As I write these words, it’s Hallowe’en 2023. In the trick-or-treat category, the world is being treated to two major wars: the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the recent Israeli incursion into Palestinian Gaza. Ironically, Israel and Ukraine rank one and two in the world, respectively, in their percentage of Jewish-to-non-Jewish citizens. As a Jewish-Christian—I consider myself an Abrahamic since I’m technically also a Muslim—I am aghast at what Hamas did on October 7th over its border in Israel. I am equally aghast at what Israel is now doing in and to Gaza. But I also remember that the world’s most populous religion, originated in the name of the Prince of Peace, is no stranger to war. Think of the Crusades or of armed conflicts between brother Christians who happened to be Protestants versus Catholics. The term “holy war” has to be one of the world’s foremost oxymorons, right up there with “military intelligence.”...
Here in the United States, moreover, “our” pilgrim “forefathers,” strict Calvinists, felt justified in violently pushing the indigenous inhabitants off the latter’s land and inciting fellow European colonists to do the same, from sea to shining sea. I also remember how Herman Melville in his novella Billy Budd spoke of the chaplain on the British warship the H.M.S. Indomitable as “a servant of the Prince of Peace indentured to Mars, the God of War.” Nowadays I think of the so-called Christian nationalists in the United States, who use the Bible to beat up on the unholy others—people whom Jesus would have considered fellow children of God. Then there is Russian President Putin who proudly displays his ever-present cross even as he justifies oppression at home and a bloody war of aggression on his neighboring country.
So, as an active Christian—I am a regular member of an Episcopal congregation in Boulder, Colorado—let me advocate for Christ-ianity, a religion that takes Jesus’ two great commandments seriously: Love God and Love our neighbor. He was very specific about who that neighbor might be in the parable of the Good Samaritan. You’ll remember that when a man, presumably a Jew, was robbed and injured on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho and left beside the road to die, both a Levite and a Jewish priest passed him by without helping. It was a non-Jewish Semite from Samaria who cared for the man and probably saved his life. Even the Chat GPT-powered search engine used by Bing couldn’t tell me the number of U.S. hospitals named for that original Good Samaritan, but I’ll bet there are hundreds. Jesus had a total behavioral standard. Think also of how he protected the “woman caught in sin,” who was about to be stoned by her “righteous” fellow religionists. In John 8:7 he admonished the crowd that the one among them without sin should cast the first stone, whereupon the self-appointed judges all left. In true Christianity, what I am referring to as Christ-ianity, all others are those we are enjoined to love. No exceptions. No othering. So whatever your religion or lack thereof, the main requirement is Love—of the Creator and of everyone and everything else. War is never an option.