Sunday, October 1, 2017

Oct. 1: The Sunday Sermonette

Long ago, when the world and I were young, I often preached at a mission church in Montreal's red light district. Many of the hookers and gamblers of the district would come; and I, at seventeen, would tell them all about life.

Today, inspired by the gawdawful faith column in the irving press, I feel a need to return to the pulpit.

This year, the Christian churches celebrate some 2000 years of preaching whatever is socially acceptable to whoever the powers are in any given country. I am reminded of a man I knew who was a part of the Canadian advance in Europe in 1945. He told me of the day he attended a church in a French town. The priest told the people and the allied soldiers that they could now celebrate that the allied armies had brought back freedom and now would surely win this war.

"The crazy thing", he said, "is that the townsman seated beside me said to me that just that morning, speaking to a congregation of retreating German troops that they would win because God was on  their side."

And that pretty well sums up the history of the Christian churches.

When the crusading knights roared into the Ottoman Empire, it was to get land, a precious commodity for the ruling classes of Europe. That certainly meant killing - and, though the teaching of Jesus clearly opposed killing, the popes blessed it all as part of holy war.  (Can you imagine what Jesus would have thought of the term 'holy war')

Indeed, the crusaders did not restrict themselves to killing Muslims. They also invaded the Byzantine Empire - the eastern part of the old Roman Empire - which was Christian. And there the knights happily looted churches and raped nuns.....with not a word out of the popes.

Indeed, throughout modern history, it is hard to find a war the various Christian churches did not like. Most of the German and Italian clergy did not oppose either Hitler or Italy. When European, American and Canadian armies slaughtered indigenous peoples, when the U.S. illegally invaded Afghanistan and then illegally killed over a million people in Iraq, when it murdered 200,000 Maya in Guatemala, did you hear even a whimper from the churches?

When Donald Trump threatened to 'obliterate' the people of North Korea, he was cheered by the hyper-evangelicals of the U.S. Bible belt. (And one of the evangelical clergy prays with the Trump cabinet as it decides who to murder next.) As I write this, the American government is deliberately starving millions to death in Yemen  (of course, including women, the elderly, children babies...   So where are all those evangelicals who parade to prevent abortions? They say it's killing and The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill."

Isn't starving people to death killing? Isn't napalm killing? And agent orange? And carpet bombing? Bombing by drones?

Hear any of these discussed in church lately? Perhaps over coffee in the barn at the Irving Chapel with special music?

Here we are in one of the most murderous periods of history. And the churches say, "We hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing."

It extends beyond killing to an economic system that is largely anti-Christian. Jesus spoke of caring for others. But we  have opted for an economic system whose motto is to look out only for number one. It rewards greed. It shows contempt for the poor and the hungry and, in the U.S., even for the sick. (And watch out. Our health system and our lives are at risk from the attacks of the greedy.)  Instead of extending compassion and help to the poor, it has been creating more poverty for the last 50 years. (Don't confuse the views of Dr. deSavoie for holy writ. The rich do NOT create a wealth that filters down to the poor. They never have. Quite the contrary. The rich avoid the taxes that are necessary to  help all; they demand many financial favours for themselves at the expense of all of us; and they expect us to kill and to die to help their profits.)

And too many politicians, especially in New Brunswick, who should be looking out to serve the whole society, allow big business to plunder from all of us.

To even pretend that we are a Christian society is absurd. We and our churches are about the teachings of Jesus - but only in a vague and blurred way.  Too often, Christianity is not what our churches are about. They are about conformity, acceptance - two things that Jesus most certainly was not about.

A friend of mine is an illustration of how our churches miss the point. He is an evangelical Christian who became a missionary in Congo.  For over a hundred and fifty years, European and North American mining companies have plundered Congo. They have murdered people in the millions. They use child labour. They torture, beat, and murder. They pay starvation wages. They avoid taxes with the result that there's little money for public schools, little for health, and they don't give a damn about the environment. They're still doing it just as they do in South America.

Why do our churches waste their time sending missionaries to the victims? Why don't they send them to the foreign billionaires? Then, if Christianity works on them, we can see how it works on the native peoples.

But what do we do? We ignore that corporate anti-Christians. We send missionaries to convert the native peoples. Jesus would have sent them where they were needed - to convert the mining corporations.

But there's a good side to all this. Our churches have been so conformist and wimpy, more interested in getting to heaven than they are in doing anything useful, that few of our clergy are likely to risk crucifixion.


  1. Funny: in the time of Luther protestants wanted to make up their own mind. Now we see a bunch of evangelicals who want to be told what to think by flaming maniacs.

  2. Yes. I think what intellectually cripples evangelicals is their obsession with end times and getting in the right lineup for heaven. That, coupled with a heavy dose of self-righteousness gets in the way of their understanding the bulk of the message of Jesus.

  3. Yes. I think what intellectually cripples evangelicals is their obsession with end times and getting in the right lineup for heaven. That, coupled with a heavy dose of self-righteousness gets in the way of their understanding the bulk of the message of Jesus.

  4. A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle. - Arthur Bloch