Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jesus and torture

There are some battles that I try to stay out of. For example, I'm a Wiccan, and, as such, what goes on with Christians and Christianity isn't really my business any more. At the same time, I was raised Catholic, and I love Christianity, and despise what has been done to it. If I had a chance to do some service to bring Christianity back to what it could be, and should be, I'd do it. But honestly, it's really not my business, and how many Christians are going to listen to a Witch tell them what Jesus wants?

But recently, there's been a reason I feel I have to join the battle, at least from the sidelines. You see, there are prominent religious figures who are supporting Bush's policies regarding detainees, and there are too many people who are trying to pretend that torture is not entirely against Christian beliefs.

Now, the best way to fight against such lies is with the truth, and in this case, we can use the Gospel truth, literally. Let's look at the view of Christianity we can obtain by looking at the Gospels.
When Jesus preached, he went over certain ideas repeatedly, and these are the ones I'm going to highlight.

First, Jesus taught that your faith was personal. It dealt with you. Keep your faith between you and God, because that's where it belongs. Don't pray in public; don't give alms in public; don't make a show of your religion.

It's pretty darn crazy, then, that the Republicans try to boost their Jesus cred by demanding public prayer, displays of the Ten Commandments, and so forth, eh? Unfortunately, they've been babbling about this for decades now, so some folks haven't even bothered to read the Bible and find out what Jesus had to say about this... specifically, that God sees nothing good in people who do these things, because these people are seeking the rewards of man, and not doing what's right because it's right (nor even because it's what God wants, and what God will reward them for doing).

But it's not just personal in the sense of wanting to keep it private, between you and God. Jesus also thinks that your first concern should be your own spirituality. Don't walk around with a log sticking out of your eye, and then say "hey, bro, you're not seeing too clearly, because there's a speck in your eye! Lemme take care of that for you!" Worry about yourself, first, and worry about the big stuff, especially, before you start thinking about tiny little things about other folks.

There's actually an interesting bit about this, as well. There's a lot of Christians who insist that gay folks are sinners under God's law. Now, most of these Christians believe in the Redemption... that is, they believe that we are all sinners under the Law, but by accepting Jesus' sacrifice, we are redeemed in God's eyes.

They're fond of judging gay folks according to the law, declaring them to be sinners who are condemned. But Jesus quite clearly said "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

It seems to me that it's pretty damn clear: Judge by the Law, and you will be judged by the Law. Whether a gay person is saved or not is between the gay person and God, and if I were a Christian, and believed we all fell short of the Law, I would not be going around asking to be judged by it!

It's absolutely vital for Christians to recognize these things; you must recognize that Christianity's teachings are about how you should live your own life, because there's another idea that has suffered from terrible abuse in the past (and is being abused now, and surely will be abused in the future). Jesus spoke of two worlds, one of which was more important than the other. This life is temporary, and you shouldn't be as concerned about the things of this life, because the things of the next life are that much more important.

Jesus constantly spoke of building up one's treasure in the next life, by doing good works in this one, but there are a great many people who ignore that. They've decided that, since the second life is that much more important, all that matters is spreading salvation, not doing good works. But how can you spread salvation if you've misunderstood the message so badly that you don't recognize how vital it is to care about others in the here-and-now?

Even if you believe that we are saved by the grace of God and by faith, if you had any faith in the message at all, you couldn't ignore the constant exhortions to perform good works! When Jesus talked of those who would be judged as righteous on the Day of Judgment, he didn't talk about those who believed or those who preached salvation; he spoke of those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned... and he spoke of condemnation for those who refused to do those things.

If you don't think of Christianity as a personal thing, it's all-too-easy to ignore the importance of taking action in this life to do what's right and good. After all, if the next life is so all-fired important, you should instead be preparing people for the next life. But that's the exact opposite of what Jesus said!

He said you should build treasure in that life, and not over-value things in this one... that way, when you had to choose between doing what's right, and doing what's to your benefit in this life, you'd choose to do what's right.

That's why Jesus also warned his followers to be careful about money. You can't serve both God and money, because the Godly decision, the righteous decision, is often a bad financial move. If you refuse to cheat people, just because you can, you won't make as big a profit... but you'll be right with God. If you help the poor when you can, it'll cost time, and money... but it'll reap you bigger rewards where it really counts.

This should really tell you something about the Republicans who both worship wealth, and claim to be the big-time Jesus lovers. How much could they love the man if they don't even listen to one of his most common themes?

There were two other things Jesus preached... love, and faith. He told his followers to love one another as Jesus had loved them... in short, to be so filled with love that you would be willing to suffer and die, if that's what it took to do what was right; after all, Jesus certainly loved humanity enough to face suffering and death for them.

And faith... even faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains. Surely any faith at all is enough to say that we can win a war against a bunch of punk terrorists without needing to torture anyone, especially when we're the most powerful nation on earth!

To say we need have so little love for terror-suspects that we can torture them is to demonstrate a complete lack of faith in the power of righteousness... and yet people continue to insist that Jesus wouldn't care if his followers stood mutely by while torture took place. Jesus who came to bring justice to the world, and to teach us love, and to show us that love and faith were stronger even than death... and they presume to think he would countenance torture.

It's ludicrous; it flies in the face of everything Jesus spoke about. While it's none of my business who claims what is the Official and True Word of God, it offends me to see people try to pretend that torture of detainees is not a moral issue. It is a moral issue, and it simply boggles the mind to think that a person can claim Jesus would not tell his followers to do what's right, to show love (especially for those detainees whose guilt has not been established!) and to completely forswear torture.

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