Not democracy. Not Christianity.

When I was studying religion at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), my professor who was also the department head, described Christianity as a “salvation” religion. Penn’s study of religion was secular and literally academic, so no pushing for any particular perspective as the right one – the days of ‘comparative religion’ were in the past. This professor was extremely well-read and knew something about every religion, at least any one I was ever able to name, and many I didn’t. I have long pondered why he took this view of Christianity, though. I can say that in addition to the sacred writings of any religion, he also took common practice into account. I have read the entire Bible once, and the books attributed to Jesus’ life and message many times. I still beg to differ. Now if you take into account how Christianity is practiced then I must quote The Wizard of Oz to say, “that’s a horse of a different color”. If Jesus intended to start a new religion, then I will suggest that how it has come to be practiced may not be what he had in mind.

The over-emphasis on sin and salvation is, I believe, more cultural and historic, than theological. I think the Puritans permanently damaged this country with all their condemnation and repression. I believe that from the time of Jesus’ life to today, people have difficulty with metaphor, making a deep understanding of Jesus difficult. I don’t believe what Jesus said (if he even said it) was intended to be taken literally. The essence of his life was compassion for outcasts, trying to inspire people to have deeper meaning in their lives, and asking folks to be kinder to each other. And then when he was in his prime, he was murdered.

The religious authorities demanded a horrible death for Jesus to the secular government, and as gruesome and unwarranted as it was, it was entirely legal. Part of the reason Jesus was murdered was because he refused to be political. By that I mean, he refused to declare himself a political Messiah and overthrow the Romans. That pissed-off the Jewish leaders who additionally did not want their own corrupt systems challenged by him.

I have one very basic observation: bad things happen when religion and government get tangled-up. In fact, I think one of the worst things for Christianity was when it was made the state religion of the Roman Empire in the 300s. Now I’ll grant that feeding Christians to the lions and burning them alive was horrendous, but Christianity more than made up for it later with the Crusades, the Inquisition, and what they did to women they accused of witchcraft – just to name the low-hanging fruit.

The Romans were not good to women, so when Christianity was merged into their culture, it’s not like women suddenly did better. The Roman men saw women for pleasure and breeding, but otherwise the thoughts from women were no more welcome than their participation in governing. Early Judaism was not much better, deeply committed to patriarchy as it was. Christians now use a Bible written from centuries of oral tradition with texts selected entirely by men deeply committed to patriarchy. I have written about patriarchy before and that’s not where I’m headed here, but I do want to point out that applying ancient moral codes to today’s society is fraught not only with problems but historic biases that should be made and left extinct. Who thinks raptors in “Jurassic Park” were a good idea?

Click this link to previous blog posts with some relevance to patriarchy.

It seems obvious to me, but in case I’m being too subtle, I hope you can see the danger of the latest fashion in the oppressive politics of ‘Christian Nationalism’. Just like ‘prosperity gospel’ these are two words that should never be linked. Jesus’ life work was devoted to meeting the spiritual needs of those in pain, not political domination. He invited followers, he did not demand their participation or violently force compliance. He did not speak of abortion or sexual orientation but he did speak to women and include them in his work – something that just wasn’t done in his time. And he NEVER spoke about god and country combined as a good idea. (I remind you of the “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” statement in Mark 12:17.)

Sadly, a keen example of the dangers of mixing god and country is in Pennsylvania. Understand that James Carville was right when he said that PA is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle – there are a lot of pick-up trucks with confederate flags here. I want to point out that because Doug Mastriano says he’s a Christian, it doesn’t mean he’s good at it. It doesn’t even mean he’s sincere. And if he’s using the Christianity label as a cudgel to oppress others, then he most certainly is a fraud. Mastriano supported the January 6, 2021 coup attempt by arranging for buses to be take others embracing the Big Lie to DC, and being on the capitol grounds himself, thus engaging in illegal acts. Not governor material. He has outright said that a woman’s right to choose is “ridiculous nonsense”. These comments, responses, behaviors, are not only dangerous for our state and our country – to put it in his own vernacular, they are not Christ-like. Christian Nationalism hijacks religion for political gain, just like the Taliban hijacks Islam. It carries some weight if people start believing you are speaking for god, so it is put to use to increase political power. It’s vulgar and immoral.

Washington Post on PA gubernatorial candidate

The following article is probably more than you want to know about the PA Republican gubernatorial candidate but it is a thorough overview. Mastriano’s wife said that going against her husband is going against God’s plan. I call bullshit.

Here’s my personal tip from years of reading and researching religion: if someone tells you what god’s plan is, they should be ignored. The only credible interpretation for God’s plan is for you by you. Have you been inspired? Good for you. The next step is not to tell other people what to do. That is just arrogance.

Here’s another clue: if a large group of clergy find you so misguided they are willing to take out a newspaper ad and sign their names, then it is probably wise for citizens to go a different direction. Mastriano blasted them on Facebook and then later deleted the post. He assigns himself to speak about what god wants but if clergy disagree with him, he slams them.

Clergy on Mastriano

Mastsriano “blasts” clergy

There is another tell with these self-appointed moral experts; it is the willingness of these kind of candidates to accept bigotry and racism. That alone proves they are not Christian. Mastriano has been associated with a known antisemite and gave him money just this year. It is not unrelated that Mastriano’s gubernatorial opponent is Jewish. It is the same way ex-president Trump was documented as a racist. If you are opposed to bigotry and racism then these need to be voting deal-breakers. Still, I heard more than one white person make excuses for Trump as being pro-business. I don’t care if he’s pro-kittens or on the PETA board, if any candidate is clearly racist, homophobic, antisemitic, or a misogynist (any or all/usually all) – they should not get your vote. And by the way, they are not Christian, no matter what they profess in order to manipulate others.

Mastriano link to known antisemitic commentator

Mastriano is a frightening example of the toxic combination of injecting religion (albeit a contaminated religion) into politics. Obviously, people who choose a juvenile religion that offers simple answers to complex questions like evangelical Christianity, oppress select groups of others, and try to force their interpretations on others – are ignorant. They are literally, not well-read nor critical thinkers. Of course, they don’t understand the Constitution and not really much about Jesus. If Mastriano, and his like, need to abuse the name of Jesus to get elected, they are not Christian. And if someone is willing to exploit your own sympathy toward religion to obtain your vote, you should not ever trust them. This is not democracy and most certainly not Christianity. There is no such thing as Christian Nationalism. Full stop.

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