Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Musings on the Christian Politics of Power.
What distinguished Christian Power from forms of power derived from other spiritual traditions? What did Christian thinkers, activists, strategists, and leaders grasp that spiritualists of other religions failed to do? Was the Christian strategy for power consciously organized or accidentally arrived at?
No faith or religion, however profound, has a chance of shaping and changing the world unless it amasses power. Though power comes in various forms, certain kinds of power have greater potency, and no religion has had greater impact on the world than Christianity. Though Christians prefer to believe that their power flows naturally from their spiritual faith and values, in truth Christianity wouldn’t have survived and then thrived for over 1500 yrs had its key thinkers and leaders not made certain decisive adjustments pertaining to the strategy of power. True followers of Christianity can make believe that it was all for the grace of God and Jesus that Christianity was destined to become the biggest show in town. But for an atheist such as myself, more interesting is the psychology, culture, and politics of religion.
It should be plainly obvious from the decline of Christianity in the West and the resilience of Islam in the Middle East(and parts of Africa and Asia) that there is no law of historical inevitability that favors Christianity over other faiths. (Some may argue that while there was no guarantee for the triumph of Christianity, the triumph of the West owed to the influence of Christianity, without which the West would never have become a great power; the problem is there is no way to prove or disprove this.) Though the universal appeal of Christianity is undeniable, that aspect alone could not have ordained its eventual glory as the premier religion around the world—after all neither the Greek nor the Russian Orthodox Church was particularly invested in evangelizing the world. (Perhaps, the stagnation of Russian civilization and the fall of Greek Byzantium to the Muslim Turks owed to something to the nature of Orthodox Churches. Catholics and Protestants were more aggressive and fervent believers, and that may have energized them spiritually in the name of the faith. Spiritual energy, though repressive and stifling at times, could have overflowed into a commitment to life, social improvement, and progress in many areas. Spiritual energy may also have translated into martial energy, for impassioned believers are willing to fight for the cause. Greek Orthodox religion, in contrast, tended to be more hierarchical and reverent. Priests stuck to arcane rituals and tradition than applying the message of the Lord to the world. It tended to be more ascetic, conservative, and inward-looking, as well as more subservient to the powers-that-be. Thus, the spiritual energies of the Greeks may have waned and dissipated. While the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches could also be repressive, dogmatic, and corrupt, the element of activism and passion in their spiritual-social practice kept them alive as a living faiths whereas the Byzantium form of Christianity tended to be museum-like or even mausoleum-like—similar to the funerary mythology of the ancient Egyptians. As such, the corrupt authorities faced no moral or spiritual challenge from a Church that seemed holed up within the caves of its spiritual sanctimony. Thus sapped of spiritual energy, Byzantium may also have become drained of social and political energy. As a result, the empire kept shrinking in size and influence and crawled into itself like a turtle withdrawing inside its shell until the Turks, energized by an aggressive strain of Islam, cracked the shell and devoured the flesh. How the tortoise-like Orthodox Church in Constantinople was hollowed out and converted to an Islamic Mosque in what is now Istanbul serves as the perfect metaphor for the fatal turtle-ism of the Byzantine empire. Ironically, the once energetic and fierce Ottoman Turks, having swallowed the rotten flesh of the Byzantine turtle, seems to have become similarly infected for they too would settle into a long period of conservative inward-looking spiritual and political decline. In contrast, the Catholic French, Spanish, and Portuguese, along with the Protestant British and Dutch, were filled with religious fervor and energy, which overflowed into martial and economic energy, with which they set forth to discover, conquer, and convert the world. But in the long view of things, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing in a kind of boomerang effect. Today, Russian Orthodox Church feels no obligation to any people but the Russians whereas Catholic and Protestant folks in Europe and America feel the need to ‘save the world’. Eventually as the result of this massive outreach, it means both Catholicism and Protestantism will become the main religions of Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans who will exploit the universalism of Christian teachings to invade Europe and North America. American Protestant missionaries are filled with passion to spread the Gospel and humanitarian aid in Africa, but this also means American Christianity will become defined as ‘we must embrace the Negro’, which will increase African immigration to America. Thus, do-goody American missionaries who want to convert Africa are some of the biggest enemies of the white race.) The rise of Christian power resulted from the shift in the thinking of Christian leaders and activists who learned to accommodate themselves to the ways of the world.
The message of Jesus is clear in the Gospels. Jesus not only preached the virtues of a simple life devoted to spiritual salvation but practiced what He preached. He dressed plainly, ate simple food, cared for the sick and poor, prayed and meditated a lot, and forsook worldly riches and power. He taught His Disciples to lead spartan lives, deny themselves worldly pleasures that distracts a man from the spiritual path, and devote themselves to a life of virtuous poverty in proximity with the suffering people of the world.
Of course, Jesus never thought that poverty in and of itself was good or made saints out of men. He knew there was a different between poverty-of-choice and poverty-of-misfortune. Poverty-of-choice was the way demonstrated by people like Himself who voluntarily rejected worldly power and riches in order to devote oneself fully to God. In contrast, the poverty-of-misfortune was the lot of most people who actually wanted to be rich and privileged but just happened be unlucky. Jesus well understood that most poor people were no less greedy than the rich. Poor people hated being poor and were fixated with the desire to accumulate wealth, privilege, and even power. For a man to be truly virtuous, he mustn’t only be poor of wealth but pure of heart. He must purge himself of the desire for wealth. A poor man dreaming of gold was no nobler of heart than a rich man swimming in gold.
Even so, poor people suffered more than the rich, and so they were (1) deserving of more sympathy and (2) more desperate for some kind of alleviation from suffering, therefore perhaps more ripe for spiritual salvation. If they couldn’t gain material wealth, perhaps they’d settle for spiritual riches. Jesus also understood that some rich people were decent and well-meaning of heart. But since the main objective of the rich is to remain rich or grow richer—even if they’re generous in charity—, they could never give themselves fully to the Lord. Doing business means compromising with corrupt worldly powers; to the extent that rich people, no matter how personally decent, favored riches over redemption, they could never be the favored children of God. In some ways, ‘the good rich’ were even worse than the greedy rich. The latter at least has the courage of its convictions whereas ‘the good rich’ try to have it both ways: rake it in but also buy God’s favor with a show of public virtue. If you want dough, you can’t have manna. The only way for a rich man to be spiritually virtuous is by giving away ALL of one’s wealth, willfully accepting a life of poverty, and living shoulder-to-shoulder with the suffering folks. True virtue was not in sharing one’s wealth but in sharing the suffering of the world.
Though Jesus didn’t directly rebel against worldly authorities, His message to the Disciples was clear: Do NOT appeal to worldly authorities; see them as the enemies of God. Instead, go among the poor and wretched to preach the possibility of moral/spiritual triumph over worldly powers that rule by violence, greed, oppression, and domination. And if one were to be persecuted by worldly authorities, don’t beg for mercy, don’t cower before them, don’t try to appease or please them. Take the punishment, whatever it may be. If they kill you, you’ll reunited with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. If you survive, go back to the people and preach some more.
So, initially the early Christians went and preached to the people as Jesus had done and preached. Christians weren’t supposed to appeal to the rich and powerful but to the weak and meek. The message didn’t extol poverty as a good in and of itself but as a precondition that could lead to spiritual attainment if one were to abandon all desire for material success and focus one’s mind on God. So, poverty was not grace but a path to grace if one were to embrace the beauty of simple life cleansed of all diversions and distractions of the material world. Since Christianity preached that the weak and meek must remain weak and meek to attain salvation in the next life, there was to be no violent ‘slave revolt’ to overthrow the elites. Slave revolts had existed since beginning of time, but the moral problem was the victorious slaves merely became the new masters who made slaves of other people. Fighting injustice by gaining worldly power merely perpetuated the cycles of oppression. Masters became slaves became masters became slaves became masters, ad infinitum. The moral question then was how to finally break free of this endless cycle of worldly power.
So, Jesus preached to followers to reject earthly power itself. If the oppressed, having gained earthly power through a slave rebellion, simply became the new oppressors, what was the point? The only thing that changed was WHO was the oppressor than the fact of oppression itself. Though Spartacus has been romanticized as the leader of a slave rebellion, the fact was he wasn’t revolting against the idea of slavery itself. Rather, he wanted to be free so that his kind could be the new slave-masters. So, for the oppressed to be truly virtuous, they must accept their lot in life and remain weak-n-meek, reject the temptation of power, and attain salvation through a purely moral-spiritual way. (Buddha preached something similar 600 yrs before Jesus, and in a much more ‘radical’ way. At the heart of both is the Cult of Pain and how to deal with it. One might even say, ‘no pain, no religion’, or maybe ‘no agony, no ecstasy’. If man fears anything, it is pain. Pain is one thing that appears greater than gods or God for those who confront it face to face. In the novel SILENCE by Shusaku Endo, even the most devout Catholic priests commit the sin of apostasy after they’ve been tortured by the Japanese. In college, our professor told us Japanese had a particularly nasty way of torturing Catholic priests. They would tie their legs and hang them upside down to plunge in and out of pool of feces. The horror would be prolonged by cutting slits on the foreheads of priests whereby the blood flow presumably reduced pressure on the brain and kept the priests conscious throughout the ordeal. Almost every priest publicly denounced Jesus because he couldn’t take the pain. Nothing is more fearsome to man than pain, and all cultures have tried to make sense of pain or arrive at some political, moral, philosophical, and spiritual resolution with pain. There is a strange relation between pain and God in the Old Testament. God is the both the deliverer of pain and deliverer from pain. Pain is both His weapon and His enemy. When God sends pain upon mankind, it is moral pain to punish man for his misdeeds. But there’s also the sense that other kinds of pain are caused by Satan or by evil men who dare disobey the laws of God. So, good people are supposed to pray to God to be delivered from pain brought upon by evil forces. Since pain is a great power, it had to be associated with God, but since God is supposed to be good, His pain had to be morally justified. In stark contrast was the pain caused by greed, cruelty, or, worst of all, blasphemy. Blasphemy was worst of all for it brought down God’s pain on mankind. When Satan or bad men caused pain on earth, God would look down sympathetically on good men who suffered from evil pain. But when man committed an act of blasphemy, Satan stood back and laughed while God sent down His pain to whup mankind real good. Since man relied on God for ultimate protection, blasphemy was the worst and stupidest of all sins since it insulted the very force that man relied on for protection. The difference among natural spirituality, political spirituality, and moral spirituality has much to do with pain. Natural spirituality worships the ways of nature and is in awe of pain itself. Primitive man understood the world in terms of animals killing animals, animals killing man, and man killing animals. Violence was the way of nature, so the king of pain was the king of all. So, lions and bears had great spiritual power since they had the power to cause lots of pain on other critters. Political spirituality, such as that of the Romans and Chinese, saw the world in terms of elaborate power struggles among great forces such as empires, kingdoms, and states. The gods of both the Romans and the Chinese tended to be Machiavellian in their use of pain. Thus, the issue of pain tended to be political than moral, more about the necessity of pain to win than to be morally right. But the moral spirituality of later Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism grappled with the morality of pain. It’s there especially in the Book of Job, the story of Jesus’s Crucifixion, and Buddha’s realization of the prevalence of suffering in the world. Here, pain isn’t just something to be worshiped as the awesome force of nature or the tool of powerful contenders for world domination. It becomes a moral issue and question: why is there so much pain in the world, is it good or bad, and is there or should there be escape from pain? Book of Job raises the question but doesn’t provide an answer. Buddha’s way was profound or cowardly depending on one’s perspective. Buddha’s answer to pain was it was all just an illusion borne of desire; he went further and said reality itself was an illusion and so was religion as a kind of opiate to take man’s mind off reality. So, pain was not really real but made ‘real’ by the ego that seeks attachment to the world. But the world really doesn’t exist; rather it is a projection of one’s ego that we mistake for ‘reality’. So, there is no reality ‘out there’. Reality is a creation of the ego that, unless returned to the void, keeps growing like a cancer into new ‘realities’. Though Buddha’s way required great deal of discipline and self-denial, it didn’t involve direct pain nor was there any cult of pain in the search for Nirvana. It is said Buddha did undergo some stomach pain when he ate some bad fish and died of food poisoning. Supposedly he knew the food was bad but ate it anyway because he didn’t want to offend the host, but wasn’t this sensitivity on his part a sign of ego concerned with social grace? Or did Buddha feel that stomach pain and death were all but illusions too, so it didn’t matter if he lived or died since there was no real reality? Jesus took the opposite path. He saw reality as real and accepted pain as real. Since pain produced much misery and suffering in the world, He spread the message of spiritual healing that could help mankind to rise above the dilemma of flesh. But talk is cheap. Theory is one thing but what about the Practice? To prove the truth of His message, He had to demonstrate with His own flesh that it could be done. But He knew pain hurt like hell, and so He had many sleepless nights about how He would react under pressure. Would He take all the pain and triumph spiritually or would He break under pressure and beg for mercy? Winston Smith in 1984 finally gave in when he saw the rats; worse, he begged that the rats be sent to gnaw on the face of the person he loved most. It was recorded that during the Ukrainian famine perpetuated by Stalin and his Jewish communist henchmen, parents driven to mad hunger even killed and ate their own children. That is the awesome force of pain, and those who know the truth of pain don’t talk so big. Nazi soldiers who went to battle as if they were god-heroes were, in the end, crushed by the god of pain; when Germans lost the war, they shuddered like scared rats and begged for mercy. Japanese samurai caste created a cult of pain whereby warriors were supposed to be utterly impervious to pain; there was even the ritual suicide known as Seppuku where a disgraced samurai was supposed to redeem himself by unflinchingly ripping his abdomen open and making the guts spill out without showing any sign of pain. Such cult of pain instilled into Japanese social mythology foolishly convinced many Japanese that they could withstand any amount of pain and suffering in WWII for the spiritual honor of Japan. It was if all of Japan would commit a collective seppuku and die with honor—thus gaining entry into a kind of Yamato Valhalla—than surrender to the barbaric Americans. Alas, Japan in the end surrendered to the god of pain. Japanese, who thought they had utterly mastered and gained control over pain, surrendered because they couldn’t take the pain anymore. Similarly, whites in America, fearful of psychological pain controlled by Jews and physical pain meted out by Negroes, have surrendered like wimps to the new politically correct order. Anyway, Jesus well understood the contradiction with Jewish spirituality when it came to pain. Was spirituality about acceptance of pain or deliverance of pain? Or paradoxically, could one be delivered from pain only by accepting pain? Spirituality, by transcending the realm of the flesh, seemed to offer alleviation from pain. For instance, a sick person might find peace of mind through prayer. But what if spirituality was confronted by the challenge of the flesh? What if a devout person were given the choice of remaining faithful to God or being tortured in the most horrendous way possible? What was stronger? Spiritual will or fleshly torment? People prayed to God to be delivered from pain, but what if they were put to the test where they had to suffer great pain to prove their loyalty to God? Christianity is a cult of pain. Its great appeal owes to the fact that (1) Jesus absorbed a lot of pain (2) did so voluntarily (3) played His strings right to the end (4) did it for the sake of mankind (5) triumphed over His flesh and reunited with His Father (6) returned to earth to forgive mankind and to urge His Disciples to spread the message. He triumphed over pain. To be sure, there is an odd relation between spirituality and pleasure as well. In Greek mythology there is the god Bacchus as well as many others associated with having a good time. And there is the story of King Solomon and his ostentatious court. The Genesis says Eden was a pleasurable place before Adam and Eve sinned. And Jesus sometimes seems to have a decent entertainer of sorts before large crowds—like many self-help gurus are today. But, pleasure—especially the kind peddled by the current consumer culture—is a great enemy of spirituality. Essentially Afro-pagan, sexual, irreverent, and/or macho in nature, modern consumer culture is about the pleasure of the flesh over all else; if there is a spiritual element, it boils down to sensuality = spirituality. As more people become hooked/addicted to this kind of instant gratification culture, there is bound to be a decline in true spirituality. If anything, it seems like many churches are trying to survive or thrive by appealing to base immature emotions of the consumerist masses.) Jesus’s social message must have been infuriating to many poor people who wanted a better life in this world. But for many—especially the diseased, women, old folks, children, etc—who thought they had no chance of winning in this world under any circumstance, Christianity had a great therapeutic value. What if their poverty and miserable lot weren’t for naught? What if the ultimate vengeance was really with the Lord? What if the poor and virtuous could indeed gain entry into the eternal Kingdom of Heaven? As the faith spread, the elites grew increasingly alarmed. It was like a SPIRITUAL slave rebellion or civil disobedience. Under Christian teachings, most poor converts didn’t rebel violently—though some radical Christian sects did preach and practice violence—, but they seemed to be growing increasingly disassociated from the official culture and values long established and institutionalized by the pagan rulers. Instead of a slave rebellion that sought to burn down the system, it was more like widening and deepening ocean that seemed to erode the moral, spiritual, and political authority of the Roman elites. It was as if the world of Rome was changing without the approval of Roman authority. Also, Roman power across a vast empire had been maintained by a certain divide-and-rule strategy among diverse peoples of various faiths, cultures, and values. If Christianity were to spread, the masses would be united by one faith and one God. Romans had never insisted that everyone in the Roman empire worship Roman gods, and it had been to their political advantage to have so many different people worship different gods. With so many gods, how could the diverse masses form a united challenge to Rome. Christianity was a different phenomenon altogether. Though Romans had fierce problems with Jews, at least Jews comprised one tribe among many. Christianity dared to spread the idea of one God to all non-Jews. Paradoxically, the pacifism of the Christians proved a bigger challenge to Romans than had Christians been overtly violent and preached slave revolt. If Christians had called for violence, it would have given the Romans the justification to crack down on them. But since Christians spoke of peace and love, Romans didn’t know what to do with them. Christianity posed a mortal threat to the Roman social, political, and spiritual order, but Christians gave no cause for Romans to attack them. (Same was true of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. Since blacks preached brotherly love and peace, whites who felt threatened by the rise of black power didn’t know what to do. For many white people, it would have been more welcome if most blacks had took up the banner of Nation of Islam and called for race war. That would have given white society every justification to kick black ass and send the Negro back to Africa. Enemy who comes in peace could be more dangerous.) Of course, Romans did periodically attack the Christians, but since Christians preached and mostly practiced love, it made the Romans look bad. It’s one thing to beat down a violent slave rebellion; it’s quite another to feed saphead Christians to lions—if such things really happened.
Part of the reason for early Christians’ reaching out to the poor—the weak and meek—had something to do with Christian Prophecy. Jesus had spoken of the End of Times when He would be resurrected and the world would come to an end, after which a new world of saved souls would replace the old rotten one. Though Christianity is called the religion of brotherly love, a key part of its appeal owes to its promise of delayed violence. Though Christianity instructs the faithful to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love thy enemy’, this is acceptable to many Christians only because of their conviction that the Lord will eventually punish sinners against the Lord and His followers. Christians could afford a peace of mind because all debts would be settled in the afterlife where bad people would get their just desserts. Evil folks with great power in this world would, in the next, burn in Hell for all eternity. Of course, evil people who repent and come to Jesus would be forgiven by God, but they must atone for their sins by passing through purgatory of ghastly torments. To the extent that early Christians believed the End of Times to be imminent, they found emotional fulfilment in reaching out to the weak and meek who would prevail and inherit the earth as Jesus had promised. It wouldn’t be long before Jesus returned from Heaven and saved the weak-and-meek virtuous and punished the wicked and rotten—just as Moses had returned to Egypt to lead his people into the Promised Land. (According to Christian mythology, there are two comings of Jesus. The first coming is as an instruction and warning. Instead of coming as a mighty Messiah to punish the wicked, He would suffer for mankind’s sins and show the right path to salvation. Having given mankind a break the first time—and even having sacrificed Himself—, He would wait awhile for mankind to do the right thing. But when He returns the second time, it would be as the mighty warrior Messiah who would unleash ruthless power to destroy the wicked. This is an echo of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In that story, God, disgusted with the faggots, figures to destroy the entire city, but Abram asks God to give the city a chance; maybe not everyone is wicked or faggoty. So, God delays His punishment and allows some good folks to escape before He destroys all the fruiters and gay agenda folks. There is some of this in the earlier story of Noah. God is so angry with all the wicked morons of the earth that He figures to drown everyone. But He’s gotta admit Noah and his family are swell folks, kinda like the Waltons surrounded by a bunch of NY liberals and San Fran fairies. So, instead of sending the flood down right away, God gives good people a chance to build an ark and save themselves. But most people laugh at Noah and mock God, and so they down when the flood finally comes. Similarly, Jesus’s message of love and peace is only conditional. He came to earth and sacrificed Himself to give mankind a chance to follow the righteous path. But that’s not the end of the story. He will return one day to check who did the homework and who didn’t. Those who didn’t aren’t merely going to be sent to the corner with a dunce cap but beaten to a pulp and killed. So, Christianity is both a religion of delayed reward and delayed punishment. It says, “don’t expect to be rewarded right away; suffer meekly on earth but win a ticket to Heaven”, but it also says, “you may think you have it good now and it’s all gonna be hunky dory, but just wait til Jesus returns to pulverize you real good.”)
But the problem is the End of Times never came. Every portent proved to be impotent.
Without Jesus reappearing to save the swelling number of weak-n-meek Christians and destroy the wicked, it dawned on Christian leaders that they were indeed stuck on this earth, at least for the foreseeable future. They could appeal to all the weak-n-meek in the world and pray all they wanted, but there seemed to be no salvation. The fact was they were gonna remain powerless as people, persecuted, and maybe even fed to lions—if such things really happened. The fact of the matter was that most weak-n-meek lacked the wits, will, intelligence, insight, skills, knowledge, and talent to gain power. The weak-n-meek, even when swelling in numbers, could not change society. Most people, especially the dumb poor, don’t have the vision thing. (Compare the power of secular Jews in America with that of the masses of Evangelical dummies in the South.) Christian leaders found themselves surrounded by dumb masses who clung to them like children. Christian promises of End of Times were never fulfilled. Christian leaders felt burdened with great responsibility, but their spiritual ideology of appealing to the weak-n-meek didn’t go anywhere in terms of real power. There was no deliverance from anything. Worse, persecutions sometimes got worse, and the fact was even courageous Christians didn’t want to be fed to lions—if such things really happened. Since Christian leaders had preached to their followers to lay down their weapons and embrace peace, they couldn’t rely on their flock for protection either when the Romans decided to arrest and punish the leaders.
So, Christian leaders began to appeal to the pagan elites. Moral victory by appealing to weak and meek was not enough. Political victory by appealing to powerful and rich was necessary.
Moral victory was no longer satisfactory for Christian leaders—not least because leaders of any ideology or movement thirst for power; after all, power is inherent in the idea of leadership. Political victory by appealing to the rich and powerful became the next priority. Christian leaders made a case to the pagan elites that Christianity wasn't necessarily against their power. After all, Jesus told people to be humble and not rise up against worldly authority. After all, Jesus’s message was to love everyone. Besides, the pagan elites, by adopting Christianity, could gain moral influence and sway over masses of people. Might not an empire where the elites shared the same faith with the masses be more powerful, stable, and secure? And might it not be easier to control the masses if the rulers could own the religion that held sway over so many people?
Just as Jesus was the fusion of Heaven-world of God and Earth-world of man, Christianity could serve as a spiritual and political fusion of—or bridge between—the elites and the masses. If such a unity could be effected, it would no longer be a case of elites ruling over masses through force, fear, and power—which all too often were expensive and unstable—but elites serving as the moral representatives and defenders of the meek masses.
If Rome at the time had been small and weak, Christianity’s appeal may have been limited. Instead, the Roman Empire was vast and confident, and most Roman elites thought their great empire would last forever. Though the pacifism of Christianity was troublesome to Roman elites as an affront to the martial spirit/cult that made the Roman empire possible, some members of the elite began to have different ideas. Confident in Roman might and imperial reach, their main concern turned away from further conquests and focused on how to maintain the vast empire as it stood. Christianity’s promise of the moral and spiritual unity of the rulers and ruled across the entire empire appealed to increasing numbers of elites. Maybe Christianity could be used after all if Christian leaders changed their tune and politically appealed to than morally/spiritually preached against the rich and powerful. In the new bargain, Christian leadership, as official priests of the empire, would serve as spiritual middlemen or diplomats between the powerful and powerless. It would be a form of spiritual fascism. (Fascism, unlike communism, didn’t call on the masses to overthrow the elites. Rather, it served as a political, economic, and cultural middleman between the elites and the masses, between the secular and spiritual forces. It negotiated between the elites who insisted on hierarchy and the masses who demanded basic rights and legal protections, as well as the opportunity to make the social climb according to merit.)
Christianity had gained moral righteousness by first appealing to the victims of the world. Though politically powerless, it had accumulated a great amount of moral capital. New Christianity then gained socio-political power by 'selling' this moral capital to elite rulers. Christian leaders offered a deal to the elites, “look, we have all this moral capital accrued through centuries of virtuous suffering—not least under your rule—, but you rich and powerful folks can own this moral capital for a price.” The bargain was that the Christian leaders would accept and even bless the hierarchy of the existing political order, and, in exchange, the political/economic elites would promote Christian leaders/priests and hand them power over cultural affairs. (The bargain between the Saudi royal family and the Wahabi clergy isn’t much different.)
Christian leaders had first accrued moral capital by appealing to the poor who suffered in the name of higher justice preached by Jesus. Eventually, Christian leaders made available their moral enterprise as IPO to elites to invest in and profit from by gaining a controlling stake in the great mass movement. With the decaying of Roman social order under vulgar excesses of paganism, Roman elites may have welcomed this bargain as a chance of strengthening unity with the empire both vertically and horizontally. Though Gibbons blamed Christianity for the fall of Rome, it could be Romans took to Christianity because social and moral decline within the empire was becoming more palpable by the day. Though Christianity couldn’t stave off the fall of Rome, it came to serve as the foundation of the new order.
The ideology and the politics of Christianity began to diverge when Christian leaders made the fateful decision to appeal to the elites and not just to the weak-n-meek. And they didn’t appeal to the rich and powerful just to be tolerated and spared from persecution but to gain entry into the circle of influence and privilege. Strictly in an ideological sense, this was the fatal compromise, the betrayal of the true teachings of Jesus. Politically, it was a stroke of genius and lay the ground for the emergence of the most powerful, wealthiest, and influential civilization the world would come to know.
The rise of Christian power owes to the betrayal of Christine ideals. Yet, for there to be a betrayal, there first had to be a long period of earnest practice. If Christians from the very start had appealed to the elites, they would have accrued no moral capital borne of noble suffering, persecution, hardships, and selfless commitment. Generations of Christians had to suffer for there to arise the cult of Christian martyrdom. Only thus could later Christian leaders have something to package and offer to the powers-that-be. The great irony of this is, of course, the Christian leaders sold to the pagan elites what the latter had unwittingly created. By having persecuted Christians for many generations, Romans created the cult of Christian sainthood. Since Romans had carried out the ‘evil’ deeds, the moral capital of Christian sainthood should have been anti-Roman. Yet, it was packaged into something that was appealing to the Romans: the promise of Christianity said (1) Christians, in their commitment to pacifism, would never lead a vengeful slave revolt against Roman authority—at least theoretically (2) Jesus forgives all, and if Romans were to adopt Christianity, they too would be forgiven. Better yet, as powerful representatives of Christianity, they would effectively own the cult of Jesus that has growing appeal to people throughout the empire (3) Christianity would form a bond of affection between elites and the masses; such might be more effective than a bond based on fear and endless bread-n-circuses, which were proving expensive (4) Christian leaders cleverly manipulated the narrative whereby Jews, rather than Romans, became the main culprits in the killing of the Christ. So, a religion that had its beginning as a kind of rebellion against Roman authority—albeit in a pacifistic form—turned into something of great appeal to the Romans. (But, Romans hadn’t yet learned to use it properly and, besides, the decay at the empire’s core was far too serious for any new movement or ideology to reverse. The cancerous tumor had grown too large, and Roman resources were too dispersed throughout the empire for Romans to remove the biggest tumor at the center.) There is something of a parallel in what was done with the historical narratives of Jewish and Negro suffering in the West. Centuries of ‘antisemitism’ against the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, have filled the Jewish moral coffer with boundless capital. And the history of slavery and discrimination against blacks in America have filled blacks with lots of moral capital. Since Jews and blacks don’t have the numbers or power to outright overthrow white gentile society, they packaged their narrative-of-suffering myth as IPO for the white community to buy a stake in. Thus, by investing in Holocaustianity, the West too could feel holy-shmoly and morally empowered—ironically in the shame of having persecuted Jews. (Though Europeans carried out the Holocaust, they are now accusing Arabs of antisemitism, not least because Europeans feel themselves absolved of Jewicide via their worship of Holocaustianity.) There is a double-edged aspect to this. Europeans may wail about how they’re filled with historical guilt and shame, but this is also used as a kind of moral superiority, i.e, they are better than other people because they are so filled with remorse. Because Europeans killed Jews and now worship the Jews as atonement, it’s as though that makes them morally superior to Arabs or Chinese who, not having killed a whole bunch of Jews, have no reason to apologize and atone for ‘antisemitism’, thereby no reason to worship Holocaustianity. The moral logic is all very perverse.
Anyway, the crucial fact is it’s more the cult of remorse than real remorse. With this perversely earned moral capital, the West bombs nations in the Middle East in the name of ‘human rights’. Europeans, because they killed Jews and then atoned for their great sin, have the moral right to bomb and kill those who don’t worship Holocaustianity. Via Holocaustianity, it’s also as if Europeans have been partly absolved of their ‘historical guilt of imperialism’. By invoking Jew-worship and by heeding the advice of Jews like Bernard-Henri Strauss, they feel free to attack and invade nations that were their former colonies—of course, not in the name of national glory or profit but in the name of ‘humanitarian mission’.
Similarly, American whites, having bought the MLK myth—the moral capital of Negro suffering packaged into a sellable object—, feel they are morally superior to everyone else around the world. And via the King cult, it’s as though whites have been absolved of the ‘genocide’ of the American-Indians, mistreatment of Irish Catholics, exploitation of Chinese immigrant railroad workers, and lots of other abuses. Via King worship, the only suffering that matters in America is black suffering, but even a white person can own a part of that suffering—in the packaged form of noble ‘progressive’ guilt—if one chooses to invest, morally and financially, into the King myth. Thus, Ken Burns, the PBS liberal, wept like pussyboy when his daughter read the line of the Gettysburg address on Christmas and then told the whole world about it. I’m sure he pees in his pants when he listens to the hokum melodrama of King’s speeches. Anyway, here is a white boy who has turned ‘white guilt’ into a kind of pride and power. Since he’s so full of guilt and love for the suffering Negro, he personally feels entitled to more power, privilege, and influence for himself. Though there are so many better documentarians than pussyboy Burns, he’s been chosen to hog the PBS spotlight.
But, it’s not just liberals. During the 2000s, Bush and the neocons invoked the history of American civil rights and all that to justify the flexing of American muscle power around the world. The lesson taken from America’s past history of racial oppression is not “white people shouldn’t use their superior military might to bomb and destroy non-white nations” but “America’s redemption from its historical guilt justifies—indeed obligates—it to smash evil all around the world.” A similar logic was behind American involvement in the Vietnam War. Now, this isn’t to ridicule the notion that America can use its power to make the world a better place. After all, who can deny that US did much good around the world in and after WWII? Maybe it was hypocritical of a nation built on conquest and imperialism(and practiced racial discrimination) to be lecturing Japan about the evil of naked aggression, but US in 1945 was not US in 1845, and Japan did gain much from US power, example, and influence. Things change.
Even so, it’s interesting how something that might be an object of shame could be packaged and turned into an object of pride to justify further aggression and power.
Though it would be wrong to say pure cynicism animates the West concern for human rights, it seems human rights is more a tool of politics than principles in the West. After all, why were most American and European leaders silent about Israel’s massive attack on Gaza but sent NATO forces to smash Gaddafi in the name of saving civilians?
There is an element of sincerity in the West’s commitment to human rights; there are advisers, thinkers, and officials in the West who push for greater intervention out of a genuine concern for oppressed peoples around the world; they also see it as a means by which West can redeem its history of imperialism and justify its dominance in globalism. But conscious sincerity doesn’t necessarily mean there doesn’t lurk subconscious motives and impulses such as sublimated power-lust, narcissism, aggressiveness, and self-aggrandizement. This is no less true of celebrities such as Bono, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Richard Gere. They seem to be sincere on the conscious level, but there’s something queasy about their self-promotion as the Conscience-of-the-World. And they are sometimes used by politicians as posterboys for interventionism. Generally, ideals serve power than the other way around.
In the end, this fusion of neo-imperialism and neo-moralism may be the undoing of the West. Perhaps the problem faced by the Roman empire once it converted to Christianity was similar. Having adopted Christianity, the empire sought to conceive and practice a humane form of imperialism that proved not only to be more costly but more likely to open Rome to accusations of hypocrisy. Prior to the Christianization of Rome, there was no mistaking, on part of both Romans and the conquered, what the nature of Roman imperialism was. It was to dominate and control. Though Romans could be magnanimous to those who submitted to Roman rule, the imperial mission was understood and practiced with ruthless clarity. Romans felt no compunction about enslaving or killing any number of people to expand and maintain their empire. If Romans had to kill a thousand on the spot, they did. If they had to starve thousands to death, so be it. And Romans felt no remorse for what they did.
Though Christian Romans could be just as brutal as pagan Romans, the ideology of Christianity did have the effect of burdening Romans with moral responsibilities. Humane imperialism can be more expensive and burdensome than naked imperialism. It was more costly for Americans to control South Vietnam than for Nazis to rule over Poles. Nazis, true to their ideology, treated Poles like dirt and mercilessly used them as slaves who worked for a pittance so that Germans could live well. Though Americans could be brutal to the Vietnamese, Christian anti-communist America felt the obligation to pump lots of cash into Vietnam to do ‘good work’. Iraq War has been extremely expensive for the same reason. If in the 60s, America could afford the war in Vietnam, things were different in the 2000s when the Iraq War, though more limited than the Vietnam War, cost a lot more, even adjusting for inflation. America, with its new self-image as an improved nation, felt obligated to spend more on rebuilding Iraq and in the provisions for its soldiers, who were provided with gourmet food and the like. (Given the nature of soldiering—the possibility of sacrificing life and limb for one’s country—, men in the military should be provided for generously BUT as it pertains to military life and culture. It’s one thing to treat military men as humans and heroes, but it’s quite another to treat them like television game show contestants showered with prizes. Offering lobster tales at lunches and providing free plastic surgery trivializes the meaning of what it means to be a soldier. It also trivializes war as kind of club med vacation. There is no honor in treating soldiers like little children sitting at the lap of Santa doling our gifts and candies. The role and purpose of the military is basic and spartan. Soldiers should be provided with things in amounts no more and no less than what is necessary for military duty and service. No one should join the military to live or get a taste of the good life. It cheapen the whole meaning of noble sacrifice for the country. Firemen also lay their lives down on the line, but does that mean we should shower them with widescreen LCD Tv’s and free Viagra? The idea that soldiers deserve our support has been debased by the policy of providing soldiers with things that have nothing whatsoever to do with military service. It also produces a smarmy entitlementality among soldiers. A soldier chomping on caviar at the mess hall in Iraq or getting free plastic surgery is likely to snidely feel that he deserves such rewards because he volunteered to be a hero for the nation. If a soldier returns disfigured from war, by all means provide him with all the plastic surgery to restore his face or limbs. But when the military pays for plastic surgery for reasons of vanity among soldiers who hadn’t even seen combat, it cheapens the whole idea of service. A soldier then no longer becomes someone who signed up out of love of country but as someone who expects to be loved and feted because he signed up for the military. As a result, what we have now is more a mercenary force than a military force. This isn’t to say there aren’t honorable men in the military as many people sign up to serve just like the soldiers of old. But the official policy has become politicized, consumerized, and trivialized, and it’s no wonder that the military now welcomes openly gay people, and it won’t be long before transvestites are also allowed to march around cross-dressed. I suppose, given the fact that most Americans, especially politicians and their children, don’t serve in the military, offering all manner of candies and prizes to soldiers has therapeutic value to us as a nation. Since we and our children don’t die in wars that we either support or don’t oppose—as we are too busy glued to the TV or internet—, there’s bound to be an element of guilt, again especially among politicians. So, we solve this emotional crisis by over-compensating military men with all manner of candies and prizes.) Globalist neo-imperialism is far more costly than imperialism of old. Burdened with moralism, it must pay the price of ‘good works’ to justify the expansion of influence. And since the promise of neo-imperialism is to raise the living standards around the world to the level of the West, the West feels obligated to open its markets to so-called ‘developing nations’. If those nations succeed—as several have in East Asia—, it leads to the problem of trade imbalances between us and them. If they fail to develop functional economies—as in most of Africa—, they come to rely on ever increasing amounts of Western aid. Think of the trillions of dollars sunk into the toilet bowl of Africa.
Also, despite the moral sanctimony of the West when it comes to ‘human rights’, most of us, from high to low, have become more narcissistic, self-centered, trivial, and silly. What can we say of a civilization where the big moral issues are ‘transgender rights’ and ‘slut walk parades’? On Facebook and other social networking sites, interest in foreign policy amounts to little more than Bono-like self-aggrandizement. People ‘support’ certain stories and images because it gives them an Oprah-like high. If you click ‘like’ for a certain story, it means you are so caring and morally superior, and that gives you the right to enjoy Lady Gaga videos and gossip with less guilt; after all, you showed how much you care by clicking ‘like’ on some story about the mistreatment of a Chinese artist by the authorities. The insufferably self-righteous Nicholas Kristof of NY Times is the perfect representative of the moral triteness of most Americans. Though NPR covers many subjects, the main appeal is not so much the stories themselves but “I am so sophisticated and wonderful because I listen to this ‘intelligent’ radio program while others listen to ‘talk radio’.” It reeks of haute-hip self-regard. There is a lot of Air of caring, intelligence, and erudition on NPR, but it’s really a status product, and as such, has no room for the kind of news and views that might truly upset the dominant paradigm. NPR, for all its conceit of independence, is a mouthpiece for the established elites of America, especially the liberal Jewish community. Notice there’s hardly any discussion of Jewish power, especially as it pertains to the foulness of Hollywood, porn, music industry, big pharma, Wall Street, big media, and foreign policy. If anything NPR is simply another Jewish tool in big media. NPR serves as a cover for ‘independent reporting’ when all it really serves is the liberal Jewish elite’s agenda. Even the stories that are critical of Israel really amount to little more than hokum that peace isn’t possible because of the collusion of far right Likudites and American Christian Zionists when, in fact, Israel has been firmly in the hands of secular Zionists from its founding. By focusing on the extreme elements in the Likud and Christian Zionists like George W. Bush, NPR’s hope is that as many listeners as possible will be distracted from the bigger truth that the oppression and dispossession of Palestinians had been firmly established long before right-wing elements in Israel gained power in government. I mean what’s the big difference between the policies of Golda Meir or Netanhayu? Another thing NPR refuses to explore is the Jewish use of Obama. Americans, turned trivial and stupid by decades of celebrity culture and rampant consumer-materialism fed to them by the Jewish-controlled media, do not think politically or morally when they see or listen to Obama. For many Americans, he is simply the One because Oprah said so. The ridiculous cult of Oprah/Obama also can be understood only within the context of our trivialist celebrity culture. As all American know, the Official Oprah doesn’t stand for anything. Her shtick has been to play it black, white, spiritual, materialist, selfish, generous, etc. She is something for everyone, which means she isn’t much of anything at all. So, how did this one-woman-world-buffet-of-trivialities become the reigning spiritual queen of America? Because America has turned into a nation of dummies. The rise of clowns like Rick Warren owes to the same love for mushy trivialities. Since so many Americans feel comfortable and safe with ‘charismatic’ Obama at the helm, there is no need to think about what he’s really doing. (But such complacency has its roots in the Reagan era too. With the Teflon President at the national leader who made everyone feel safe and proud, there was no need to think or worry about what was really happening here or anywhere else for that matter.) Because Obama is black, he is even more useful for the Zionists. When Bush invaded Iraq, ‘progressives’ could spin the narrative of ‘Yankee cowboy attacks people of color’. But what’s likely to happen if US were to enter into war with Iran with Obama at the helm? Since he’s a ‘progressive black guy’, how many liberals and leftists will march against him? And haven’t they all been raised from childhood to believe that white people have no right to condemn any black person—unless he happens to be a black conservative? (White liberals, though so sensitive to blacks in general, can be brutal about black conservatives. The reasons are generally five-fold. One is the seeming lack of gratitude on the part of black conservative for white liberal do-goodery. Secondly, white liberals are trying to exorcise the spirit of the uncle tom. From the perspective of today, old liberalism that had stressed ‘blacks-as-credit-to-their-race’ is not only seen as passe but condescending and ‘racist’. Since the rise of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and MLK, the new narrative is blacks have nothing to prove since they are actually superior to lame bland whites in areas of masculinity, musicality, sexuality, charisma, and soulfulness. White people should try to emulate the Great Negro instead of the Negro trying to fit into white society. Since black conservatives insist on blacks adhering to white middle class values, they are nothing but uncle toms. But there are inner contradictions within liberalism. Though the ‘uncle tom’ is out, the Magic Negro myth—which explains the success of movies such as SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and GREEN MILE—is bigger than ever. The Magic Negro is a kind of ‘uncle tom’, but the difference is he’s imbued with some kind of spiritual power, and this makes him higher than the white man, indeed a folkish messianic figure who can redeem the white man. And it is interesting that white liberals, who have long scoffed at oreos or blacks-trying-to-be-white and have promoted ‘authentic’ blacks, finally settle for Obama, very much a representative of the ‘clean-cut’-Negro-as-a-credit-to-his-own-race archetype. Perhaps the fact that Obama is the product of a black man porking a white woman and that he used to dilly-dally with some radical types in college made him more palatable to ‘progressives’ than had he been the product of a long line of respectable bourgeois black families. The third reason for the liberal white animosity against black conservatives is it offers liberals an opportunity to show that they are not automatically slavish to all blacks. By harshly beating up on black conservatives, white liberals demonstrate that they are not all about race but more about ideology, or right vs wrong. After all, if white liberals are knee-jerk sympathizers with all blacks, how could they be so vicious to black conservatives? Fourth reason for white liberal animosity toward black conservatives has to do with the fact that black conservatives possess the moral right and biographical justification to counter claims made by white liberals that black failure is all due to white ‘racism’. Black conservatives, by detailing the failure within the black community and discussing the realities of racial differences, can put forth arguments that white conservatives aren’t allowed to. Thus, black conservative argument seems to carry more clout, and this irks white liberals, not least because much of white liberal pride is based on their greater sympathy for the Negro than shown by white conservatives. Related to the fourth, the fifth reason is white liberals fear that black conservatives will give moral credence to white ‘racists’ who are seen by white liberals as the source of all evil in the world.)
The idea of Jesus as the Son of God wasn’t, in and of itself, hardly original in the history of mythology and religion. Many primitive religions conflate certain great man with godly powers or with god himself. There are many stories in Greek mythology where someone is the child of god and human. There developed the myth of the pharaoh as the son of the god Ra during certain dynasties. Japanese long believed that the imperial family was directly descended from gods.
But in most of these stories, the god-man is either associated with great feats of heroism or with the power of elites. Pharaohs invoked divinity not to be one with the people but to remain above them. The imperial family in Japan was careful to maintain mythic layers of social barrier between themselves and the people. Though a half-god figure like Achilles did live and fight amongst men, he was obsessed with his own superiority and ignored the company of most Greeks. Petulant in his self-absorption and self-importance, he even refused to fight for a long stretch even as Greeks were facing almost certain defeat.
Jesus was a different kind of god-man because from the very beginning, He mingled with the people. He kissed the babies of the unwashed masses. Religious scholars debate as to whether Jesus Himself insisted that He was the Son of God. Scholars of ancient languages say the term ‘virgin’ in the New Testament may originally have meant ‘young woman’. So, I don’t know much about the historical Jesus. But Jesus of the Christian mythology is said to be the Son of God who had no interest in worldly power and/or narcissistic feats of heroism(as shown by Heracles). Rather, He touched, literally and spiritually, the lives of the mostly poor people all around Him. He opened up the possibility of divine force that is accessible to the people: God of the people. Though there were all kinds of pagan gods, they were generally synonymous with the powerful and/or the powers-that-be. Even if the rulers were not conflated with the gods themselves(as in Ancient Egypt), rulers were seen as god-like and gods were seen as ruler-like. Thus, a Roman emperor was like Jupiter on earth and Jupiter was like a Roman emperor in the spirit world. Though some gods and goddesses represented aspect of life familiar or central to the lives of ordinary people, there remained a chilly distance between the divine ideal and human imperfection. Thus, Hera wasn’t simply the goddess of motherhood but the embodiment of ultimate motherhood—rather hard to believe given her impetuous ways. Aphrodite wasn’t just the goddess of love but the most beautiful and perfect embodiment of sensual/sexual love. Even as embodiments of aspects of human life, gods and goddesses were ideals than a figure who could touched and felt by man—that is unless some horny pagan god decided to make love to some babe.
In contrast, Jesus couldn’t only be seen by man but rubbed shoulders with mankind. Some pagan gods were purely imaginary, such as Zeus and Athena. Some pagan gods were fusion of man and god, like the pharaohs who were believed to be the actual incarnations of gods. Thus, a pharaoh wasn’t just the son or emissary of Horus but Horus in flesh himself. Some pagan gods were said to be descendants of gods, like the long line of Japanese imperial family. Imaginary gods were unassailable since they didn’t exist in reality. They were immortal at least to the extent that people continued to remember and honor them.
In contrast, humans-as-gods faced a huge problem. Since they were human but claimed to have divine powers, they had to be shielded from the masses. The whole edifice built on the myth of the mighty god-king could crumble if the masses realized that the pharaoh wore no clothes.
Perhaps the most famous example of this was the Emperor Hirohito of Japan being exposed as little more than a nerdy Tokyo shoeshine boy for General McCarthur right after WWII. Since god-humans were wrapped in the myth of superhuman greatness, their power would evaporate along with the myth were it to be exposed as a lie.
Fearing the revelation of their phoniness, god-kings became ever more paranoid of or distant from the people and reality. In time, the myth became bigger than their own power, and those who controlled the myth came to control the real power. During many periods in Egypt, the power was less in the hands of the pharaohs than in the circle around them who controlled the myth of the pharaoh-as-god. All through Japanese history, the imperial family’s grip on power was tenuous at best and even non-existent for long stretches. Since their source of legitimacy was mythic and since the mythic can destroyed if exposed to reality, the imperial family had to be sealed and cocooned from reality(like the Boy in the Plastic Bubble who had no immunity against germs), which came to be dominated by military rulers.
Anyway, if one were born to power/privilege and had the means to shroud oneself in the myth of divinity, there was the confluence of desire(for power and privilege) and the means(to protect and safeguard one’s lofty position). But what if one were born with a megalomaniacal personality into a humble family? That was the predicament of Jesus. He wanted to be god-like but had no means to shroud Himself in myth. Though the Bible tells us that Jesus rejected worldly power offered to Him by Satan, in fact the historical Jesus merely rejected something that He was in no position to reject it since His position in life was rather low. Any poor person can say, “I reject the presidency of the United States and a billion dollars.” There was no way a carpenter in some corner of the mighty Roman empire could gain any real power. Jesus rejected what He couldn’t have in the first place. So, it’s more accurate to say He sought to conquer the soul of man because He couldn’t conquer the world of man. Had Jesus been born to power and privilege, He might have been a very different person.
Even so, it would be misleading to say Jesus was only out for power and settled for spiritual power since material power was beyond His reach. Rather, Jesus was born with both megalomania and a very compassionate heart. He was sincerely concerned with the well-being of mankind, and this made Him more sensitive to injustice than most people were. People with such mixed personalities tend to be especially noble or especially dangerous or both. Leon Trotsky had a somewhat similar personality. As a youth, he was moved to tears by the sight of poor peasants toiling on his father’s farm. His sensitivity to the suffering of man made him utterly intolerant of injustice, but such intolerance paradoxically blinded him to all the bloody excesses of the revolution. In his commitment to wage war on injustice, he failed to realize how much injustice was committed by his side in the name of building heaven on earth. You can see some of this characteristic in the film A PERFECT WORLD (directed by Clint Eastwood). Kevin Costner’s character seems to have some dark secret involving child abuse, and he is deeply sensitive about children abused by adults; but this concern is so extreme that he murders whom he deems to be ‘bad’ adults.
While some people have more or less one dominant kind of personality, some people have plural-personalities—which is not to be confused with the psychological disorder of having multiple personalities. A plural-personality person has two or more seemingly contradictory personalities vying for mastery within his soul, and the problem is that no single personality is dominant over others. Jesus seemed to have been genuinely megalomaniacal and genuinely humble/compassionate. The iconography of Christianity that would have as the King of Kings a carpenter who didn’t conquer or rule over a single province(and was indeed beaten and crucified) is a vast projection of the problem of Jesus’s plural-personality. This problem has been rife with all sorts of moral, spiritual, and political questions that haven’t been—and will never be—satisfactorily resolved, but used creatively and imaginatively it offered the possibility of creating and building a whole new kind of social and moral order. Just as steel isn’t simply iron but an alloy of various elements combined through certain processes, Christianity gained characteristics and advantages—and to be sure, some disadvantages—lacking in other religions by its plural-personality-ness. Christianity not only bridged the Hebraic and Hellenic, not only the politically powerful and the socially powerless, but also the megalomaniacal personality(aka will to power) with the selfless/compassionate personality. Even at its most intolerant, purist, and puritanical, Christianity is an amalgamation of various opposing forces that makes it rich object for inquiry and a creative base for new ideas.
Anyway, since Jesus couldn’t conquer the world of man, He went for the soul of man. Since He could not be god-king atop the tower representing lordly power, He created the new concept of god-king with and for the people. He was not a god looking down on man but a God rubbing shoulders with man. The danger, of course, is that a god-man without worldly power is vulnerable to worldly threats and dangers and to the germs of reality(with the tendency to infect and destroy all mythic claims). A pharaoh sitting in his palace was safe from the mob, and besides he controlled the power of the state. Jesus, in contrast, was at the mercy of state power controlled by Jewish Rabbis and the Romans who could use the reality-test to expose Him as a fraud before the people. And Jesus was helpless against the mob if they were to decide to beat Him up. So, how could He be a god-man when His supposedly divine powers could easily be exposed as fake? There had been rumors of Jesus going around and healing the sick and performing all sorts of miracles. But when Pilate asked Him to demonstrate His supposedly miraculous powers, Jesus couldn’t a single one. Being a smart Jew, He came up with a pretty good explanation about it being wrong to use the Lord’s power in vain or some such. Without the institutional power to shroud Himself in the myth of divinity, Jesus was exposed as a fraud and then whipped and crucified, against which He seemed utterly helpless. And yet, being the brilliant Jew that He was, Jesus saw the advantage of this persecution; He understood how His defeat and humiliation could be reversed and turned into proof of His divinity. (To be sure, maybe He intended no such thing, and it was the crafty Saul-Paul and other reform Jews who later invented the myth of Jesus as Son of God sent to redeem all of mankind and of course the story of His Resurrection.) To the Romans and Jewish priests, the trial, prosecution, and execution of Jesus meant only one thing: He was no Messiah, let alone the Son of God. In fact, He was probably not even a miracle worker and healer as some claimed; His miracles were all probably rumors or fabrications. He was exposed, punished, and killed, and that was that. But events can be read and interpreted in different ways. Christians said Jesus willfully chose to be humiliated and crucified to wash away the sins of man. He suffered to share our pain and to demonstrate nobility even in defeat, thereby gaining spiritual triumph. Indeed, He was sent by God to suffer and die in this world to show the world how to be saved in the next one.
Paradoxically, Jesus’s decision to humbly and helplessly accept punishment and death at the hands of sinful man may actually have been the product of megalomania. Just as some ‘tough guys’ go out of their way to put themselves in dangerous situations to prove that they are more courageous, stronger, bolder, and greater than most people—why else did Cool Hand Luke eat fifty eggs?—, Jesus may have be megalomaniacally obsessed to prove to Himself and the world that He has the will and guts to be the ONLY person to defacto voluntarily choose to be crucified; after all, He didn’t run when He could have. Some of this is intimated in LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. There is Jesus on the cross feeling so much pain that He wants out. And then a creature that looks like an angel comes along and pulls out the nails and takes Him to safety where He can marry Mary Magdalene and have kids and lead a normal life. But then He finds out that Christianity is catching like wildfire despite the fact that He quit the cross for a happy life. He feels like a fraud. For Christianity to be genuinely great religion, it had to have been founded by a genuinely great man, not some ‘coward’. So, He crawls back to the cross and chooses the pain of Crucifixion. He has to prove to Himself and the world that He is indeed the real thing.
There is parallel between the story of Jesus and the story of Christianity. Jesus was born to a common family, mingled with the poor and sick, suffered the travails of man, but then through His suffering, earned entry into the Kingdom of Heaven as the King of Kings. Thus, He bridged the high and low.
Similarly, Christianity began as a humble religion of commoners. Jesus was a carpenter, and Peter, according to the New Testament, was a fisherman. The religion was mainly preached to the poor, the wretched, and the sick. Early Christians suffered much at the hands of Jews and Romans. But through their history of noble suffering, the Christian movement gained a moral capital like no other. As such, it eventually became appealing even to the powers-that-be that were either keen to socially manipulate it or genuinely moved by its teachings, or both. And then, it wasn’t long before it entered the realm of elite power in the Roman world and remained the most powerful socio-cultural(and even political)force until the 20th century when the Western world finally began to shed the authority of the Church. There are lots of lessons to be learned from the history of Christianity in regard to the conceptualization and attainment of power. In this sense, there never was one Christianity. From Jesus’s very example and especially from the inspired creativity of St. Paul, Christianity was largely a game of how one shaped and carved its contours of meaning and used them as spiritual, cultural, political, and psychological instruments to gain control over entire communities.
Consider just one of the many meanings of Christianity: the paradox of moral perfectionism.
Christians say Jesus was the Perfect Man. This doesn’t merely mean that Jesus, as the Son of God, had divine powers or that He was filled with great wisdom. After all, a man of great power and great wisdom could still be imperfect. After all, no one says Socrates, Confucius, or Thomas Jefferson were perfect despite their considerable wisdom.
To say Jesus was a Perfect Man is to go further; it is to say He was MORALLY perfect. (There is no clear division between moral perfection and spiritual perfection in Christianity.) But here’s the contradiction with the Christian concept of moral perfection: We are told Jesus was morally perfect because He forgave those who sinned against Him. So, to be morally perfect is to tolerate and forgive the moral imperfection of others.
This paradox can lead to all sorts of headaches, maybe even a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. No religion demands as much moral perfection as Christianity; but then, this pure form of morality demands that we forgive and love sinners who are filled with imperfections. It’s like telling someone to be absolutely clean so that others can smear their filth on you.
To be sure, Jesus’s injunction to mankind to be forgiving didn’t mean one should abstain from judging. Rather, He forgave precisely because He wanted the right to judge. To be morally perfect means one must forgive others for their sins, but it also means one, being morally superior, has the right to judge others. And indeed Jesus took full note of the sinful foulness of mankind. He did judge them, but He also realized that man, ever since being exiled from Eden, was tainted with the Original Sin—aka the human nature to be aggressive, selfish, cruel, hateful, sadistic, lustful, lazy, stupid, blasphemous, etc.
So, just as a knowing adult must forgive a child who does wrong or a dog that wets the rug, Jesus felt a need to forgive man. Forgiveness, like compassion, implies the moral superiority of the forgiver or giver.
Jesus also understood the necessity of instructing man to walk on the righteous path, just as a parent, though forgiving, teaches his child to act better, and just as a dog owner, though understanding of dog’s nature, trains the dog to take a pee outside.
Jesus also understood that it would be more difficult for man to forgive fellow man since man, in his limited knowledge, lacked the great wisdom of Jesus. An adult may forgive a child, but children often fight with one another. A dog owner may understand a dog, but dogs cannot much understand other dogs and they just bark at one another. Since it was difficult for man to forgive fellow man, God and Jesus were necessary as inspirational and injunction-ary mediums through whom man could find it in themselves to forgive others. If someone does you wrong, you naturally don’t wanna forgive the asshole but wanna crack open his head. But if invokes God and Jesus, one’s forgiveness of the transgressor gains an element of spiritual nobility blessed and appreciated by God and Jesus. Thus, forgiving your fellow man(or woman) under the Christian order isn’t merely decency—which can often make a person feel wimpy and weak—but a psychological form of empowerment. You are, in your goodness, emulating the Son of God after all no less. (The reason why Jews are dangerous is they have no moral/spiritual tradition of atoning for their transgressions against goyim. Jews never ask forgiveness for the evil they did or apologize for all the rotten things they’ve done around the world. Jewish Sacred Texts tell Jews to be good to one another and before God, but there isn’t much about being nice to goyim. The Talmud actually tells Jews to rip off goyim all they want. This is why Christians disliked Jews for many centuries. Jews acted Jewish. Since WWII, Christian West decided to be truly Christian-compassionate toward Jews, but Jews only mock Christians and plot to undermine the entire West for the interests of Jewish Supremacism.)
Anyway, to be morally perfect is to be morally better than others. The danger of moral perfection is it can lead to hubris, which is the enemy of morality, and so the morally perfect must not act highfalutin—like that insufferable jerk St. Mark Hackard of Alternative Right. So, if one is truly morally perfect, one mustn’t make too much of one’s moral perfection. Also, to the extent that a morally elevated man knows most people are morally rather low, he should be understanding towards them instead of looking down on them with contempt and arrogance. Also, morality is not fixed. Even the morally low can be elevated while the morally pure can become corrupt. Thus, pride in moral perfection and loftiness can be dangerous. Thus, one should try to emulate Jesus, but one should never think of one’s elevated morality(if such were indeed attained)to be as fixed as the Northern star. And just as physics taught that nothing can overtake the speed of light—though new theories seem to indicate otherwise—, one should never think one’s morality could be on the same level with the moral perfection of Jesus. Thus, even as we should strive for moral perfection, we must remind ourselves that the conceit of coming close to perfection is a kind of hubris and sin.
Anyway, this fusion of moral perfection and moral imperfection—or the paradoxical notion of moral perfection as the forgiveness of moral imperfection—also served as the basis for new social order. A society that is morally ruthless and unforgiving—like feudal Japan—is likely to remain rigidly hierarchical and stiff; it is an empire of fear and pain.
In contrast, a society that is tolerant of everything—like the decadent & hedonistic world of pagan Rome—is bound to grow lazy, corrupt, and fall apart. The concept of moral perfectionism instills society with the need for discipline, order, and cleanliness. But it reminds us that the world is and will always remain very much an imperfect place, so there needs to be some leeway for the mistakes and foolishness committed by man. People’s heads shouldn’t be chopped off on the spot simply because they didn’t bow—as in the TV series SHOGUN.
Christianity, in a way, found a way to balance disciplinarian perfectionism with tolerant imperfectionism. Sad to say, this lesson was often forgotten throughout history. During certain historical periods, Christians, filled with the pride and arrogance of moral perfectionism, saw fit to persecute and kill anyone they deemed to be satanic or blasphemous. Today, the opposite problem plagues the Christian West. If Jesus preached that imperfection should be forgiven but judged, neo-Christianity—especially of Mainline Protestantism—has turned into a mindlessly tolerant celebration(as opposed to forgiveness)of various excesses and sins. If Jesus would have condemned homosexuality but still offered homosexuals the chance of redemption and salvation, neo-Christianity would have us believe that Jesus would have loved gays and joined the gay pride parade. Though Jesus saved a prostitute because she was about to be stoned by men who were sinful and imperfect themselves—it should also be noted He saved her from a life of prostitution and made her feel shame—, neo-Christianity would have us believe that Jesus would have loved and danced with hookers and joined the Slut Walk parade. But we shouldn’t blame Jesus and Christianity for the extremes of Christian moral perfectionism—the Spanish Inquisition and the like—and the excesses of neo-Christian moral imperfectionism. The great beauty of Christianity actually lay in its spiritually fascistic way of fusing apparently opposing and incompatible ideas.