Not too long ago I posted on Facebook that Jesus was a socialist. (Dare the historical fact that the early church even experimented with communism be mentioned?!) My comment drew the ire of a well-meaning conservative. Some of the ideology with which she responded was a vivid reminder to me of why I fled from religious fundamentalism decades ago. As I have said perviously on my blog, I neither disdain nor dismiss my fundamentalist upbringing. It has served to deeply inform my personal faith journey, helping me rather clearly articulate why I find religious fundamentalism a destructive force in our country and in our world.
Fundamentalist faith practice is defined by fear and exclusion. It has, as it’s ultimate end, a distrust of ourselves, our own minds and at times even our hearts. Our logical, rational thinking is to be abandoned for blind allegiances mistakenly labeled as faith. Fundamentalist faith practice focuses on simplistic binary choices and builds dependencies that then finance institutional conventions that supplant personal life-long journeys of living the greatest two commandments. Facts and history get brushed aside for blind allegiance to the ideas of self-appointed leaders who profit greatly from their private knowledge of the “real” truth.
Such a fundamentalist faith practice is typically chosen to avoid hell, not to be the agents of mercy and grace making the world a better place through personal efforts to accomplish the social and economic justice of which Jesus spoke. It focuses on a binary God of reward and punishment. Its ardent followers are often cajoled into giving money and time to religious institutions because they are brainwashed into believing that in so doing they will curry the favor of a jealous and angry god: will be rewarded with financial gain. Such self deception is reminiscent of the age old marketing strategy, “the more your spend, the more you save.”
Claims to know the “one true” God, and the “real” Jesus (as the church sign in Hermosa Beach so arrogantly claimed) are, from my vantage point, religion at it’s manipulative worst.
I believe that each of us is on our own personal journey to Truth, and, no matter how well-meaning or how much easier it would be if others could just show us how to quickly trot down “the Roman’s road,” that journey must be individually hewn and crafted throughout a lifetime of purposeful quest. And while others can share their personal journeys, they have no hidden path, are not privy to special insight.
As you can easily see, my personal journey has taken me on a path that rejects religious fundamentalism of all kinds. Historically, it’s existence in this country is rather new. And, regrettably, the unique US brand of fundamentalism is now being exported around the world.
Jesus, a liberal socialist? Really?
Jesus wasn’t just a liberal during his day. He was extremely liberal—so extreme that he threatened the core power of the political and religious institutions of that time. Sadly, his core teachings were as astonishing then as they apparently are now to this country’s ultra-conservative, fundamentalist, religious establishment.
- He violently drove those who profited from religion out of the temple.
- He stated that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
- He fed 5,000 people who hadn’t worked for it.
- He asked people to sell all that they had and follow him.
- He admonished people to take care of the widows and orphans.
- He said that the way we treat the very least of society is how we are treating him.
- His teaching was never laced with the rabid, war-mongering patriotism on which our nation thrives and profits–very much the opposite. His words threatened the conquest-centric Roman empiricism of his day.
- He demanded that each of us love others as much as we love ourselves. The latter is the heart, the core, the very soul of socialism: one for all, and all for one.
The religious and political leaders killed him precisely for his liberal ideas, ideas that threatened their grip on power, position and profit. I can only imagine the stories FOX News would have run. I can only speculate what the ultra-conservative religious leaders of today would have to say as they frantically try to maintain their self-serving, lucrative and political interests.
All the world is a stage. And while the actors come and go, the themes seem to remain much the same. Job was right when he wrote, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Narrow-minded religious ideology is no less as great a threat to humanity today as it was in the time of Jesus. He died to rid the world of it while showing a better way of living life.