive purgatory.

But that was all long ago and far away and the reason for my bringing it up now is not to provide a personal tell-all for the benefit of the curious, but to illustrate that when I say that I understand what it is like to live under the soft totalitarianism of erroneous versions of Christianity, I know whereof I speak.

~~~

Let us go now to the Shadowy Right-wing Christian Fundamentalist Plot to Control America. (via Hugh Hewitt):
"This may be the darkest time in our history," said Bob Edgar, general secretary of the left-leaning National Council of Churches and former six-term Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. "The religious right have been systematically working at this for 40 years. The question is, where is the religious left?"

Speakers outlined such concepts -- others would say conspiracy theories -- as Christian reconstructionism and dominionism to a crowd that Mr. White said does "not understand the further reaches of religion."

Dominionism is the theory that the account in Genesis in which God gave man dominion over the earth has become a political teaching advocating that Christians gain and hold power. Christian reconstructionism is the theory that Christian conservatives intend to impose Old Testament law in America.
Stanley Kurtz at NRO amplifies these concerns for us:
What is the real agenda of the religious far Right? I’ll tell you what it is. These nuts want to take over the federal government and suppress other religions through genocide and mass murder, rather than through proselytizing. They want to reestablish slavery. They want to reduce women to near-slavery by making them property, first of their fathers, and then of their husbands. They want to execute anyone found guilty of pre-martial, extramaritial, or homosexual sex. They want to bring back the death penalty for witchcraft.
Or so the Loonybiscuit Left would have us believe, as Mr. Kurtz goes on to explain, shaking his head in disbelief the whole time.

Captain Ed is equally bemused:
They have created a modern-day voodoo called Dominionism and smeared all church-going people as covert members of its conspiracy. Supposedly, all Christians have worked for centuries to transform America into an Old Testmant-based theocracy with high priests instead of elected officials -- somehow forgetting that for Christians, the New Testament takes precedence over the Old. Otherwise, we'd live under the same precepts as Orthodox Jews, holding Saturday as the Sabbath, eschewing pork, and avoiding cheeseburgers.
~~~

My church wasn’t so restrictive as Orthodox Judaism, of course; we were Christians after all, and Christ had set us free—to eat cheeseburgers anyway. Occasionally.

Our version of Christianity being as physically oriented as spiritual, it was impressed upon us that our bodies were the temple of the Holy Spirit (the non-Trinity version) and therefore to be spared the ravages of not only ‘unclean meats,’ but refined foods (except for occasional treats—we weren’t Puritans). Honey was good, sugar was bad; whole wheat was good, bleached flour bad. Having your baby at home got you extra Brownie points, getting your child immunized showed a lack of faith. (I fell short on both counts.) ‘Natural’ was the mantra and the Millennium was going to be one big organically-grown paradise.

So when we achieved ultimate power in our conspiracy to take over the world in this age, the rest of America was going to have to toe the same legalistic line. I mean, if it was what Jesus Christ ordered, what was good for one was good for all. Our guys get into office, take over the judiciary, infiltrate Congress, slither into the White House, and bob’s your uncle: the OT Christian Taliban is in charge and they’re even scarier than Southern Baptists. Dominionists ‘R’ Us. Right?

There’s just one fly in that ointment, a small, but pivotal fly inherent to our doctrinal persuasions of the time.

We didn’t vote.
~~~

The Mind and Power that inhabits Eternity, who is Mercy and Love and knows the hearts of men, looked on my church and saw the suffering that many of us endured. He saw our earnest desire to follow his Son and to truly find him; and he spoke from Heaven and the manacles fell from our souls.

”Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

The slog through Mordor was over. Traditional Christianity, thy name was liberty!

But we were too late. We got to there just in time to find out that In the Eyes of Those Who Matter, it was now traditional Christianity that was the nut-nut fringe.

~~~

If you want to be any good at birdwatching, you have to learn the shape, flight patterns and behavior of the different species well enough that even if you glimpse a bird only from the corner of your eye, you can quickly spot it as, say, a thrush of some sort or a finch or woodpecker. This narrows down the pages you have to leaf through to find that specific bird and identify it precisely. This is similar to how birds or small animals spot predators: they instinctively recognize movement and shape as dangerous or non-dangerous. A cat’s slinking or a hawk’s swoop speaks immediate volumes.

In like manner, those of us who have lived under religious totalitarianism—however idealistic in intent—can spot it a mile off: we know well the warning signs of authoritarianism, whether from the right or the left. Every church has its graces, and perhaps ours is distinguishing freedom from slavery and being determined to never be in chains again.

I know very personally what chains can do to body and soul. I know a Sharkey when I see one, be he ever so well-intentioned. Yes, I realize that the Dominionists would be happy to put America in their version of heavenly manacles; but Dominionists are few and far between. I don’t think I’ve ever met one.

I’ve lived in Jesusland for forty years and I can assure you that the chances of them gaining control over the so-called Religious Right are precisely nil. We don’t execute gays or adulterers, we don’t run lynch mobs on Saturday night for amusement (or any other reason), we don’t burn crosses on our neighbors’ lawns—and it is certainly not we who are limiting the political power of African-Americans by providing for two out of five black babies to be aborted.

A far greater danger to our republic are those who would deny traditional Christians our say in the political process, who would drive us from public view lest we taint their version of the American paradise with so much as our shadows; we, like the Jews so many times throughout history and like Israel now, have no right to defend ourselves, to fight for our way of life or our beliefs.

 

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