The coincidence of the fifth anniversary of the American war of choice in Iraq with the Christian Holy Week provides an opportune moment for looking at how the names "Christianity" and "Jesus" have been stolen by people who preach and do the opposite of what Jesus taught.
This Easter, Christians need to resurrect the real Jesus, who has been crucified and interred by many of those who call themselves "Christians" -- people such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, and Tim LaHaye.
Following the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that they would all fall away from him and scatter that night. When Peter insisted that he would remain loyal, Jesus said to him, "this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." The modern Jesus Thieves who have kidnapped the one they profess to worship have fallen so far away from Jesus that they deny him three times three thousand as they crow like strutting cocks in front of television cameras and congregations the size of rock concert audiences.
Nowhere is their denial of Jesus more apparent than in their endorsement of the invasion of Iraq that began five years ago this week -- an Unholy Week if ever there was one. The "Shock and Awe" that was launched that week was shocking and awful to genuine Jesus Followers.
While leaders of almost every major Christian denomination (with the significant exception of the Southern Baptist Convention) were joining together with religious leaders around the world to oppose the Bush administration's rush into preemptive war, many prominent Jesus Thieves urged him into combat. Five months before the war began, several of them sent a letter to the president in which they asserted that his war would have Jesus' seal of approval. The Land Letter, written by Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and signed by televangelist D. James Kennedy, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and others, outlined what they argued was a Christian justification for a premeptive war based on traditional "just war" theology.
Rev. Land and his brothers-in-urging-arms were wrong on every count. They say they "know Jesus." In fact, they no Jesus.
These "Christian" jihadists have stood Jesus on his head. They follow not Jesus, but Constantine, who inverted Jesus in AD 312 by transforming him from the Prince of Peace to the Prince of War. Their exegesis is X-a-Jesus, and they should be known as Xians -- or Constantinians.
"God is pro-war!" the late Rev. Jerry Falwell blasphemously proclaimed. Before his fall from Xian grace, Pastor Ted Haggard used to joyfully shout "Massive warfare!" to his Nuremberg-size rallies of deluded Constantinians.
No turning of the other cheek for these guys. Theirs is a Holey Bible that omits the Sermon on the Mount. And its translation of Micah 4:3 has been altered to: "They will beat their plowshares into swords, and their pruning hooks into spears; nation shall lift up sword against nation, and they shall train for war for evermore." In the Xian Bible, the Beatitudes are viewed in a mirror: Blessed are the warmakers.
The Jesus Thieves have spread their anti-Jesus thinking to millions. When George W. Bush, the Jesus Thief in Chief, took the United States into his war in Iraq, a poll found that 87 percent of white evangelicals supported going to war. "Evangelicals," University of Virginia religion professor Charles Marsh correctly points out, "preached for the war, prayed for the war, sang for the war, and offered God's blessings on the war."
And they have they audacity to call themselves "Christians"?
If we may turn for a moment from the current season marking the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to that commemorating his birth, when was the last time you saw a Christmas card that proclaims: "War on Earth"? Or one wishing the "Blessings of War for You and Yours during this Joyous Season"?
Such statements would be absurd as greetings during the season celebrating the birth of Jesus. They are blasphemous. Season's Beatings.
Under George W. Bush, as it had under some other presidents, notably Woodrow Wilson, faith-based biblical misunderstanding has become the basis of American foreign policy. To this Constantinian president and his Xian allies, the Iraq War was launched as a "faith-based initiative." It was part of a Martial Plan they had devised for the world.
While the leaders of the "Christian Right" denounce those who are pro-choice on abortion, a topic that Jesus never mentioned, they are pro-choice on wars of choice, a topic on which Jesus was unmistakably pro-life. By taking their stance in favor of war, the Xians have aborted Jesus from their religion.
Make no mistake: what the Right Reverends who endorsed the war five years ago and the mobs that followed them were shouting is: "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
This Easter, let's resurrect the real Jesus, who has been crucified and interred by many of the leading figures in what passes for "Christianity" today.
Robert S. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. This article is based on his latest book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America, which will be published by Crown next week.