Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Jesus and Politics

December 25, 2013

In his own time and place, one would say that Jesus was a Liberal. Today, it seems, the people who claim to follow his teachings are Conservatives.

If Jesus came today, he would not be siding with these Christians. He would be standing up for the weak, the disenfranchised, just as he did centuries ago.

It is sad to see that the edifice built, supposedly, on the teachings of this man has now become exactly what he struggled against.

Yes, the Christianity of today is the Sadducees and Pharisees of the past. Unfeeling, unyielding, intolerant of the broken among us.

Thankfully, I am more liberal minded.

Sort of like Jesus.


Joel and Francis

December 24, 2013

I have often commented that Joel Osteen resembles Jesus more than most contemporary preachers in that he talks a lot about your relationship to God rather than your relationship to Jesus.

Though modern Christian belief is all about cozying up with Christ, that was not what Jesus’ message was about. He was all about you getting closer to God.

I know a lot of people say they are one and the same but that is a Catholic view, not the universal view, of the situation.

Speaking of universal views, I am continuously amazed by the new Pope. Francis seems more like what a Pope should be about unlike those politicians who have been sitting on the Papal throne for the last few centuries – well, all except John Paul I whose reign was entirely too short. Francis is so UNpolitical that I’m amazed he hasn’t been bumped off yet.

Rather than pushing the typical Catholic agenda on abortion and birth control, Francis preaches more about our removing our concentration from the things of this world, the politics, the money, the greed, and learn to strengthen our personal relationship with God.

It is almost as if Joel and Francis went to the same school and learned from the same teacher.


Oh, yeah, they did… his name was Jesus.


Religious Fundamentalists Give Religion a Bad Name

December 23, 2013

Espousing a religion in which the central savior preaches tolerance and loving nature to share among all your fellows, to judge-not lest you be seen as a hypocritical charlatan, and to love your neighbor as you would love yourself is a tough call it seems.

It is so much easier to snub and belittle people you think of as different, or inferior, or as not walking in the ways of the Lord (as you alone judge it to be). So very easy to act high and mighty as though the Universal had given you specific license to point out the idolators and fallen angels in our midst.

It is admirable that such people can constrain themselves and their abiding passions to quietly follow God’s ways with fairness to all God’s creatures, great and small.

It is unfortunate that some fundamentalists appoint themselves as judges of mankind and usurp the power of God in condemning their fellows. And all this based on only a few passages in scripture which they interpret as giving them such power… while ignoring all the parts of scripture that deny such a thing.

Cherry-picking the justification for mean-spirited treatment of others falls far beyond anything Jesus ever spoke about, nor anything he implied by any action. Where does it say he turned his back on the needy or the broken? Where does it mention him not sitting down to break bread with the sick and the sinners.

Fundamentalists give Jesus a bad name.



Killing the Messenger

August 10, 2013

crucifixion

It is an ancient request, to not kill the messenger.

That request was put aside in the case of Jesus and the messenger was killed.

Since practically everyone who has ever heard of the crucifixion knows this fact, why do I mention it?

In the Christianity of today, we greatly revere the act of extermination of the messenger. The crucifixion is pointed to as the reason for Jesus coming at all. Oh, all the magical goodness that came from that foul deed!

But what seems to be forgotten here is the message.

The church tells us that the message is the everlasting life and the redemption of sins. They tell us that was the message.

But again, that is focusing on the murder of the messenger, not the message.

The message that Jesus brought: that God is with you and in you always, that your life’s journey is about getting closer to Him, that you can do all the things that he, himself, did “and greater”… all this is lost in the resounding message from the Church.


It seems the messenger was killed and the message was forgotten.

What a waste.

Modern Martyrdom

July 31, 2013

martyrs

A very few decades ago, an author by the name of Immanuel Velikovsky was pilloried by the scientific community for his popular book Worlds in Collision. And most of the scientists who commented on the volume loudly proclaimed that NO, they had not read the book nor would they even bother to read such unmitigated rubbish.

How could they know it was rubbish without reading it?

Years after the “Velikovsky Affair” had ended with the scientists declaring that they had “behaved poorly” one might have thought lessons had been learned… well, somewhere at least.

Dr. Reza Aslan’s new book, Zealot, attempts to examine the historical Jesus and expound on his personal insights into the matter.

Billy Hallowell, of the Blaze, wrote a critique on the book and included what he termed “responses” from Christian authors and theologians.

Uniformly, the Christian scholars scoff at the author for rehashing all the standard Islamic interpretations of the Bible, or for resurrecting Albert Schweitzer’s Historical Jesus. They claim he has not brought anything new to the table and most complain that he is not, strictly speaking, an historian.

What these scholars also uniformly proclaim is that none of them have actually read the book they are bashing but feel they can bash it anyway because of what they have heard other people saying about the book, or what they got off the blurb, or what one of their friends condensed from some television interview.

In other words, theologians have proven that – in truth – they are no different from scientists.

They, too, can condemn a heresy before they even hear it.



Imagine what progress we’ll make tomorrow.


DOMA and Done

June 27, 2013

supremecourt

Now that the Supreme Court has rejected DOMA and the California Proposition, many people are coming out screaming “foul!”

One Senator from Missouri said the Supreme Court is going against the will of the majority. And she claimed it sets a very bad precedent.

It is always sad when our elected officials show such obvious ignorance of what America is supposed to be about.

Certainly the rule of the majority is the law of the land but only after the other boxes have been checked off. Legalizing discrimination, as Bill Clinton put it, is a very bad precedent and flies in the face of “liberty and justice for all”.

The very religious sector of our country appears to think that somewhere in their scripture they are commanded by Jesus to “go out and tell everyone else how to live” rather than worry about their own relationship with the Almighty.

Legislation of this stripe is what sets a bad example.

If this type of “majority rules” discrimination were allowed to run rampant, we would soon outlaw left-handed people, blondes, people who like cookie-dough ice cream, blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Neo-Nazis, gun owners, Catholics, and any other various groups trying to practice living a free life pursuing happiness as they see fit.

And there has already been legislation on each of those things at some point.

Discrimination should not be legislated.

Period.

No matter what percentage of the population wants it.

Perhaps they should find another country which allows such atrocities and move there.


Grace

January 7, 2013

One aspect of Christianity we are reminded of quite often is Grace, that ultimate act of forgiveness by the Almighty for whatever indiscretions in which we may have been involved. So many preachers tell us we do not have to be perfect to approach the Heavenly Father, Grace is extended even to the most egregious of sinners.

Grace. The Gift to Us All from the Father who art in Heaven.

What a pleasant thought.

But then, usually in the next breath, many will say “but you must first take Jesus as personal Savior and Redeemer.”

And some even go further and say you must also tithe, refrain from working on Sunday, partake of communion, not walk under ladders, step on sidewalk cracks, or sneezing without covering your mouth.

So, which is it?

Is Grace something given freely by the Almighty to everyone or does He have a team of lawyers to nit-pick the fine points of your adherence to a bunch of details?

Actually, it is unconditional and applies to people of any race, nation, age, or religion.

It is freely given so that we might, in turn, give forgiveness unconditionally to everyone by whom we might feel slighted or maligned. Forgiveness is not conditional or it is not true forgiveness.

And Grace is not really Grace with any conditions. Especially not something as minor as deciding which idol you want to interpose between yourself and God.

Jesus said repeatedly that you can easily keep in touch with God, the Father. He did not mention using any mouthpiece, go-between, or secret password.

That little notion was thought up by the early Christian lawyers.

How Inhuman

December 29, 2012

Recently, an Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, put up a statue in the Warsaw ghetto that caused a bit of a stir. Titled only “HIM”, it shows a young Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was consulted on the proposed placement of the art and said he saw value in the artist’s attempt to try to increase moral awareness in the viewers.

Many people who saw it were moved by it, some calling it provocative. Of course, there were detractors as is usually the case. The Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called it “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims.”

Cattelan’s series of works called “Amen”, of which this piece is but a part, explores our understanding of life and death, good and evil.

What this seems to be touching on is forgiveness.

It seems we normally isolate things that we conceive as “very bad” and term it evil. This has been done traditionally with Hitler and practically everywhere you see mention of him, it is as evil incarnate.

And we do this, quite naturally, to distance ourselves from him, and the evil. Well, we remark, he was not really human so we cannot be related to that sort of thing. He was evil, a devil, not a man.

Unfortunately, he was all too human, as are we, and that should be remembered. Otherwise the same trap may find another victim. All that was evil in Hitler can be found in each of us as well, that darker side, the demons within, that most of us can keep control over and keep from slipping into that “madness”.

If we can re-humanize the man, we might actually learn to forgive him – a lesson repeated quite often in that tome used by Jews and Christians alike – and move beyond the pain.

And perhaps we can all learn a lesson from that exercise.

There are parts good and evil in all people. Jesus, a very good person, some say “the son of God”, others call him God in the flesh.

Believe it or not, that is the same thing people have done with Hitler: dehumanization. Hitler was so bad that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility. But we claim Jesus was so perfect that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility.

We can never be as bad as Hitler because we are human, nor can we ever aspire to be as good as Jesus because we have made him more than we can ever attain.

How different it would be if we remembered Hitler was just a man – and guard ourselves by that example – and that Jesus was just a man, and realize that we can be everything that he was.

Yes, just as the Master said we could.

a Rationalistic View

November 24, 2012

I mentioned before that for most of my life I have been content to let people think I was an atheist.

That is a word that will immediately conjure up the pictures of hell-fire and eternal damnation in most Christians but I believe such a destination is really far from the case.

Most atheists I know – including two sons – are not strictly atheists by definition. They are most definitely anti-religionists and that should not surprise anyone as there are even a large number of theologians who have noticed the trend even among the faithful to stand apart from organized religion.

Being against organized religion is not the same as atheism as most “atheists” are actually still looking, still searching for answers, still… hoping. That they have not embraced the answers offered by the Christian faith does not make them “lost”.

A case in point is Uta Ranke-Heinemann. She was born a Protestant, converted to Catholicism, educated in the same class as the current Pope and the two studied together and discussed doctrinal issues for years. She graduated to become a university professor at a prestigious university in Germany.

Everything went fine until she had what some people called a “crisis of faith”. She contends there was no crisis. It was more like an epiphany. Still, she lost the Catholic Chair at the university.

She came to the rational conclusion that there was no actual “virgin birth”.

The article of faith, she said, was just that: an article of faith, and not a physical truth.

She has issued what she calls a “negative creed” and it is very rationalistic in its view. It includes seven points and I include my own meager commentary to each:

1 – The Bible is not the word of God but the word of men. This is really a “no brainer”. Anyone who can understand several words strung together can see fairly quickly that there are not only a few “discrepancies” in the text but one heckuva lot of definite contradictions. The purported “word of God” sounds as if He is confused, regardless of the conviction coming from the pulpits. And if God is not good enough to keep the story straight from one end of such a small work as the Bible, I doubt He could be trusted with anything as massive as the whole universe. But as He is in charge of the whole shebang, the book has to have been written by fallible Man. And even by those who claim doctrinal infallibility.

2 – That God does exist in three persons is imagination of men. This whole Trinity thing has always perplexed me. Where did we get that idea from? Well, from Paul, of course! You remember him? Saul of Tarsus, who stoned Stephen and troubled the earlier disciples before he “found religion” got converted and announced he knew more about Jesus than anyone else. What a heck of a guy he was, huh? But did it come from Jesus? Or from God, perhaps? Not a chance.

3 – Jesus is man and not God. When asked repeatedly – and he was, of course – Jesus denied being either God or “the Son of God”. He said he was “Son of Man”. Of course, theologians now say that the phrase means “Son of God”. Then why didn’t Jesus just come out and say so? Was he being – ahem – duplicitous, circumspect, lying? I don’t think so. As for him being God, why would he keep talking about God as someone other than himself? Why wouldn’t he have prayed “Me, who art in heaven, hallowed be my name…”?

4 – Mary is the mother of Jesus and not the mother of God. See above. And as Uta had already renounced the virgin birth, it is included in this as a given. If Mary was the mother of a man, she would no longer have been a virgin at the birth and the birth would have been the same as for any other human being.

5 – God created heaven and earth, hell is a product of human fantasy. The “hell” mentioned by the ancient Jews was a desolate valley outside of Jerusalem… not the thing we consider today as being “under the ground”. Although there is a very healthy mythology built up over the subject it is just that: mythology.

6 – The devil and original sin do not exist. And, as I have said before concerning Satan, God – by the very definition of the concept – can have no “equal” who could be contesting against Him for the human race. The very idea is ludicrous. Original sin is a concept created by Paul and his Catholic Church. It implies that God created defective merchandise. It is nothing more than a control mechanism used by the Church to control Europe for quite a few centuries. (And, you know what? It worked for a long, long time.) And the idea that it was the fault of a woman seems a rather transparent attempt to degrade half the human race. Unfortunately, that seems to have worked too damned well. Shame!

7 – A bloody redemption at the Cross is a pagan sacrificial slaughtering of a human being, based on a model from the religious Stone Age. This may require a little more study for the casual reader but it is also correct.


Now that the rationalist view has been set forth, both Uta and I have a disclaimer.

There is nothing wrong with believing any or all these things to be correct even if any rationalist could argue otherwise.

In the final scheme of things – church rules notwithstanding – the exact and precise definition of any of these tenets is really up to you. If it has more meaning for you to think that Jesus is one and the same with God Almighty, go for it. If you think he was only the son of God in the flesh, more power to you. If it is more meaningful for you to know that he was nothing more than a very wise and miraculous human being, that’s all right too.

Uta is still a follower of Christ even if not a Catholic. I am very much the same. Jesus had some very interesting viewpoints to share with us while he was here. And one of my favorites is that the journey is really about your connection with God.

He mentioned nothing about requiring the intercession of a priesthood or a hierarchy of theological professionals, or even the ear of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

How could he even go there when he had already said that each of our bodies is the temple of God? And why would we need an organization to contact God when He is already in each of us? To deny either of those facts – in other words, to justify the existence of the church as the only way to God – is denying what Jesus said. And if you deny this part of his teachings, why bother with complaining that other people are wrong with their beliefs?

Regardless of the ideology they ascribe to.

God made us all different.

The path to salvation is wide enough to encompass every difference.

And what you believe will not hamper your advancement along the road.

So allow others their own separate beliefs and assist them in whatever way you can to help them along on their way.

Divisiveness never has and never will achieve much of anything, here or in heaven.


Differing Christologies

October 21, 2012

I was raised in a Southern Baptist household and grandfather, the Baptist minister, made certain that we did not fall into the “papist fallacy”, i.e. that Jesus was NOT God. He was the Son of God as he claimed and NOT God-incarnate as the Catholics professed. That was the primary difference between the Catholic faith and the Protestant religions: the true dispensation of Jesus’ beingness.

Today, there seems to be a lot of gray entering into this area. It appears that a variety of fundamentalist and evangelical groups have reverted to the “papist fallacy”. I can hear it in the Christian music on our local station. There are as many songs about Jesus as the Son of God as there are about Jesus being God.

Truthfully, there is nothing wrong with either viewpoint and people can choose to believe whatever they want, whatever appeals to them, whatever brings them the greatest comfort.

Beyond believing whatever you prefer, I think the message He delivered becomes lessened in thinking that He was one and the same with God. Sure He could be so perfect because He was God.

I think His story takes on a completely different light if He were human in all respects and endured all the travails without the benefit of being completely Divine. Somehow, knowing He was going to be back up in heaven in an instant gives the crucifixion story a little tarnish. So, what was the great sacrifice if He was God Himself?

And why would He pray to Himself? And why didn’t the Lord’s Prayer read: “Me, who art in heaven, hallowed be My Name. My Kingdom come, My Will be done…” etc.

And why would Jesus constantly talk about the people needing to get closer to the Father? Why not simply say “get closer to me”?

And why the sidestepping the issue when asked if He were the Son of God? His usual reply was “No, I am the Son of Man”. Modern Christians seem to think “Son of Man” means “Son of God” but that seems to lack credence. If He was God, why not say so?

In fact, if He was the Son of God, why not simply say that rather than quibble over the finer points of whose son He actually was?

But, like I said, people are free to believe whatever they want. They can believe He was God, the Son of God, or an itinerant cable-repairman… Whatever works for you.

I think, more important than who are what He was, the message was far more important. The message was more important to Him even than His own life.

And the message? It was quite simple and was said over and over in scripture… And it really had nothing to do with building churches, fighting wars, or getting active in politics. None of that mattered to Him.

Oh, and the things He said about not being able to get to the Father but through Him? Really, that was added later. He never said any such thing.

How do I know? Simple: it was added in later because it is unsupported by what he said elsewhere and the actions He took. In fact, I believe that everything in the scriptures that make the Church look good were additions.

Why would Jesus want to establish a church when He had already (and repeatedly!) said “the kingdom of God lies within you” and “your body is the temple”. Doesn’t sound like He was setting up the foundations for a church, despite the yap about Peter being the rock on which he was founding the yada-yada-yada…

And the two main tenets of His teaching came down to two “commandments”:

First, put God first in your life and thoughts, and

Second, love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Simple. Sweet. Short and to the point.

Nothing about communion, confession, tithing, or doing penance for your transgressions.

Nothing about building the richest organization on the planet.

Nothing about murdering people around the world for centuries to force them into a belief-system.

And, you’ll notice, He said nothing about putting Himself first.