Again, “We adore God Who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him”
(Pope Francis, 6/21/14).
The image of God that a person has and then accepts or rejects is critical to what he or she becomes and does. His or her God image is intimately tied into their self image, as is their image of reality. What flows from this is their meaning system and their value system, their sense of purpose and their sense of right and wrong.
The image of God who is love (agape), the Father of all, is not the same image nor will it validate the same understandings and beliefs as the image of God who is love (eros), God who loves only us and will trample on all other human beings for our benefit. This means that God will support our trampling on other human beings for our own benefit.
Whoever controls the operational image of God in a society controls the people of that society—or at the least is a person or group to which the economic, political and military elites of that society must ingratiate themselves or in other ways get under their control. Constantine knew the importance of this which is why he began to put the violent, coercive power of the Roman Empire behind Christianity, even making bishops official holders of such power in their areas. It is one of the major reasons he called the Council of Nicaea in 325. He wanted one Empire, one God and one Emperor. The process was not completed until several decades later when Theodosius made Christianity the religion of the Empire.
However Constantine had to have the bishops at Nicaea ignore a piece of the public image of Jesus as God incarnate and the ultimate revealer of God in order to fit his needs. This is why the Nicaea Creed goes from the cradle to the crucifixion non-stop in presenting Jesus in its official public act of belief. The Way of Jesus is entirely kept out of the public Creed: “…born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried.”
This was necessary because the Way of Jesus, the Way of God as revealed by Jesus was a Way that included the Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies. Try ruling Rome (or England, or the U.S. or Russia) with that as what God says is the Way to live and die.
And so by omission began the process of Jesus publicly supporting the local home team’s killers over the other team’s killers.
But in the beginning, in Jerusalem in AD 33, Jesus was tortured and murdered by the religious and political elites because they did not like what He was saying about God and God’s Way, the image of God He was giving people. Indeed, they felt radically threatened by it. God’s image as presented by Jesus did not match up with what the powers-that-be needed. So, they killed Him.
God the Father did not kill His Son or have His Son killed for any reason. There is no violence and cruelty in God. Jesus died because He did exactly what the Church leaders refused to do at the time of Constantine down to this very day. He spoke about God with authority and did not give them and the people they had control of a God that validate the violent, deceitful, cruel operation of the institutionalized religion and the state. In fact He gave them an understanding of God that stood in judgment of the modus operandi of both religion and the state.
But, God the Father punishing and killing His Son or having His Son punished and killed before God will reconcile with humanity does fit perfectly with the punishment world of the state and institutional religion. Pilate may have washed his hands of Jesus. But since Constantine the institutional Church and the state have “washed each other hands” in mutual support of a violence justifying God that does not exists and a Jesus who divinely validates violence and enmity by His followers.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
(To be continued)