The Great Christian Schism

While some Christians in America expressed serious disagreements over going to war in Iraq, other Christians waved the flag and cheered a war against heathen Muslims whom they hope to convert to Christianity.

One wonders how religious groups that claim to follow the same God and the Bible come to such different conclusions. This is not idle speculation. With such a large proportion of Americans professing to be Christians, the answers will have a bearing on the future of our nation. Will we support more military adventures or seek to resolve disputes peacefully?

On one hand, the US Council of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches (NCC) and hundreds of religious leaders opposed the war and do not support preemptive strikes. On the other hand, the Southern Baptist Convention supported Bush’s invasion on the basis that Iraq was an aggressor that would cause “lasting, grave, and certain damage.”

Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC attributes the split between Christians to those who believe in a warrior god and those who believe in “blessed is the peacemaker.” Fundamentalists read the Bible and find God leading a mighty army to divide the good from the bad, while Edgar finds direction in biblical passages that urge us to love our neighbors.

“Bush uses language like good and evil very freely and inappropriately,” Edgar says. “The world is more complicated than black and white, good and evil.”

Inappropriate statements-which Edgar calls “hate speech” and “death speech”-by Christian leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham inflame passions and lead to the deaths of innocent Christians who are killed by fundamentalist Muslims. He urges more efforts be given to conflict resolution, strengthening the UN and building international cooperation and less on military solutions.

Douglas Johnston, president of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in Washington, D.C., said that religious leaders from the evangelical community play an influential role in White House policy by encouraging fundamentalist views of biblical prophecy about the end of the world, Israel and the Middle East. When the White House acts on such views, the world perceives the US being driven by a religious cult, which undermines the good the US could do in the world.

A Gallup Poll in October showed that practicing Christians are more likely than their nonpracticing counterparts to favor the invasion of Iraq. Nationally, 60 percent of those who reported that “religion is very important” to them, support the war, which increases to 64 percent among “born again” or evangelical Christians. In contrast, only 49 percent of those who say religion is “not very important” support invading Iraq.

“What a paradox,” says Gregg Carter, a sociologist at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I. “Christ’s central messages on how we should come to terms with our enemies-through love and charity-are ignored, overlooked, and disregarded by a nation and a majority of its people who claim to be the heirs of these messages and of their author.”

Carter finds that the differences in the scriptures emphasized by fundamentalists versus mainline denominations are so great that they appear to be following two completely different books. Fundamentalists are more likely to take their cue from Romans in the New Testament, which say your leaders come from God. Do what they say. If not, you will invoke God’s wrath. Other mainline Protestants take guidance from passages in Luke, which advises Christians to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you.

Another reason for the schism comes in who gets included in “the Kingdom of God.” The mainline churches include everyone while the evangelicals exclude those who don’t agree with their doctrine and interpretation of the Bible. This position plays out politically with the far right fundamentalist-predominately Republicans-who draw their strength from the traditional “Bible Belt,” the South and Midwest.

Religious leaders and Christians are locked in disagreement. Evidently, the essential values of Christianity have not been resolved after almost two thousand years. Despite the rhetoric about America being “a Christian nation,” Christians remain undecided on whether to embrace their enemies or kill them.

DON MONKERUD lives in Aptos, California. He can be reached at: monkerud@cruzio.com


More articles by:

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants