Monday, November 14, 2016

The Wrath of God

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” This explains how some who claim the name "Christian" have used the idea of the Wrath of God to excuse their own inexcusable wrathful behaviour and use the threat of God's Wrath as a means of evangelism.

So for example, the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 is excused by God's Wrath. An eyewitness account tells the history:

Now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, we saw some wonderful sights. Some of our men — actually the more merciful ones — cut off the heads of their enemies. Others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers. Others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. One had to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon. You would not believe it if I told you. Suffice to say that in the Temple and porch of Solomon men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.

Jerusalem - the City of God's Peace! The Jews of Jerusalem fought with the Muslims and were killed alongside them. Indeed,  the rank and file of the invading Crusaders did not differentiate between Muslim and Jew. The Crusaders attitude was this. "They had killed Jesus Christ, so they  deserved everything they got!"

No understanding of a Christlike God is evident in the Crusader camp. Crusaders were predominately from the West, giving allegiance to the Pope. By this time Eastern Christianity had split from Rome and their approach was quite different. They had lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbours before the Crusades and did so for centuries afterwards. The Muslim leader Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem, had Christians among his high ranking officials. It was not until the image of the unjust Crusader was used in anti-imperialist propaganda in the 19th and 20th centuries that relationships soured. 

Thankfully, there was at least one person from the West who was embarrassed by the Crusaders' behaviour. St.Francis travelled to the camp of the Caliph during the Fifth Crusade with the intention of preaching the Gospel. He was concerned that they might have heard the good news of the Gospel. The Caliph listened, declined to convert, and sent Francis on his way unharmed. Francis was clearly a man of peace.

Another example of the way in which God's Wrath excuses one's own is the antisemitism. It has been encouraged and indulged in by many  who claimed the name Christian. As a person who calls himself a Christian,  I burn with shame for what has been done in Christ's name.  I  stand in solidarity with Francis and the Eastern Christians and rejoice in my friendship with people of other faiths.

It was a crude attempt to convert those who had gathered to mark the passing of a neighbour that raised the subject for me. The pitch was simply "Turn or Burn" and it was I think sincerely meant. Both the deceased and his minister seem to understand God as God of Wrath. OK if you submit but otherwise..... "And see we are giving you another chance." I observe that their brand of Christianity is strong on post-mortem judgement, something the C of E (wrongly in my view) tends to back peddle on, but it seems to me, they have a twisted notion of the Holy Trinity.  They appear to believe in a  Holy Trinity, in which God the Father does punishment and God the Son takes your punishment but only if you sign up for membership of their club.

That is not good news.  I don't like it when people try and manipulate me with threats. I certainly would not have such a person as a friend. I feel the same way about gods. Contrary to their understanding, I believe Jesus shows us what God is like. He is not wrathful, neither is he punishing. Rather he shows kindness in action and offers friendship if you want to travel the way he is going.

Where then does judgement come into the equation? It is simply this, if God is the source of life (love, truth, beauty, justice, peace etc..) then being cut off from him/her,  is being cut off from all those things. They  all  have an eternal dimension and one could have no existence in  eternity without being rooted in eternal things.  It follows, no life after death if you have no investment in them and  a poor quality of life in the here and now too.

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