Thursday, January 06, 2005

feudal religions

Religion and I parted ways before I was ten. The reasons aren't that
important. I think there were too many contradictions, too many
inconsistencies, but whatever the reason, once I stopped believing,
nothing about the creeds I know inspired new belief.

My wife is Catholic, and I accompany her to mass when asked. Every
so often, something strikes me in ways it hasn't before. Christmas
Eve it was "Dominum." I've heard "Lord" my entire life, but it was
just a word, just how people talked in prayers. When I heard
Dominum, I had visions of lords, serfs, and vassals, and realized
that's what everyone heard for hundreds of years and maybe what everyone
who wasn't born in a democracy hears today.

God as King, as King of Kings, is a profoundly different vision
than God as Love. When I hear, "What would Jesus Do?" I think of
turning the other cheek. A king is first and foremost a leader of
war, embodying authority, demanding obedience. A king is responsible
only for his subjects and punishes disloyalty with death. From
someone with such a conception of Christianity, "What would Jesus
do?" would sound different. At least to me.

And when I look at today's evangelical movement, at the people
following the Rose Parade saturday morning with bullhorns, at Brother
Jed in the Quad warning of the "Lake of Fie-uh!!" at President Bush
with his Crusade, I can't help thinking that they worship a king,
not a man of peace.

The odd thing (to me) is that I see Protestantism, particularly
as seen in the sects that migrated here, as a reaction against
such attitudes, away from a feudal notion of religion and toward
more personal relationships and the American Revolution as a
continuation of the same process. When today's evangelicals strive to
put God back in government, they may be installing the God our
forefathers moved here to escape.

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