"To seek out that which was lost..."

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by Charles Lamar

We found this at:"http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/obs_cl.html"

This essay may prove controversial. Some people may even consider these ideas to be of the devil, but that will not bother me. My views have become what they are only because I have never been afraid to change them. I regard all opinion as written on sand. My faith is centered in God only, not in anyone's interpretations of the experience of God, even my own interpretations.

Jesus was not born into a cultural vacuum. Not only has his life had its impact on history, the world has had its impact on the version of Jesus' life and teachings which history has known. This is bitterly fought territory with well-hidden secrets. But the difficulty Christians have had interpreting their scriptures bears this out. Christianity has long since divided into those who believe that the Bible needs only a literal reading, those who believe the Bible must needs be interpreted somehow, and those who believe that the Spirit alone should prevail -- Truth being alive and wherever you find it.

The Bruderhof is the only group I have encountered, except maybe the Quakers, which, at one time or another, has fallen into all three divisions. But each of these approaches to Christianity and the Bible has its limitations.

All over the world little Christian children are taught how their parents view the relation between the Old and New Testaments. But the little Christian children are not taught that Judaism was only one of the religions ancestral to their parents' faith. Christian children are always told that the chief exponent of first century Chris-tianity was a Jew named Saul of Tarsus who later became known as Paul the Apostle, but it is not brought to the children's attention that the chief religion in the city of Tarsus when Saul was a boy was called Mithraism.

From an encyclopaedia of comparative religion:

"Originally an Aryan god, Mithras was worshipped in Iran as the god of contracts (mithra actually means contract). He preserves truth and order, destroying the disruptive forces of evil, anger, greed, pride and procrastination, all evil gods and men... As guardian of truth he is the judge of the soul at death, and as a preserver of contracts determines when the period of the devil's rule is at an end. His coming "amid the homage of the meek and lowly" in the days of victory is awaited...

"The later "Oracle of Hystapes" mentioned by Christian writers has been identified as a Mithraic oracle foretelling the god's coming at the end of the world to destroy the wicked with fire and to save the righteous. A number of Roman monuments depict his birth and some fifth-century Christian texts imply that there was a Mithraic myth foretelling the ap-pearance of a star which would lead magi [in most sources, shepherds instead of kings - C.L.] to the birthplace of the saviour.

"Mithraism first entered Rome in 60 BC, and in the second century AD it spread through the empire as far as Britain. Carried mainly by sol-diers, it was an exclusively male cult. At baptism, when the initiate had to submit to both physical and spiritual tests, he renounced all crowns but Mithras, [during initiation, under apparent threat of death. - C.L.] and was expected to adhere to a strict moral code. In return he was promised a share in the resurrection.

"The central belief of the cult was the sacrifice of a bull by Mithras. The act was both creative and redemptive. The worshipper looked back to a sacrifice at the beginning, when life had come out of death, and foreward to the final sacrifice by Mithras when the last animal to die would give men the elixir of immortality. A foretaste of this divine gift would be shared in the regular communion meal of bread and wine in which the priest represented Mithras." 1

The sites of many of the early Christian churches were formerly the sites of Mithraic temples. Mithras' birthday was celebrated on December 25th.

To Christian ears all this may sound like blasphemous parody, because, along with the Mithraic contaminants, centuries of genuine spiritual experience have be-come associated in Christianity with real spiritual truth. But whether intentionally or unintentionally, new revelations inevitably are placed in old cultural forms. While the ritual or ceremonial borrowings from older religions may or may not be signi-fi-cant, borrowings of concept always pollute a new revelation. Since the four Gospels were not written until well after Paul's ideas had become known and accepted, the mistaken idea that Jesus was the final, Mithraic blood- sacrifice blighted the New Tes-tament, God concept, right from the start.

Catholic or Protestant, the Bible teaches Christians to believe that the Father Himself could not save mankind until a price had been paid off in blood by a subordi-nate Son who, by his own sacrificial crucifixion, made it possible for the Father to save those whom He otherwise could not. Isaiah knew better: "The arm of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save." (Is 59:1)

Esme Wynn-Tyson writes regarding the atonement doctrine of the Apostle Paul:

"...In place of the truly Christian doctrine of at-one-ment through the regenerate life, he substituted the pagan concept of atonement through death.
"In Romans iii, 23-25, (Paul) writes:
" 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely through his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.'

"And in Romans v, 8, 9:" 'But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.'
"What has this dark and primitive doctrine to do with the simple teaching of Jesus who was never guilty of evolving the doctrine of vicar-i-ous atonement that so shocked the honest, modern Gandhi that he re-fused to call himself a Christian, for all his Christ- likeness, saying that he wished to be saved not from the consequences of his sins but from sin itself.[?] In this he was at one with Jesus but not with Paul, for the master taught, as all the major world teachers have done, that sin is forgiven only when it is forsaken. Each man must, therefor 'forgive' himself; no one can do this for him. Nor did Jesus ever present a picture of a wrathful God from whom man must be saved but always of an eternally loving, wholly benef-icent Father who desired only good for His children.

"But the pagans had always believed in redemption through sacri-fice and vicarious atonement. As Weigall points out:
" 'Adonis, Attis, Dionysos, Herakles, Mithra, Osiris, and other deities were all saviour-gods whose deaths were re-garded as sacrifices made on behalf of mankind; and it is to be noticed that in almost every case there is clear evidence that the god sacrificed himself to himself.'

"Therefore when a Mithraist was confronted with the story of a great prophet who called himself a son of God, and who had been crucified and had risen again, he would at once have seen the hero of the story as 'the bull of Mithra killed by the God who was himself.' (Ibid.pg 169) And it is not difficult to understand how the zealous Judaic-Christian mission-aries would have seized upon this mystical explanation of what had once seemed to them to have been the shameful death of their master on a cross like a common criminal.

"From the time of Abraham their race had known of the belief in the efficacy of human and animal sacrifice as a means of propitiating the deity. Searching the scriptures in the light of this popular belief, they may well have imagined that they had found the correct explanation of their master's tragic experience, an explanation that would conclusively prove his Messiahship since, if it were true, he had indeed saved mankind from the burden of sin.

"It will be seen from a close scrutiny of Paul's Epistles that he accept-ed this point of view with caution and reservations but he undoubtedly supplied the authority for the hardening into dogma of the doctrine of vi-carious atonement which has always been so prominent a feature of the Christian church. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews on the other hand shows full acceptance of the pagan theory, saying forthrightly (He-brews ix, 12): that Christ by his own blood "entered into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls... sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

"All this is recognizably pure Mithraism, no hint of which can be found in the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels.

"But the idea evidently spread during the first century like a forest fire, not only among the pagans but the Christians. In the First Epistle of Peter i, 18, 19, we find:

" 'Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corrup-t-ible things ...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot...'

"And in the First Epistle of John i, 7.
" '...the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from sin.'

"In fact it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that at the time when the Epistles were written, the Christian Church had accepted the pa-gan 'rationalization' of the crucified and risen saviour, the God, or Son of God, who had not merely been crucified like a criminal at the instiga-tion of Orthodoxy and the occupying Power but had himself elected to die as a living sacrifice for the transgressions of mankind. As Weigall writes, in the light of this theory:

" 'Jesus not only fulfilled the Judaic scriptures, but he also fulfilled those of the pagan world; and therein lay the great ap- peal of early Christianity. In him a dozen shadowy gods were condensed into a proximate reality; and in His crucifixion the old stories of their ghastly sufferings and sacrificial deaths were made actual, and were given a direct meaning.' (Ibid pg 169.)

"There can be no doubt that this familiar idea had much to do with popularizing the new faith. But it is bitterly ironical that in order to popu-larize the creed of Christ it had to be perverted; for not only did this primi-tive belief entirely reverse Jesus's vision of a perfect all- loving Father, who asked for nothing more and nothing less than the love of His chil-dren and their obedience to the beneficent laws made for their protection, presenting instead the picture of an inhuman monster who could only be appeased by the shedding of innocent blood, but it was in direct conflict with the main theme of Jesus's gospel...

"Jesus's immense contribution to the universal evolutionary pro-cess was his example; he was the transitional man, showing not only that the transition could be made, but how it could be made. Without such proof humanity would have no sense of direction, would not know in what its salvation consisted and could have no assurance that the thing could be done.

"Therefore the debt we have been supposed to owe the Founder of our Faith for his vicarious atonement, still remains in its immensity; for what he did was to establish the all-essential precedent, the living proof, that at-one-ment with God could be obtained in the present life, and in this sense he became forever the hope of the world.

"But when this doctrine is perverted to imply that man is freed from the consequences of his own behaviour by the sacrifice of another, the spiritual law contained in the words: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap," known in the East as the law of Karma, is violated and the law of Justice is annulled.

"It is true that by at-one-ment with the Perfect Man we may put off our sins and, with them, their effects, and so find ourselves freed from "the law of sin and death;" but that cannot be achieved by the death of any man but only by the living of a regenerate life. And the biggest stumbling block to the living of that life throughout the ages has been the disastrous-ly misleading doctrine of vicarious atonement." 3

Derived from ancient Judaic and Mithraic sources, and injected into Christianity right after Jesus' death, the Paulinian atonement doctrine implies that the character of the Father is not dominated by love, but by justice and contracts. It is implied that man had lost access to God's affection; that criminal responsibility transmits from creature to creature, and that God would be satisfied by the punishment of an innocent to re-deem the guilty. These implications amount to a slur on the character of God. No one could square an actual experience of God to these tenets logically, so all down the cen-turies Christian believers have been forced into a mystic, symbolic, or allegorical approach.

Eberhard Arnold, writing in Inner Land:

"The human conscience can be purified in no other way than through the sacrificed lifeblood of Jesus Christ, who was and is the only pure image of God. His sacrificed soul brings God's life to us. To have faith in our own blood --faith in the beauty of the soul or the purity of the race-- is to confuse and per-vert facts as they truly are. The blood of every one of us proves to be burdened with an evil inheritance. It shows its ut-ter impurity. 'The soul of any creature lies in its blood.' (Leviticus 17:11, Moffatt) Therefore throughout the ages, all the weaknesses and failures of human life are revealed in the bloodline of the individual, of the nation, and of mankind. Faith in Jesus Christ holds firm to nobler blood. The soul of His blood was ruled and filled by the pure Spirit of God's love. No other human life can be compared with it. Therefore He is more than a living human soul. He is the quickening Spirit...

"From God He once more sends this quickening Spirit down to us. Those who receive this pure Spirit will have their souls and consciences purified from all former guilt, and their lives will be protected from new offences. This is because the life of the Bearer of this Spirit, which was sac-rificed for them, is purity itself -- the purity of a love that is perfect unto death. The blood that was sacrificed for them in death is mightier than death and more powerful than all its deadly, poisonous, and divisive pow-ers. This is because it bears a life within it that has remained free from all the elements of death and decomposition, which are hostile to life and to God. Purification through the blood of Christ means that in His Spirit His spotless, surrendered life unfolds its powers here and now. Therefore it is able to set our consciences free from all impurity." 4

Nowhere in Europe did the atonement doctrine become more ingrained than in Germany. Look at the Mateus Grunewald Crucifixion for example, perhaps one of the most ghastly ever painted. Read the unbelievably morbid words to some of the Bach chorales. Esme Wynn- Tyson suggests the reason is that the Mithraic religion of the Roman soldiers took a firmer hold in Germany than any other part of the Empire. In any case, the atonement doctrine took its toll in Germany, and the subsequent failure of the resulting Mithraic-Christian God concept was, I believe, the direct, albeit under-lying, cause of Hitler's Third Reich.

Elie Wiesel, quoted in the Plough:

"The killers' laughter and the hallucinatory silence of the con- demned. The distant look of old men who knew.

"If we were to say it all, nobody would believe us. The screams, the moaning, the beatings. The thirst in sealed railroad cattle cars. The terror inside the barracks during the selections. The silent, almost solemn pro-cessions marching toward the mass graves or the ovens; the lucidity of some, the delirium of others.

"The shame of the starving, who pray to God for a crust of bread, who think of bread more than of God, more than of honor, more than of life.

"How is one to speak of such things and not lose one's mind? And not beat one's fists against the wall?

"For the first time in history, machinery was set up to exterminate a whole people. Children not even born were sentenced to die -- just be-cause they were Jews. It defies analysis. Reason. Civilization.

"Time does not heal all wounds.
"There are those that remain painfully open.

"It is impossible for any but a survivor to know the nature of a world where, as in Moses' time in the desert, the living and the dead are no longer separate.

"The sincere Christian knows that what died in Auschwitz was not just the Jewish people but Christianity.

"Pope John XXIII was one of the greatest men I have known. He did feel guilty, that's what made him so great.

"He understood, also, that Auschwitz represented a failure, a defeat for 2,000 years of Christian civilization. Because, just think about it, the harsh truth is that in Auschwitz all the Jews were victims, all the killers were Christians.

"How is one to explain that neither Hitler nor Himmler was ever excommunicated by the Church? That Pius XII never thought it necessary, not to say indispensable, to condemn Auschwitz and Treblinka?

"That among the S.S. a large proportion were believers who re- mained faithful to their Christian ties to the end?

"That there were killers who went to confession between massacres. And that they all came from Christian families and had received a Chris-tian education?

"How explain that the Christian in them did not make their arms tremble as they shot at children or their conscience bridle as they shoved their naked, beaten victims into the factories of death?" 5

When this passage appeared in the Plough, the text read: "...what died in Auschwitz was not just the Jewish people but [institutional -- Ed.] Christianity." But Elie Wiesel was right. It was not just institutional Christianity that died in Auschwitz; it was Biblical Christianity itself.

Because of the Mithraic emphasis in their God concept, the German people be-came particularly vulnerable to a loss of faith. -- After all, who, except perhaps a reli-gious genius, could love a God who would have nothing to do with mankind until certain scales of contractual justice had been balanced by the blood sacrifice of His own Son? It is the repulsiveness of this contaminated God concept that caused the under-ly-ing spiritual weakness and uncertainty of faith which made it possible for Hitler to subvert the German people spiritually and turn them back to a natural, tribal, pagan religion, a religion somewhat like the religions of the Roman Empire before the times of Christ, a religion that made it perfectly natural for a nominally Christian people to do just what they did in the Nazi Third Reich.

Much has been said about the supposed economic, nationalistic and psychologic causes of Naziism. But these explanations merely shrivel and die in the face of the ac-tual deeds of the German people. I am convinced that had this people actually known God, they could not have done these deeds. Modern historians don't seem to grasp the fact or the significance of the fact that, for a time, the German people actually con-ver-ted back to an older type of religion, a religion involving the worship of their tribe and tribal leader.

Christianity failed in Germany.

From the Judeo-Christian tradition I personally can validate this: God is my Father; He loves me and I thereby am led to love all those He loves also, being the kind of person I know Him to be. This is my faith; I can verify it inside me. If this were not my experience I would not believe it at all. Although I cannot distinguish be-tween the Spirits of Deity, everything in my experience supports the belief that Jesus is the divine Son of local astronomic jurisdiction to whom I look for passage from here to the Universal Father. But I depart from the Bible in that I believe salvation depends only on love. I take my salvation entirely for granted. I know that God loves me and He knows I love Him.

I see in the story of all religions a history of conflict between veracity and false-hood in the portrait of God. Difficulties dissolve and humans make progress when-ever people realize that God loves, understands and helps his children. Difficulties multiply and human beings suffer whenever people believe God resembles anything like a barbaric, anthropomorphic, Judeo- Mithraic "judge."

Christians who want to cast aspersions often accuse each other of being "Old Testament." But the Old Testament at its best is better than the New Testament at its worst. Dispite notable barbarities, the Books of the Old Testament generally present a progression of growth in the Deity concept; from Samuel to Isaiah, God is revealed with increasing truth and clarity. In some respects, the New Testament represents progress in concept over the Old, since the Father of the "Lord Jesus Christ" at last becomes the Father of every individual. But in some very important ways the New Testament concept fell short.

In Isaiah, the loving, Old Testament Father says:

"I have created you, I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine." "Everyone who is called by my name I have created for my glory and they shall show forth my praise." "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you since you are precious in my sight." "Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compas-sion on her son? Yes she may forget, yet I will not forget my children, for behold I have graven them upon the palms of my hands; I have covered them with the shadow of my hands." "I, even I, am he who blots out their transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember their sins." "And the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear." "He shall feed his flock like a shephard; he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom." "Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... " "Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah, various verses and chapters.)

These lyrical passages, as opposed to many dark and primitive ones also to be found in the Old Testament, represent the truest portrayal of Deity I know.

The New Testament does not always keep pace. New Testament literalists have had to struggle with doubts about the basis of their personal salvation; with doubts about the basis of their personal salvation in God the Father's love.

On the one hand it says:

"For by grace you are saved through faith; and not that of your- selves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast." (Ephe: II:8&9)

And on the other:

"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works." (Rev:XX:12)

So is it by works or by faith? Regardless of whether salvation is by works or by faith, the New Testament writers seem to have lost some of the bright vision of Di-vine love, devotedly sponsoring human growth and progress, that was so clear to Isa-iah. While they exalted the merciful and sacrificing Christ, they made the terrible mistake of debasing and distorting the nature of the loving and saving Father.

The Protestant Martin Luther, who was nothing if not logical and forthright in his approach to these problems, writes:

"If it is difficult to believe in God's mercy and goodness when he damns those who do not deserve it, we must recall that if God's justice could be recognized as just by human comprehension, it would not be di-vine. Since God is true and one, he is utterly incomprehensible and inac-cessible to human reason. Therefore his justice must also be incom-pre-hensible." 6

Again, speaking of this scriptural New Testament God, Luther is also quoted in an article by Eberhard Arnold that recently appeared in "The Plough:"

"This distress of conscience is the final, the decisive affliction. The unutterable agony that Luther experienced in his Black Tower could not be expressed in words. Those who are not acquainted with Luther's suffer-ing, forsakenness, and despair cannot grasp his faith. Only this agony un-der God's wrath and his remoteness makes it possible to understand the certainty and joy of faith which was awakened in Luther as an entirely new experience. About this agony Luther wrote:

" 'I too know a man who declares he has often suffered this punishment. True, it did not last long, but it was so severe and so hellish that no tongue can tell of its severity, no pen can describe it, nor can any man believe it who has not experienced it. If it had reached its peak or continued for half an hour long- er - yes for only a tenth of an hour longer -- he would have been utterly destroyed and all his bones burned to ashes. Here God appears, mighty in his wrath, and all creation too, so that a man does not know where to turn. There is no comfort, either from within or without; everything accuses him.' "

Eberhard Arnold then goes on in commentary:

"To face this 'just' God he saw before him full of wrath and punish-ment, whose peace and fellowship he had striven for in vain, filled Luther with passionate hatred. Today, others whose experience appears similar to Luther's, but whose consciousness of guilt is only shallow, see divine judgment spread over all mankind as 'unjust.'

"Even if we are still far from Luther's personal torment, from the agony of separation from God as our personal guilt, in relation to the will to unity we are still in the same sin of isolation as he was, the same de-s-pair. We too can do nothing to overcome world need except by getting to the bottom of the abysmal suffering and our own guilt for the separation and isolation." 7

The God, which Eberhard Arnold and Martin Luther describe, is not the God I know and love.

It should surprise no one that a nation whose theologians, both medieval and modern, regarded God in such a horrible light would eventually erupt in a holocaust. The German people, fed on these pernicious doctrines, struggled with resentment and self-loathing, with a compensating sadistic sense of moralism and with hate. Inevi-tably they found a scapegoat on whom to project all this hatred.

Toward the end of his life, the father of the Protestant Reformation, whose spiri-tual insight Eberhard Arnold commended as noted above, wrote a treatise called "On The Jews And Their Lies." Here are a few excerpts:

"Therefor be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wher-ever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practised most maliciously and vehemently, just as the devils themselves do. And where you see or hear a Jew teaching, remember that you are hearing nothing but a venomous basilisk who poisons and kills people merely by fastening his eyes on them. God's wrath has consigned them to the presumption that their boasting, their conceit, their slander of God, their cursing of all people are a true and great service rendered to God -- all of which is very fitting and becoming to such noble blood of the fathers and circumcised saints. This they believe dispite the fact that they know they are steeped in manifest vices. And with all this they claim to be doing right. Be on your guard against them...

"What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blasphem-ing. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few of them from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

"First, set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christen-dom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians...

"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their Synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn like the gypsies. This will bring home to them the fact that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

"Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken away from them.

"Fourth, I advise that their Rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth upon pain of loss of life and limb...

"Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished com-pletely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not Lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home.

"Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safe-keeping. ...Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circum-stances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupa-tion for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintainence of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

"Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a dis-taff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and let-ting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy peo-ple, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.

"When you lay eyes on or think of a Jew you must say to yourself: Alas, that mouth which I there behold has cursed and execrated and ma-ligned every Saturday my dear Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed me with his precious blood; in addition, it prayed and pleaded before God that I, my wife and children, and all Christians might be stabbed to death and perish miserably. And he himself would gladly do this if he were able, in order to appropriate our goods. Perhaps he has spat on the ground many times this very day over the name of Jesus, as is their custom, so that the spittle still clings to his mouth and beard, if he had a chance to spit. If I were to eat, drink, or talk with such a devilish mouth, I would eat or drink myself full of devils by the dish or cupful, just as I surely make myself a cohort of all the devils that dwell in the Jews and that deride the precious blood of Christ. May God preserve me from this!

"I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward this wretched people, as suggested above, to see whe-ther this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole peo-ple perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. Therefor it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.

"Finally I wish to say this for myself: If God were to give me no other Messiah than such as the Jews wish and hope for, I would much rather be a sow than a human being... Even if I could become the ruler of Turkey or the Messiah for whom the Jews hope, I would still prefer being a sow. For what would all of this benefit me if I could not be secure in its possession for a single hour? Death, that horrible burden and plague of all mankind, would still threaten me. I would not be safe from him; I would have to fear him every moment. I would still have to tremble and quake before hell and the wrath of God. And I would know no end of all this, but would have to expect it forever. The tyrant Dionysius illustrated this well when he placed a person who praised his good fortune at the head of a richly laden table. Over his head he suspended an unsheathed sword attached to a silk thread, and below him he put a red-hot fire, saying: Eat and be merry, etc. That is the sort of joy such a Messi-ah would dispense. And I know that anyone who has ever tasted of death's terror or burden would rather be a sow than bear this for ever and ever.

"For a sow lies down on her featherbed, on the street, or on a dung-heap; she rests securely, snores gently, sleeps sweetly, fears neither king nor Lord, neither death nor hell, neither the devil nor God's wrath, and lives entirely without care so long as she has her bran... In brief, no thought of death occurs to her, for her life is secure and serene.

"And if the butcher performs his job with her, she probably ima-gines that a stone or piece of wood is pinching her. She never thinks of death and in a moment she is dead. Neither before, during, nor in death did she feel death. She feels nothing but life, nothing but everlasting life! She never ate of the apple which taught us wretched men in paradise the difference between good and evil.

"What good would the Jews' Messiah do me if he were unable to help a poor man like me in the face of this great and horrible lack and grief and make my life one-tenth as pleasant as that of a sow?...

"However, if I had a Messiah who could remedy this grief, so that I would no longer have to fear death but would be always and eternally sure of life, and play a trick on the devil and death and no longer have to trem-ble before the wrath of god, then my heart would leap for joy and be intox-icated with sheer delight; then would a fire of love for God be enkindled, and my praise and thanks would never cease.

"The Jews and the Turks care nothing for such a Messiah. And why should they? They must have a Messiah from the fools paradise, who will satisfy their stinking belly, and who will die together with them like a cow or dog.

"Nor do they need him in the face of death, for they themselves are holy enough with their penitence and piety to step before God and attain this and everything. Only Christians are such fools and timid cowards who stand in such awe of God, who regard their sin and his wrath so high-ly that they do not venture to appear before the eyes of his divine majesty without a mediator or Messiah to represent them and to sacrifice himself for them." 8

Great religious pioneers may persevere - like Job - through a forest of false the-ology and find the Father in spite their entanglement in horrible misconceptions. But when whole populations are long subjected to such misrepresentations, eventually the lies bear fruit. So, four hundred years after Martin Luther wrote his horrible diatribe, all his recommendations and more, regarding the Jews, were meticulously carried out by his German posterity.

The Nazi Holocaust will always defy civilization, but it must not be allowed to defy reason or analysis any longer than we can help.

One of the differences between Judaism and Christianity is that Judaism is the more sex-positive of the two religions, again thanks largely to the Mithraic prejudices of the Apostle Paul. In Mithraism, chastity was supposed to strengthen soldiers for bat-tle. In Christianity, the stigma of preemptive damnation by which we all are cursed has been commonly interpreted as a matter of human sexual imperfection. As the envy and jealousy which fueled the contempt in Martin Luther's theologic attitude toward the Jews (an attitude that did not originate with him, by any means) gradually permeated Christian social culture, it came to focus more on the psychological effects than on theologic causes.

Christianity puts a premium on human sexual abstinence, material poverty and psychologic misery. The fact that Judaism is more positive toward human prosperity and sexual well-being than is Christianity gradually weighed in to foment increasing resentment, jealousy and hatred of the Christians for the Jews.

The Arnoldian Hutterites and the older, hereditary Hutterites both have deep roots in the same soil which gave rise to the Nazis. Both represent the results of sin-cere but inconclusive attempts to grapple with the self contradictory Mithraic-Christian concept of God. But until Christian believers are willing to face down the Apostles of primitive Christianity and reject the doctrinal contaminations of their scriptures, there will be no answer for those who ask "Why?" and no assurance for those who cry, "Never again!" -- either to the problem of the Nazi Holocaust or the question of why so much evil comes out of so many Christian groups like the Bruderhof.

However, if Martin Luther, Eberhard Arnold and others were not able to con-ceive of any approach to God and Jesus except through his blood- sacrifice, I am.

When I was about thirteen, I had little social and no spiritual comfort at all. I disbelieved in God. I was miserable and bitter. As I forecast my life I did not like what I saw. With nowhere to turn, I made the experimental offer: If there is a God, let him come in. He did, and I experienced God. I knew about Nazi Germany and the Jews, about the United States and the atom bomb. I realized that any of these or many, many other horrible things might just as well have happened to me. So the first thing I wanted to find out was: Considering all this horror and insanity, is it worth it? I found out from God that it is.

I know nothing of God from any book, but only from experience. Books are only good when they inspire or clarify one's personal spiritual experience. They are no substitute. I always thought it was stupid for the little children to be made to sing, "Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so." I never believed, or would ever have believed in God's love at all until, by personal experience, I knew it for a fact. It was also apparent to me when I first knew God that, unknown to me, my spiritual experience had been growing all along. Even as an atheistic child I had loved fairness, honesty, beauty, truth and goodness, and, to my delight, when I found God, I found that He does also.

So thereafter, when I came to read the Bible, I would compare the passages to what I knew from experience, and I saw that one clause would contain truth, but the next one horrible falsehood. I never hesitated to disregard any clause that conflicted with my own personal experience. But nevertheless, I have since found that false religious teachings do hinder spiritual progress, and I have very often been fooled in my search for truth. One pitfall is the confusion of psychologic with spiritual phe-nomena. But I am thankful to have been liberated from arbitrary reliance upon any sacred book as opposed to my own experience. And by personal experience of God, I know that the whole idea of salvation by any kind of blood sacrifice, literal or symbolic, is totally absurd.

When I was a child at Woodcrest I overheard conversations that led me to infer that some brothers and sisters of good standing in the "life" did not, at that time, be-lieve in the atonement doctrine. If my inferences were correct, there must have then been some brothers and sisters who did not regard the entire Bible as the "Word of God." I don't think there are any now, because the idea of an Intercessionary Church, which I have heard reiterated more recently, is another branch from the same ancient, trouble- making root. For if it is necessary for Christ to make of himself a blood sacri- fice in order to reconcile God and man, who will intercede for those who are not rec-onciled to God by this blood-sacrificing Christ? I believe this has been the Arnoldleut brothers' and sisters' view of the role they are called on to play in the spiritual econ-omy of the planet, a role they believe so essential that any human costs, to themselves or to their outcasts, are simply irrelevant.

The trouble with the idea of an intercessionary church is that, like the atone-ment doctrine, it implies that people can't reach God and that God can't reach people. Although I cannot agree with this supposition at all, I can appreciate the intentions of those who do believe it. I would not have written this except for what I know of their dedication and faith. Nevertheless, the whole proposition strikes me as enormously egotistical. How ironic that a group who all try so hard to annihilate their own egos should believe that the salvation of others might actually depend upon them! But since the generation of German seekers who founded the Bruderhof were not spiritually liberated enough to challenge the Bible, I can't blame them for accepting the challenge of "witnessing to the Intercessionary Church." The vision is breathtak-ing, albeit fatally flawed. But the flaws are embedded in Christianity itself, that is in Christianity as it has come down to us from the Apostles -- not in the religion of Jesus that lives in the Spirit.

Nor can I blame the Bruderhof completely for many of the cruel things they have done in witnessing to this Intercessionary Church. For, since Eberhard Arnold could not sift the wheat from the chaff in the Bible, since he could not get past the Apostles who had poured Jesus' new wine into Jewish and Mithraic wineskins right after the crucifixion, the guiding star of the movement he founded inevitably fell below the horizon, and with little relevance to the future of religious evolution on the planet, the Bruderhof has effectively lost touch with transforming spiritual guidance, and so, hopelessly entangled with vested human interests and with their own pro-pa-ganda, the brothers and sisters now can only fight battle after pointless, losing battle with such evils as may beset a retrograde religious movement.

By recognizing and validating the inevitable plurality of individual intellectual viewpoint in genuine spiritual experience, the Bruderhof might have achieved gen-uine spiritual unity, not mere intellectual uniformity. The Brotherhoods could then perhaps have taken up a useful position between Heaven and earth and sustained a real spiritual intercourse with the contemporary world. But in the struggle between the Arnold brothers and others of the servants of the Word that followed Eberhard Arnold's death, it was by a charismatic and fundamentalist turn that Heini finally won out and triumphed over other visions. At the heart of this fundamentalism lay the doctrinal fetish of blood-sacrifice atonement. The atonement doctrine was the wine, union with the older Hutterites was merely the wineskin.

In the posthumous letter to his son, Christoph, which is to be found at the end of the second edition of Torches Rekindled, Heini wrote:

..."Before 1961 the "plain brother" considered himself so good that I fear he no longer needed a crucified Christ. Repentance was scorned and rejected as "emotional." The "plain brothers and sisters" did not need any of that.

"For all these brothers and sisters I want to fight constantly and pray to God. They have been blinded by a trick of the devil. Most of them, when they came to the Bruderhof, were quite simple people, plain in the true sense of the word, who had brought sin with them and who, as I believe, had been taken in to the brotherhood by your Opa through the crucified Christ...

"Without the cross an encounter with Jesus cannot be imagined. His person emanates the way of suffering, and his great love for all men floods our hearts and becomes an urge to go out to men, to save those who are in the grip of darkness. In the deep encounter with Jesus the wish to suffer for him wells up quite naturally. I cannot imagine a meeting with Jesus unless there is a deep understanding of his way of suffering..." 9

By the force of personal charisma and leverage of character, Heini led a group of intelligent, liberal, American Christians from the twentieth century back to the six-teenth. To follow him, they not only gave up their personal property but their right to self determination, their right to think and hold an independent thought for them-selves. Why did they do this? What did they gain?

There was undoubtedly genuine spiritual experience in the equation. Heini in-troduced many of the Bruderhofers to God and to their own inner life. But he did not stop at that, for he too was trapped in the all-or-nothing system of the Bruderhof. He too could be excluded. The only way he could be sure of his own personal and emo-tional safety was to make certain the triumph of his own personal leadership. To this end, as have many before him, he sought to determine the terms of spiritual experi-ence for his whole congregation and, as have many before him, for this he fell back on the elements of primitive mythical belief in Biblical Christianity. And Heini saw to it that, whatever they once may have been, his followers became anti- intellectual.

The notion that the central requirement of life is to believe in Jesus' blood-sacri-fice is Christianity at its worst. And in the Bruderhof as elsewhere, the doctrine caused terrible harm. The integrity of men can be no greater than the integrity of the God whom they worship, and the atonement doctrine is an assault on the integrity of God. Whether he swallows and assimilates this pagan draught by means of allegorical men-tal gymnastics or by the negation of his intellect, the believer is left vulnerable to spiritual sabotage.

Sacrificial myths and sacrificial religious systems always entail social coercion and intellectual enslavement. Woodcrest soon went from being a place where you could hold any religious opinion to where you could be thrown out simply for ques-tioning Heini. But this is nothing new. The paranoid and hateful reaction of me-dieval Christians to the Jewish people among them and the brutal purges and exclu-sions of the (pacifist) Bruderhof result from the same idea, the idea that people can and should be forced to believe and live a certain way in order to be alright with God.

Nevertheless, I cannot blame Martin Luther, Eberhard or Heini Arnold or oth-ers for failing to penetrate all the way through Paul and disencumber the gospel of Jesus. Neither can I blame the Apostle for the fact that his personal opinions came to be re-garded as canon. Nowhere does he say that he thought he was writing the Bible. But there is an instructive parallel between what happened in early Christianity with Paul, and what has happened recently in the Bruderhof in the case of their beloved Heini. I do not mean to suggest that anyone thinks Heini was as great a religious leader as Paul. The point in both cases is simply that human beings are so love-starved they tend to canonize anyone who induces a spiritual experience in them. That, both Paul and Heini did, and their followers canonized both of them. Only in Paul's case, they canonized his writings also.

Neither Christianity nor the Bruderhof has ever been without the ideal of love, but love and tolerance are completely inseparable. Love can only be expressed in an atmosphere of social and intellectual tolerance, and by means of spiritual forbearance and personal generosity. There has always been a conflict between the ideal of love and many, many forms of intolerance throughout the entire history of Christianity. And the Hutterites, both East and West, following carefully in the footsteps of certain pioneers of the Protestant Reformation, are some of the most intolerant groups ever to talk about love. Socially, economically, intellectually and spiritually, the Hutterites all maintain the very highest barriers between themselves and others.

But Jesus never meant death and damnation to be presented as the calling cards of his Gospel. Neither did he foster any sort of economic or cultural barriers between his followers and other people. And there is no reason to suppose that the Father and Son want to see their children all huddled under the umbrella of some particular religious leadership rather than each facing the sun, the wind and the rain of personal spiritual experience on their own. The gospel Jesus brought to the planet is first a matter of the personal discovery of the beneficent parental relationship that exists between the Father, the Son and each individual faith-child, and then, on that basis, going on to realize and demonstrate the fraternity of all those whom God loves also.

And who is to judge between those who perhaps hear the sound of his voice and those who happen to call Jesus by name?

1 World Religions, From Ancient History To The Present:
Edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, 1984, p182.
2 The Paganism in our Christianity, Arthur Weigall, Hutchinson & Co., Ltd. p163.
3 Mithras, The Fellow in the Cap, Esme Wynn-Tyson Centaur Press, Ltd., 1972, p 135 ff.
4 Inner Land, by Eberhard Arnold, Woodcrest Service Committee, Rifton, NY 12471
5 "The Plough," Plough Publishing (Late 1980's - early '90's, I don't
have the date.)
6 Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland H. Bainton,
Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, MCML, p 255
7 "The Plough" Number 28 February/March 1991 Plough Publishing
House, Farmington, PA 15437-9506
8 On The Jews And Their Lies, Luther's Works Vol 47, "The Christian In Society,"
Helmut T. Lehmann, ed., Fortress Press,
Philadelphia, 1971, p 172 ff.
9 Torches Rekindled, The Bruderhof's Struggle for Renewal told by Merrill Mow
Plough Publishing House, Rifton NY 12471, 1990

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