Seen one, seen 'em all

  Rosie O'Donnell on The ViewTV talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell didn't waste any time turning her top-rating program The View into a forum for sheer lunacy. Recently she announced to a surprised audience, "Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have separation of church and state."
This assertion is, as we kill-crazy, blood-lusting Christians like to call it, a "target-rich environment". First, of course, there is the initial contention of Ms O'Donnell. To which, of course, we all reply, "Amen!"
After all, who can forget the beheading Methodists, the angry riots by surging Catholic mobs enraged over "Piss Christ", the planes flown into mosques by members of the Nebraska Missionary Alliance, the Bible Church members who bombed the disco in Bali, the bomb in the London Underground set off by crazed Lutherans from Lake Wobegon, and the bombs in Spain courtesy of the Billy Graham organization.
Christians? Why there's dangers o'plenty out there from these maniacs. Remember when the Dutch filmmaker was found murdered with a "Precious Moments" Bible verse pinned to his chest with a knife? Remember when the Vatican issued the death fatwa against Dan Brown and he had to go into hiding? You don't think the Salvation Army is for spiritual warfare do you? We're talking about the most deadly fighting force of soulless killers in the world! And, of course, the number of gays and lesbians like Rosie O'Donnell hanged, stoned to death, and sentenced to death by courts in America, where the vast majority of citizens self-identify as Christians, is indistinguishable from places like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
If you've seen one Abrahamic religion, you've seen 'em all.
Rosie would stand alone as a particularly empty-headed pundit on Christianity -- if she stood alone. The thing is, this peculiar tendency to see all Christian churches and ecclesial bodies as the same, and to see Christianity as more or less identical to some other (and often profoundly different) cultural phenomena has dogged Christianity from its very inception.
Jesus, even in his sojourn on earth, was confused by popular opinion with others. When he asked his disciples who people thought he was, they replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." A little later on, we find Christianity being confused with a revolutionary sect, an incarnation of pagan gods, and a cult devoted to a god named Jesus and a goddess named Anastasis. As time went on, the Romans found they could not distinguish Christianity from a Jewish sect and the Jews could not distinguish it from a pagan cult. A little after that, and the authorities could not tell it apart from various gnostic sects that all made Jesus the mouthpiece of their various spiritual theories.
These days you see much the same thing. For several years, people who wanted to fancy themselves "educated" were all agog for the pseudo-sophistication of The Da Vinci Code, which said that the Church was pretty much exactly the same thing as Mithraism and the various mystery cults of the late Roman Empire and that it had nothing to do with Judaism. Meanwhile, pop scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls were confidently announcing that Christianity was pretty much exactly the same thing as the thoroughly Jewish Essene community and its "Teacher of Righteousness" and that it had nothing to do with paganism. Now, since 9/11, Chritianity has been discovered by Rosie and similar deep thinkers to be pretty much the same as Islam.
This sort of rediscovery of what Jesus and the Church "really" are has been proceeding apace for a long time. For the Communists, Jesus was really a Bolshevik. For the Nazis, an icon of Aryan purity. For feminists, a feminist.
For Christians, this is all pretty funny because it's like saying your mother, dogs, cats and elephants are all pretty much the same: hair, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, warm blood. What's the difference? A certain inattention to details is notable in such an analysis, coupled with a glibness that elicits laughs and sighs in turn.
The Christian faith is "the same" as Judaism insofar as the revelation to Israel was a true revelation from God that prepared the way for Christ. It is "the same" as Islam insofar as Mohammed called upon the God of Abraham and so do Jews and Christians. It is "the same" as paganism insofar as Christ answered the longing for truth and love that burns in the pagan heart as well as in the Jewish one. Therefore, some elements of some pagan myths and mystery religions bear a passing resemblance to the Christian story.
But Christianity is unique. Its revelation of Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, incarnated under Augustus Caesar, crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead, buried, and raised in glory is not affirmed by anybody else in the world. Points of similarity are only that: similarities. They are not identifications. They prove Christianity is "the same" as these other cultural and religious phenomena in exactly the same way as the presence of a mouth, a stomach, a digestive tract, and an opening for the excretion of waste prove that an earthworm, a blue whale, an ostrich, Osama bin Laden, Mother Teresa, and Groucho Marx are all "the same".
Other factors really need to be taken into account.
Mark Shea blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It!


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