I suspect that my earliest direct experience with Protestant Christianity may have been as off-putting as that of many.  We were loosely members of a Congregational Church in Farmington, Connecticut.  Our main family connection with its minister was that my father was his investment counselor.  Probably he learned thereby that my grandfather had been a leading biblical theologian at the turn of the century and had started an organization which had carried on his progressive concerns — opening up graduate studies to Jews and African Americans who were pretty much excluded from many of our most prestigious institutions of higher education until well into the civil rights era.

This guy enlisted me in church activities and at some point I recall being asked to speak about something from his pulpit.  Then reality hit.  I learned of a special Protestant group working on poverty in East Harlem — the East Harlem Protestant Parish — Bill Stringfellow:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stringfellow

and asked Rev. X how I could get in touch with them?  His instant response still rings in my ears — “You don’t want to be involved with THOSE types of people.”  It took no great stretch of imagination to see that this character was a Christian in name only — typically greedy and contemptuous of precisely those whom Jesus of Nazareth had called upon his followers to assist.  So I left religion behind for a time.

Later I happened to attend a summer conference of the organization that my grandfather had founded, then called the National Council of Religion in Higher Education.  There I met a number of his former students (he had died young and years before my birth).  They were among the finest and most decent people that I had ever encountered.  So I considered among other possible careers after college one in theology and started studies in that area at Union Theological Seminary in NYC with a middle exchange year at Mansfield, the free church college, at Oxford.  At both places I again found the finest people that one could want to know.

However, there were several dark clouds that gave me pause so far as pursuing a career in theology:

1) I had learned from my studies that the history of the Christian Church down through the ages was nothing short of murderous — religious wars, genocide in the name of Jesus (the New Israel thing in the U.S.), the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust which emerged directly out of the Christian anti-Semitism launched by ‘Saint’ Paul, the burnings of thousands of witches and abuses of women generally.  Christianity had been the most murderous and destructive of all the Western religions (and possibly still is with the Bush/Blair incursions into the Middle East).

2) Also I learned that our religious institutions were degenerating into Billy Graham type feel good stuff focused on self-centered comfort rather than helping those in need.  Again we see this phenomenon manifested in the mega right wing evangelical churches scattered around out there:  ‘Come and donate to our church and God will reward you with a raise and new car!’

So with the sad awareness that Christianity as it had been formulated by Jesus of Nazareth was on the wane, I left the institution as an intellectual agnostic, ready to welcome any signs of church renewal.  Sadly just the reverse has been the case.  We see now Roman Catholic pedophilia and abuses of women — the thousands of women who have died of outlawed abortions in Catholic dominated nations — mainly in Latin America.  Right wing evangelical Protestants — are bent on pursuing material comforts and killing — Muslims, gays, abortion providers, African Americans, whomever.

Jesus of Nazareth joins the ranks of the heroes of humanity — Socrates, some of the saints, and others — who gave their lives on behalf of truth, beauty, and goodness, which alone can set people free from their own narrow disposition to do in their neighbors.  I watched some of my fellow seminarians struggling out there against the anti Christians — but they have been increasingly in the minority and some have been destroyed personally while trying to give their best by the cabals of bankers and such that have dominated their parishes.

And so Christianity went — the way of the other world religions that tried to make sense of things for humanity, but which have failed abysmally in the hands of the cruel and greedy ones.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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