Vol 3, No 7       


Vatican painting detail, Resurrection

Christianity
The Way
of Love

with Charles W.
Meister, PhD

by Susan Barber
 
 
Human hatred and killing are not genetic components of human beings, but are learned reactions. Mass murder was unheard of around 10,000 B.C., before religion got organized on a large scale. It is ironic that religion, which is supposed to be based on love, has fed many conflagrations of hate.
—Dr. Charles W. Meister
From Terrorism to World Peace


Dr. Charles Meister, who wrote the book From Terrorism to World Peace[1] as a response to 9-11, is the inventor of the terms "divisive religion" and "unitive religion." All religious scripture, he says, contains elements of both. For most of the two millennia since Jesus' ministry, Dr. Meister points out, Christianity as practiced by the church has been a divisive religion.

But that has changed.

Susan: What do you see as being the central theme of Christianity?

Dr. Meister: When Jesus was asked what was the Great Commandment, he gave two: "Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou Shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-39).

So he summarized his message in terms of loving both God and other human beings wholly — with our total being.

And both of these commandments come out of Torah, the Old Testament, so they apply to Judaism, as well. None of this was different from what the Rabbis had been teaching all along.

Susan: Many of us who were raised in Catholic or Protestant families have drifted away from the church because of its history of violence and intolerance. Could you comment upon that?

Dr. Meister: There's a wide difference between Christianity as Jesus practiced it and Christianity as many Christians have practiced it.

For example, Christianity has had the Crusades, in which Christian nations, led by England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, would first of all kill all the Jews in their hometown.

Now, to begin with, Jesus was a Jew. And Jesus never recommended killing anybody. He said, "You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-48). From the cross he said, "Father, forgive them."

So the Crusaders who slaughtered the Jews in their own towns and villages were pretty poor Christians. They did not do what Christ asked them to do.

"Love ye your enemies," he said (Luke 6:32), and "do good, and lend, hoping for nothing. ... For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them" (Luke 6:35). Jesus asked us to love, do good, and lend to our enemies, not kill them.

In all religions, people fall off from the prophet or founder's ideas.

It was not only the Crusaders who were guilty of unchristian conduct, but also the Inquisition. In the year 1492, which we know about from Columbus, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain passed a law giving the Jews three options: Convert to Christianity, get out of Spain, or get killed. There were about 90,000 Jews in Spain at that time, and about one-third left, one-third converted, and one-third were killed. Then there were no Jews left, because even those who stayed had to accept Christ or they'd have been burned at the stake.

In other words, Christians were not following Christ's teaching and his own practice. He would never have killed anybody. He never wanted anybody killed. That's not what he says.

And another terrible blow to Jesus' message was the 30 Years War, from 1618 to 1648, between Lutheran Germany and Catholic Austria. They were supposed to be Christians, and Christ says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." But here they were, Christians killing Christians. One third of the citizens of Germany and Austria were killed. That's not what Jesus practiced and preached.

So the history of Christianity is a rather bloody one.

There were many marvelous Christians, many of them monks or nuns and many of them just ordinary citizens. We must not forget that probably the majority of Christians were sincere and God-loving. Good people.

But the others, the knights in armor that went around killing people alleging that Jesus wanted them to kill people if they didn't think his way — that wasn't what Jesus said. He said, "Father, forgive them."

There are further blots upon the record of Christianity. One was the witchcraft trials. They were mostly against women, and mostly because the women were not obeying the men the way the men wanted. Sometimes the husband whose wife did not obey would testify to the witchcraft judge and jury that his wife was a witch so he could get her killed.

Susan: Speaking of witchcraft and the persecution of women, I understand that you talk a lot in your books about the Divine Feminine. What is the evidence for feminine divinity in the Christian religion?

Dr. Meister: Since Jesus' scripture was the Torah, his version of the Holy Spirit — which he talks about a lot! — was the Shekhinah. And that is a feminine word. The Holy Spirit, as known by Jesus from his scripture the Torah, was feminine.

Susan: Could you talk about the history of Christianity in terms of your ideas about divisive and unitive religions?

Dr. Meister: I invented the term "divisive religion" for the kind of religion that harms others — kills innocent people and then says somehow God is pleased with that. From Terrorism to World Peace gives many examples of divisive religion, culminating in the attack on Americans on 9-11.

It's an insult to God to say that God would be pleased at the killing of innocent people. I think that's sacrilegious. Unitive religion says we are all God's children and all human life is sacred, therefore we should treat each other with dignity and respect.

Whenever we jeopardize human life — for example, road rage on the highway, driveby shootings, youngsters shooting their classmates, domestic violence — we are not recognizing that every human being is a child of God, is God's creation, and is to be treated with dignity and respect.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church said that there was no salvation outside the church. That's what I call "divisive religion." It's whenever religion is used to harm others.

But finally, in these times, Christianity is getting around to its main business.

Susan: How so?

Dr. Meister: Christianity is returning to the love of God and of human beings, which Jesus said we should do. It is returning to Jesus' message.

For example — this is not widely known but you can find it if you look for it — the great Pope John the 23rd convened Vatican II Council in 1960. It ran until about 1965 and he died before it was over, but his successor, Pope Paul, continued it. And the Vatican II Council concluded that salvation can be found outside of the church. It even allowed that there might be more salvations outside the church than in it![2]

Talk about Revolution! Pope John was this Italian guy, and they put him in because they thought he was too old to do anything. But he changed the church. He changed it from a divisive church to a unitive church.

Then, at the start of Lent in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II[3] apologized to the Jews for the "sons and daughters" of his church who had killed them. He even apologized for the Holocaust — which wasn't the church's fault — in behalf of those who did nothing to stop the Nazis. So Pope John Paul II, in behalf of the Catholic Church, has sought forgiveness for the sins of the past. It's wonderful. It's in keeping with the spirit of Jesus.

All scriptures contain both divisive and unitive elements.

I could find similarities in almost all scripture — including the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Torah, and the Bible — where it says, essentially, "Kill anyone who doesn't agree with you." The exception might be the New Testament.

Jesus did say, "I am the way, the truth, and the Life. No one cometh unto the father except by me." But what was Christ's way? It was to submit his will to God's will. "Why do you call me good?" he asks. "No one is good except God alone." He was humble.

Even Paul, who at times is divisive, especially talking about women, said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galations 3:28), and "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also" (Romans 3:29). Paul says the Jews are going to be accepted by God.

And Peter said, "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:35). That means Chinese people, African people, nonliterate peole, barbarians. In every nation.

Susan: Drunvalo mentions in his editorial that the Golden Rule is common to all religions. Do you find that to be true?

Dr. Meister: All religions have the Golden Rule. It is a universal maxim of conduct that's accepted by all human beings. It's not always practiced, but it's in all the scriptures. Even Taoism says that there is One Way, and that is to do good to your fellow man. That's the Golden Rule.

Susan: Although you have studied all religions, it's obvious that you yourself are a Christian. If all faiths have unitive truth within them, then why have you chosen just one?

Dr. Meister: There's a phrase from Hinduism that I think is very useful in this regard. It's "Ishta-Deva." Ishta-Deva refers to that aspect of the Deity that has appeared to you. I recommend that everyone stay with his or her "Ishta-Deva."

In my case, certainly the Lord Jesus is my Ishta Deva.

When I was a boy, six years old, my father was killed by gangsters in Chicago, and I was without a father. Each night I would cry myself to sleep saying, "Dear God, why can't you bring back my father."

It was mother who showed me that the Lord Jesus would never let me down. She was wonderful. Nothing stopped her. And she lived by Lord Jesus. So the answer to my prayers was that I gained a heavenly father. I call Jesus my Lord and my Savior. He is my means of knowing God and living in accordance with God's will.

That's true of obviously many people, since there are over two billion who follow his way. But there are other Ishta-Devas, and it would be "divisive religion" if I were to say that anyone who doesn't follow my way is condemned to hellfire and should be killed, as the terrorists did on 9-11.

There are many paths to God, and we should love and respect another's pathway.

At the Higher Level, all Ishta-Devas merge and we come unto God.

Susan: How can we know that we're on the right path.

Dr. Meister: I have a test for that.

The paths to God are like the spokes of a wheel, with God at the Center. All of us on the outspokes are in different starting places, so of course we're going in a slightly different direction, but all are going toward God.

But God is within each of us. So the test is: The closer you get to God, the closer you get to your Fellow Man.


Charles W. Meister, PhD (University of Chicago, 1948) is a man of talent and scholarship whose accomplishments include extensive work at universities, including serving as dean and president, battlefield hero in World War II, U.S. representative for education and religious affairs in post-war Germany, Chekhov expert, and author of numerous books and articles.

His books include: Year of the Lord: A.D. 1844 (McFarland & Company, 1983); Dramatic Criticism: A History (McFarland & Company, 1985); The Founding Fathers (McFarland & Company, 1987); Chekhov Criticism (McFarland & Company, 1988); Religion: Bane or Blessing (New Falcon Press, 1999); and From Terrorism to World Peace (New Falcon Press, 2002).

Dr. Meister lives near the main offices of the Spirit of Ma'at in Payson, Arizona. He is a well known and beloved presence in this community, and speaks often at the local Unity church.


Footnotes:

  1. New Falcon Press, 2002.
  2. See ChristusRex.org for a complete report on Vatican II Council.
  3. See ReligiousTolerance.org/pope_apo.htm for description and text.


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