Whatever Happened to the Original Form of Christianity?

Gary G. Kohls, MD

From time to time I read about condemnations of religion coming from non-religious groups, especially concerning the all-too-common violence perpetrated in the name of their gods. Indeed there is plenty to condemn. 

Altogether too many sects of both major and minor religions, despite verbally professing a desire for peace and justice in the world, are actually pro-war, pro-homicide, and pro-violence in practice (or they may be silent on the subject, which is, according to moral theology, the same as being pro-violence). 

Obvious examples include those portions of the three major war-justifying religions of the world: fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism, and fundamentalist Christianity. I use the term fundamentalist in the sense that the religious person who ascribes to a fundamentalist point of view believes, among other dogmatic belief, that their scriptures are inerrant and thus they can find passages in their holy books that justify homicidal violence against their perceived or fingered enemies, while simultaneously ignoring the numerous contradictory passages that forbid violence and homicide and instead prescribe love, hospitality, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 

Behind the scenes, of course, there are hidden elite, amoral, politically and financially motivated operatives who are embedded in these religious organizations that, through the strength of their political power, can easily manipulate the followers into clamoring for war, not against their enemies, but rather against the enemies of the ruling elite, the politicians, the financiers, and the other exploiters of natural resources.

And so nonviolent portions of the various religions—and they are there, albeit hidden and censored—can be erroneously painted with the same brush that justifiably condemns the hypocrisy and the violence.

Although it is certainly true that the church-endorsed and/or orchestrated genocide of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and many wars of colonization and exploitation have had their origins in fundamentalist interpretations of “holy” scripture, I do have to take exception to the blanket condemnation of the entirety of the religion by pointing out one reality, and that is that the original form of Christianity, the church of the first generation after Jesus and even most of the first three centuries, long since forgotten or ignored, was initially a religion of pacifists, oppressed women, orphans, those forced into prostitution, despised people of all stripes, and others of those called “the least.”

The earliest followers of Jesus rejected violence, tried to return good for evil, fed the hungry, did acts of mercy and unconditional love, and tried to make friends out of their enemies (by caring for them, feeding them, praying for them, and certainly refusing to kill them or pay for somebody else to kill them).