Monday, April 9, 2012

Is Christianity Worth Saving?

Crucial question. Crucial answer.

It's the day after Easter. The chocolate Easter bunnies have given up their retail space to Mother's Day cards and purple vestments are tucked away in church closets. Easter lilies and cymbidium corsages* may see another week of life but most of the trappings of Easter must wait resurrection in the coming year. Easter, the very soul of Christianity, its raison d'etre, will be stored away like Christmas ornaments.

Today's Christianity, the one we see on television, the one posted relentlessly on YouTube, the one touted endlessly in GOP campaign speeches, however, will not be tucked away for future use. Its vehement chest-pounding was seen in Pastor Dennis Terry's introduction of the "Jesus Candidate" Rick Santorum.** It's hypocrisy was seen in Pastor Terry's back-peddling response to criticism in the ubiquitous "...but we LOVE everyone!"

Andrew Sullivan's recent views on today's Christianity certainly brought home the fact that Christianity has been ruined by the last 50years' worth of televangelists, moralizers, priests, politicians... and people like Terry. 

"There's so much bad religion right now in this country that I felt it was important as a Christian to say, 'This is not what I believe. This is not what many of my fellow Catholics believe. We want to return to the message of Jesus and the gospels, not these obsessive battles over contraception or gay marriage or these other, I think, political issues, where Jesus really, really avoided politics at all costs," Sullivan said.

And the "Bad Religion" Sullivan speaks of is reeking havoc on everyone: last Friday, Lou Engle rewrote Scripture in calling upon women to emulate Queen Esther in fasting and prayer, demanding that they humiliate themselves for all the abortions they had. And Pastor DL ("Down Low") Foster insinuated that gays are worthy of death while advertising his "retreat" for men fighting same-sex attractions.


It's all well and good for some conservative and progressive Christians to say "They're not one of us! They don't speak for us!" but such response is ...lame. And while we realize that freedom of religion restrains the "other" Christians from pummeling their righteously arrogant brothers, stronger means of chastisement  are called for. But what? Excommunication?  Hardly. Take, for example, the situation with today's Southern Baptist Convention and its steadfast 14th century views about women, gays and sex. Then look at its stranglehold on Tennessee. In order to bring Tennessee back into the 21st century, we would have to virtually eradicate the Southern Baptist denomination in that state altogether. True, Southern Baptist churches claim autonomy, but autonomy is a mythical beast trotted out once in a while to cover up the fact that churches who stray from the SBC agenda are severely chastised - financially as well as socially. 

So if they can't chastise the Christian Right, can't curtail the charlatans, the Fundamentalists, the Religio-political Establishment, what is the rest of Christianity to do? Can Christianity be saved? 

More to the point, is Christianity worth saving? This is where qualifiers come in: Christianity may be worth saving, but today's Christianity may not be worth the effort. 

Maybe it's time to scrap everything and start all over again.

* My mother loved cymbidium orchid corsages because she could put them in the refrigerator and they'd last until the next Sunday. I loved them too because they were easier on my allowance.
**Terry's now infamous speech framed the Christian Right's hatred of dissenters with two words heard over the internet: "Get Out!!"