Church dictatorial paternalism to social issues is contrary to Jesus faith in his followers

Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mont where he explains how Christians should live

The Christian Church wielding overpowering paternalism denying Christ’s followers the ability to freely make decisions denies the faith God has in human ability to find truth through faith. This goes beyond teaching their followers to make moral judgement. It demonstrates a condescending view of their flock as incapable of full development to make moral decisions as intended by God in their creation. A term for this was coined clerico-fascism referring to Mussolini support by the Catholic Church in the 1930s. The writers of the Constitution of the United States wisely foresaw this dilemma when a solid division between church and state was legislated. Yet this division is under attack and not only in the United States.

Now today while many Protestant and Jewish leaders are joining the call for protecting voting rights in the United States the Catholic leaders and especially the American Bishops are absolutely silent. Not a single word. Do they fear that a mob of peasants will endanger their political goals? In Ethiopia many clergy are calling for a Christian fatwa in a civil war between ethnic groups which they are saying allows who they see as the righteous to commit inhuman atrocities. 

There are many times when I have looked with awe at the many things the Catholic Church does for the poor throughout the world. Helping school children to learn basic skills, giving orphans a chance to grow up, helping poor families in third world countries.  Similarly I have traveled widely in Ethiopia and seen the Ethiopian Orthodox Church be a beacon of hope for poor souls starving, abandoned, or needing some social support. In earlier times and even today church grounds provided the only well for water for rural populations. Many school children learned to read Amharic because there was no public school system.

However, going back to the middle ages the  church has always had a problem with wielding overbearing paternalism. Although it cared deeply for the people the leaders of the church had a prevailing attitude that their sheep were totally inept to make their own decisions. In World War II the Catholic Church forestalled American’s recognition of the dangers of the Nazi movement because it feared communism more. During the struggle for civil rights of minorities in the United States the argument that “now is not the time” was a common theme so counsel was given not to pursue “too aggressive measures to combat” prejudice and racism. In Ethiopia the Orthodox church saw Kushitic peoples as less human then the Semitic peoples of the north allowing slavery.

We remember when attempts were made to translate the Bible to the lingua franca, common language of the people, instead of Latin these were seen as evil heretical acts. The Word of God was for the clergy to give the people not for them to discover. Since the Middle Ages it has been well documented that the organized church has always struggled with what its role should be versus government. What should be the role of clergy to government leaders and what should be the role of clergy toward the public? Should they be advisors on general moral issues and abstain from specific political questions?

The Bible in the Book of Samuel warns the nature of man is contaminated when power is given. That society must always be on guard because power corrupts. The great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his writing the Cost of Discipleship went so far as to say that Christians should avoid political office because it was inconsistent with being a good disciple of Christ.

The Catholic Church today in the United States has been diminished greatly and has hoped to invigorate itself by tying itself tightly to the cause of abortion. I respect their point of view that life begins at conception and also see it as a reasonable goal to eliminate abortion.

However, in his mandate for Christians to build the Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, on earth Jesus did not intend for Christians to be political zombies with no respect for their free will. The creation of man with free will is a key tenant to God’s purpose that man freely chooses to love God and follow Jesus teaching. That this devotion comes out of using all his gifts of the spirit including his intellect. Christ’s love leads and inspires the body not the paternal dictatorship of church leaders.

When Jesus was incarnated of two natures, one human and one divine, he was made by God with the idea that his humanness had the capability to reach a state that appreciated God’s grace. Man has this dual nature. Saint Paul said becoming a Christian involved man overcoming his beastly nature to find his connection with God. His creation by God made this possible even for the gentiles who had no history of knowing God there was an inherent chance. Some theologians have in fact called this the deification of humanity.  When the Church shows no faith in human ability to follow God it is denying God’s intent in how man was created. God has faith in man because he created man in his image. The church should be a guide but like parents to a child eventually the child will grow up to make his own decisions. This facilitates how we can be true members of the Corpus Christi.

Christian approach to willfully unvaccinated. Leave them to their fate!

Jesus Christ with his Apostles at the Last Supper

Rather than fighting about personal rights vs public health there is a Christian answer Jesus gives to his followers obviating this prominent protracted conflict about COVID-19 vaccination. Leave the willfully unvaccinated to their fate.

Although a little more than 50% of the adult population has voluntarily chosen to be vaccinated in most of the United States in contrast many Southern and Midwestern states have communities with rates as low at 10%.  There is essentially universal concurrence among medical experts that vaccination will spare millions from death, prolonged illness, and disability with a very low risk of side effects.

Conservative political activists and politicians have redirected the discussion to one that focuses on the dangers of government mandates while ignoring the Constitutionally tested provision to promote the general welfare power of the government to mandate public health measures that are reasonable to protect the population. At this point I believe continued repetitive attempts to “enlighten” the immunization resistors will fail. The Center for Disease control had wanted to reach a 70% percent level of immunization to get to herd immunity which could reduce the epidemic to a rare occurrence.

Jesus in his ministry wanted his followers to make a conscious decision to follow him. Human beings are created by God with free will to sin or to love. To make right or wrong decisions for their own benefit. Being coerced into religion could not lead one to be truly faithful. Taking away that free will reduces one’s ability to willfully act justly.  In the Gospel of Matthew he says if you are shunned by those who do not want  you to visit or listen to you then you have no obligation to continue your effort to convince them. Instead you should “shake the dust of your feet” and move on. This is consistent with Christian morality.

I think this is the way we should deal with the anti-vaccination groups and individuals. If they become ill or die they will bear the burden of their actions. Those that believe in vaccination have the absolute right not to associate with them. 

Theological and moral justification of the Tigray rebellion against Ethiopia updated 9/4/2021

 

Tigray women who fled a conflict in the Ethiopia’s Tigray region, wait to receive aid at Village 8, the transit centre near the Lugdi border crossing, eastern Sudan, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ethiopia’s military is warning civilians in the besieged Tigray regional capital that there will be “no mercy” if they don’t “save themselves” before a final offensive to flush out defiant regional leaders, a threat that Human Rights Watch on Sunday said could violate international law. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Updated 9/4/2021 Killing thousands of innocent villagers, raping thousands of women and girls, as well using starvation as a weapon in the name of Jesus Christ does not justify war as claimed by Amhara President Agegnehu Teshager.  Instead more than a thousand years of history and theological tradition for both Christianity and Islam about what constitutes a just war supports that the Tigray regional state is the righteous party.

When is conflict a just war (Jus ad bellum)?

Both the Bible and the Qu’ran both say that war is a condition that will always afflict mankind. Jesus Christ said that man will always suffer calamities both natural and war between states. The Apostle James said that wars are caused by the “lust” of what the other party has obtained and selfishly wishes to take through violence.

The ancient Jews, the Babylonians, and the Romans believed that a violent response to war was appropriate if it was of an appropriate measure to the offense suffered. A principle known as lex talionis.

There has always been a Christian disagreement on whether Jesus called for complete pacifism in responding to violent offense which would theoretically best diffuse malintent and prevent a sinful response. Ultimately the righteous would be rewarded for their suffering in this world or the next. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century German theologian, advocated complete pacifism which led to his execution.

For centuries beginning just a few hundred years following Christ an alternative theory has been that war was justified under specific circumstances. Jesus’s call to “love thy neighbor” and that “giving up one’s own life to save another” are acts of faith as well as his “righteous” anger at the money changers in the Temple have been interpreted to mean violence can under certain conditions be responded to by violence.

Discussions of just war began with classical Greek and Roman philosophers like Plato and Cicero and were added to by Christian theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Continuing to contemporary times Catholic Pope Benedict XVI said that “defending oneself and others was a moral duty and obligation”.

The following are principles which have been generally agreed upon by Christians for a just war


1. The war must have a just cause – such as against invasion, or for self defence – and not to acquire wealth or power.
2. The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, such as the state or ruler.
3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.
4. The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed,  such as negotiation.
5. The war should be fought with “proportionality”, with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, i.e. civilians should be protected.
6. The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.

Islamic law allows the use of force in self defence and in defence of those who are oppressed and unable to defend themselves.

1. Only under certain conditions allow anticipatory self defence.
2. Only the head of a Muslim state (a ruler or caliph) is allowed to declare jihad.
3. Islamic law imposes certain restrictions on the use of force in self defense, i.e., military necessity, distinction, and proportionality.
4. Accepting an offer of peace and humanity are also relevant conditions. If an enemy stops fighting then the war must stop and peace immediately sought.

The onset and course of the conflict

After the selection of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018 he began to diminish the power of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Being just 6% of the population they had little representation in the Parliament. Although there was a brief honeymoon, the PM began to decrease their power by cutting the regions budget, labeling them as terrorists, and removing them from positions of authority in government. There existed a bitter feeling of resentment especially in the Amhara region against the TPLF for claims that the TPLF had illegally taken land from the Amhara region and carried out violations of human rights on Amhara in past decades. Ultimately the Parliament under the PM’s direction labeled them a “terrorist group” unable to hold any position in government. No formal actions called specified in the Ethiopian constitution were carried out which were created to settle disputes between member regional states. Action by fiat was carried out without attention to legal remedy for accused wrongs.

Several attempts were made to land Federal police forces in Mekelle to arrest prominent TPLF members which were repelled. Then on the early morning hours of November 4th the Ethiopian National Defense Forces in Tigray and the regional Tigray police and militia forces went into conflict. The exact circumstances are unclear although it seems to may have been a pre-emptive attack by the TPLF.

The Tigray region was overrun by Amhara militia, ENDF, and invading Eritrean forces causing a retreat by the TDF(Tigray Defense Force). There have been reports of atrocities by both sides although clearly the enormity of starvation, extra-judicial killing, prisoner execution, raping of women, killing of children, theft of property, destruction of medical facilities and utilities, ransacking of schools, etc. is overwhelmingly evident to be by the Ethiopian forces and their allies.

The TDF has rebounded and is now almost at the gates of Addis Ababa having basically decimated the Ethiopian forces whilst the Tigray civilian population has no water, no food, no electricity, no hospitals in good shape, no medical supplies, ransacked schools, no phone, no internet, and an ongoing siege against supplies except for a small trickle.

The government of Ethiopia has maintained that it is performing a law enforcement action against Tigray while maintaining that there is no hunger problem and that they are acting on the best interests of the Tigray people despite the fact the TPLF won more than 9o% in an election shortly before the war started and by the words of the Prime Minister that the people of Tigray were too supportive of the TPLF.

By any reasonable measure the evidence is clear as to the aggrieved status of the Tigray

While at the same time saying that the Tigray people(Tegaru) are somewhat innocent of wrong doing the government of Ethiopia has not recognized that they have any standing or rights in persecution driven by ethnic identity. The elected government of Tigray acted in self-defense against egregious acts of failing to provide basic human services which threatened the security, livelihood, and lives of over 7 million Tigrayans. There are constitutional and federal proclamations available which could have been used to address the grievances against the government of Tigray. It is glaringly obvious that the savage military campaign carried out and continuing by the Ethiopian government is really a lust for revenge and power. There was no threat to Ethiopian government evident until the situation escalated by the unconstitutional actions of the Ethiopian government.