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Christianity used to reinforce privilege
Christianity has been used to reinforce privilege ("private law" -- laws which benefit some at the expense of others), but that does not appear to be God's intention.
We have just joined in the most solemn, the most sacred, the most catholic of all prayers: “Our Father which art in Heaven!” To all of us who have learned it in our infancy, it oft calls up the sweetest and most tender emotions. Sometimes with feeling, sometimes as a matter of course, how often have we repeated it? For centuries, daily, hourly, has that prayer gone up.
“Thy kingdom come!” Has it come? Let this Christian city of Glasgow answer — Glasgow, that was to “Flourish by the preaching of the word”.
“Thy kingdom come!” Day after day, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, century after century, has that prayer gone up; and today, in this so-called Christian city of Glasgow, 125,000 human beings — so your medical officer says — 125,000 children of God are living whole families in a single room.
“Thy kingdom come!” We have been praying for it and praying for it, yet it has not come. So long has it tarried that many think it will never come. Here is the vital point in which what we are accustomed to call the Christianity of the present day differs so much from that Christianity which overran the ancient world — that Christianity which, beneath a rotten old civilisation, planted the seeds of a newer and a higher.
We have become accustomed to think that God’s kingdom, is not intended for this world; that, virtually, this is the devil’s world, and that God’s kingdom is in some other sphere, to which He is to take good people when they die — as good Americans are said when they die to go to Paris. If that be so, what is the use of praying for the coming of the kingdom? Is God the loving Father of whom Christ told — is He a God of that kind; a God who looks on this world, sees its sufferings and its miseries, sees high faculties aborted, lives stunted, innocence turned to vice and crime, and heartstrings strained and broken, yet, having it in His power, will not bring that kingdom of peace, and love, and plenty and happiness? Is God indeed a self-willed despot, whom we must coax to do the good He might? ...
But that He is the All-Father — that He is all people’s Father — we deny by our institutions. The All-Father who made the world, the All-Father who created us in His image, and put us upon the earth to draw subsistence from its bosom; to find in the earth all the materials that satisfy our wants, waiting only to be worked up by our labour! If He is the All-Father, then are not all human beings, all children of the Creator, equally entitled to the use of His bounty? And, yet, our laws say that this God’s earth is not here for the use of all His children, but only for the use of a privileged few!
There was a little dialogue published in the United States, in the west, some time ago. Possibly you may have seen it. It is between a boy and his father when visiting a brickyard. The boy looks at the men making bricks, and he asks who those dirty men are, why they are making up the clay, and what they are doing it for. He learns, and then he asks about the owner of the brickyard. “He does not make any bricks; he gets his income from letting the other men make bricks.”
Then the boy wants to know how the man who owns the brickyard gets his title to the brickyard — whether he made it. “No, he did not make it,” the father replies: “God made it.” The boy asks, “Did God make it for him?” Whereat his father tells him that he must not ask questions such as that, but that anyhow it is all right, and it is all in accordance with God’s law. The boy, who of course was a Sunday school boy, and had been to church, goes off mumbling to himself “that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for all men”; but that He so loved the owner of this brickyard that He gave him the brickyard too.
This has a blasphemous sound. But I do not refer to it lightly. I do not like to speak lightly of sacred subjects. Yet it is well sometimes that we should be fairly shocked into thinking.
Think of what Christianity teaches us; think of the life and death of Him who came to die for us! Think of His teachings, that we are all the equal children of an Almighty Father, who is no respecter of persons, and then think of this legalised injustice — this denial of the most important, most fundamental rights of the children of God, which so many of the very men who teach Christianity uphold; nay, which they blasphemously assert is the design and the intent of the Creator Himself. ...
The story goes on to describe how the roads of heaven, the streets of the New Jerusalem, were filled with disconsolate tramp angels, who had pawned their wings, and were outcasts in Heaven itself.
You laugh, and it is ridiculous. But there is a moral in it that is worth serious thought. Is it not ridiculous to imagine the application to God’s heaven of the same rules of division that we apply to God’s earth, even while we pray that His will may be done on earth as it is done in Heaven?
Really, if we could imagine it, it is impossible to think of heaven treated as we treat this earth, without seeing that, no matter how salubrious were its air, no matter how bright the light that filled it, no matter how magnificent its vegetable growth, there would be poverty, and suffering, and a division of classes in heaven itself, if heaven were parcelled out as we have parceled out the earth. And, conversely, if people were to act towards each other as we must suppose the inhabitants of heaven to do, would not this earth be a very heaven?
“Thy kingdom come.” No one can think of the kingdom for which the prayer asks without feeling that it must be a kingdom of justice and equality — not necessarily of equality in condition, but of equality in opportunity. And no one can think of it without seeing that a very kingdom of God might be brought on this earth if people would but seek to do justice — if people would but acknowledge the essential principle of Christianity, that of doing to others as we would have others do to us, and of recognising that we are all here equally the children of the one Father, equally entitled to share His bounty, equally entitled to live our lives and develop our faculties, and to apply our labour to the raw material that He has provided.
Aye! When a person sees that, then there arises that hope of the coming of the kingdom that carried the gospel through the streets of Rome, that carried it into pagan lands, that made it, against the most ferocious persecution, the dominant religion of the world.
Early Christianity did not mean, in its prayer for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom in heaven, but a kingdom on earth. If Christ had simply preached of the other world, the high priests and the Pharisees would not have persecuted Him, the Roman soldiery would not have nailed His hands to the cross. Why was Christianity persecuted? Why were its first professors thrown to wild beasts, burned to light a tyrant’s gardens, hounded, tortured, put to death by all the cruel devices that a devilish ingenuity could suggest? Not that it was a new religion, referring only to the future. Rome was tolerant of all religions. It was the boast of Rome that all gods were sheltered in her Pantheon; it was the boast of Rome that she made no interference with the religions of peoples she conquered.
What was persecuted was a great movement for social reform — the gospel of justice — heard by common fishermen with gladness, carried by labourers and slaves into the imperial city of Rome. The Christian revelation was the doctrine of human equality, of the fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. It struck at the very basis of that monstrous tyranny that then oppressed the civilised world; it struck at the fetters of the captive, and at the bonds of the slave, at that monstrous injustice which allowed a class to revel on the proceeds of labour, while those who did the labour fared scantily.
That is the reason why early Christianity was persecuted. And when they could no longer hold it down, then the privileged classes adopted and perverted the new faith, and it became, in its very triumph, not the pure Christianity of the early days, but a Christianity that, to a very great extent, was the servitor of the privileged classes.
And, instead of preaching the essential Fatherhood of God, the essential brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, its high priests grafted onto the pure truths of the gospel the blasphemous doctrine that the All-Father is a respecter of persons, and that by His will and on His mandate is founded that monstrous injustice which condemns the great mass of humanity to unrequited hard toil. There has been no failure of Christianity. The failure has been in the sort of Christianity that has been preached.... Read the whole speech
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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper