Who owns Christianity?
by Deepak ChopraMonday, July 17, 2006
Not many people of moderate persuasion have much sway in the church any more. I was reminded why recently when the Episcopal Church did two important things: It elected a woman bishop to head the denomination, and it backtracked on appointing gay bishops. The first move seems Christian. Women deserve to hold church office as much as political office (one diocese, however, was so incensed that it voted to leave the church, and worldwide there are still Anglican movements that do not permit women to be bishops or ordained priests).
The second move was an act of cowardice because it did not reflect the ideals of love in Christianity and was motivated by reactionaries in the Episcopal denomination. Countering a long tradition of laissez-faire tolerance, the reactionaries have gotten tough and threatened to form their own church if gays are promoted in the priesthood. The worldwide Anglicans are more intolerant, upholding that homosexuality is forbidden, unnatural, wrong or an outright sin, depending on who is doing the disapproving.
You'd think that someone would stand up and ask a simple question: Who are we to condemn gays if Christ didn't? In fact, who are we to condemn any sinner, since Christ didn't? Christianity is about forgiveness, and for the past two decades, as fundamentalism swept through every Protestant denomination, moderates and liberals have been driven out, and were roundly condemned as they left. Along with them went tolerance and forgiveness, not to mention love.
Did Christ teach love or is that just a liberal bias? In the current climate, it's hard to remember, but one thing is certain: Once a tight cabal of fundamentalists takes over any denomination, Christ's teachings go out the window. The reversal of Christianity from a religion of love to a religion of hate is the greatest religious tragedy of our time.
Those of us who haven't been swept up in worldwide fundamentalism, which has corrupted Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well, have been caught in a double bind. We can't join any sect that preaches intolerance, yet we can't fight it, either, because by definition fighting is a form of intolerance. To escape this double bind, moderates have stayed silent and stayed home. But that tactic failed. As healthy as it is to nourish your own devotion and faith, it's disastrous to allow extremists to take over the church, because the statehouse, the board of education, the Congress, and eventually the presidency are next.
Perhaps civil society will solve the problem of religious extremism. So far it hasn't. America finds itself in the sad plight of being the world's most prominent secular society hijacked by sectarians. One can only hope that the church comes to its senses and regains its moral center. If that doesn't occur, the core teachings of Christ will be lost, for all intents and purposes, to this generation.
You can learn more about the work of Deepak Chopra through his group Alliance for a New Humanity. In fact I think ALL of us can learn from his group.