Church doctrines and Cuban revolution have many things incommon

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Mon Dec 25 08:07:23 MST 2000

[ bounced > 30 kB from Henry Liu, Part I]

Church is not religion.  A Church is a secular organization based on
religion.  Religion can exist without churches, but no church can
exist without religion.

Christianity is inseparably connected to Western culture and
history. It began as a Jewish nationalist independence movement in the
context of the Roman Empire.  Under the leadership of Paul, of Jewish
birth, Roman citizenship and Greek culture, Christianity was in a way
the earliest Trotskyite movement of international revolution.  As the
Roman republic drifted toward Csesarism, then Caesaropapism under
Augustus, religion and politics became one.  The abusive pagan reign
of Nero created an opening for an alternative religion that would
recapture the populist side of Julius Caesar, a champion of the common
man against the oligarchy. The Pax Romana lasted four and a half
centuries, until 400 A.D. During most of this period, Christian
teaching spread among the poor and the discarded of society whom Greek
glory and Roman splendour passed over or enslaved.  In the 4th
century, (A.D. 312) Constintine was converted to Christianity, albeit
for a dubious reason: that the Christian God had helped him to be
victorious in war.  It was the first time spiritual sacredness was
formally commandeered into secular profanity.  By the 5th century,
Christianity had taken over the entire Roman world and no other
religion was officially tolerated any longer by the State Church.
Christianity was changed by the Church from a movement to liberated
the oppressed into a rationalization for systemic oppression.  Unlike
Nietzshe, I feel no compulsion to attack Christian values, but like
Marx, I feel obliged to oppose Christian churches.

Greek culture gave man his mind, Christian culture gave man his soul.
Christianity taught that in the eyes of God, all souls are equal, that
every human life was sacronsant and inviolate and that all worldly
distinctions of greatness, beauty and brilliancy were in the last
analysis superficial.  As secular forces gain control of Christianity,
the established Church emphasized the equality of the soul only to
tolerate worldly inequality. Therein laid the greatest failing of the
organized Church.  Where Greece identified the beautiful as good, and
rejected the ugly as bad, and was abhorred by disease and
imperfection. Christianity resolutely celebrated a spiritual beauty in
the most unsightly exterior, seeking out the diseased, crippled and
mutilated to love.  Love in the Greek sense was Venus, while Christian
love was compassion and sacrifice.  After twenty one centuries, on may
ask whether the continuing existence of poverty and oppression in the
Christian world is attributable to Christianity's need of the poor and
oppressed for its own justification for being. It is a reasonable
question, the same that is beginning to be asked whether the cancer
research establishment has any material incentive to find a final cure
for cancer.

On the intellectual level, mono-Deism was championed by Christian
thought, not by rational philosophy.  If there was only one true God,
all other pagan gods must be demonic. It was the definitive rejection
of pluralism. The idea of one God predestines the idea of one world,
the intellectual justification for moral imperialism.  Religious
intolerance created room for racial, social and political intolerance.
Humanity was to be unified in the worst possible sense, under one
true, saving religion.  It was a truly evil belief.

The Romans had an historical vindication for suppressing Christianity.
Within decades of accepting the dissident religion, the Roman system
collapsed from Christian values.  After the fall of the Roman empire,
the Christian Church held European civilization together all through
the Dark Ages.  In the absence of central power exercised by the
Emperor in Rome, the Christian bishops took over control of local
governments.  The rise of towns could not have happened without the
secular power of the Bishops who led towns all over Europe to build
magnificent Cathedrals to express community pride and spirit.  The
Bishop of Rome, free of secular domination, claimed primacy over all
Christendom on the doctrine of Petrine supremacy and the Donation of
Constintine, through which the Roman Emperor endowed the Bishop of
Rome with the government of the City.  The acceptance of the donation
doctrine lasted until the 15th century.  Thus the doctrine of the
separation of Church and State (along spiritual and secular divides)
was formed in parallel with the unopposed growth of the secular power
of the Church.

It was the Church which incorporated the barbarians into Western
civilization and Christendom.  Medieval art and architecture are
called Gothic by historians for a reason.  Charlemagne, a Germanic
barbarian, rebuilt the Roman Empire and added the word Holy before its
name.  The Holy Roman Empire was in fact a federal system of local
European princes, under which feudalism developed.  But its
legitimacy, unlike the old Roman Empire, was derived from God rather
than from military power.

The first "world war" in history was the Crusades which was a global
attempt to defend the outposts of Christendom in the Holy Lands
against the expansion of Islam, an opposing religion on the side of
national liberation.  Christian theology up until Thomas Aquinas had
been opposed to scientific dialectic materialism, because of its
emphasis on inner reality, not unlike latter day liberalism's
hostility toward socialism.  Thomism saw a holy duty in making the
world safe for exacting reasoning, splitting of hair which eventually
gave birth to the scientific revolution in Europe. The extreme
theologists in the West had wanted to ban Aristotle which was being
rediscovered by Arabic scholars through their contact with the
Byzantine Empire. Thomism proclaimed that faith could not be
endangered by reason .  It gave Western thinkers the freedom to go on
thinking with the compromise that questioning God was off limits.
Thomaism is comparable to liberal social democracy which gave
capitalist thinkers the freedom to continue thinking toward socialist
rationalism, but with the compromise that the basic "truths" of
capitalism (that rational beings must exploit others to survive)
cannot be challenged.  Religious wars were a legacy of medieval
Christianity when it incorporated pagan rites of the settling tribal
feuds by combat.  The Wars of Religion lasted a century, from 1560 to

As the Crusades went on, the defensive pressure had its toll on
Islamic culture, with Moslem intellectuals declaring "the Gate"
closed, that valid interpretation of the Koran had ended with the Four
Great Doctors. Arabic thought, so brilliant for several centuries
previously, withered away.  The Arabic forces fought the Christian
West to a stand still, but they lost in the cultural war.  There are
parallel of this in the Cold War, that socialist nations, in assuming
their garrison state mentality necessary for survival, managed to
defend their system militarily against the aggressive West, fell from
implosion due to internal resistance to evolution.  Like the Koran in
Arabic culture, Marxism itself did not fail; what failed was the
self-proclaimed adherents of Marxism who saw as their duty to prevent
a powerful idea from moving forward along with the march of time.  The
Crusades strengthened Christendom and weakened Islam for centuries
after, as the Cold War did with neoliberal capitalism and socialism,
hopefully not for centuries.

It was the revolution within the Church that saved Europe from being
destroyed by Christianity.  The decline of the papacy began with Pope
Boniface III, whose struggle with the kings of England and France over
papal supremacy weakened the secular Church.  It was a dialectic
materialist struggle over taxation of the clergy by the local civil
ruler, specifically, on church owned land.  In 1302, Boniface issued
the famous Unam Sanctam (One Holy), the most extreme of all assertions
of papal supremacy, declaring that outside the Roman Church there was
no salvation and that "every human creature" was subject to the Roman
Pontiff."  Philip of France, retorted with the arrest of Boniface and
started the Babylonian Captivity and the Schism, permanently damaging
the prestige of the Church as an universal institution.  The same
struggle, eight centuries later, is still being waged by the Vatican
against China, by insisting all Catholics in China must be loyal to
Rome before Beijing.

The Renaissance received its name from those historians who celebrated
the rebirth of Greco-Roman culture.  It marked also the birth of
capitalism, resulting from the ascendance of a merchant oligarchy, the
most famous being the Medici clan, one of them eventually became Pope.
Renaissance Humanism, a movement of elites rather than aristocrats,
captured the Church through sheer despotism.  Religion began to fall
outside the clergy.  Renaissance persons, stirred by religion, unlike
their Middle Ages counterparts who would have joined a holy order,
often remain laymen.  Lay religion became active in the North,
particularly the Netherlands.  Gerard Groot led the Brothers of the
Common Life to live a pious life without ecclesiastical recognition.
Erasmus emerged as the most influential intellectual, untouched by
worldly power and advantage, putting faith in education, enlightened
discussion and moral uplifting, promoting tolerance, restraint,
intellectual understanding and love of peace.  Erasmus's attitude was
even more amazing when pitted against the wars, greed, banditry and
murder that overran all of Europe that produced the New Monarchs like
Henry VII (1485-1509) of Tudor England; and Louis XI (1461-83) of
France, who controlled his own national clergy which was one of the
reason France did not turn Protestant.

The Reformation was basically a revolution.  It rejected reform and
asserted that the Roman Church was wrong in principle if not by its
ideals.  The Protestants aimed not to restore the medieval church but
to overthrow it and in its place, to put a church founded on
principles drawn from the Bible.  Martin Luther (1483-1546), in
placing theological protest under the protection of secular power
politics, would exploit the political aspirations of budding German
principalities in the sixteenth century. In return, he would
conveniently provide the German princes with a theological basis for
political secession from the theocratic Holy Roman Empire.  Analogous
to the rise of European nationalism which would be a facilitating
vehicle for the religious movement known as the Reformation which in
turn would give birth to Protestant national states as political
by-products, the fall of the Han dynasty (B.C. 206-220 A.D.) had not
been independent of the growth of Buddhism in China.  In fact,
recurring official persecution of Buddhism in China throughout history
has been motivated by the religion's persistent involvement in secular
dissident politics.  The corrupt impact of Buddhist politics on the
ruling authority was deemed responsible for the tragic fate of the
disintegrated Han dynasty.

Luther would exploit the political aspirations of German princes to be
independent of the Holy Roman Emperor to bolster his theological
revolt from the Roman Catholic Church.  But he would come to denounce
peasant rebellion when the peasants would rebel against the same
Protestant German princes.  He would do so even though such peasant
uprisings against the German princes would claim inspiration from the
same theological ideas of the Reformation that had motivated the
revolt against the Holy Roman Emperor by the same German princes for
independence.  Such radical ideas had been advocated by
Luther. However, even Luther's professed personal sympathy for peasant
demands for improved treatment from their oppressive princes would not
persuade him to endorse peasant uprisings.

In fact, Luther could be considered a Stalinist.  Or more accurately,
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1879-1953) would in fact fit the
definition of a Lutheran die-hard, at least in revolutionary strategy
if not in ideological essence.  Like Luther, Stalin would suppress
populist radicalism to preserve institutional revolution, and would
glorify the state as the sole legitimate expediter of revolutionary
ideology.  Early Protestantism, like Stalinism, would become more
oppressive and intolerant than the system it would replace.
Ironically, puritanical Protestant ethics celebrating the virtues of
thrift, industry, sobriety and responsibility, would be identified by
many sociologists as the driving force centuries later behind the
success of modern capitalism and industrialized economy.
Particularly, ethics as espoused by Calvinism which in its extreme
would advocate subordination of the State to the Church, diverging
from Luther's view of the State to which the Church is subordinate,
would be ironically credited as the spirit behind the emergence of the
modern Western industrial capitalist state.

In a pamphlet entitled That Christ Was Born a Jew, Luther expressed
understanding that Jews had rebuffed the conversionary overtures of
the Roman Catholic Church, which he considered spiritually lax and
corrupt.  "For they have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs and
not human beings," he wrote indignantly. "They have done nothing for
them but curse them and seize their wealth.  Whenever they converted
them, they did not teach them either Christian law or life but only
subjected them to papistry and monkery."  In an aside, he added: "I
hope that, if the Jews are treated friendly and are instructed kindly
enough through the Bible, many of them will become real Christians and
come back to the ancestral faith of the prophets and patriarchs..."

Luther's show of friendship for Jews was not motivated by any respect
for Judaism, but by "a thirst to redeem them by destroying Judaism,"
British/Israeli scholar Paul Lawrence Rose has written in
Revolutionary Anti-Semitism in Germany.  Once it was apparent to
Luther that the children of Israel were resistant to the call of
Christianity, he performed a volte-face, turning his wrath on Jews.
In the first glimmerings of his growing antipathy, Luther upbraided
Jews for their misguided interpretation of Scripture. Later, Luther's
condemnation of usury took on an anti-Semitic cast, while his mean
spirited characterization of Jews as "stiff-necked, iron hearted and
stubborn as the devil" drove him further into fanaticism.  In 1543,
Luther's animus probably reached its apotheosis in a vituperative
pamphlet, Concerning the Jews and Their Lies, in which he urged the
authorities to act against Jews with the utmost severity.  A vile and
calculating document, it drips with anger and contempt.  Luther's
admonitions, a grand elaboration of traditional anti-Semitic themes,
were gleefully expropriated by the Third Reich and carried out to the
letter during Kristallnacht in November 1938.  Adolf Hitler, of
course, considered Luther a great German, and the Nazi party
institutionalized his anti-Semitic ravings.  Fusing the anti-Semitic
elements of Luther's dogma with the rabid German nationalism espoused
by Hitler, the Nazis created the ultimate nightmare of a chauvinistic
society run amok.

[to be continued]

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