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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Monday, March 1 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

The misrepresenting of the Christ

A few days ago I stumbled upon an editorial, "The Misunderstanding of the Christ," in the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper for the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the United States. I was so put off by its sophomoric argument that I shook my head and closed the webpage, not interested in making more of it. But I haven't been able to put it out of my mind, which is why I feel constrained to dig it up and say a word about it here. In it, "Erol N. Gulay, a Crimson editorial editor and a social studies concentrator" at Harvard rails against Mel Gibson's movie about Christ's Passion, fundamentalists including Jerry Falwell, and other—in his mind—easy targets. He says among other things:

"Falwell fails to mention what Jesus might say about war; but, it’s pretty clear he’d be against it—which doesn’t make that bit particularly supportive of his cause," "The God that [Falwell] supposedly follows—the God of love, human fellowship, forgiveness and, to repeat lest we forget again, love—doesn’t fit in well with the Christian Right agenda. Reflexively pro-war and pro-business, the Christians under Falwell, Robertson and, now, Mel Gibson, probably can’t bear to read the New Testament with its constant denunciations of hatred, intolerance and violence" and "Jesus is shaking his head at all of us. His birthplace is beset with violence, while his so-called followers have the gall to justify war and condemn peace in his name."

Though I wouldn't want to be labelled a fundamentalist, I'm put off by the fact that apparently Erol N. Gulay finds it acceptable "scholarship" to abuse and misuse a book he's either, 1, never read, 2, forgot what it said before he got done reading it, or 3. read it only in the condensed Thomas Jefferson version in which our third President excised everything the New Testament says about Jesus that didn't fit Jefferson's own version of what and who Jesus should have been. There have been other attempts over the centuries by many other hopeful usurpers of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. And of course my point is not to pick on Erol Gulay who I can't imagine ever learning of this discussion, but my point is to say something about this tendency to put words in Jesus' mouth and ideas in His mind which He never uttered or gave us to believe He wanted to teach us.

Yes, He frequently uses the word "peace," but every use of it I find in my online concordance is a personal reference: "my peace I give you," he says, over and over, but never does He comment about peace between nations or peoples. As for condemning war, the four Gospels (the only books in the Bible that quote Him directly) have only two instances of the word appearing. In one, Luke 13:41, He mentions the folly of going to war with an army of inadequate strength. The other use of the word, Luke 23:11, refers to Herod's soldiers as "men of war" when they are described taking Jesus back to Pilate when Pilate tried to refer the problem of Jesus to his higher authority. So much for Mr. Gulay's anti-war Jesus.

But on the other hand, in what used to be the best-known teaching of Jesus, he says (Matthew 10:34-35), "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

The same division within families is repeated a bit less starkly (to the extent that it omits the mention of a sword) in Luke 12:51-53: "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

I don't believe this is Jesus declaring war or visiting a perpetual warfare among His followers. But neither is it a rosy scenario to assure us that in the Christian life all will be peace and harmony. As He says, also as quoted in both Matthew's and Luke's Gospels: "He who is not with me is against me." I believe the divider within families and in the wider communities after His leaving this earth refers to what people do with Him and the teaching of His followers. Certainly the lives of the early martyrs in the church are full of families in which husbands sentenced their wives to death for following Jesus, parents turned in their believing daughters and sons, and in-laws. And in the context both of His teaching and church history, we are to understand that though this is not His perfect will for those to whom He imparted His peace, sometimes preserving that peace would require them to die violent deaths. The martyrs generally went to their deaths in peace, both inwardly and outwardly, but their resistance of the Roman idolatry of their century was considered violence, a declaration of war, against the powers that were at the time, up to the Emperor himself.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Steven Wrightisms

16. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Lenten thought for today

Just as a treasure that is exposed tarnishes and loses its value, so a virtue which is known [by others] vanishes; just as wax melts when it is near fire, so the soul is destroyed by praise and loses all the results of its labor.

— Amma Syncletica 
Sent by Fr. Antonious Henein

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