As time changes, so does religion. As new questions are asked, many people search for answers through Christ. However, the “same” Christ, along with his teachings, can be viewed, imagined, and interpreted with vast differences, causing immense friction. Throughout American history, religion and Jesus have played a large role on both sides of wars and debates, each side claiming Christ as an advocate for their actions. As presented in The Color of Christ by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, during the Civil War, the voices of white supremacy claimed that the Golden Rule “only applied within one’s own race” and that it “should take into account status, power, and position.” The slaves and abolitionists, however, believed that it applied to all men and that, according to Christian religion, everyone should love their neighbors as themselves. No matter what the disagreement, having Christ and the Bible as support for opposing sides creates a lot of disagreement and a dynamic Christ, raising a lot of questions about the true meaning of Christianity.
In singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen’s song “Jesus, Jesus” (cleanest version), a lot of modern confusion in the religious world is brought to light. For example, Gundersen questions certain Christian claims about judgment of others. He sings, “If all the heathens burn in hell, do all their children burn as well? What about the Muslims, and the gays, and the unwed mothers?” Matters regarding Muslims (especially in relation to the War on Terror) and homosexuality are modern topics in which religious interpretation plays a huge role. If one views Christ as a lover of all men and the Golden Rule as applicable to everyone, it seems as though these issues wouldn’t be issues at all. However, just as there was in the Civil War, there are opposing sides to each topic, along with substantial biblical claims gathered in support, causing tension and often times uncertainty among Christians.
When it comes to religion in war, it’s presence in the War on Terror reaches far beyond the United States borders. In the Civil War, the religious difference was merely in opposing views of Christ and Christianity in America. However, the Golden Rule in regards to the War on Terror deals not only with religious difference in America, but racial and religious difference with another country. So how does an American Christian interpret the Golden Rule in this situation? Does the Golden Rule only apply to one’s own people, one’s own religion? Or does doing unto others as they would to do unto you apply to everyone regardless of their actions, ethnicity, and belief system? In “Religious fundamentalism in the ‘War on Terror,’” Murtaza Hussain states that Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper, calls Iraqis “savages”, claiming that “the world is a better place without [them] taking American lives” and that he wished he had killed more. His reasoning for wanting to kill Iraqis is that they have killed so many Americans. As someone who “was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism,” the Golden Rule as the abolitionists during the Civil War had viewed it, is contradicted in his reasoning. If he is appalled by the Iraqis killing of Americans, killing the Iraqis is not treating them as he would like him and his fellow Americans to be treated. Kyle’s Christianity must take on a different shape for him, one that he believes is its true meaning and that advocates his actions.
In relation to the topic of other religions, Deuteronomy 13: 6-10 claims that anyone who entices you away from the Lord to serve other gods shall be killed. Perhaps passages like these are behind certain people’s condemnation of other religious beleifs. But some would say it is contradictory to and raises questions about other parts of Christianity, like loving your neighbor as yourself. But, then again, what defines a “neighbor”? It also raises the question of whether or not others, Muslims for example, are essentially worshipping the “same” god as Christians, but that is another topic entirely. This theme of contradiction, though, is also prevalent in the debate over homosexuality as a sin. In a clip of The West Wing, Dr. Jacobs states that the Bible (Leviticus 18:22) calls homosexuality an abomination. Her literal interpretation of the Bible leads her to believe that this is true. However, the President presents her with many contradictions by recalling other bible passages that are not followed literally in modern day. For example, one passage claims that people should be burned for wearing garments made of two different threads. While the clip takes an obvious side of the debate, I am using it in an objective sense, to raise the undeniable issue of contradiction in interpretation. Here, not only is there contradiction in the sense that some people interpret the Bible literally while others do not, but there is also contradiction within each interpretation as well. The lines become extremely blurred.
As time progresses, religion is molded in the face of modernity and the blurred lines that come with it. As new conflicts and questions arise, Christ and Christianity begin to take new, different, and often opposing shapes. But, to many, there is not a definite shape, only confusion. And to those people, people questioning Christianity like Gundersen, it seems that the only way to understand what it’s all about is to meet with Jesus for coffee.
The subjective qualities of the Golden Rule are pretty pronounced, huh. There are many, many people I would NOT want to have them treat me as they would like to be treated themselves, right. What seems so innocent and pleasant is so malleable and potentially destructive. What I found so fascinating about the mid 19th century was how so-called biblical literalists fell over themselves not only to contextualize and historicize the words of Jesus, but in this case directly racialize their importance.