Christ and Christianity: A New View
Plus What the World Needs Now
I am fully aware that this article may be offensive to some people. However, I ask anyone who is offended to read on to the end so they fully understand the motive of this particular writing. A New View of Christ and Christianity is exactly that; a rethinking of religion and our icons. I venture to say that it is a positive, thought-provoking piece for anyone who is sincerely interested.
Deconstructing the Myths
I have a habit of irritating my Christian friends when we discuss Christianity. (I'm somewhat of a Christian by the way). One of my friends defends his Baptist faith and another is a Methodist. My old friend Steve was a devout Mormon and I was mostly raised a Catholic. The reason that I irritate these good hearts is because I am openly against all organized religions so we have had both fun and heated debates on the subjects. Nevertheless, I believe that historically organized religions have caused more human anguish, neuroticism, pain and death than any other single factor on the face of the earth and one does not have to go far to get a taste of it. The cruel and fanatical, fundamentalist Muslims are leaving a trail of blood and tears worldwide in the name of their god and religion. But do not feel superior, the Catholics had their inquisition, the Church of England tortured and murdered and both Calvin and Luther was apt to hang a person who didn't accept their religions. Here in America the Puritans left England to have freedom of religion and then tortured and murdered those who didn't accept their beliefs. Incidentally it was the Puritans that started the wars with the Indians. If it all wasn't so tragic it would be humorous.
I am not saying that every religious individual is ignorant and cruel. After all religion also produced Sister Teresa but nevertheless one imagines such people as doing good without a massive bureaucracy behind them. What I really get a kick out, in a sardonic way, is when our politicians stand up and say "we are a Christian nation" while at the same time they permit the population of street people to grow and little kids to go to bed hungry while spending of trillions of dollars on war machines and weapons. It seems so apparent that we are still worshipping demigods like GE, the pharmaceutical giants and the war-machine industrialists; the insurance and oil moguls along with other members of the elitist class. Is Americanism really social-and-business-Darwinism?
The reason I smile when I hear someone say that we are a Christian nation is that I've never seen us (or any other country) act as Christians. You know, the feeding the poor, the loving one's enemies or even our neighbors as ourselves. Oh yes, I know we have food stamps and welfare checks but they seem merely to sustain poverty as opposed to freeing the poor from its grip.
In regard to all this, even our presidents most typically end their speeches with "God bless America." Don't you think it's time to deconstruct the world's centers and begin cooperating with each other. A nice start would be for the president to end his speeches with, "God Bless the World" instead of the bless us but not them request. As I recall God was supposed to have created ALL of us wasn't he? I get so confused!
In any case, our South used to support a big population of KKK members claiming to be "good" Christians
So where does Jesus fit into all of this? He doesn't except in the mythologies of the church that we have bubbling through the western mind like bubbles fizz through 7-Up.
Jesus, for one thing never, I repeat, never said that he was "the son of God." In fact, the stories of savior god were plentiful in ancient times: Dionysus for the Greeks, Mirtha for the Persians, Ball for the Babylonians, Osiris and Isis got the Egyptians...They were all born of virgin mothers, they were all healers and saviors who suffered, died and rose again to descend back into the heavens. Most probably the early, organized church exchanged the Persian myth for their own. Edward Carpenter tells us that "Mirtha was born in a cave and on the 25th of December. He was born of a virgin. He traveled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men..." Might Christianity be Paganism with a twist?
We'll be talking a lot more about Christianity but first lets get to know Jesus in a new view.
An Overview of Jesus' Call to Action
Being baptized by John the Baptist himself was a political/religious statement that first of all rejected Roman occupation of Israel. Carpenter tells us that, "John's rite of baptism had one an indirect relationship to personal ethics. He called upon his followers "to be united by baptism" but the phrase itself, in Greek baptismo synienai, means a rite of initiation into an association of some kind, in this case, into the Elect of a New Israel."
John and his followers were violent, kingdom of God activists. Eventually John was arrested and executed for sedition and Jesus regarded John "as the greatest man born of woman." In the end Jesus would be arrested for sedition too and die for his causes. As Carpenter says, "The strategies of both men were merely different approaches to the same crisis, the elimination of Roman power as a prelude to the Kingdom of God's World's End."
It is vital to understand at least some of Jesus' world to understand more of what Jesus was confronting in his life. *The Romans legions had marched into Jerusalem as conquerors and began demanding that the Jews bow to their gods, which the Jews deemed as Pagan. Nevertheless, the Romans forced many Jews by sword point to wear images of Caesar on them (something Pilate would later revoke but recall that the emperors claimed to be gods themselves). The Romans also forbid reading the Torah and outlawed many Jewish traditions while taxing the Jews outrageously. Even boys and girls twelve and older were taxed. And, anyone who did not pay the high taxes were sold into slavery. As a result, John kept baptizing people in his causes to cast the Roman's out of his land and become devoted to the Kingdom of God. In this way, they were religious zealots, willing to die before surrendering to the Roman's will. For those who are interested, this is where the "Carrying the Cross" metaphor arose. If one was ready to give up his life for the cause (for the kingdom) he was said to be "carrying his cross."
Jesus no doubt did retreat to the desert before starting his public life and, if you will, "carrying his cross" publicly. Indeed, many of John's followers and even would be-messiahs retreated to the desert in those days as a place of safety from Roman aggressions.
It is said that Jesus retreated to the desert for forty days and nights but the term "forty" merely symbolized a long time, just as the term seven symbolized perfection.
I do not know where the story of the devil tempting Jesus originated (I suspect by the clever pens of Catholic scholars) but probably Jesus wanted to think out what his role would be since he had been baptized into John's rebellion. For Jesus this would mean openly defying the Romans by preaching about redemption and God's Kingdom which meant risking his life. After all, Jesus was in the wake of many other messiahs and prophets of those times with many being killed off by the Romans.
It wasn't only the Romans that Jesus would stand up to but to those Jews as well who bowed to Roman authorities like collecting taxes for them or taking advantage of their favors to achieve social status and favor. After all, even the great temple had become a place of barter and money changers under Roman rule and Pharisee approval. And this, for sincere Jews, was a defilement. It was no doubt Jesus' attack on the Temple merchants that probably caused his arrest and eventual execution as a seditionist.
At this juncture I will not attempt to repeat the story of Jesus as it has been told countless times or repeat the gospels. I am hopeful that the readers of this narrative are familiar with the traditional stories and many of the parables that were taught by Jesus. It was after all what Jesus said that separated him from other Kingdom of God activists. There are other historic considerations to be made however.
*It is important to note that Rome ordinarily did not impose their ways on the countries they conquered but the Jews could not separate their religion from their politics and this is the major reason why the Roman authority imposed itself on the Jewish people so intensely.
It is extremely difficult to discriminate the (real) teachings of Jesus from the Church of Rome's tampering with what he said to support their own views and ambitions. The very reason that Tom Jefferson put together his own "bible" cutting out all references to the miracles of Jesus, his resurrection and his divinity.
When I bring up the "Jefferson Bible" and my agreeing with most of it, many of those I talk to believe that I am attacking their Christian faith. The truth, however, is that my desire is to liberate the (blind) faith of people from what I deem the great Christian deception. That is, Jesus being the son of God as is said in the gospels and that he died on the cross for our sins.
The sardonic question remains, if Jesus died for my sins why must I? The truth, however, is that this torturous death of Jesus actually repeats many myths of Paganism. As said earlier the Jesus myth corresponds with many of the older myths and especially that of Mithra who was also called a Savior and Mediator. Exactly when Jesus the Son of Man became Jesus the Son of God we do not know, except Peter says this and of course for Paul, Jesus is the crucified son of God in the sense of being Christ Jesus, son of God.
Actually both terms, the son of man and the son of God, were in common, social usage during Jesus' time. The son of man, taken from Daniel, seems to refer to anyone who believed in the world's end religious theory and the son of god was often used to refer to more prestigious individuals of rank of even among the pagans. So both these titles were in common use during Jesus' life and long before.
Another point to be made here is that if Jesus had been the actual messiah, directly from God and the brutality of the story of his death was to save the world from its sinful way, nothing occurred (or changed) after the crucifixion. The people just went suffering and sinning, dying and repenting as always! And anyway, Yahweh remained the warrior god of the heavens, he who was a jealous god, a god of revenge, judgment and so, reward and punishment. The same tyrant God of Abraham not only for Judaism but for Christianity and Islam as well. That is, not the God that Jesus spoke of; the God of love and forgiveness which is what truly makes Jesus so important to mankind. And, a vital key to his reality is when he announces that, "I and the Father are one."
This takes on a bizarre meaning by the church. The idea that God chooses a virgin (typical pagan mythology) and is born in a manger (nearly all mythical saviors were born in caves or amidst animals) as Jesus is supposed to have been born in a manger). In the Jesus myth, God is actually Jesus and Jesus is actually God. Does it not strike people odd that the omniscient, omnipotent God might have been able to devise an easier and better way of "saving the world" than through a human being's bloodshed and suffering; through the insanity of a sacrificial lamb? Perhaps He could have simply appeared in the sky and with a booming voice saying, stop sinning folks and do it my way? But even with this aside, as said earlier, God was saving the people from himself. It is simply impossible to grasp the sensibility or sensitivity in the notion that "Christ died for our sins" not only because it obviously made no impact on how people lived their lives but it doesn't even make common sense to be a method for an all powerful/knowing/creative god to use.
When Jesus said that he and the father were one he clearly did not mean that he was literally God but rather that the spirit of the father was in him as he wasspiritually in the father. This is a reminder of one of my favorite quotes by Chilton Pearce : “Mind mirrors the universe that mirrors man’s mind. Creator and Created give rise to each other.”This is something that even Jefferson seems to have missed, that on a spiritual or level of consciousness we are all one with what we call God and this was Jesus' message.
This oneness has been realized long before the times of Jesus and is vital to religiosity itself. While even the Gospel of Thomas has obviously been swayed by church influences there are a few quotes worth noting. I will repeat an important Jesus quote here to stir the readers own thoughts on the matter of oneness.
Jesus saw little ones receiving milk
He said to his disciples:
These little ones receiving milk
are like those who enter the kingdom.
They said to him:
If we are little ones,
will we enter the kingdom?
Jesus said to them:
When you make the two one,
and make the inside the outside,
and the outside the inside,
and the upper side like the under side,
and [in such a way] that you make the man
[with] the woman a single one,
on order that the man is not man and the
woman is not woman;
when you make eyes in place of an eye,
and a hand in place of a hand,
and a foot in place of a foot,
an image in place of an image;
then you will go into [the kingdom].
Jesus obviously taught that God's kingdom was already here. Indeed in the one prayer he gives us there is the line: On earth as it is in heaven. But obviously the Kingdom can not be manifest unless (or until) we people stop separating ourselvesfrom others; until we merge with all else in love and cooperation and until the two become in oneness as Jesus directs. This is precisely why I have said and written so many times that we are all the same and that our differences are only apparent.
Jesus' major teachings were to love God and to love each other; to treat others as we would be treated; that the kingdom of God was at hand and that God dwells in all of us.
These are the great wisdoms in Jesus' teachings and why this simple son of man remains so important to all of us.
An overview of Christianity and Organized Religion
There are a great many of sincere Christians. I have two cousins, Ken and Gerri who are "reborn" by their own definition. They are truly good people who do their best to live the life that Jesus taught and I greatly admire them for their sincerity. The problem, however, is that they are often swept up into church doctrine as opposed to Jesus' teachings. The church (or in the case or Mormons the temple) claims to speak for God; to know God's rules and what he expects from us. Indeed, the Catholics deem the Pope infallible and the Mormon president is said to talk to God himself. Now that's impressive! I mean how do you convince multi-millions of people that some mortal is infallible and another has conversations with God?
The truth is that throughout history there has been a great many popes who have been anything but infallible. After all there have been popes who have had heir mistresses and children and others that caused the unnecessary torture and deaths of countless thousands. But of course, the Church of England did their share of torturing and murdering too. Then there were the witch hunts that not only burned human beings to death but even dogs accused of being possessed by the devil. Yes, that's right, I said "dogs," pooches accused of witchery! And speaking of Puritans, they came to America for freedom of religion and thereafter tortured and killed a great many who did not want to adopt their beliefs. (It was the Puritans that started the Indian wars). And, it is well known that Both Calvin and Luther were apt to string a person up or prompt him or her with a little torture who refused to accept their brand of religion.
Later, in the 1800s, there was Ellen White who founded the Seven Day Adventists. She claimed to have a vision (from God) telling her that masturbation would turn a man into a cripple and imbecile. And, in our times we have had crazies like Jerry Farwell
Maybe you're old enough to remember Oral Roberts
There's been so many hypocrites such as the Evangelist, Jim Baker
And speaking of hell. How can anyone in their right mind believe that after the parousia and Armageddon occurs that Jesus (a man of love and forgiveness) is going to condemn ALL none Christians to death and agony in the Lake of Fire. That's right, right along with all the Buddhists, Aborigines, Hindus and everyone else who aren't Christian. Now is that a scare tactic or is that a scare tactic?
Hey, are you a Christian?
Go jump in the lake.
The proposition of burning in eternal hell has been the roots of human oppression since the advent so-called civilization. Remember, however, that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their own roots back to Abraham. Read Abraham closely and you will see that its an allegory for obedience and blind faith. Obviously the old warlord Jehovah was a regular control freak...just like the rulers who created him.
If a reader believes what I'm saying is blasphemous, please note that the old warlord Gods including Jehovah were made in man's image and not the other way around. There was a time in Babylonia that God was thought to have bookkeepers and concubines--stop and think about it. Indeed, it is as Bishop John H. Spong tells us, "The fact is that the God of Thomas Aquinas looked and acted much like Thomas Aquinas. So too did the God of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Thomas Crammer look and act like each of these theologians." If anyone doubts this, simply notice how a society's mores end up being "God's" moralities.
This God I've just described belongs to all the big-3 religions--he is known to be the all powerful and knowing God. Yet, when it comes down to saving his people all he can think of is creating himself as a martyr who will suffer and die for the sins of everyone else. And, in regard to this, don't forget that he was saving the sinners from himself. After all, he is the rule-maker, judge and jury of what is right and what is wrong and what is sinful and sinless.
The cornerstone of Christianity is the suffering and crucified Christ; the very center of the church no matter what denomination. That's right, it is not Jesus' love, forgiveness, understanding and kindness but his torturous death that is the symbol that has served to marginalize the faithful since very ancient times. And, thanks to St. Augustine in the forth century, we have inherited from his views, both guilt and shame for our humanism, and therefore marginalized them with unnecessary neurosis and fear. What we need of course is change. We'll talk about that next.
What the World Needs Now
Christianity is a most powerful and influential world religion. To understand its root one must read Joel Carmichael and delve further into history than last weeks news, weather and sports.
To start with Christianity must shed its clinging to the one ancient god who is far more tyrannical than earth's dictators have been. Friedrich Nietzsche declared that "God is dead" and that god should be added to the myth of Zeus and forgotten. After all, in some lands this god is still demanding cold-blooded murders and martyrdom. In our own land he is still promising everlasting torture for anyone who doesn't obey the rules he passes down through the church, becoming the religious memes of the society.
Christianity needs to adopt the God that Jesus described; a god of love and therefore forgiveness and kindness; the kind of God who inspires the good Samaritan. This nature is nothing like the war lording, furious Jehovah of the Old Testament.
It is as Andrew Harvey says: "Jesus was symbolically, and with tremendous mystical courage, trying to lead the essential illness of his--and our--"patriarchal" culture, its fears of God created in its own fierce, cruel and savage punitive nature. This projection had, and has, terrifying power and keeps humanity agonized, depressed and obsessed with "rules," laws" and "regulations"; it is this projection, after all, that has justified all forms of patriarchal hierarchy and systems of purity and exclusion."
It is impossible not to further quote Harvey: "Jesus' vision of the Father, as a parable of the Prodigal Son makes clear, has noting to do with the distant, all judging vengeful and terrifying Jehovah figure of the Old Testament, that terrible father that kept the 'publicans and sinners' convinced of their worthlessness and the "scribes and Pharisees" cowering behind the facade of frightened holiness. Jesus' Father is the father met in deepest mystical experience, a Father who is also a Mother, whose nature is loving beyond all human imagination, whose profoundness longing is not to judgment but for the festive reconciliation and harmony between being birthed from love. It is this Father, the Jesus calls with overwhelmed love, "Abba," Daddy: It is also this Father to which Jesus wants to awaken the whole of his world."
One needs only to look at the structure and power of the Vatican or for that matter of the business complex of the Mormon church in Utah or simply read the story of Christianity in ancient Rome. It is not too farfetched to say that Christian leadership has, over the centuries, become just the opposite of what Jesus taught. For one thing, the avocation of an "us" and "them" world is a non-Jesus-view but held almost sacredly by so-called Christianity.
And so, Christians need to turn away from the old warrior god
As I said at the start of this article certainly there are good, sincere Christians who actually do their best to live the life that Jesus prescribed--a life of love, forgiveness, kindness and charity. However, it seems apparent that they are far and few between.
George Washington was very adamant when he said "we are not a Christian nation." But, as it turns out, we are by sheer numbers if nothing else. When one takes an objective look at Jesus' public life, he was first and foremost a social reformer. And, turning to Andrew Harvey again, he reminds us that, "The Jesus movement, as we have seen, embraced outcasts, celebrated religious truth of women, praised, even venerated, the poor, and implicitly and explicitly critiqued all the ways in which religious powers was mediated and transmitted by the Pharisees and priests The magical power of Jesus' presence, healing and teaching gathered around him the ragged beginnings of an alternative society dedicated to bringing into reality the beauty and compassion of the Kingdom.
Certainly a key to what is said in the above is from the words of Jesus himself. He said, I am in this world, I am not of it. Thisis clearly a social comment not a mystical one as many interpret it as being. None of us have to be part of the world's hypocrisies; the world's prejudices as the racists and sexists are; we do not have to hate or fear all those who are different from us or live our lives in small centers with those who agree with us crating an "us" and "them" world. Neither do we have to step over the person on the street to get to the church steps but we can stop and offer a helping hand; a hand of compassion.
We do not have to be divided by denominations each claiming to know what God demands; each claiming to be the voice of God and the heavens. Jesus never had an organization in terms of a bureaucracy, he was a Jewish reformer with messages that apply to all of us. His God was not a tyrannical, revengeful and jealous god but a God of Love and a God of kindness; a God that can be known both in the world and within the self. He did not preach or believe in penances or especially making human suffering a road to redemption. His teachings were about making a happy, free and peaceful life everyone's reality; of permitting God's Kingdom to manifest in the infinite now.
Every church on the planet should take down their labels and simply be called a house of
God's Love. There should be no confessions, no preaching of hell and brimstone, no doctrines or dogmas, just a place to find shelter and comfort; a place to freely meditate and find God's truth within ourselves. Indeed, we need to take Jesus down from the cross and into our hearts.
As for Christianity itself, it needs to adopt the new view not only of love, peace and charity but also openness and benevolence. Indeed, only this much of a change would be reflective of a Cosmic Christ.
References and suggestions for further reading:
Carpenter, Edward * The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs * Senate
Harvey, Andrew * Son of Man * Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putman
Jefferson, Tom * The Jefferson Bible * A & D Piblishing
Freedman, Noel David & Grant Roberts * The Secret Sayings of Jesus * Barnes & Noble
Sponge, John, Shelby * Why Christians must Change or Die * Harper San Francisco
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