"What was God before he was a Christian?"
A letter to the editor in the Trib today invites disgruntled Presbyterians to join the Roman Catholic Church, "the one Jesus started 2007 years ago."
Well, forgive this Protestant for being a bit sensitive on this point, but that ain't how it happened. The Roman Catholic Church essentially was started 300 years after Christ's death, when one interpretation of Jesus' life -- and one set of scriptures -- was sanctioned and the others branded heresy.
Jesus was Jewish, a faith that many of his disciples continued to practice after his death, until their allegiance to his teachings and their desire to spread his word to Gentiles drove them away from Judaism. Even in the four "orthodox" gospels -- none written by Jesus' contemporaries -- there is scant evidence that Jesus intended to start a new religion.
As for the letter writer's contention that Catholic doctrine never changes, well, how then to explain celibacy, a rule that has been in effect for priests for only about 1,000 years or so? What about the Immaculate Conception, which has been official doctrine for only about 150 years? Can't the pope change doctrine anytime he pleases?
It's hard for me to believe that Jesus would be terribly pleased with any of the churches that have been formed in his name. This is a man, the gospels tells us, who flagrantly violated the laws of his own religion, because he believed those laws were perversions of God's will and had become instruments of oppression.
And so how do we choose to worship him? By creating byzantine institutions governed by arbitrary rules that alienate us from one another, and from the love of God.