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Christianity is deeply rooted in fear-based ideas that have nothing to do with Jesus. Indeed, nearly every Christian notion is an active repudiation of the Lord’s Gospel teachings! We have talked about awful elements of Christianity that came out of the first-millennium councils, while so far ignoring the rotten fruit of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

This lapse has been my fault. I grew up in a cozy Protestant church with a much-loved minister who preached the Lord’s words, and then I went off to college with the goal of becoming a minister, too. There I studied Christianity’s beginnings, and I was often horrified at what I was learning. If you like hot dogs, never watch them being made! By the time I fell in love with and married a Catholic, I no longer trusted the religion enough to give my life to it. My conversion to Catholicism for my husband’s sake was sincere. And my twenty-five years as a Catholic were for the most part ardent and heartfelt, despite the fact that by then I was so steeped in the Gospel words of Jesus that much of Catholicism seemed nonsensical to me. I was sure the scholars must know more than I did! And my childhood minister had so well succeeded in making me see his Protestantism as the gentler flavor of Christianity, the vanilla to Catholicism’s chocolate, that returning to all those first-millennium details, to confessions and genuflecting and crossing oneself, to incense and to priests in brocade, felt for a long time like simply taking Christianity as seriously as it was meant to be taken.

I have been reluctant to talk about Protestantism. I haven’t much studied the Reformation, and my gentle childhood religion has for most of my life made me think the cruelest edges had long since been worn away. Surely no one still believed all those awful fear-based lies? The occasional fire-and-brimstone ministers whose words I read out of curiosity were only the sincere but misguided ending to a long chain of human-made horrors. But then recently I read an article which suggested the centuries-old battle between Calvinism and Arminianism still is underway! And if there is even a whiff of John Calvin’s movement polluting any modern church, then Protestantism remains the enemy of Jesus and the awful defamer of the one true God.

Calvinism demonstrates the fact that the human dogmas which formed Christianity from the founding of the Roman Church four centuries after the Lord’s crucifixion then continued to ever more warp the religion. We have talked about the worst of these first-millennium errors, including Adam’s original sin, God’s judgment and our possible damnation, and the idea that Jesus died to save us from God’s wrath. None of this comes from the teachings of Jesus, and in fact all of it contradicts those teachings. And Jesus foresaw the likelihood that His divine movement based in love was going to be corrupted by man-made ideas. He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (MT 7:24-27). He warned us that clergymen preaching human lies that were meant to advance mere human goals would seek to use His movement for their own purposes. He said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:15-20).

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