This article was originally planned for release at Christmas 2001, Christ’s putative 2000th birthday. I held it back then out of concerns for Christian feeling, and possible obscurantism.
Yet Easter proved me right, with Sharon’s genocidal offensive in Palestine, the murderous desecration of Jesus’ shrine, the Church of the Nativity, followed by the huge crowds in Washington, screaming to carry on with the rape of the Holy Land.
Rest in Peace.
“Christians of the world, remember Jesus, the greatest Palestinian of all time. Like him, Palestinian Christians and Muslims at this very moment are dying for your sins.”
To save me I can’t place who said it, but a curious prophecy came back to me on the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, when Christendom abandoned its holiest shrines in Bethlehem to Israeli storm troops without a murmur:
“A religion that gives up its Holy City dies out”.
In an age where every town and corporation celebrates its jubilee, be it for a paltry 25 years in business, The Great Bimillenial was a hushed non-event. The silence was deafening as the self-styled Christian West outright abandoned its Holiest City, which it vowed only decades ago would remain an international, interfaith entity  His Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem has even been administered by a Muslim Palestinian family for centuries, to avoid jealousy between different Christian sects. Indeed, much of Christianity’s vitality was drawn from material borrowed from Islam, without attribution, such as Ghazali’s defence of revealed wisdom against skeptical reason.
And what if the Zionists also felt the vital need for a holy city? How can three faiths hold it at once? They should share it. Another message in our maxim would be, that the monotheistic trinity of faiths is really one.
This message is found at the center of Islam, which does not take itself for a new religion, but a new chapter in the monotheistic tradition. This has been half-understood by Christianity; we accept the Old Testament and call our Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture “Judeo-Christian”. The idea has been mostly rejected by Jews, who have traditionally reviled Jesus the son of Judah almost as often as Islam has revered Him. Why? I am not a trained sociologist, but the reason why older religions reject new ones is surely not God’s will, but something in human nature. Like any older organization, they may be linked to elites or vested interests in fixed ideas, while new ones are more open. Men don’t put new wine into old bottles, as Jesus said.
Is old wine or new better? Is it only naive American faith in progress to look for some evolutionary steps forward in the succession of faiths? Well, the progressive idea of brotherhood of mankind and equality of races, one of the most attractive aspects of Islam, was much later enshrined in our modern political ideal of democracy. Egalité and fraternité were never emphasized in modern Christianity, and were incompatible with the exclusivity at the core of Judaism – just as any supremacist state of an elite people should be blasphemy to the modern secular faith of pluralistic democracy and international reconciliation.
The secular faith has no holy city, but it, too, is getting buried by the rubble of America’s perennial bombardments of the nations, under the arrogant flag of so-called patriotism and the mills of cultural imperialism. Neither religion nor secularism have worked at creating justice and peace between societies. Although both types of moral systems try to stabilize societies internally by curbing human selfishness, religion, with its psychological emphasis on humility, has arguably done better at mitigating the secular tendency towards a dog-eat-dog anti-society, which erupted so spectacularly under atheistic totalitarianism in our last century of unprecedented atrocity.
Like other movements, in its vital phase a new religion identifies with the underdog. When it becomes elitist, it can lose its purpose and chances of expansion. Of the three monotheisms, Islam, the youngest, still identifies most closely with the oppressed today. In Europe, charity has been largely supplemented by moderate socialism, leaving Christianity little work to do. The bedrock of American fundamentalism seems firmer, yet it is greatly weakened by its dependence on simple-minded conditioning, and by the commercialism and vulgarity propagated by the more virulent conditioning media that materialism commands.
All three Semitic religions are now bedeviled by ignorant fundamentalism on one extreme and the multiplying lures of materialism on the other.
This is NOT a battle between strands of monotheism, but the primordial struggle between materialism and religion itself. Divide and conquer has always been the favored strategy to dominate the world, or, in this case, for the world to dominate us..
Although the Jews lost political control of the Jerusalem in AD 70, their yearning for their roots did keep their faith alive. Like Christianity with its charity, reform Judaism also remained morally relevant by taking up the cudgels for America’s Gentile underdogs. But in Palestine, the ancient faith has been hijacked by Zionism, a racist, materialist, fascistic political ideology, and a key accomplice in the onslaught of western cultural imperialism upon humanity’s Asian storehouse of traditional values.
In spite of the great emphasis on charity and humility in the teachings of Christ and apostles, Christianity expended its moral capital by indulging in religious and racial persecution, with pogroms and inquisition against Jews, Moslems and heretics. The loss of Jerusalem is partly the boomerang effect of those excesses against the Jews. Even in our century, the humanitarian stream never really outweighed bigotry until secular values triumphed. Perhaps this was due to the brutish nature of early Roman and European cultures, where Christianity took root. And becoming a white western religion, Christianity lost its taproot in the spiritual East.
Even today, when the Church is militant, it is often in the wrong way, as in its backing of Moscow’s military campaign in Chechnya. . The Vatican surrendered In 1991, when it agreed to diplomatically recognize the illegal Israeli occupying power in Jerusalem, in return for recognition of its own Holy Sites – that had already been there for centuries. True, guilt about the Holocaust played a role, but that calamity was also a mark of Christianity’s decrepitude.