In the nearly 2000 year history of Christianity, no group of people has killed more Christians than… Christians.
(Hang in there with me through this rant, I’m going somewhere with it.)
Scientists have been tortured to death for saying things like “the earth is round”, or “the earth orbits the sun.” Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been raped and assaulted at the hands of clergy. Women have been killed for the simple crime of speaking. Most of this killing (ever heard of the Inquisition? Which one…) was and continues to be done in the name of a first century Jew from Palestine, whose life was dedicated to teaching compassion and non-violence. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.
Currently, many Christians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of The Protestant Reformation. This began with Martin Luther’s nailing of the “95 Theses” on the door of a Wittenberg church, which lead to the bloodiest century of Europe’s history (read up on the Thirty Years War – it was a doozy!).
The “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 (i.e., “Go make disciples of all nations…”) was used to justify Colonialism, the Doctrine of Discovery, genocide, and the systematic and forceful acculturation of millions of indigenous peoples across the Earth (including the Dakota people, who inhabited the land I now call home).
Still today, many people who identify as LGBTQIA+ experience persecution from those claiming some form of moral Christian superiority. Videos of Muslim bodies being blown to bits in drone strikes are celebrated by some as the justice of a Christian God being doled out through Christ’s hands and feet (our military). The recent election of Donald Trump has been explained to me as an opportunity for God to re-enter the White House… 😳
Meanwhile, biblical interpretations of man being “the crown of creation” and the call of Genesis 1 to “subdue and have dominion”over the earth continues to compel humanity’s rape and pillaging of the planet, pushing us closer and closer to personal and climate catastrophe. Clogged arteries for some; hunger and thirst for others. A rainbow of oil in the water…
What I thought could be a “sure foundation” overwhelmingly appears to be sinking sand.
What I thought were roots to nourish my life are proving to be dead and dying branches weighing me down.
We’ve inherited a Christianity that is shedding the dead branches of empire too slowly. One that clings to domination not humble servitude.
We’ve inherited a church that, for many of us white Americans, still worships a “white savior” whose pale skin blinds us to our privilege-perpetuating charity and complicity in systemic racism. Some of us go so far we even identify ourselves as the oppressed and persecuted, making the Bible a weapon, contraband in defending our “biblically-based” white supremacy.
We’ve inherited a church diseased with dualistic thinking that cares more about what one says they believe about Jesus, or about administering the Sacraments the “right” way, or about what clothes that my young female pastor friend wears, than about embodying love for neighbor and self.
God, I just want to quit!
Such hypocrisy, I just want to walk away.
But then there are those nights where I’m putting my daughter to bed and she asks me to read what we call “The Jesus Book.” It’s this illustrated children’s Bible with about 60 different stories from the Old and New Testament. I find myself telling her the same stories I was told as a child and enjoying every minute of it.“That’s Sarah… There’s Miriam and Moses…That’s Jesus, he’s a princess (best commentary ever!).”
I love to retell Genesis’ “In the beginning” story and include the Big Bang. I tell her about Adam and Eve, not as a story of “original sin” and humanity’s “total depravity” (I’m done with that BS), but a story of fear and forgetting who and what we are. I tell her that we are a miracle and part of something bigger than ourselves. I tell her that all of life is sacred – that we humans just need to help one another to remember.
I tell her stories of Jesus as a person who shows us how we can live – without letting our fear control us, by resisting empire through non-violence, by practicing gratitude, by honoring our connectedness.
I tell her the stories because they show both our beauty and our potential for violence and hate as human beings.
I don’t tell her these stories because I’m supposed to or because I want to keep her grandma happy. I tell her these stories because they represent about 5000 years of human beings wrestling with our eternal question – what does it mean to be human, and how do we be that well?
It’s Spring, and with it comes a new focus for our Intertwine Community. We’re calling it “The Need for Roots.”
Maybe you’re like me and some of what you encountered in popular Christianity – beliefs you thought were the “roots” – have proven to be dead or dying branches. They were ways of thinking and being that separated us from our own bodies, from our fellow human beings, and from the planet.
As for me, I want to be grounded in something bigger than myself – something that has space for my questions and the plethora of stories and experiences that make me who I am. I want roots – ways of being fully human – that nourish me and the world around me, helping me to grow a compassionate and creative life. And I want to do this in community with people who want the same for their lives.
This Judeo-Christian tradition is a messy one because it’s a human one. Yet, deep within it is a wisdom and a way of being that is grounded in love, creativity, and wonder. I’m grateful for the Mighty Wind that’s blowing off those branches of Christendom that would make Jesus a tool of separation and greed.
I’m revving up the chain saw and getting after the stubborn ones that are clinging to me.
Could there be roots, stories, connections – even a Mystery – that could nourish us? Can we, like millions before us, discover roots that open us up to the world around us, honoring our connectedness, and inviting us into the moment?
I think so.
Let’s feed those roots together. Let’s share our questions and stories with one another – doubts and disappointments, deaths and discoveries – compost for living.
Let’s support each other in living lives of active compassion. Let’s help one another develop practices – ways of living – that respect the planet and our own bodies.
Let’s create. Let’s grow fruit, spreading seeds of love and possibility all around.
Come check out an Intertwine “Need for Roots” gathering. The first is Sunday, April 2nd – Uprooted. Join us for Easter (Sunday, April 16th). And watch for other events and collaborations throughout the Spring. Follow us on Facebook and check out the Gatherings page on our website.