I just watched an hour and a half long PBS Frontline special on Netflix called “Secrets of the Vatican” about the actual evidence (as opposed to hushed whispers and innuendo) that has come to light in recent years about the corruption and crimes against humanity within the Catholic church. Some things kind of came together in my thoughts about corruption in all of the IC that I have been processing for years.
If the church, by definition, is the body of Christ – with Christ as its head and foundation – and it cannot continue on with Christ’s example to the world, then there really is no justification for its existence. In this context, to me, it doesn’t even matter if Christ was real or not, if there was indeed truly a person, Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Christ. The point of it to me in this context is that a set of not only ideologies was put in place for its followers to adhere to but also a lifestyle in which everything that is central to this ideology of Christ is to do no harm and do all that is within one’s power to alleviate suffering wherever one finds it. That is the bulk of the text concerning Christ, and I mean specifically the gospels. Everything else is superfluous if it is to be called Christ.
If the very body, i.e., group of followers and believers of this ideology, fails to carry out this as its primary mission and reason for existence then it has no reason to exist. It can grow and fester in as much corruption as is possible in the entirety of the universe, but all that is obtained by such corruption is irrelevance…and, unfortunately, irrelevance that grievously injures a lot of living beings in the process. I believe that killing only leads to more killing and someone has to draw a line and start the process of making it stop. When the very thing that was founded for the purpose of alleviating suffering not only fails to do so but, rather, inflicts untold, unspeakable suffering, then its very foundation has been shaken and shattered out from under it.
What speaks to me about the significance of the crucifixion is not merely some sort of substitutionary form of atonement for the sins of the whole of mankind but, rather, an example of how deeply held the ideology, and/or Christ’s, convictions were to do no harm and alleviate suffering at all costs – even at potentially the cost of one’s very life. Rather than save his own life, Christ allowed himself to be put in harm’s way and be killed. In order to escape that end, harm would have had to have been done to someone else in the fight to get out of it. I believe the message in it was, “No. I won’t fight this. The violence – the inflicting of suffering on other living beings – stops here, stops now, with me.” Atonement, to me, is definitely not the “get out of jail (hell) free” card that evangelicalism has presented with its substitution theology. For me, atonement is the result of integrating this way of being and living life, and the inspiration, the example of what Christ did and showed in laying down his life is the introduction, showing that it’s possible to make the same kinds of choices.
To me, this is the foundation of the church. If the church is to survive, it must find its foundation again.
I think if we saw more of those who claim to follow Christ doing as Christ did, a lot of the debates as to whether Christ was a real person or not would effectively be shut down. Those who believe that he was a real person would continue to do so. Some might believe who otherwise might not have believed. Those who don’t believe might also continue to disbelieve even with nearly irrefutable evidence of the power of the Christ ideology to change a life from being a violent self-preservationist to a selfless giver of one’s own life to benefit the lives of others, but the evidence would still be hard to ignore. And even still, if people will ultimately only chalk Christ up to a myth, there wouldn’t be so much to baulk at concerning the myth. I mean, what is there to say to a life healed from hopeless despair? That’s what intensified alleviating of suffering makes possible: healing from a life of hopeless despair. I think the argument that Christ never existed would be like, “Meh. Who cares if it’s a myth or not. Look at the result.”
Here is the Frontline special that was aired on February 25, 2014: Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican