Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter Reflections in Troubled Times

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let the earth her song begin;
Let the round world keep triumph,
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen
Our joy that hath no end.

- Saint John of Damascenus, in The Congregational Hymn Book: Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1881)

It is Easter 2024 and humanity is at a crossroads.  The world seems full of atrocities and human suffering, and democracy is under assault.  With Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, war in the Middle East, the threat of climate change, and the possible election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the world seems engulfed in madness.  More than ever, people of all faiths need to find solace and hope.  

It is disconcerting that so many Evangelical Christians in the United States have lost their way.  Some actually believe that Donald Trump was sent by God to save America.  From what?  To me, this is blasphemy and sacrilege.  Trump is a con man and he is shamelessly hawking "God Bless the USA" Bibles for $60.  The former president faces expensive legal battles, and he is taking advantage of people's faith to raise money.  Not only that, but he is doing so during Holy Week, the most solemn period in the Christian calendar.  Evangelicals who support Trump should be reminded of the Biblical story of how Jesus drove the moneylenders from the temple.  

“It is a bankrupt Christianity that sees a demagogue co-opting our faith and even our holy scriptures for the sake of his own pursuit of power and praise him for it rather than insist that we refuse to allow our sacred faith and scriptures to become a mouthpiece for an empire,” 

- Rev. Benjamin Cremer, American pastor, writer, B.A. in Religion, M.A. om Spiritual Formation, M.A. in Theological Studies.

God is just and merciful, not Donald Trump.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, not Donald Trump.  Shame on Evangelicals and other so-called Christians who follow Trump as a false god.  There is a need to get back to to basic tenets of Christianity, which are clearly set out by Jesus in two commandments: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  I am ecumenical and I believe that ecumenicalism should be extended beyond the unity of Christian churches.   People of all faiths are required to live by the Golden Rule . . .Do unto others . . .  Christians, Jews and Muslims are all children of Abraham.  They all worship the God of Abraham.

People of faith should greatly respect adherents of non-monotheistic religions, such as Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.  They should also respect agnostics and atheists, many who behave in a more Christian fashion than those purporting to be Christians.  The spiritual beliefs of Indigenous peoples should also be greatly respected.  

Here is a Muslim view of respect for other faiths:

As Muslims, we ought to respect all religions in their pristine form as revealed by Allah.  The Quran reiterates the fact that God has blessed every nation by sending prophets and messengers proclaiming the perennial message of Divine Oneness: Worship one and only God and renounce false gods."

- Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario.

I am a Christian, but I am not a fundamentalist.  The Bible is not a history book, and it should not be treated as such.   Neither am a "Christian nationalist."   I don't believe that God favours one nation above all others, or that God favours a particular sports team.  Yes, I think that family is very important.  It is one of the backbones of society.  No, I don't think "anything goes."  I believe in God, but  I don't believe that God is an old man with a white beard and a baritone voice, who happens to speak English.  God is a mystery, and a Supreme Being does not have a gender.  

Yes, there is evil.  How else would one describe Nazi Germany?  The devil, dressed in red and wearing goat horns, is merely a figurative representation of that evil.  I  do not believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone. I believe that hell is separation from God.  I do not believe in a literal heaven of pearly gates and harps.  I believe that heaven is a spiritual experience that is beyond human comprehension.  Finally, I also believe that no one has all the answers.  Be wary of those who refer to themselves as "true believers."

Happy Easter to all who celebrate.  Peace and joy to believers and non-believers alike, and to the Jewish brethren who will begin celebrating Passover on April 22nd, as well as the Muslim brethren during their holy month of Ramadan.

- Joanne