Tuesday, September 11, 2012


"Good morning, Worm your honour.
The crown will plainly show
The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do!"
(The Trial, Pink Floyd 1979)

            During his lifetime, Mahatma Gandhi considered converting from Hinduism, in which he was raised, to Christianity. He held a special place for Jesus in his thinking, favouring the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and regularly quoting from it.  He believed that "if Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian."  He was sure that Christ's teachings could have acted as a remedy for the ills within the Indian social structure and the independence movement that he headed.
            As a young man practising Law in South Africa, Gandhi studied the Bible, especially the precepts of Jesus he found in the pages of the New Testament. During this time, he explored becoming Christian, and ventured to a small church in the locality of his law practise. When he tried to enter this 'House of God', he was rejected and forbidden to enter. Intent on attending worship there, a church elder met him at the entrance to the sanctuary and angrily revealed, "There's no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I'll have my assistants throw you down the steps."
            This incident greatly influenced Gandhi, who never again considered conversion to the Christian faith. Although he continued to adopt Jesus' locutions, and apply them to his own ideals and didacticisms, he could not see past the followers of Christ who continually validated his conclusion that "there are thousands of men and women today who, though they may not have heard about the Bible or Jesus, have more faith and are more god fearing than Christians who know the Bible and who talk of its Ten Commandments..."

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

             Anne Rice, best known for her series of books 'The Vampire Chronicles', including 'Interview with the Vampire', which was made into a feature film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in 1994, was raised Irish Catholic in New Orleans. Her strict Roman Catholic upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s greatly influenced her life until she "violently and totally" broke with the Church at the age of 18. Despite her new atheism, Rice continued to explore the faith she once held as valid. Her rejection of Christianity, and organized religion, left an imprint on her work and she "wrote many novels that, without [her] being aware of it, reflected [her] quest for meaning in a world without God."
            In 1998, she returned to the Catholic Church.  Her reversion preceded two separate but almost fatal medical complications, one arising from diabetes and the other from a surgical procedure. During this time, she devoted her life and her writing to Jesus. She announced in Newsweek, in October 2005, that she would use her life and talent "to glorify" her belief in God, although she did not renounce her earlier works. "In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from [God] for countless years. I simply let them go," she conveyed. 
            Years later, on July 29th of 2010, Rice announced on her Facebook profile that she was for once and for all abandoning Christianity. "For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." Rice claimed to have made this decision "in the name of Christ," refusing to be anti-gay, anti-feminist. anti-artificial birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanism, anti-science, and anti-life. Claiming her faith in Christ to be central in her life, the conversion from "a pessimistic atheist lost in a world [she] didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to [her]." It was not Jesus she turned her back on but Christianity.

"Following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.” (Anne Rice)

            The week between Doug's death and his burial was the beginning of a monumental shift in my thinking regarding God, Jesus and religion in general. Three days after his suicide, on February 16th 1995, I was invited to stay over at his parents' home. With planning the funeral, writing the eulogy, and other related matters, it only made sense not to travel back and forth from Stratford and Strathroy, especially during the deep Ontario winter. So began my fall from Christianity.
            I was very much a hopeless wreck. That night, once the household had found rest, I sat alone, broken and silently crying out for help. I was watching a late night repeat of 100 Huntley Street, a conservative Christian television magazine program, consisting of feature stories and personal testimony to the greatness of Jesus. The 800-number I called had been flashing across the bottom of the screen since the show began airing. When the counsellor on the other end of the landline heard my story, and the way that Doug had died, she abruptly expressed her hope that in the 2-3 seconds Doug fell to the ground that he had time to repent and avoid damnation.  
            I was still deep in grief when, later that summer, on June 14th 1995, I called the same counselling line at 100 Huntley Street from my own home. At the time, I was intently studying the New Testament and had many questions regarding the exclusiveness of the Christian faith. Scriptures like John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," confused me, speaking more to electivism than God's compassion and love for mankind. The counsellor listened to what I had to say, without interruption, until I asked about all the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and everyone outside of the Christian faith, who, according to scripture, would be sent to hell and internal damnation for not believing in Christ. "Without Jesus," she urged, "without being saved and submitting your life to the risen Lord, not one will find the kingdom of Heaven."

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity.” (Thomas Paine, American Writer)

            I had expressed my strong conviction that Christianity was a sham when my Father told me that I needed to "stop looking at Christians and start looking past them to the Christ." This is easier said than done. I stand firm on the notion that a person should have to act like a Christian before they can claim to be one. There is nothing more dangerous than a closed mind. We forget that Christianity, like all forms of spiritual expression, reveals not so much the truth about God but rather the truth about human beings. The greatest service to mankind any self-proclaimed Christian could do is to convert to true Christianity.
            The entire point of modern Christianity is that everyone from Desmond Tutu to Princess Diana deserves to be sent to hell. After all, before you can be saved, you have to be made worthy. Of all the religions, Christianity should manifest tolerance the most. Up to this point in history, however, it is the Christians who have been the most intolerant of others. Attending church and reading the Bible does not make you any more a Christian than going to McDonalds and ordering from the menu makes you a hamburger.
            In order to live the Christian life, it seems, one must be able to discriminate and hate, or so any conservative reading of the Bible would have you believe. Christianity should be about the development of the Kingdom of God, not the development of schools of religious thought, especially the kingdom of the Christians. The person who loves Christianity more than the Truth will love their sect and its teaching more than other people. Evangelicals profess that unless you are born-again, you are "considered a failure as a human being."

"If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses."
(Lenny Bruce, American Comedian)

             There are those who ferociously exclaim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. They claim to know that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. They go to church regularly, pray constantly, listen to Christian music, and place God the Father, Jesus His Only Begotten Son, and lest we forget the Holy Spirit, at the center of their daily lives. They seem to know more about hell than the Devil does. They quote Scripture off by heart. Yet somehow they are completely opposed to Jesus' radical teachings and the message He claimed as sent from above.
            Like a good human being, the literal Christian is in it for themselves. It is not what I can give to the kingdom but what I can get from it. Through favoritism, a fount of Blood, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, they are saved from eternal torture. Hell is for everyone else. Instead, they gain guarantees. They receive a crown of jewels for all their hard work.  They get a ringside seat in heaven, a "five-star luxury suite reserved for the righteous." Without these assurances, they would not love Him. So they thank Him and thank Him, over and over. All the while ignoring, even disdaining, his base teachings on peace, goodwill, and social justice.
            With a few choice words, and a change of heart, they claim to be saved above everyone else.  Some think they are warriors, who shall be raised at the End of Days and smite the sinners left below. In order to secure their position, they use the words of the Bible as if it was the Sabbath. They have forgotten the highway we all share. Instead, they believe they are granted access to a toll road, reserved only for those whom claim Christ died for them and them alone. They skip over the part of scripture where Jesus is in the Temple and His anger turned the tables. It seems to me they disregard His healing on the Sabbath and the message this criminal action revealed. They pile stones like grenades, more than willing to toss them at those who do not think like them or believe as they do. I guess it's a Christian "thing" to believe you are blessed, casting those stones from a vaulted place above us all.

'At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:2-7, NIV).