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A review of 2004 and its implications for the future (Dec 04)

The following article, re-published on Christmas even 2004 by www.truthout.com provides a profound insight into why mankind has continually gotten themselves involved in a never-ending series of wars (and why the United States is heading for even greater disasters).

Empires Prefer a Baby and the Cross to the Adult Jesus

By Giles Fraser
The Guardian U.K.

Friday 24 December 2004

From Constantine to Bush, power has needed to stifle a revolutionary message.

Every Sunday in church, Christians recite the Nicene Creed. "Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures." It's the official summary of the Christian faith but, astonishingly, it jumps straight from birth to death, apparently indifferent to what happened in between.

Nicene Christianity is the religion of Christmas and Easter, the celebration of a Jesus who is either too young or too much in agony to shock us with his revolutionary rhetoric. The adult Christ who calls his followers to renounce wealth, power and violence is passed over in favour of the gurgling baby and the screaming victim. As such, Nicene Christianity is easily conscripted into a religion of convenience, with believers worshipping a gagged and glorified saviour who has nothing to say about how we use our money or whether or not we go to war.

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire with the conversion of the emperor Constantine in 312, after which the church began to backpedal on the more radical demands of the adult Christ. The Nicene Creed was composed in 325 under the sponsorship of Constantine. It was Constantine who decided that December 25 was to be the date on which Christians were to celebrate the birth of Christ and it was Constantine who ordered the building of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Christmas - a festival completely unknown to the early church - was invented by the Roman emperor. And from Constantine onwards, the radical Christ worshipped by the early church would be pushed to the margins of Christian history to be replaced with the infinitely more accommodating religion of the baby and the cross.

The adult Jesus described his mission as being to "preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and to set at liberty those who are oppressed". He insisted that the social outcast be loved and cared for, and that the rich have less chance of getting into heaven than a camel has of getting through the eye of a needle. Jesus set out to destroy the imprisoning obligations of debt, speaking instead of forgiveness and the redistribution of wealth. He was accused of blasphemy for attacking the religious authorities as self-serving and hypocritical.

In contrast, the Nicene religion of the baby and the cross gives us Christianity without the politics. The Posh and Becks nativity scene is the perfect tableau into which to place this Nicene baby, for like the much-lauded celebrity, this Christ is there to be gazed upon and adored - but not to be heard or heeded. In a similar vein, modern evangelical choruses offer wave upon wave of praise to the name of Jesus, but offer little political or economic content to trouble his adoring fans.

Yet despite the silence of the baby, it should be perfectly obvious to anyone who has actually read the Christmas stories that the gospel regards the incarnation as challenging the existing order. The pregnant Mary anticipates Christ's birth with some fiery political theology: God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty", she blazes. Born among farm labourers, yet worshipped by kings, Christ announces an astonishing reversal of political authority. The local imperial stooge, King Herod, is so threatened by rumours of his birth that he sends troops to Bethlehem to find the child and kill him. Herod recognised that to claim Jesus is lord and king is to say that Caesar isn't. Christ's birth is not a silent night - it's the beginning of a revolution that threatened to undermine the whole basis of Roman power.

Little wonder, then, that influential U.S. Christian commentator Jim Wallis created a storm earlier in the year when he penned an attack upon "Bush's theology of empire", helpfully illustrated with a picture of Bush made up to look like the emperor Constantine. "Once there was Rome, now there is a new Rome," argued Wallis.

Constantine was converted to Christianity by a vision that came to him on the eve of the battle of Milvian Bridge: "He saw with his own eyes, up in the sky and resting over the sun, a cross-shaped trophy formed from light, and a text attached to it which said, 'By this sign, conquer' ". Soon the cross would morph from being a hated symbol of Roman brutality into the universally recognisable logo of the Holy Roman Empire. Within a century, St Augustine would develop the novel idea of just war, trimming the church's originally pacifist message to the needs of the imperial war machine.

Like Constantine, George Bush has borrowed the language of Christianity to sup port and justify his military ambition. And just like that of Constantine, the Christianity of this new Rome offers another carefully edited version of the Bible. Once again, the religion that speaks of forgiving enemies and turning the other cheek is pressed into military service.

The story of Christmas, properly understood, asserts that God is not best imagined as an all-powerful despot but as a vulnerable and pathetic child. It's a statement about the nature of divine power. But in the hands of conservative theologians, the Nicene religion of the baby and the cross is a way of distracting attention away from the teachings of Christ. It's a form of religion that concentrates on things like belief in the virgin birth while ignoring the fact that the gospels are much more concerned about the treatment of the poor and the forgiveness of enemies.

Bush may have claimed that "Jesus Christ changed my life", but Jesus doesn't seem to have changed his politics. As the carol reminds us: "And man at war with man hears not the love song that they bring, O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing."

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The Rev Dr Giles Fraser is vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.
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The following quotations further illustrate how Jesus and St Paul would view our present-day war mongering apostles of "baby and the cross Christianity."

John 8:42-47 (NKJ)

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."

1 Timothy: 9-11: (NKJ)

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
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The Republican lie that George W. Bush "is a man who says what he means and means what he says" is as BIG a lie any lie ever uttered by Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin. And yet, despite their relatively high level of education, nearly half of the people who voted for President demonstrated last November that they are not only willing to believe such lies, they are willing to bet their own futures on such lies and to actually sacrifice the lives of other peoples' sons, daughters, and parents in order to perpetuate such lies--all because our nation's "Nicene Christian" religious leaders have conditioned their followers to put their faith in lies rather than the actual love-your-neighbor-as-yourself gospel that was taught by Jesus Christ. These peoples' often repeated "Nicene Creed of Faith" makes no mention of God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (or any need to be concerned about the truth for that matter), so they can be easily conned into believing almost anything they are told by so-called "authorities" who have little or no concern for the truth.

That being the case, it actually appears possible now that our nation's bold-faced-lying "neocons" may ultimately succeed in their efforts to:

1. Destroy our nation's Social Security System while falsely claiming to be "saving Social Security." Our nation's highly efficient Social Security Program has not only provided our nation's elderly with an average 7% return on their investment to help them enjoy a decent retirement, it has also provided a constant turnover of cash throughout our economy during economic downturns as well as upturns, thereby providing an economic cushion to keep our nation's recessions from turning into full-scale depressions.

2. Destroy our nations' minimum wage protections, so that American Corporations can legally pay their workers third world level wages (perhaps even as low as 50 cents and hour) in order to "remain competitive" with "overseas corporations" (which they may also own).

3. Do everything in their power to promote the continued use of "paperless electronic voting machines" so that they can rig elections to keep themselves in power no matter how people actually vote. In the Ukraine, when the "official" voting tallies differed significantly from exit poll tallies, US officials and news agencies recognized that the "official" tallies had been rigged, and rightly so. But when similar discrepancies between official tallies and exit polls appeared in as many eleven states last November, US officials and our news agencies got away with the dubious assumption that ALL of the exit polls that showed that Kerry was winning at the time the polls closed "must have been wrong." Then, during the partial "recount" in Ohio, the Republican officials who ran the original elections did everything in their power to obstruct those recount efforts, thereby making is clear that they "had plenty to hide" by preventing a complete recount.

4. Do everything in their power to further restrict actual rights and freedoms (while falsely claiming to be "defending freedom") inside as well as outside of the United States. Today the Bush Administration is planning to imprison hundreds of Guantamamo "detainees" for the rest of their lives even though they have insufficient evidence to actually convict them of anything (in gross violation of the Geneva conventions and well as our own constitutional precepts). If they are allowed to get away with that, it will just be a matter of time before they begin treating American citizens like that well.

5. Do everything in their power terminate or at least emasculate our nation's environmental protection laws and regulations to favor their corporate sponsors. Their efforts in this regard will eventually lead to the premature deaths of MILLIONS of Americans, but you can be sure they will continue to blatantly lye to obscure that fact.

6. Funnel billions of borrowed dollars (future tax dollars) to the corporations who sponsored them until the value of the American dollar drops so low that for most practical purposes, our country will be bankrupt. While doing so, they will use the sorry state that affairs which they created to "justify" termination of our Medicare and Medicare programs. The size of America's middle class will decrease substantially, and homelessness will increase substantially. And as homelessness approaches 20%, large numbers of AMERICANS will begin to join terrorist movements aimed at destroying the United States government which will eventually fall and either break up into several countries or be replaced by a totalitarian military dictatorship.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT SUCH DISASTERS:

1. We must utterly destroy the credibility of the "neocon" movement. Whenever they use their bold-faced lying tactics, we should publicly expose that fact they are lying. CALL them bold-faced liars and PROVE the charge. Whenever news agencies publish their lies without pointing out that they are in fact lying, CALL those news agencies bold-faced liars and PROVE the charge.

2. We must utterly destroy the credibility of "Nicene Christian" religious leaders who generally ignore (or teach outright violations) of God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. According to the New Testament (e.g. the two quotations cited above), those religious leaders are NOT Christians, they are bold-faced lying Satanists "in sheep's clothing." Don't be afraid to CALL them liars as well. As I have pointed out in numerous earlier articles on www.onesalt.com, their self-serving lies and glorification of selfishness have already contributed (significantly) to the killing or maiming of MILLIONS of men, women, and children throughout the world (including Americans).

We have no realistic hope of ever getting ourselves out of the downward spiraling mess that they are creating unless we succeed in creating a far greater concern for the truth and for God's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (with no restrictions on our definition of "neighbor").

www.onesalt.com
(a.k.a. one grain of salt)



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Last modified on Tuesday, January 04, 2005