©2022 by Vernon Miles Kerr and VernonMilesKerr.com
Before long, all over the globe, Jewish people (and even a few Christian sects) will begin the monumental spring-cleaning (de-leavening) that precedes Passover — an annual event which memorializes the greatest act of emancipation in history — well, if not in history, then certainly in that important world literary tradition we call, “The Bible.” Most know the story — thanks to movies like The Ten Commandments, and to Passover’s constantly being referred to in the media.
It tells the story of how a nation of millions of slaves, was freed—in one seminal moment, from an oppressive monarchy—the emancipation of all emancipations. Given the importance of that moment to the world-ethos, it is bitterly ironic, that the message of manumission contained in the Bible, rather than having been a blessing, has more often been a tool for brow-beating, and domination by abusive masters called “churches.”
Why are most Christian Churches structured, organizationally, like the oppressor of Chirst’s time: The Roman Empire? Why aren’t local Christian Churches more like Jewish Synagogues, which are congregational, self-governed, and egalitarian? My understanding is that the chief Rabbi of a Jewish congregaton is not so much an authority figure whose opinon is regarded as law, but is more a respected councelor on religious questions. Perhaps there are Churches which resemble the Jewish model, but I know of none. Whether Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, or Mormon, most modern-day churches still follow the governmental hierarchy of The Roman Empire: metaphorical provinces governed by a central government in a metaphorical Rome.
But that phenomenon of religious “empire” within Christianity is not the crux of this essay, it is only the unfortunate, maybe even unintended, enabler of the brow-beating domination and abuse suffered by today’s millions in modern-day Goshen. What could have been a blessing—the concept of freely-given eternal life, not imagined in Judaism, has been replaced by conditional eternal life based upon a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible (including the New Testament) as being word-for-word dictated by God Himself, each jot and tittle sacrosact and mandatory.
Follow the formula, or go to Hell.
Oh, I know not all sects believe Eden was a literal place and that humanity (and the rest of the world) started there a mere 6,000 years ago. And, I know that not all sects believe that the Hell of Dante’s Inferno comes from the Bible. I also know that there are sects in Judaism which no longer practice the strict dietary laws of Leviticus. These examples actually go toward proving my point. In those narrow areas, both Christians and Jews, have been emancipated: freed from the, almost genetic, assumption that the Bible is somehow untouched by human prejudice and error in its inception. And, of course ,they believe the Bible is inspired, and that God is in those pages, somewhere, to some degree—or they would dissassoiate themselves from church or synagogue.
I gave my answer to that question, (why is the Christian world authoritarian?) in a recent essay The Christmas Story Here’s a quote:
“As a philosophy, divorced from the spiritual claims of the New Testament, Christianity would be about-all-that-humans-need, in order to have an #EarthlyUtopia. The problem, in my opinion, started manifesting itself, in the very beginning, judging by the book of Acts and the various epistles (letters to churches). In those pages, one can see two major problems developing: a sort of pushy Evangelism and a Hierarchical internal Paternalism. Someone reading these books, with an open mind, can’t help but sense that an initial religion— consisting of small groups of adherents meeting in someone’s home—is being forged by Paul (self-proclaimed head apostle) into a Roman-military style of Religious Empire. And isn’t that the exact result we see at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation? No wonder some of the splinters from that tree-felling, like the Quakers, wanted to return to those original small, family groups of loving believers. But also, no wonder most of the other splinter groups eventually returned to an hierarchical style of organization, based on a false interpretation of Evangelism (simply spreading good news)— turning it into a pushy, cajoling form of recruitment. But one can’t fault the logic if one believes that the NewTestament, as canonized by the Councils of Nicaea and Carthage*, is the word of God. If it is, then the distasteful parts of Christianity must actually be endorsed by God.
“But, knowledge of this inauspicious start is no reason to abandon the good parts of Christianity, as enumerated at the beginning of this thread. Be skeptical of the obviously bad parts resulting from that questionable canonization. Enjoy your faith in the assurance that the good parts were inspired by a loving God. Sense the good parts. Be “wise as a serpent” in evaluating the suspected human parts. Just because some humans (a couple of Popes in the 4th Century C.E.) said that it had to be believed as a package, does not mean we must accept it as such. Be free of that misconception. ”https://vernonmileskerr.com/2021/12/24/re-tweets-the-christmas-story/
But what would the philosopher and itinerant rabbi, Jesus want? I’m gonna be bold here and say, he would want his billions of Earthly disciples (not just the religious ones) to have a personal relationship to the God he talked about, free from the indoctrination and peer-pressure found within organized religions.
When the veil between the people and the “Holy of Holies” was rent, it was a metaphor. Sadly that metaphor has been largely, even if unintentionally, nullified by modern-day Christianity. Instead, those “churches” have imposed their own, subtle version of that thick, heavy veil and have appointed their corporate selves “High Priest,” to go before God on OUR behalf.
Just say no.
To those who choose to stay in church, Jesus would probably say, “Enjoy the fellowship, the singing, the mutual love, but here’s my private number, call me anytime.”
One thought on “Theology | Emancipation”
A truly interesting essay that answers a perennially asked question about the hierarchy and authoritarianism of the Church. M