Can ONLY the Cross of Christ
Heal The Divide In This Nation?
An essay donated by Susan Humphreys.
A woman wrote a Letter to the Editor of my local paper quoting from a newsletter from the Billy Graham Association. 1 She opened her letter with the statement: "ONLY the cross of Christ can heal the divide in this nation." She later said "Christ is for the whole world, he is for all people."
In my opinion, she and the Billy Graham Association are wrong. That little four letter word "ONLY" is what has divided and continues to widen the divide of this nation. That word "ONLY'" has led to a belief in Christian exceptionalism -- that Christians and Christianity are the sole possessor of TRUTH, all other people and all other religions aren't just misguided, but are the work of the Devil. Until they remove that 4-letter word "ONLY" from their vocabulary, the Cross of Christ, Christianity and Jesus will never heal this nation.
They also don't realize the Cross has become too tarnished by the tears of the martyrs and the oppressed, all of those people Christians have harmed in Jesus' name over the centuries. The persecuted and oppressed became the Persecutors and Oppressors, and that is another reason why Christianity, and the Cross, and Jesus can never heal the divide in this nation.
Here is a third reason. There is a difference between something being available to all and something being attractive or appealing or appetizing to all.
People can walk into any restaurant across America and order a meal. BUT there are some folks that find German food too heavy and avoid German restaurants, Some folks find French food too fancy without enough meat and avoid French restaurants. Some folks will only patronize vegetarian establishments. Some love hot, spicy food and come can't stomach it. For me, I love it all and the thought of having ONLY one kind of cuisine to choose from -- well, it saddens me; it takes the joy out of being alive.
Religion is no different. One size does not fit all. There are many paths through the woods and each of us has to find and follow the path that best fits our needs. Many people have rejected Christianity and chosen something that is more "appetizing" to them. That is difficult for some Christians to accept.
Does this make those people better than Christians? NO. Does it make them worse than Christians? NO. That is also a hard reality for some Christians to "swallow"!
Many folks simply don't understand why -- Why can't the cross heal the nation?
I will try to explain. Some folks, like me, reject the Christian concept that the Bible is the ONLY holy book and the word of God. We know the Bible is the work of men. It is filled with great wisdom but carries no more moral authority, is not holier than nor less holy than the sacred texts of the other world religions or the writings of our world's great thinkers and philosophers. It is that world "ONLY" that gets Christians into trouble again.
Some people (including me) reject the concept of vicarious atonement. This means we reject the idea that a loving compassionate God would demand a blood sacrifice -- the death of his ONLY son -- because he is angry with his recalcitrant children. In my opinion, such a God is unworthy of the title and unworthy of being worshiped.
That leads to the next objection. Some people (including me) reject the concept that Jesus is God's ONLY son. We reject the Divinity of Christ. For us, Jesus is simply a man, perhaps wiser than some and not as wise as others.
Note that in the above paragraph I used a Capital D in the word Divinity. Elsewhere I will use lower case d's. The capital "D" implies a name, a noun a title. A lower case "d" is an adjective, a quality.
Perhaps most importantly, some -- like me -- believe that God is a figment of human imagination. To pretend to believe that God exists would be dishonorable.
There are other reasons but these are the main ones.
Finally I think for many folks -- like me -- Christianity carries too much negative baggage. It has promoted fear and hate of the other (all of those that aren't like them, or those that reject their beliefs), for too many centuries. It can never be cleansed or sanitized enough to remove the taint of all the evil it has cause (whether that evil was intentional as with the Crusades, Witch Hunts, the oppression and persecution of homosexuals and transgender persons, or if it was unintentional).
The belief in Christian exceptionalism as shown with the use of the 4-letter word "ONLY." The persecuted and oppressed became the Persecutors and Oppressors. Many folks have rejected Christianity and chosen to follow a different path, a path that is right for them. These are all reasons why the Cross of Christ can never heal the wounds of this nation.
There is another reason. This reason is the foundation those other reasons were built upon. I think it is because far too many Christians have never understood the TRUE meaning of, nature of, that which is divine.
What is the nature of that which is divine?
The word divine can sometimes be used as a noun, a title, a name, or as an adjective that describes a quality of something, or as a verb.
As an adjective divine means "excellent, exquisite, unusually good or great;" exquisite means of the highest excellence, most admirable,...." That is the key to understanding the nature of that which is divine.
It is that which is most admirable in some thing.
What is most admirable in human beings? I think it is our humanity. What is our humanity? It is the human ability to empathize, which in psychology means the ability to enter fully through imagination into another's feelings or motives. To enter fully, to me, means the ability to understand from the other person's point of view -- what he or she is feeling, is going through.
This is slightly different from "sympathize" which is the sharing of another's sorrow or trouble. We can sympathize with another's sorrow without bothering to understand or to really care about what caused it therefore feeling no responsibility to do anything to alleviate it.
Anyone who has owned a dog knows they have the ability to sympathize, to feel our sorrow. Other animals also display sympathy. Do they have the ability to empathize?
There was a segment on a nature program where a group of elephants were crossing a stream and a newborn calf got stuck and couldn't climb up the bank. The young mother was frantic. The older elephants came to the rescue, some broke down the bank with their feet, others held up the baby with their trunks, and when the bank was broken down sufficiently they pushed the baby up to safety. I think that was a display of empathy, the ability to recognize another's distress, to understand what caused it, and the determination to do something to alleviate it.
Another example. I was on a walk one day and heard a cry of fear coming across a meadow. An Elk calf ran out of the woods with a coyote close on its tail. An adult Elk was close on the coyotes tail, and two other Elk chased other coyotes away from the first group.
To be able to empathize is to be able to understand the underlying cause of the sorrow or trouble. To understand the underlying cause is the first step in being able to do something to alleviate the sorrow.
I think it is important to note that to empathize is also to be able to share in another's joys and achievements as well as their disappointments and sorrows. Sympathy just shares the sorrow or fear or pain. Empathy is also about the ability to recognize goodness, the divinity in ALL people whatever their Religion or lack of Religion, their sexual orientation, or gender identity, their race or ethnicity or country of origin, their immigration status, their wealth or social status, their educational attainment or lack thereof, and their age or youth.
At the end of his recent book "Biblical Literalism, A Gentile Heresy," 2 author John Shelby Spong recognizes this fundamental understanding of divinity. At the top of Page 364 he says:
"The gospel of Matthew is not about God, understood as an external being, invading the world in order to rescue 'fallen' human beings, lost in their sin and unable to rescue themselves. It is not about Jesus suffering and dying for the sins of that world. It is, rather, about human beings discovering the divine that is always in our midst."
Notice he does not capitalize divine, it is not a noun, a name, a title of an entity. It is an adjective, a quality, that which is most admirable in human beings, our humanity, our ability to empathize, our ability recognize the "other", the one who is different, as our brother, as one of US.
Because too many Christians don't understand this concept of divinity is why they believe in Christian exceptionalism. It is also why the persecuted and oppressed became the Persecutors and Oppressors. It is why many other have rejected Christianity (one size does not fit all) to follow a different path, and why Christianity, the Cross, and Jesus will never be able to heal the wounds of this nation.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Letter: Christ is for the whole world," Journal Gazette & Times Courier, Charleston, IL, 2017-JAN-24, at: http://jg-tc.com/
- John Shelby Spong, "Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy: A Journey into a New Christianity Through the Doorway of Matthew's Gospel." HarperOne, reprint edition, 2017-JAN-24. Average rating by Amazon.com customers: 4.4 out of 5 stars. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Kindle format for $10.44, Hardcover for $17.42, and Paperback for $15.99.
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Originally posted on: 2017-FEB-08
Author: Susan Humphreys