"I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." — Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe it is because I am getting old and my ability to just blow things off takes more energy then I have or it may be because Mahatma Gandhi’s observation of Christianity is right on the mark. Sadly in this day to call oneself a Christian has become embarrassing in the world we find ourselves living.

So if this blog today seems like a rant, maybe it is. However, I would like to think it is a call to those in the Christian faith who see the teaching of Jesus as far more important than the institution of the church, to start speaking loudly and clearly, as it seems the extremists now own the faith. I really think it is time for those who follow the teaching of Jesus to take back the conversation rather then letting the extremists destroy us.

Religion blog: Are Christian extremists that much different than foreign terrorists?

I find it curious that the extremists in the Christian faith can judge the actions of a few extremists in another faith who do acts of terrorism and label the entire belief system and everyone within it as part of a terroristic faith.  Yet, when some extremist coming from the Christian faith does an act of terrorism it is labeled as an act of a mad man or some fringe element and it is never thought of as the entire faith that we need protection from. The way our brand of Christianity gets played out we are no better than those we blame for all the terrorism in the world.

Take for example the heinous tragedy in Norway — many of the extremist commenters from the political and Christian right have been quick to point out Anders Behring Breivik, accused of twin attacks in Norway on July 22 that killed 77 people including many teenagers, was a lunatic, a mad man. Really?

According to an article published by the Anti Defamation League, “Breivik’s focus on ‘left-wing’ multiculturalists destroying white European culture in favor of minority cultures such as the Muslim community is common among the far-right and the groups that straddle the far-right and conservative worlds in the U.S. They blame the government, universities, and the media for promoting diversity and minority cultures over European or American culture and accuse them of undermining ‘Western civilization’ or European-American values.”

Damn, that sounds like the same bile being spewed forth by our own Christian extremists.

If this wasn’t so damn serious and deadly it would be laughable that these wing nuts from the Christian right actually set this kind of stuff up with their rhetoric and then act all shocked at how someone can be so extreme.

Type “Christian terrorism” into Google and the list is mind-boggling and heart breaking. Here is some of what I found:

Salem witch trials – Christian (while tradition has this about burning witches this is not historically correct as a dozen plus were hung and one was crushed to death); Waco Texas – Christian’ Timothy McVeigh – Christian; Jonestown – Christian; KKK – Christian; Nazism – Christians; Adolph Hitler – Catholic; Serbians – Christian; Irish Republican Army – Christian.

By the way, let us not forget the emotional terrorism that is played out by the faithful and churches, which say, “believe the way we say to believe or burn in hell for all eternity”!

We need to look no further then Rev. Fred Phelps and the anti-gay Westboro folks.

For those who are going to argue that true Christianity does not advocate violence and the Quran does, I would refer you back to Gandhi’s observation.

For while the founder of the Christian movement certainly did not advocate violence and even is quoted at one point saying to a follower, “if they are not against us, then they are for us,” many of those who have followed have been anything but passive, forgiving and loving. In fact if one reads the words of Jesus closely we do very little of what he advocated and we do a whole lot of stuff which he preached and taught against.

Jesus clearly removed “capital punishment” as an option yet the state of Georgia pays no attention to the teaching and continues to execute people. Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, but good Christian politicians want to put a gun into the hand of everyone.

Jesus taught for us to be merciful, but mercy is sorely lacking.

Jesus never addressed the issue of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but those in the church have spent lifetimes trying to cure us and if that fails, kill us.

In fact the institutional church pays very little attention to some of his strongest teaching:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I wonder how much different our world would be if we became more intentional about just these two teachings of Jesus? I wonder if the bulk of our time, energy and efforts went into seeing that just these two teaching became the norm rather than the exception if we could say, “No Mr. Gandhi we are not there yet but we are really trying.”

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Humanity will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my God! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me — you did it to me.” Matthew 25:31-40

When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.” This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.” These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. Matthew 22:34-40


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.