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Slamming the Door on Jesus

By Carl S ~

Matthew 10: 34-36. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be the members of his own family.”

I found a connection between lessons of personal experience and the lessons of history. I was watching, “The Real War of Thrones: The Wars of Religion,” online at Curiosity Stream. It was about wars fought for dominance by Christian denominations, with thousands upon thousands killed. And it wasn't only between nations dominated by different interpretations of what the one true faith meant. They were also within nations. In England, Queen Elizabeth I, the Protestant, was conflicted against her Catholic sister Mary, Queen of Scots. Then there's Catherine de Medici in France, one moment issuing a decree guaranteeing the religious rights of Protestants, and the next, rescinding the decree, re-starting their slaughter. Also, in France, there were two royal brothers belonging to different faiths, one Catholic, the other Protestant. While one brother's armies slaughtered Catholics, the other's slaughtered Protestants. If a king or queen changed from one sect to another and back to the original, each time it happened it was woe to those who did not belong to the preferred sect! These were Ages of Faith.

Protestant, Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Huguenot, etc.; each claimed to be the “one true faith,” and each used the same scriptures held in common to justify their tortures, enslavements, and slaughters. Many became martyrs, each dying horribly for their chosen faiths. That Jesus claim of “sword, not peace” extended outside families, as the flames of faith were devouring nations. After all the destruction, bloodshed, and torturing, did they prove who was right, who was wrong, or were they all wrong? You know the answer. They were wars fought over opinions. My friend wisely refers to them as wars fought over hearsay.

What was the ultimate outcome of Jesus' “sword, not peace?” Well, after those decades of wars fought in face-to-face-combat, of persecutions, tortures, burnings at the stake, beheadings, and so on, God couldn't stand it any longer, so he, in his compassion and peace-making, revealed which is His One True Faith, didn't he?

I remember a time years ago when I thought of gathering some of my commentaries into a small book. While doing this, I found one from 2009, describing our experiences with two families staying at our place during their vacation. Two of the members were my wife's fundamentalist brother and his wife. With my usual trusting candor, I sent a copy to her brother. I had a very good reason, since I thought he should know my wife's and my feelings due to the disruptions they caused our household. (At one point, our lives were endangered.) I thought that was the end of it, but no. He just had to phone my wife and get her very upset. I told her “if he has something to say, he should say it to me, and leave you out of it.” From here on out, it was only greeting card communication with him. It wasn't until the next morning I remembered the Matthew verse, and gave it to her. I don't know what effect it had, but the message was clear to me: Jesus wanted my wife and me to split up.

An internationally famous book written by a native African, “Things Fall Apart” refers to that Matthew quote, and it's a memorable part of it. It's a history of what happened to native African villages, families, and their co-existence traditions after the arrival of Christian missionaries.

There are to date 33,000 Christian denominations. Each one is the true one. Except for the fact the Islamic, Hindu, and Hebrew faiths are the true one. There have been religious wars and persecutions between and amongst the religions themselves, from their beginnings. So, what did they prove? What are they proving now?

We're still having to live with traditional fears hostile and immune to reason, those mind-set mighty fortresses with drawbridges that resist being lowered. Are those within the fortresses living in fear of the outside? Are they so enclosed they're prisons for the minds inside them? I don't have the answers. Maybe you can explain. I have reached total agreement with Chris Hitchins: Religion poisons everything. I refuse to expose myself and my wife to poison any longer.

This does not stop me from making remarks to de-poison people. We can sometimes get through with reason, so it doesn't hurt to try. I can never forget the day a woman in her forties stood on my doorstep and started to quote from the bible. I told her men lie, men wrote the bible, so they might have lied writing it. She said that might be true. Now, I don't know about you, but this is the only experience I've had of a believer respecting an opinion to concede, “You may have a point there.” (It wasn't an original point; I got it from someone on this site.) She said she had to go, but would be back. I won't hold my breath.

My wife's fundamentalist brother did send me a letter of reply. I know what that means. We've been over that territory many times: believers take any criticism of their faith personally and then the automatic human reactions kick in. True believers are left with a conflicted situation: Sure, “true” Christians may hate me for challenging dogmas they hold sincerely, as if I mean them to be personally hateful. But their faith forbids them from saying “I hate your guts” They're in a corner, obligated to “hate the sins and not the sinner.” And then, too, one “must forgive to be forgiven.” To me, this “We forgive you, sinner.” sounds superior and condescending. (Does this make faith prideful?)

I don't mind frustration if there's a chance of positive results, but I'm wasting my brain on him and his kin. I can't get past their fears. I can offer them examples, but I can't explain to them what it means to be free in mind and thought. It doesn't work for those who aren't already free; they can't understand. Even the persuasive arguments of the Enlightenment have not yet reached them. Fortunately, they are in the minority.

I shredded his reply, unopened. He could have tossed mine in the trash; I told him more than once. If he or my beloved ever asks why, I'll turn it around and say, “What would you do with letters from the Witnesses, Mormons, Scientologists, etc.? I have the same reasons, and more. Think about that.”

I must have peace in my own house. No one gets hurt and Jesus' sword is scrapped as far as my household is concerned. He, if there ever was a “he” who said that, can kiss my butt.