Saul, Saul!

It is shameful the way certain religious Christian (and non-Christian) groups malign and mistreat others in the name of theology, doctrine, love and all that is sacred. The very one to whom allegiance has been pledged and for whom it is asserted a defense is made is the same one upon whom dishonor is brought.

Paul, first known as Saul under seemingly sound and noble motivation was working against the kingdom of his God all the while oblivious to the fact that it was he, not those whom he persecuted who was misaligned with the work of God. Throughout history as religious wars persisted and dissentious sects postulated the “true faith,” a dominant orthodox creature slowly emerged out of the sea of Christianities. As it grew in strength, all who found themselves “thinking otherwise” were cast aside, drawn-out and persecuted by heresy hunters. Did (does) this accurately portray Jesus’ own exemplary model? Was Jesus’ method an imperialistic one; did he teach the necessity of eradicating competing opinions?

With the rise of creedal Christianity and the refining of Christian orthodoxy (which was inadvertently redefining the religion of Jesus) came the need to draw a clearer distinction between soteriological essentials and non-essentials, “What is the ‘correct belief’ one must have in order to be saved?” Indeed, with “correct belief” necessarily came the need to redefine “to what” and “from what” were Christians being “saved”?

Soteriology was given a new face, a new hope and new prerequisites. No longer was this a religion and gospel proclaimed by Jesus, with him as the chosen leader of God’s campaign drawing men to the kingdom with promise of resurrection and glorification on a restored and renewed Edenic earth, but rather a religion about Jesus, where his nature, abstract metaphysical analysis and systematized declarations of belief were essential for acquiescence into the spiritual kingdom of the Universal Church in expectation of an ethereal, spiritual existence in heaven after death.

The heresy hunters in the history of the church left an indelible record, stained with the blood of “heretical” saints, and their successors still roam the edifice of Christian orthodoxy looking for any who threaten the integrity of their bulwark. If you have never been “saved” you are a mission field; a prize to be won. If you have left the solely approved rampart you are an enemy combatant who has a bounty on your head. Never-mind that protestant orthodoxy and heterodoxy is entirely subjective to the whims of denominational segregation and that according to the original Universal Church, whose wake cut the grains of theological fact and fantasy, all who oppose her statements of “right belief”, Canons and clauses are not a part of the true faith. Where does that put those who discard her creeds?
Gandhi wrote and captured this thought in a simple way. It seems to be a fundamentally profound and underlying error in modern Christian orthopraxy:
               “Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.”
Unfortunately, the downward trend is “anything goes,” but it never should become a point of hatred or ostracism of anyone, Christians should be exemplary models of dealing with situations. Christians of all people should be the ones who can handle someone who does not believe quite like them. What in the world has happened to Jesus followers? Perhaps a better question is, “what on earth have Jesus’ followers done with his teaching? Christians have lost faith in the cause for which we are supposed to stand. We have forsaken and ignored the teaching of our founder and traded it for a bunch of worthless doctrines and traditions. The name we are supposed to uphold has become a reproach and a byword, it is a stench. Christians who claim to be followers of the messiah, and say they want to be like him more than anything else, but yet turn and treat others with contempt, spite and ostracism are liars beyond the pale. It is they who are dragging the name of “messiah” through the mud, and they who have caused the mention of “Christian” in the ears to be abominable and abhorred.
Richard Beck writes, 

“When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous. A theology or doctrinal system that has become decoupled from emotion is going to look emotionally stunted and even inhuman. What I’m describing here might be captured by the tag ‘orthodox alexithymia.’ By ‘orthodox’ I mean the intellectual pursuit of right belief. And by ‘alexithymia’ I mean someone who is, theologically speaking, emotionally and socially deaf and dumb. Even theologically sociopathic.

(Alexithymia — etymologically ‘without words for emotions’ — is a symptom characteristic of individuals who have difficulty understanding their own and others’ emotions. You can think of alexithymia as being the opposite of what is called emotional intelligence.)

Orthodox alexithymia is produced when the intellectual facets of Christian theology, in the pursuit of correct and right belief, become decoupled from emotion, empathy, and fellow-feeling. Orthodox alexithymics are like patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex brain damage. Their reasoning may be sophisticated and internally consistent but it is disconnected from human emotion. And without Christ-shaped caring to guide the chain of calculation we wind up with the theological equivalent of preferring to scratch a doctrinal finger over preventing destruction of the whole world. Logically and doctrinally such preferences can be justified. They are not ‘contrary to reason.’ But they are inhuman and monstrous. Emotion, not reason, is what has gone missing.”

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