An unpublished novel by me treats of violence and nonviolence as a major theme with hell a subtheme. It is entitled Chrysalis Crucible, and tells the story of a young evangelist’s coming of age on the short-term mission field in West Berlin. Following is a chapter that is a kind of climax of this theme. Please also read “Violence and Nonviolence – (Part I)”.
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Andy had not seen Petra since the Great Seduction. Would she hit on Jack next? Presumably not Gary and Peter, since they were after all married. The next time he talked to Janys, he would ask her to work this through with Petra. Or should he? The answer was instantly obvious. He could not trust himself to do so. He would ask Janys. He would tell her that she could let their secret out to Petra: they were secretly engaged to be married.
He did. She did. On Friday the 13th no less, that evening, Janys and Petra had a very blunt talk in the War Room at the girls’ apartment. Andy still had not seen Petra.
Janys explained afterwards to Andy that she first approached the issue in terms of her and Andy’s secret engagement. At that, Petra was thrilled for them, then immediately apologetic.
“Oh Janys”, she had said, “I’m so sorry! Did Andy say…?”
Janys’ nodding in the affirmative led to further discussion about that side of the issue, that no one appreciates a boyfriend stealer. Janys said that she approached more tentatively the issue of Christian sexual faithfulness, sexual parameters, etc. It was a stretch for Petra; still in part linguistically. But she eventually understood everything, Janys explained.
“But some men in the Bible had hundreds of wives, concubines, and prostitutes, it seems. King David for instance, a ‘man after God’s own heart’, it says in Scripture, must have been a sex addict!”, Petra had exclaimed.
“Ever hear of Wilt the Stud?’, Janys had asked, wrestling with German and English. “Or President Kennedy with Resident Kinky Dee… and Alice, and Jane, and Martha, and Marilyn, and…. Kennedy would have sex with several different women all in one day, sometimes. His Secret Service would round them up for him, like Jesus said go to the highways and the byways and compel them to come in... And strip and screw… in their case. They all did for President John Don Juan.
“It’s amazing no one ever blackmailed him and with that the entire nation. It came close to happening around the same time in Britain.
“You were probably too young”, Janys continued, “to remember the Christine Keeler affair. She brought down in Britain the Harold Macmillan government in 1963 through her sexual involvement with both Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, and a Soviet Embassy attaché as well. In 1964, there were consequently ‘winds of change’ for Prime Minister Macmillan, who was turfed out of office. The joke at the time was, ‘Question: Who’s the worst carpenter in the world? Answer: Christine Keeler… A few screws here and there, and the whole cabinet fell apart!’” It took Petra a while to get the joke with the play on “screw”…
“Well, my dear, that’s a little of why the Apostle Paul says no to be screwing around, unless in a committed marriage relationship, if one is a Christian.
“It’s tough when you’re sexy and used to it, Petra. But go read the Book of I Corinthians, then let’s have another talk.”
Petra agreed. She took it very well. She said she’d apologize the next time she saw Andy.
Janys suggested they invite him right over and talk about it. They did. Petra said she was sorry; Andy did not even see naked boobs. He thanked her. It was over just like that.
“Oh, and you guys, congratulations! This marriage thing must really be neat! Can we talk about it sometime? I have no idea…”
Janys said again, “Read the book of Corinthians.” And they showed her to the door.
“I think Petra got it, Andy.”, Janys said finally. “I wish we could go to another beach party. I’d love to see what kind of bathing suit she’ll wear…”
In October as well, the team added to its activities a Boys’ Club for the winter months, having received again permission from Wilmersdorf assembly to use their facility. Still no offers of help from any of the churches they connected to. They had hoped G.E.’s initiative might have changed things. So far not.
Despite Braxman’s arrest, Fiona had remained melancholy. Jack was still staying over Friday and Saturday night’s at the girls’ apartment. Fiona was going thorough the motions of team life, but the lustre had gone. It even showed in her complexion and hair. Jack understandably cursed Braxman. There were phone calls going back and forth between Fiona and her parents; Fiona and G.E.; Jack and G.E. The phone bills, Peter’s domain, must have been significant. Maybe they shouldn’t have gotten those new phones installed… So far, nothing was being resolved. Jack and Fiona were showing the stress.
Meanwhile, Jean’s health had stayed constant. For the time being, they too were holding.
On occasion, the guys’ apartment took in “strays” met usually on the Ku’damm during open-air Evangelisationen. One night in mid-October, a guy, Mannfred, stayed with them. He had become ‘saved’ through a local Jesus People expression known as the Children of God. He spoke not a word of English, but strangely claimed comprehension of English-language Christian magazines he perused in their apartment, believing the Holy Spirit somehow supplied spontaneous comprehension. Andy felt tempted to press him on content, but other than obliquely so as not to embarrass him, refrained.
Mannfred only stayed one night, then rather mysteriously disappeared with not a word of thanks. A few others disappeared with a little more. The first found the change purse, and absconded with it. Thankfully there was little in it. The next disappeared with one of Andy’s Schaeffer books. He was less chagrined about that. He suddenly knew he was changing…
Mention was made of some of this petty theft by Gary in a letter to G.E. A clear directive arrived shortly thereafter: STOP TAKING IN THE HOMELESS! G.E. went on to say that they had gone to Germany to preach and teach the Gospel. This, he explained, would engage them in Bible studies, door-to-door and open air work, and many similar kinds of activities. But it was too risky to be taking in street people. Especially men with Sharon, not at all unattractive, living in the apartment too. Though likewise if it was all girls being taken in, G.E. would still have prohibited the practice, for opposite reasons.
On the last Saturday of October, Jack had booked yet another visit to Scott Cunningham at the Zehlendorf American Army Base. He was going weekly now, working out with him, hanging out, etc. Jack never said very much about the visits. Todd Braxman was apparently being held at the Base now. He had suffered a broken collarbone the night of the abduction. It had sufficiently immobilized him that night. No one knew how he had dealt with that medical condition. No one quite knew either how he had survived in the intervening weeks. New German charges however were pending, for several Breaks and Enters. Jack’s working out included rebuilding his karate prowess.
Fiona was not doing well; there was talk of G.E.’s possibly coming to Berlin in early November.
Jack asked Andy if he wanted to join with him for the ride that October afternoon. They agreed that he would not meet with Scott. Andy said he’d be glad to go along, and take the car to a nearby park for an hour or so.
The daytime drive to the Base was reminiscent of the wild drive there the night of the kidnapping.
Andy began, “You know, Jack, I can now imagine the terror of those Israeli athletes at the Olympics. Look what it’s done to Fiona weeks later, even with the guy caught.
“She’s not doing well is she, Jack?”
“She’s a mess, Andy.”, Jack said, agonizing. “You know what she’s been talking about most? Her son, Timmy.”
“So where’s this all going to end up, Jack?”, Andy asked.
“Almost for sure G.E.’s comin’ out in early November. One of the things I’m gonna talk to Scott today about is whether there may be any kind of psychiatric help for Fiona. They have a responsibility we both think. It’s a real bummer.
“Her parents want her home. I think now that is the best, too. I’m thinkin’ of leavin’ too, Andy.”, Jack behind the wheel looked grim. All the bounce had gone.
It was the first time Jack had come out and said so much. It was not surprising. It was still shocking to hear it said so starkly. The whole team was tottering.
Jack easily found parking outside the Compound on Clayallee. When Andy looked around he told Jack, “I’ve got a key too. I think I’m just going to stroll around. Take as long you need.
“I have a novel idea that just hit me. What if you were to ask to actually see Braxman in jail.”
“Whatever for, Andy?”, Jack looked incredulous.
“I don’t know, really, Jack. The thought just hit me. What if you could actually win him over? That would sure set Fiona at ease…”, Andy was conjecturing.
Jack shook his head and strode towards the electronic gate. He was soon ushered inside, leaving Andy to wander along the Allee. It was like an Indian Summer fall day back home, though a touch cool. Andy suddenly thought it would soon be Hallowe’en. On which planet again? It all seemed frightfully far away. He was glad Janys had not joined him. He had some serious thinking to do. Somehow the sight of this Compound, representing American power flung to the far corners of the world, was an inspiration. But not to sing The Star-Spangled Banner.
Andy’s mind first turned to G.E.’s forceful missive about only “preaching the Gospel”. He thought immediately of the Matthew 25 passage.
He felt again overwhelmed with the salvation message of the passage. It all turned upon good works performed in this lifetime. And yet he had been raised all his life to believe “not by works, lest any man should boast”, Paul’s teaching, which was all after-death oriented. So did Paul simply contradict Jesus? Did a choice have to be made of that sort? Or was James, in echoing Jesus with “ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”, simply out to lunch, author indeed of a “right strawy epistle”, unaware that salvation was freely offered without good works?
Were James and Jesus in their teachings somehow heretics? Even though Jesus the icon saved us through His blood? But not through His words lived out? Then Andy remembered the startling discovery in Matthew’s Gospel that the “wise man” was not the one who believed, and the “foolish man” not the unbeliever destined for hell fire. Rather, the wise man was “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice”. And what was the immediate context for Jesus’ “words” to discern what practice? The Sermon on the Mount, which is chock-a-block full of the call to treat the neighbour with justice, mercy and compassion. That was the purview of the wise man. That was the concrete actualization of salvation that is “today”.
How had Andy missed, how had the entire Evangelical tradition misread, such evident biblical teaching? Could it be that Evangelicals, for all their protestations of biblical faithfulness, were instead after all most like the legalistic Pharisees, “of their father, the devil”, murderers and liars from the beginning? Andy hated it when his mind took such turns. This could get a guy crucified he self-scolded with a chill.
Andy turned to the immense human capacity to inflict human suffering upon one’s fellow, as he walked alongside the American Base. The American Army is the most capacitated in the entire world to do precisely that! Images of Agent Orange defoliating multiplied hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine jungle, and doubtless deforming thousands of unborns for a whole new generation; gas ovens; massive bombings; scientific excising of “cancer” from the body politic; cluster bombs scattered by the millions, and jungle slaughter of soldiers, villagers, and anyone else caught in the crossfire; napalm sending an eight-year-old girl naked down the road, the searing pain all over her face, captured for the world by a happenstance photographer. He wondered at the enormous human capacity and lust for perpetrating overwhelming misery against others.
The thought struck, had he first heard it from Hans?, that this had to be the ultimate inversion of evangelism, when bombs and bullets, Agent Orange, and God only knows what else in word and deed, not “the good seed”, were scattered indiscriminately upon the earth. Pain, death and devastation followed. Massively.
Then the terrifying reminder that Evangelicals en masse blessed all that! The ultimate world evangelist gave routine assent, as surely as Saul and those stoning Stephen persecuted the early Christians. Billy always prayed with the President during times of national crisis. And with Graham, the vast majority of Western Evangelicals nodded their approval, like the Nazis at Dachau and elsewhere in the white coats at the end of those one-way train trips. What utter perversion of the Good News. What Gospel travesty. What complete inversion of evangelism. By the world’s greatest evangelist, and amongst the world’s most virulent religion propagators: Evangelicals.
How could this be? How could a man, not to mention an entire faith tradition, so endorse and defend pure, unadulterated evil perpetrated against God’s good creation and his image bearers, for whom, additionally, Christ himself suffered a painful victim’s death by “legitimate” state decree? Andy’s mind recoiled at the emerging sense of sheer horror of what he and his fellow Evangelicals accepted as nonchalantly as going out for a Sunday School picnic: mass slaughter of enemies of the State. This was in company with dominant Western Christian tradition since Constantine. It was also in lock step with Machiavelli, Napoleon, Bismarck, the German Kaiser, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, the Japanese Emperor, Mao, to name only relatively recent mainly Western tyrants.
His horror turned to terror that his entire life he had worshipped God and had been formed in all his core beliefs in company with such sycophants of mass murder and mayhem. As if he had been born into a Mafia family, where killing and slaughter were simply routine, justified as what was needed to “get the job done”, to enable “normal” life to go on. “Just War” theory as Christians had always enunciated it, Andy suddenly understood, was equally the prerogative of the Mob and every vile tyrant known to humanity. No doubt Christians were more sophisticated than what a Mafia family godfather or dictator might articulate, but in the end, it all boiled down to exactly the same thing: terror and slaughter. People destroyed, the earth raped and pillaged, all for a “just” cause. How could he have been so duped, and not have seen the true face of Christendom, of Evangelicalism, viciously “red in tooth and claw”?
He crossed over the Allee at a light. He walked towards the Base but from the other side. As he looked at the base, he imagined all the keen Christians wanting to propagate their faith while they gleefully slaughtered their enemies in Vietnam. The juxtaposition was stark.
He thought of Christian support of slavery and the slave trade. Thousands of lives were stolen, brutalized, raped, terrorized, and discarded at the behest of those whose unquestioned, until politician William Wilberforce, participation in “Christian” genteel society was as grotesque then as Nazi concentration camp guards 150 years later – or Allied bombers or majority Christian supporters of the death penalty and warfare throughout church history. The entire edifice of Western civilization after all built upon a gargantuan garbage dump of justified “holy”, wholly, terror.
There was a bench at the edge of the sidewalk. The sun was warm. Andy sat looking at the expanse of the entire Compound.
He was again realizing, like awakening from a terror-filled nightmare, that this kind of justification was dominant Evangelical Christian reality. Not “justification by faith” intentionally productive of a “life of love”, which seemed largely a massive Christian fraud, a kind of ferocious legal fiction, but justification of every imaginable form of harm and destruction wreaked upon humanity and nature in the name of God. Andy wondered what kind of powerful sorcerer had incanted such a pervasive, potent spell, that the entire Evangelical tradition, including millions upon millions of ostensibly Bible-believing, Jesus-following, God-fearing souls, accepted such indescribably sick justifications as Gospel truth? Was there ever any hope of breaking such a spell, when the Bible, God, and Jesus ostensibly, according to most mainline leadership past and present, queued eagerly in unequivocal endorsement?
His mind moved inexorably to Evangelical, in general Christian, justification of every war fought in the entire history of the church. All had been blessed by the church on both sides of the conflict. Andy knew that over one hundred millions had been slaughtered in the twentieth century so far alone, mostly with the blessing of the church from every side. He knew from Hans the terrible recitation of mass butchery by Western Allies. These hundreds of thousands of immolated innocents just happened to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the infants under two that Herod had destroyed to wipe out the Christ-Child.
Just like that!, Andy saw it with a start. Then: And they’re still aimed at murdering the Christ-Child! What was that Christian World War II slogan?: “Praise God and pass the bombs!”. Sick, and designedly destructive of the Christ-Child in every last one of “the least of these”! Herod’s decree marching orders ever since for virtually all Christendom, world without end; world brought to a horrible end possibly in nuclear nightmare!; all enemies for sure consigned to a God-forsaken end, Amen and Amen, intoned by every military chaplain in the history of Christendom.
Why was such an obvious biblical association so out of step with virtually everyone else living in the West? Incredible! Astounding! The power of monstrous myth-making to perpetrate the Ultimate Lie: “Might is right. Violence is holy.” Isn’t that exactly what he was looking at? One clarion symbol of that very mythmaking? A two-millennia religious phenomenon, Christendom, including right up to its most vehement contemporary defenders, Evangelicals, utterly at odds with the most straightforward, most pervasive, most undeniably central Gospel ethical truth: Love your neighbour; love your enemies. The Core of the Gospel: unbridled reconciliation; the Core of Christendom: endless violence. Each in diametrically opposed stark juxtaposition.
Then: Who did Andy think he was?! To see things so differently. Who did Hans think he was? Dan? Jesus?, the questions thudded like a sledge hammer. Andy physically recoiled. He held onto the bench as if falling. Then, but whom are Evangelicals following, when Jesus is the rock bottom source of the Gospel logic against violence? What had Gandhi said?: “It seems everyone but Christians knows Jesus was non-violent.”
When Gandhi once was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he paused, then replied: “I think it would be a great idea!” Freedom of the Western press for those who own one. Freedom from violence for those who own the biggest guns. Drop that first atomic bomb. Now the Russians will know who has the Biggest Gun! Stupid white men facing each other down on Main Street at High Noon. Little kids all; puerile; totally stunted growth; utter fools every last one, from President John down to Kinky Sex Dee and Christine and Marilyn… A great idea indeed, “civilization”, however foreign in the West.
Gandhi might have similarly responded to, ‘What do you think of Western Christianity?’ with, ‘I think it would be a great idea…” Then he might have added, “They could even start by following Jesus!” What a novel thought. And for different reasons, but in the end with identical outcome, both believer and non-believer respond: “So what?” Billy Graham, the pagan, the lowly G.I. Private in Vietnam, latest evangelistic convert stroking his New Testament like a good luck charm, while proceeding to engage in routine acts utterly anti-Christ: blowing, not welcoming, the enemy to Kingdom Come! That, in the end, is the true measure of Evangelical evangelism. “Kingdom Come” all right, when all is said and done, at the point of the gun, the discharge of the bomb, the launch of the missile. Praise God and drop those bombs, toss those grenades, spew death from the automatic weaponry, fire those missiles. That’s God’s true Kingdom Come on earth for Western Christianity: all enemies be damned, God be praised forevermore.
Andy knew that his Evangelical peers did not see war, World War II, the Vietnam War, any war their nation needed to enter, that way. That they invariably intoned, he had heard it, war was a tragic, unavoidable, necessity so that people could live in freedom and peace. Which people?! his mind exploded in remonstrance! The hundreds of thousands who “are the dead, though short days ago they lived” whether or not “poppies grow in Flanders fields”? Which poem was callous call to continue the massacring. What of their peace and freedom? They were to be accorded only the peace of the graveyard?, as Evangelicals and most of Christendom cheered, saying indeed ‘Praise the Lord, and pass the bombs! – or the spears; or the guns; or the missiles; or the electric chairs.’ Sick and desperately evil. What a monstrous lie Christendom had believed, had perpetrated! For centuries. And with ubiquitous, iniquitous, world-conquering outcome.
He could not stop his mind’s stream of consciousness. He noticed absently geese overhead. Presumably. He imagined American war planes about to once again drop deadly destruction upon all beneath, the good creation.
What an abject, calculated rejection of the one who taught and lived, “Love your neighbour, especially your enemies”. He wondered, as in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, what emissary from hell might perhaps be sent to lift the veil of abject evil from his fellow Evangelicals’ eyes so that they could see? Or would they rather be as Jesus warned, seeing, yet they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand? They already had Moses and the Prophets, and Jesus and the Apostles. If they didn’t “get it” in reading them, what hope, were one even to raise again from the dead! Did not Billy Graham and “a great cloud of witnesses” preach ‘Jesus Christ, Risen Again, Mighty to Save, Able to Keep’, what Andy’s home assembly boldly announced it preached, visible above the pulpit for all comers? The iconic Bible wide open in Billy’s and millions of preachers’ hands as they thunder their evangelistic message without the Gospel; Jesus denied and crucified in Evangelicals’ blessing of mass victims everywhere. Jesus the Salvation Icon. But not Jesus the Exemplar. Horrors no… Horrors yes.
Andy’s mind reeled, but had nowhere to turn. This could get a guy crucified. He was under no illusion that Evangelicals believed in Billy Graham, for all intents Pope of Evangelicalism, believed in Billy Graham far more than they believed in Jesus. If Billy prayed with every President for victory in whatever war America was fighting, then Billy must be right and Jesus wrong! It was surely as blatantly stark as that.
And who would be thanked for saying, “But the Emperor has no clothes!” Certainly not the little boy crying out the sudden revelation in Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. “Crucify him!”, Andy suddenly heard the Evangelical hordes crescendo in response, as robustly, as resolutely, as incomprehensibly, as the mob in front of Pilate two thousand years before – or the soldiers doing Herod’s bidding to the two-and-under toddlers in Bethlehem so long ago. Why did Andy’s mind think this way? What was the matter with him? What had seized his troubled mind to arrive at conclusions that would get him crucified, and blacklisted by every Evangelical leader in the world? Who did he think he was?!
He wondered about Scott Cunningham who wanted Christ and American Empire; his cake and eat it too; God and Guns. Jack was obviously having a good discussion. There was no sign of him yet. Andy felt okay about that. The sun was warm on his face. He still had some ways to go in sorting some of this out.
Had he somehow misunderstood? Did Evangelicals after all really take Jesus seriously? He thought immediately of all the “born-again” military personnel right in front of him. A real revival, the team had been told. He remembered what Hans Beutler had said, recalled his discussions with Dan, and reviewed his own awareness of church history. No. He was not wrong. The vast majority of Christians throughout history, and of his contemporary Evangelicals, best represented by Billy Graham at the White House in his constant blessing of U.S. military interventions, had always underwritten mass slaughter of America’s, the West’s, the “good guys’” enemies, worldwide. Whenever it served American, or Western interests.
There was always justification for Western Holocaust. The “other justification” like Paul’s “other gospel” that was pure symmetrical inversion of biblical “justification by faith”. It was Evangelicals’ primary gospel; foremost kind of “justification”. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Bible, was unknown or secondary.
There was no difference between Evangelical doctrine and Mafia belief in the end. Regrettably or not, in cold blood, or with a glimmer of conscience, people must die, the good earth be wasted! Whatever to get the job done. It was the logic of High Priest Caiaphas who said of Jesus that it was better that one man should die than that the whole nation perish. Evangelicals, all of Christendom, had simply repeated that scapegoating anti-Gospel dogma throughout their long, sick and desperately evil history, who can know it?; Andy’s mind echoed Jeremiah. The dynamics that had killed the Prince of Peace were identical to those theologized, endorsed, and perpetuated by most of Christendom most of history, by most everyone. Andy quoted to himself: the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? Evangelicals obviously did not. Did he?
And there was Andy daily on the streets of West Berlin, door-to-door at the Centre, with the evangelistic throngs at the Munich Olympics, preaching the anti-“Gospel”, representing reversed “Good News”.
He stood up, then sat down again; felt almost like throwing up, like expectorating to oust some kind of forbidden ingested food. But he knew it was far too late. He had long-since swallowed, for years, Evangelical belief, which included, like King Herod, perpetual endorsement of mass slaughter of innocents. Most Evangelicals, most Christian believers, were King Herod’s foot soldiers when it came to war and capital punishment.
He remembered the observation that Billy Graham’s first book was Peace With God. But he had never written Peace With Man. And not likely to, given his anti-Christ evangelistic theology. Yet were there not two “Greatest Commandments”, not one? Why in war and the death penalty did Evangelicals excise the Second?
So what about all the Germans, Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese – enemies all within the past thirty-five years – murdered on a grand scale by the “Good Guys”, and blessed by all Christendom , except “enemy” Christendom, which of course identically called down God’s blessing on the slaughter of the “Good , really Bad, Guys”. Had God not made them in his image too? Had Christ not also died for them? Was there not Good News they were equally entitled to hear? Embrace? Live out? Does “love” mean in the end what the papal legate said centuries before, and Evangelicals explicitly follow in the present day, “Kill them all, God will sort out who are his own!”?
Andy wished Jack would hurry out now. He needed somehow to put a stop to the impossible build-up of stream of consciousness. There had been very little traffic on the Allee. He felt tempted to get up and walk again. His mind roared on.
What kind of utter perversion, inversion, of biblical “love” had Christendom embraced, to permit the wholesale slaughter throughout the centuries of domestic and foreign “enemies”, who were “neighbours”, who were “God”, at least God’s image bearers, in whom, “the least of these”, Jesus was to be found? Why had seemingly so few in the history of the church from within screamed out: The Emperor has no clothes!?
Some of Andy’s earlier discussions were doing reruns.
In that light, in consideration of the overwhelming unrighteousness of Christian belief and action for centuries, was not the era of the Enlightenment a supreme gift from God to the church? To the world? Were its proponents perhaps the “stones” God would make cry out when the church for centuries had endorsed and committed endless atrocious adulteries with the State, approving innumerably the very violence that killed its Founder? Was not the revolt of atheism over against the church’s horrendous unfaithfulness pure religion of the sort James spoke of? Were not Unitarians in their pacifism far more faithful even when throwing out the baby, Jesus’ Incarnation, with the bath water, however regrettably? Was not Gandhi “right on” in his rejection of the missionaries’ “Christ”?
Was not Martin Luther tragically misguided in only trying to find justification before a holy God, yet never likewise before God’s image-bearers, not least God’s chosen, the Jews? Luther who had instructed the German Nobility, “Smite, slay and kill” the peasant hordes, and had committed to writing some of the most vituperative anti-Semitic hate literature known to humanity. Which the Lutheran church officially rejected only after the Nazis, steeped in Martin Luther’s German Christianity, had slaughtered six million Jewish innocents.
Was not, come to think of it biblically, contrary to mainstream Protestant and Evangelical understandings, the only way to find a holy God through loving embrace of neighbour and enemy? Was not Jesus the Way, and that Way according to Jesus is living out the two Greatest Commandments, of which the second is the “royal law” and only way of actually performing the first – loving God – Whom one has not seen? How had Evangelicals, so adamant about following Jesus, sucked him utterly dry of all true content when it came to Jesus’ own central teachings and example about love of neighbour and enemy?
Andy’s mind had built up such momentum that nothing seemed able to stop the ineluctable questions he was posing to himself. He felt immobilized, like a terrified mouse before the proverbial snake. Yet somehow the serpent, unlike in the Primordial Garden, rightly was about to swallow its prey. Wasn’t the church, in light of its long and terrifying history of violence, one of the most evil scourges on humanity the world had known? Possibly the most evil? He remembered a line from a German poem, Die Gerechtigkeit der Erde, O Herr, hat Dich getötet - the righteousness of the earth, O Lord, has killed you. Only he would change O Herr to O Kirche. The church had self-imploded in light of all human standards of righteousness, which were far more vaunted than the church’s. Or were they? Had the secular world simply imbibed the church’s biblical teaching, despite Christendom’s contrary example, and now was holding the church to account when it had so quickly and so long since turned faithless to its own founding texts?
Andy didn’t know where to turn. Who had written on this stuff? Why didn’t he know of it? When in church history, if at all, did at least a few lonely voices cry out about the Emperor’s, Christendom’s, Evangelicalism’s stark and shameful, vile and unconscionably evil, nakedness; unrepentant and endlessly repeated whoredoms? Were there at least seven thousand in the long history of the church who had not bowed the knee? Would he have to leave the church to find God? Would he have to turn to the secular thinkers and philosophers to discover true biblical religion? Was the church, in the end, the Mob; worse?
A car honked. For a split second Andy actually thought someone was acknowledging him. But it was obviously not. He decided he would get up to walk some more. He continued in the same direction he had been heading. His mind plunged headlong in a similar direction.
He wished he could somehow tear out that part of his brain that was causing so much offence, like Jesus had said one should do with an eye or a hand. But wasn’t the church in fact the primary offender? He recalled a saying he had read by Simone Weil: The church is that great totalitarian beast with an irreducible kernel of truth. And Weil refused to join it throughout her lifetime. No wonder, Andy now reconsidered. And hadn’t she also said the most fundamental act of forgiveness humans needed to undertake is towards God? Wasn’t she right? Might it indeed have been better had Jesus never been born even, had the word “God” never first been uttered long ago amongst Semitic nomads? Given how the church and its precursors had desecrated so violently its content?
Andy felt wretched. It seemed like he was being thrust inside an Alfred Hitch*censored* horror movie, when all perspectives and norms were rendered kaleidoscopic. Where was he to turn when everything normal had convulsed into a thousand distortions? He had come over to Germany to propagate faith, and instead had found his faith buffeted and sent topsy-turvy, not by contrary intellectual argument from others, he had braced for that, but from his own experience and rethinking within the faith.
He was his own fifth columnist, his own desperate traitor, self-betrayed! How distressing. He had unwittingly been lying in wait to ambush his easy-believism cheap-grace Evangelical faith, so proud and *censored*y about having “the truth”, that he didn’t know that he was himself the hunted, not the hunter.
The tables had been turned. The shoe was on the other foot. He needed to be evangelized. He was that Emperor without any clothes. This was his moment of truth. Would he repent and turn, from what?, Evangelical faith?, or would he, like the Emperor, thrust his head a little higher, and strut stark-staring naked onwards to the beat of Christendom’s droning blood-drenched drums? He knew the sycophants who in that case would cheer him on. He knew the irony of a British gun boat “rescuing” the children in Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Was he, in his evangelistic zeal, only guilty of traversing the ocean to make his converts twice the sons of hell for his efforts? Was this the indictment of most Evangelical missionary and evangelistic efforts worldwide, of every Billy Graham evangelistic crusade he had so unthinkingly prayed for? How dare he think such thoughts? Wasn’t this ultimate heresy? Who did he think he was?
“O wretched man that I am!”, he suddenly cried out audibly. No one heard.
Around the corner at which intersection he had arrived, there was a horrific thundering as Army vehicle upon army vehicle rolled down Clayallee to enter the Compound. There must have been twenty or more; tanks, armoured cars, and a fleet of others he could not identify. They must have been on some kind of training exercise. He was wrong, therefore. All the Christians were not at the Base. Some at least were training once again to kill. He felt sick. He felt like launching a rocket to wipe them all out. He felt wretched.
Jack came out after the last of the procession had turned in to the Compound.
Andy crossed over to the other side. Jack said he looked like he’s seen a ghost. Andy said he had, millions of them. But nowhere the Holy Ghost.
Jack did not even try to understand.
“Let’s head back. I’ll tell you about the visit on the way.”
Andy looked again at the Compound for the Holy Ghost, maybe Jesus. No such luck.