Imperial Christianity: A Brief History - I
by N S Rajaram on 01 Dec 2017 4 Comments

Christianity, like Islam, but unlike their common parent Judaism, is largely an imperial movement. Conversion is to Christianity what jihad is to Islam - an expansionist doctrine. Where Islam seeks to bring the whole world under its sway through jihad, Christianity’s goal is to make the world Christian, or turn it into Christendom by conversion. The goal of such religions is not inner spiritual experience for the individual, which is generally denied by them, but conquering the external world for the belief.


This conversion may take many forms and shapes - service, violence, deception, political or military coup or whatever works in the situation at hand. The victim or the intended victim usually sees only one aspect, especially service, and often assumes that Christianity is mainly a religion of peace and service. This is the case in India where, except in pockets like Goa, the Church was never strong enough to resort to conversion by force. So it resorted to more subtle means. This is still the case.


One area in which Christianity has excelled, absolutely without a peer is publicity; it is without doubt the most successful publicity organization in history. One result is that the victims themselves within a few generations are convinced that they have been saved, though it is not always clear from what. Since Christianity is also a historical religion with an extremely violent record, it seeks to impose on the world, especially on its victims, a sugar-coated version of history that always shows Christianity in favorable light as a humanitarian movement. This is facilitated by the fact that Christian organizations own or control much of the media in developing countries.


Modern Christianity likes to speak in terms of peace, brotherhood, love and compassion, as if it were a universalist movement. It may take up causes like anti-war activities, social uplift, medical help and education. But Christianity does not honor other religions or accept them as valid. To date, no major Christian religious leader has made a public statement accepting any other religion as equal to Christianity or any other religious leader as equal to Jesus.


Christianity has One God but two humanities and looks down upon non-Christians as inferior people. It promotes violence and inequality between believers and non-believers, thus bringing social tension, conflict, even war and genocide along with its conversion efforts, as history reveals. Targetting the poor and uneducated in other religions, it likes to pretend that Christianity brings the advancement of society. Since the end of the colonial era, when the Christian armies had to retreat from their colonies, it has sought to promote this softer face, while not giving up its exclusive views and denigration of other traditions.


This command of publicity makes it hard to expose Christianity’s imperial face. Churches and their officials don’t take kindly to any attempts to question their version of history or their activities. This is what happened when Indians, Hindus in particular, raised questions about its aggressive conversion activities. A barrage of publicity was let loose by churches and the media when Hindus reacted to Christian violence, including the recent murder of a highly respected Hindu social worker. But there is a long overdue debate about Christianity’s expansionist activities in the guise of service.


Such questioning of Christianity’s claims has a long history in the West, but is relatively new in India. It is unnecessary to go into reasons for this belated response, beyond noting that India’s colonial past and the excessive deference shown to Christianity and its institutions by the ruling elite and English media are major contributors (important topics not discussed in this article). Here is a very brief history of Christianity as an imperial movement, seen from a non-Christian, pagan perspective.


Viewed from a pagan perspective, Christianity appears to have passed through several phases, beginning as an obscure Jewish militant movement against Rome to becoming the master of the Roman Empire and much of Europe, evolving into the most important tool of Euro-colonialism to its present state of adjusting to changes in the post-colonial world. It is obviously beyond the scope of a short article to do justice to this immense history, beyond highlighting some of the lesser known aspects of Christian history.


Origins: co-opting a Jewish movement


Christianity’s birth was bloody and violent. It grew out of the violent conflicts between the Roman rulers and an obscure - to the Romans obscurantist - Jewish sect in Palestine, then known as Judea. The leader of this sometimes militant sect was James commonly called The Righteous. He is known to Christianity as the Brother of Jesus, but there is little evidence for the existence of Jesus as a historical figure and that little remains questionable. References to him in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus, the most important source for the period, have been seriously tampered with by later Christian scribes. Some are outright forgeries.


Christians and non-Christians alike take the Biblical accounts (in the Gospels of the New Testament) to be historical, but these are easily shown to be later fabrications. Of one thing we may be certain - even if Jesus was an historical figure, the Jews had nothing to do with his persecution and death. His crucifixion by the Romans, if true, was because Jesus led a rebellion against the Roman Empire, as did a number of Jewish leaders of the times, and not because of his radical teachings. His supposed teachings are not all that radical and lie within the Jewish tradition. Here are a couple of examples:


Think not that I am come to destroy Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.

For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. - Matthew 5. 17 – 19


Note the famous statement attributed to Jesus, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s”, would never have been made by a Jewish leader, as the Jews never accepted any Roman right to rule Israel.


The Law here refers to the Law of Moses, the ultimate source of Orthodox Judaism. These are the words of a traditionalist, not a rebel. This Jesus was co-opted first by Paul and later by other Church leaders and turned into a victim of Jewish persecution. This is how he is presented in the Gospels though there are enough hints to indicate otherwise. About James, the real leader of the sect there is no doubt. He was both historical and an orthodox, even ultra-orthodox Jew. All of the twelve apostles of Jesus were Jews.


It is important to keep in mind that Gospels are propaganda literature, not history. They are not eyewitness accounts as claimed by Christians. They were created to fulfill the prophecies about the expected Messiah (Christ) who would deliver the Jews from Roman rule. The identification of Jesus with the Christ came later. The famous Dead Sea Scrolls, more properly known as Qumran texts, have shed important light on the period of early Christianity. They tell us that the Gospels dramatize and project as history the messianic expectations of some Jewish sects in Palestine. John Allegro, one of the pioneers of Dead Sea Scrolls Research wrote:

“… the scrolls prompt us increasingly to seek an eschatological meaning for most of Jesus’ reported sayings: more and more become intelligible when viewed in the light of the imminent cataclysms of Qumran expectations, and the inner conflicts in men’s hearts as the time grew near.”


In other words, Jesus Christ (Jesus the Messiah) was little more than a personification of the messianic expectation of some extremist sects in the Qumran region of Palestine. These Qumran texts (Dead Sea Scrolls) go back a century before the supposed birth of Jesus. They contain important details that were later appropriated by the Gospel authors and attributed to Jesus. We may take a brief look at a few of them.


There is a long history of murdered or sacrificed savior in the ancient Near East including Osiris of Egypt and Adonis of Syria. Christianity borrowed from all these. Even the Persian Mithra is a sacrificial God that the Christians borrowed heavily from.


The Last Supper is one of the most enduring images in Christian mythology. Catholics (and other sects also) celebrate the ‘Lord’s Supper’ to commemorate the event. But Biblical scholars have found that the ceremony of the Lord’s Supper is described in some Qumran texts more than a century before the birth of Christ. What this means is that the Gospel writers appropriated a practice that already existed and turned it into a story about Jesus. So the Last Supper is a fictional dramatization of a long standing practice predating Christianity.


Jesus is known as the Son of God, the Son of the Most High and also as of the Branch of David, the legendary king of Israel. He is placed in the Gospels in a lineage going back to King David as if he were meant to be a king. All these are proclaimed in the Bible. The Gospels give also genealogies of Jesus tracing his ancestry to King David. (This contradicts the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, but no matter.) But all these attributes are found in Qumran texts that go back a century or more before the birth of Jesus. Here are two passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls:


“He will be called the Son of God: they will call him the Son of the Most High… His Kingdom will be an Eternal Kingdom, and he will be Righteous in all his Ways. He will judge the earth in Righteousness.


“I shall be the father and he shall be my son. He is the Branch of David who shall arise with the interpreter of the Law to rule in Zion at the end of time.


“The Heavens and Earth will obey his Messiah,… and all that is in them… and He will heal the sick, resurrect the dead, to the meek announce good tidings. …He will shepherd them.”


The Gospels attribute all these to Jesus. But as just noted they appear in texts that date back a century or more. The story does not end here. Even crucifixion, the central myth of Christianity, was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in a text known as the ‘Pierced Messiah’. When Robert Eisenman, regarded as one of the world’s foremost Scrolls scholar, announced his discovery of the text and its explosive implications, the Vatican tried first to suppress and then discredit it. Biblical scholar Neil Asher Silberman noted:

“Here as Eisenman believed was additional proof (if any was needed) that the International Team [of the Vatican] was sitting on explosive material for decades that would show that the passion of the messiah [his crucifixion]… was a common expectation and not a historical event.”


In summary, the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the Qumran region have shown that nearly all the important events relating to the Life of Jesus given in the Gospels are later fabrications drawing upon beliefs and practices that existed for a century or more before the birth of Christianity. The history of Jesus is irrelevant since he was nothing like the Jesus of the Bible. It is this fictional Jesus, however, that the Vatican and other Christian organizations hold up as the savior in pursuit of their activities, especially conversions. For this reason the Vatican tried to suppress these findings for several decades through its ‘International Team’ of Biblical scholars. The Vatican monopoly was finally broken by Robert Eisenman in 1991. (See author’s The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Crisis of Christianity.)


This means that the ‘history’ of Jesus found in the Gospels is a later fabrication, created for propaganda purposes. Jesus may never have existed, and even if he did he was nothing like how the Bible describes him. James was the leader of the sect that was awaiting the Messiah who would lead them in a victorious battle and deliver them from the Romans. The Jerusalem Church - also known as the Jewish church - that James headed was destroyed by the Romans in the First Jewish War of 66-71 AD. The Romans destroyed also the Jerusalem Temple originally built by Solomon in the 10th century BC.


James had been killed earlier, around 64 A.D., by a gang of dissidents opposed to his teachings. According to scholars, the leader of this dissident group was a Hellenized Jew and a privileged Roman citizen known as Saul of Tarsus, better known as St Paul. He may be seen as the real founder of Christianity. Hence Biblical scholars refer to Christianity as Pauline Christianity.


The killing of James triggered a series of uprisings in Palestine that burst into the First Jewish War in 66 AD. The Jerusalem Church led by James the ‘brother was Jesus’ was destroyed in the War. This left the field open for Paul to propagate his version of Christianity. Paul who had never seen Jesus, either because Jesus never existed or because he had been dead by the time Paul entered the picture, simply used Jesus as a symbol in his propaganda. To Paul, the master propagandist, history was irrelevant.


(To be continued…)

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