Posts Tagged ‘Christianization’

Letter From New York Easter Sunday 2009

April 12, 2009

Letter From New York
April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

It is Easter Weekend. I am at the cottage, and winter will not pull its icicle claws from us – it is unseasonably cold. A fire burns in my Franklin stove. There is a lament in the streets that spring will not really happen. We, here in the Hudson Valley, have been teased by spring yet it will not burst upon us. It is still winter cold.

Tonight, returning from a day of errands, the sunset was of the kind that inspired the Hudson school of painters. Grey clouds were bordered with magenta light and it was magical. Nature isn’t giving us warmth but it is giving us beauty.

It is Easter. It is Passover. These are profound holidays for those who live in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I find myself acknowledging them if no longer quite a part of them. It is now been a long time since I have been a practicing Catholic, which is my heritage. I gave that up a long time ago. I have flirted with a few other faith groups and have never been able to quite settle in comfortably with any of them. I appreciate the Episcopalian tradition; it is a religion that was born out of a need to justify divorce and murder. It should be forgiving. But even there I have never quite found a match.

That he lived – of that I have no doubt. That he changed the world – of that I have no doubt. Today much of the world will celebrate his Resurrection – his return from the dead after a horrific death. Out of this event came one of the greatest religious movements the world has ever seen. Christ died and was resurrected and this man god Jesus has become one of the central pillars of civilization.

Yet I wonder what Jesus would think of the way he has been used over the centuries. This was a man of peace. Granted he was testy with the moneychangers in the temple but he didn’t kill any of them. He was a man of peace and love from all the accounts of his life that have been written, from the sanctioned writings to the Apocryphal Gospels that didn’t make it into the “Bible.” This was a man who forgave and asked people to simply go and sin no more. Yet I am in the middle of a Holy Season and I am brutally aware of how much warfare has occurred due to individuals and nations claiming Jesus Christ as theirs. Empires were built on the concept of “Christianization.” Other wars were fought by other nations justified by their religion. Christianity and almost every other religion have been used to justify war, death, cruelty.

This is not what I think Jesus was expecting when he offered himself up to die on the cross. He was not a person who wanted earthly power and yet many of those who have followed him since then have been focused on having earthly power and used the controlling power of religion to attain it. While Europe was living its Dark Ages, Islam was preserving the best of our past. We would be missing much of Greek and Roman civilization were it not for the Muslims; they preserved and valued what the Christian West rejected – the thoughts of anyone who had come before them.

It seems most religions become seduced by the earthly power that can be derived from controlling souls. As we celebrate Easter and Passover the world is full of examples of religious fury and religious peace. In Italy earthquake survivors celebrate amidst the ruins, an Afghan woman, an official who supported women’s rights, was gunned down in the streets of her town, Pope Benedict XVI calls for world reconciliation, the Real IRA in Belfast is calling for the death of an official because he is working for peace.

“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do,” was said by Christ on the cross. I think now the words were for that moment and all the moments to come when his teachings would be bastardized.