Who Owns Christianity?
By Deepak Chopra
Not many people of moderate persuasion have much sway in the church any
more. I was reminded why recently when the Episcopal Church did two
important things: It elected a woman bishop to head the denomination, and it
backtracked on appointing gay bishops. The first move seems Christian. Women
deserve to hold church office as much as political office (one diocese,
however, was so incensed that it voted to leave the church, and worldwide
there are still Anglican movements that do not permit women to be bishops or
The second move was an act of cowardice because it did not reflect the
ideals of love in Christianity and was motivated by reactionaries in the
Episcopal denomination. Countering a long tradition of laissez-faire
tolerance, the reactionaries have gotten tough and threatened to form their
own church if gays are promoted in the priesthood. The worldwide Anglicans
are more intolerant, upholding that homosexuality is forbidden, unnatural,
wrong or an outright sin, depending on who is doing the disapproving.
You'd think that someone would stand up and ask a simple question: Who are
we to condemn gays if Christ didn't? In fact, who are we to condemn any
sinner, since Christ didn't? Christianity is about forgiveness, and for the
past two decades, as fundamentalism swept through every Protestant
denomination, moderates and liberals have been driven out, and were roundly
condemned as they left. Along with them went tolerance and forgiveness, not
to mention love.
Did Christ teach love or is that just a liberal bias? In the current
climate, it's hard to remember, but one thing is certain: Once a tight cabal
of fundamentalists takes over any denomination, Christ's teachings go out
the window. The reversal of Christianity from a religion of love to a
religion of hate is the greatest religious tragedy of our time.
Those of us who haven't been swept up in worldwide fundamentalism, which has
corrupted Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well, have been caught in a double
bind. We can't join any sect that preaches intolerance, yet we can't fight
it, either, because by definition fighting is a form of intolerance. To
escape this double bind, moderates have stayed silent and stayed home. But
that tactic failed. As healthy as it is to nourish your own devotion and
faith, it's disastrous to allow extremists to take over the church, because
the statehouse, the board of education, the Congress, and eventually the
presidency are next.
Perhaps civil society will solve the problem of religious extremism. So far
it hasn't. America finds itself in the sad plight of being the world's most
prominent secular society hijacked by sectarians. One can only hope that the
church comes to its senses and regains its moral center. If that doesn't
occur, the core teachings of Christ will be lost, for all intents and
purposes, to this generation.
San Francisco Chronicle
Deepak Chopra is the author "Peace is the Way," which won the Quill Award in
2005 as well as 41 other books. He is also the founder and president of the
Alliance for a New Humanity, an international network of people from all
walks of life who are networking together to see a positive change take
place in the world.