By Kim Michaels
Is there any basis whatsoever for saying that current Christianity is a disguised form of Satanism or devil worship? Well, that depends on how you define Christ and how you define anti-christ—or the devil and Satan. Of course, most Christians will think they know how to define both, but what if the most common Christian definition was out of touch with, perhaps even in opposition to, the definition given by Jesus himself?
If you are willing to take a closer look, you can find evidence right in Jesus’ own words. Let us take a look at a Bible passage that many Christians – especially Catholics – conveniently overlook. Catholics, of course, are fond of quoting the first part of the passage, namely the one that – according to the official claim – proves that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Christ:
13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew, Chapter 16)
Catholics claim this proves that Jesus gave Peter the actual, literal keys to the kingdom of heaven. And since Catholics claim Peter was the first pope and that the Catholic Church has an unbroken apostolic succession directly from Peter, it follows that the Catholic Church is the only true Christian Church and thus the only way to attain your salvation. However, that does leave a simple question.
Those who know a little bit about the history of the Middle Ages know that this same Catholic Church precipitated a number of undeniable historical events that are very difficult to reconcile with the commandments of Jesus. Do I need to mention them here? There was the burning of books, the massacre of the Cathars, the Crusades, the witch hunts, the Inquisition and the suppression of scientists—just to mention a few. Of course, there was also the wars between Catholics and Protestants, so I am not trying to say the Catholic Church is responsible for all of the atrocities committed in the name of Christ.
What I am saying is that it is an undeniable historical fact that a large number of atrocities have indeed been committed in the name of Christ. In my experience, most Christians are unwilling to truly recognize this fact, and the reason is that acknowledging it immediately gives rise to an unpleasant question, a question that I consider the central question about the Christian religion:
How is it possible that a religion which claims to represent Christ has been the cause of so many actions that are distinctly against the commandments of Christ—and thus deserve to be labeled as anti-christ?
I mean, think about it. How can a religion claim to represent Christ but fail to follow his commandments? How can the leaders of this religion feel it is justified that they do not follow his commandments? These questions have been in my mind since I learned about the Crusades, and that happened around the age of ten. I simply could not fathom how people could claim to be followers of Christ – who told us not to resist evil but to turn the other cheek – and then go out and kill other people. Yet even more disturbing was the fact that these people claimed to be killing in the name of Christ and that they were doing the work of God. In other words, they were doing the work of God by violating the commands of Christ. There was – and still is – something that hurts my heart in acknowledging this undeniable discrepancy between the teachings of Christ and the actions of his self-proclaimed followers.
Do you see what I am trying to convey here? If we are willing to look at historical facts, it is undeniable that Christianity has been one of the most violent and intolerant religions in known history. Some say that 17 million people have been killed by the Christian religion, and while that number is likely too high, there is no credible historian who will deny that several million people have been killed by Christianity. Yet given what Jesus taught, how is it possible that even one person could be killed by the Christian religion? How is it possible that someone could kill another human being and be firmly convinced that the killing was sanctioned by Jesus and would further the works of Jesus?
As I said, to me this is the central question about the Christian religion, and I know it is a question that almost all Christians have in the back of their minds. I also know that the vast majority of Christians prefer to ignore it, and many have “reasoned” it away. Nevertheless, I believe it is high time for us to face it. We have been skirting the question for centuries, but I believe Christianity will have no chance of surviving in the modern world unless we face and resolve this existential question. How can Christians expect to retain any kind of credibility by continuing to live with such a glaring discrepancy between the teachings of Christ and the behavior of Christians? Just think about the following quote from Mahatma Ghandi, a Hindu who delivered the modern world’s most Christ-like example of what non-violence can do:
I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.
So for those willing to consider a possible explanation, let us take a look at the rest of the passage mentioned above:
21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Do you find this entire passage baffling at all? I always found it to be one of the most significant passages in the Bible. I mean, what a contrast. First, Jesus takes Simon, renames him Peter and then tells him he is the rock upon which he will build his church. Then, a few paragraphs later, Jesus rebukes Peter by calling him Satan and telling him to get behind him. Do you see that right here we have a clear indication from Jesus himself that it is indeed possible for human beings to be aligned with both Christ and Satan—perhaps even at the same time. So right here is an indication that there could be a possibility that Christianity can become so perverted that it is actually a religion of anti-christ. In other words, which “Peter” is the real foundation for the Christian religion—the “Rock” version or the “get thee behind me, Satan” version?
We have two basic options for interpreting this passage. Either Jesus was wildly inconsistent – bordering on mentally unstable – or there is a deeper meaning which – even after 2,000 years – very few people have discovered. I know many modern psychologists would love to label Jesus as schizophrenic, but I prefer to think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. And that leaves me with the conclusion that in order to understand this passage, I have to look for a deeper understanding, an understanding that goes beyond the official doctrines of virtually every Christian church.
I am also left with the suspicion that perhaps there is a hidden message in this passage. Perhaps Simon or Peter is not only a specific person but is a symbol or example to teach us something about all of us? In other words, we all have the potential to recognize the reality of Christ, but we also have the potential to superimpose a human interpretation – the things that be of men – upon Christ and then prefer that interpretation to the reality of Christ—the things that be of God.
Is it possible that the violent past of the Christian religion can be explained by a tendency in the human psyche, a tendency that makes it possible for us to justify anything, even to feel it is approved by the highest authority? Is it possible that this schizophrenic quality of the human psyche makes it possible for us to take a true spiritual teaching given by Christ and turn it completely upside-down, until it actually becomes a religion of anti-christ? On top of that, the followers of that religion completely fail to see that they have perverted the original teachings of Christ, and the reason is that they have literally covered over the “things that be of God” with an interpretation – a mental image based on “the things that be of men” – that completely obscures reality. So they blatantly violate the teachings of Christ while being firmly convinced that they are the true followers of Christ and that they are helping Jesus bring the kingdom of God.
That is exactly what the Crusaders felt when they massacred Muslim women and children in order to recapture the Holy Land. And if we ignore or downplay these historical facts, we are only condoning the mindset behind it. And we are then allowing that mindset – which simply cannot be the mindset of Christ – to continue to dominate the Christian religion. As Jesus himself said, we cannot serve two masters. So let us get the skeletons out of the closet and expose who is the real master of the Christian religion.
Can we understand the true teachings of Christ by taking the Bible literally?
I am, of course, fully aware that even what I have said above will be enough for some Christians to say that I am the one who is of the devil and that only a person influenced by the devil could claim that their church is not the true church of Christ. They will base this on the “fact” that something or other I said is not in accordance with their particular interpretation of the Bible.
Incidentally, what are we to make of the readily observable fact that Christianity is the most fractured of all the major world religions, being divided into so many sects and churches that it is scarcely possible to count them? How do we explain that Christianity seems to be a religion that encourages disagreement and even open conflict? How do we explain that Christianity seems to encourage a form of thinking that we might call “black-and-white” thinking, meaning that you are either completely right or completely wrong, that you are either with Christ or with the devil?
I will return to these questions later, but at least part of the answer is – obviously – that Christianity is divided because so many sects interpret the Bible differently. In fact, several churches claim to have a literal interpretation of the Bible, but their literal interpretations are – literally – in opposition to each other. So they can’t all be literal interpretations, can they?
After centuries of animosity between Christian churches, we are no closer to any kind of understanding or reconciliation. In fact, you might have seen Christians from various churches get into heated arguments over who has the right interpretation of the Bible. And after hours of debate, the two sides either give up (sometimes with each one accusing the other of being of the devil) or agreeing to disagree. I would like to bypass this entire scenario by asking one of these questions that most “good Christians” feel one is not supposed to ask: Did Jesus want us to interpret the Bible literally or did he wants us to look beyond the words for a deeper meaning?
Let me just ask you to take a look at a quote I think many Christians tend to overlook:
18Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
20And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
21And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
22But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matthew, Chapter 8)
So here is a young man who says that he wants to follow Jesus, but he is asking him for permission to go and bury his farther. And Jesus – instead of giving him a common-sensical answer – comes up with what can only be characterized as a cryptical statement: “Let the dead bury their dead.” Okay, would you please give me a literal interpretation of that statement? Are we to infer here that in Jesus’ thought world, corpses are running around burying other corpses? If we are not, then how can one possibly interpret this statement literally?
The simple fact is that there is no literal interpretation of this statement that makes any sense whatsoever. And thus we can only reason that Jesus did not want us to take this statement literally. Either Jesus was a rather insensitive person, a rather confused person or he was the kind of teacher who wanted his students to look beyond the outer words for a deeper meaning.
The latter option has quite a lot of support elsewhere in the scriptures. For example, Jesus was in constant conflict with the scribes and Pharisees, who were the fundamentalists of the Jewish religion. There are several examples of how they sought to draw Jesus into arguments based on their literal interpretation of the Jewish scriptures, even seeking to get him to go against their interpretation so they can condemn him. Jesus always avoids going into hair-splitting arguments and instead comes up with succinct statements that confound his opponents. Take for example the situation where Jesus is challenged because his disciples pluck corn on the sabbath. Jesus answers: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) That is almost a Zen koan—given before Zen had been invented.
Now take a look at another example, found in Matthew, Chapter 13 after Jesus tells the parable of the sower:
10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
This is a rather profound teaching, but unfortunately most Christians hardly pay attention to it because they reason it has nothing to do with them. By the mere fact that they belong to a Christian religion, they believe it is obvious that they are blessed with eyes and ears that see and hear—and thus Jesus was surely talking about someone else.
Yet is it wise to be so sure that we do not need to look at our own ability to truly heart he message of Christ? Especially when doing so would seem to be a clear violation of one of Jesus’s most pivotal commandments:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew, 7:3)
So let us try to follow Jesus’ command to look at ourselves instead of pointing the finger at others.
Copyright © 2010 Kim Michaels