Editor's Note: The author, Yamin Zakaria, raises and confronts some interesting questions about the Judeo-Christian faith and Christian theology. As a former Christian minister, I can attest to the accuracy of a number of points in his assessment. His challenge to Christians and their theology includes a comparative analysis of the treatment of peoples not of their respective faiths by Christians and Muslims, citing the Christian inquisitions in centuries past.
I think it's worth noting that evangelical Christians, like those who support the war in Iraq for example, would answer his challenge along the following lines: Those "Christians" who carried out inquisitions in Europe, for example, were not "real Christians" at all. The evangelicals believe that they alone are the "real Christians" and those who disagree with their theology are condemned to hell. What makes the difference between the "real Christians" and "the others"? Their answer is that they have been elected by God to be the children of God, saved only from their "total depravity" by the grace of God and not through any good thing they might have done. This follows the teachings of John Calvin in the 16th century - the same John Calvin who presided over the executions and burnings of "heretics" and "witches" in Calvin's Geneva. When closely examined, Calvin's teachings were more those of a rationalist than of a follower of the Jesus who is described in the Gospels.
Returning to the evangelical's argument - that those who carried out the inquisitions were not "real Christians" - the question follows, "As a 'real Christian' are you not now supporting the mass killing of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, just as those "false Christians" did in the inqusitions in the past? Their circular logic responds, "We are not supporting the war in Iraq - we are simply observing God's prophecies being realized and waiting for Christ to return and take us to our home in heaven. We have no right to question the will of God". One logical reply is, "Why then do you 'support the troops' and even send your own sons and daughters to participate in the killing?" But evangelical Christians will have an answer to that one and the next and the next as well. At this point, their argument has long turned into an obvious absurdity which reflects back on Yamin Zakaria's conclusion that they can only reach their position via "blind faith" - to which they freely admit, if they're honest. As someone in my past once said, "Never try to use logic to talk a person out of a conclusion which he has reached illogically".
The position and theology of Christian evangelicals or whatever they choose to call themselves, confirms the self-evident statement: "The human mind is capable of justifying anything".
- Les Blough, Editor
Crucifixion: Is it Murder or Suicide or Blood Sacrifice?
By Yamin Zakaria - London, UK
April 4, 2007
Instead of the usual knocks on Sunday morning, the Christian missionaries knocked on Good Friday morning. They are always on a mission to convert the world, so I was given an invitation to a sermon about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was not the spirit of commercialised-Easter but this friendly visit made me ponder about the essence of the event.
I respectfully declined the offer as over the years the Christians have argued that I should first have faith and submit to Christ and let the Holy Spirit enter my body somehow. Only then I would understand the notion of trinity, crucifixion and resurrection. So conviction somehow follows blind faith. However, I would have thought the process should be reverse; conviction of the mind should lead to faith. This is how we tend to operate in real life.
So what is the meaning of this crucifixion? If we are to judge an action solely based on the physical act, then the event of crucifixion represents nothing more than a heinous crime and betrayal. Killing an innocent man is nothing more than an act of murder. For which there was no retribution from God, the crime went unpunished. What moral lessons can we take from it? The guilty party here are the Romans, the Jewish mob and God himself with the Holy Spirit are spectators - they did nothing to save the son of God (Jesus).
What about Jesus himself? He made no effort to escape the punishment. It could be argued that he committed suicide, in the same way if someone does not make an effort to escape from a building that is on fire. Can suicide be the basis for a religion? Are we to follow such an example? If so how?
Of course evaluating actions is not always simplistic process of equating it with the physical act. One has to also take into account motive and context. For example the case of manslaughter and murder is distinguished by establishing the intention of the perpetrator not just the act itself. Therefore, the Christians will argue that crucifixion was not suicide, nor was it a simple crime. Jesus (son) and God the Father with the Holy Spirit planned this in advance; the act was deliberately orchestrated by God, as an act of blood sacrifice for atonement.
In that case, how is Christianity really different to paganism, where human sacrifices were also used? Even the metaphorical reference to eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ makes me revolt, as it reminds me of cannibalism. The concept of shedding the blood of some innocent person for the crimes of others in the past, and the crimes of those in the future seems to run contrary to common sense and justice. Maybe this is why you need to have faith before conviction! Of course having blind faith makes the process of conviction redundant.
Sometime back, this notion of crucifixion triggered my response to a fanatical Evangelical Christian from the US, who described Islam as being built on bloodshed, as if we have the equivalent of crucifixion. For some reason it is the US that seems to exclusively produce these foul mouthed zealots, like they have a monopoly of producing disturbed teenagers who go on shooting rampages, real terrorists operating right under their noses. Anyway, I reminded the foulmouthed fanatic of the irony of his claim, given that the central doctrine of Christianity is about bloodshed and sadistic torture. Mel Gibson, a devout Christian portrayed this well in his film the Passion of Christ. Hence, the Christians are in no position to accuse anyone of being bloodthirsty.
I elaborated further by reminding him of what Jesus said in the Bible: by their fruits ye shall know them. Historically the record of the Christian Church is awful compared to Islam, any impartial observer can testify to this. The church could never match the tolerance shown by the Muslims. No inquisitions, no commercial slavery, no extermination of the indigenous populations, no bloody crusades, not to mention the decades of brutal wars between the Catholics and Protestants.
We still have the historical non-Muslim community in Islamic lands. But, where is the historical Muslim community of Europe, either slaughtered by the Inquisition or the crusades. The recent security enjoyed by Muslims living in Europe can only be attributed to secular values not Christianity.
The conclusion is obvious, the reformation that was initiated by Martin Luther needs to move on the next phase, remove the absurd notion of Trinity and Crucifixion; thus Bring Christianity inline with the other monotheistic religions.
Copyright © Yamin Zakaria 2008
You can contact Yamin at firstname.lastname@example.org