Tag Archives: Jesus

Trump and the End of Evangelicals’ Moral High Ground

With the election now thankfully behind us, we can hopefully move forward, let the dust settle, and be thankful elections only come once every four years.  We can also reflect on the lessons learned from this presidential race.  And one of the biggest lessons that we’ve all learned is where Evangelical’s, Fundamentalist’s, and really most Christian’s loyalty really lies.  As Bill Maher so eloquently put it:

“Before leaving this election behind, we must all thank Donald Trump for the one good thing he did – he exposed Evangelicals, who are big Trump supporters, as the shameless hypocrites they’re always been.” 

That’s right.  Watching Christians in America throw themselves before the alter of the most vile, immoral, and bigoted presidential candidate this country has ever seen, exposed the world to the ugly underbelly American Christianity.  Those of us who were once part of the Evangelical ranks are all too familiar with what’s behind the “Jesus is Love!” facade found in most churches, but even we were a bit surprised at just how low they stooped this time.  Making decisions based on fear, ignorance, and tribal rules has always been the Religious Rights MO, but with Trump; they’ve taken it to a whole new level.

trump

 

I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  I kept waiting for Trump to say something or do something that was so outlandish, so immoral, that Christians would finally wake up, see that this emperor has no clothes, and withdraw their support.  But, no.  A full 81% of white Evangelicals backed Trump this election, with other Christian denominations not faring much better.  Even the infamous “pussy grabbing” tapes weren’t enough to turn most Christians.

This election will certainly go down in history for a number of reasons, but there’s one in particular I want to talk about today.  After this election, Christians in America can no longer pretend to have a monopoly on morality.  They can no longer claim to be morally superior than those outside their tribe.  They no longer get to attempt to be societies “designated adults”.  Christians have lost any perceived higher ground they once had to judge how other people live out there lives.  This election has proven, once and for all, that when it comes to morals, most Christians don’t have a fucking clue what that word really means.

“This year much of the Church has been fully complicit in elevating to the highest levels of the political process, a man completely devoid of anything remotely representing Jesus, and passed him off as sufficiently Christian. Celebrity pastors and name-brand Evangelists have sold him as “a man after God’s own heart”, or at the very least a decidedly imperfect tool of Divine retribution in the style of the Old Testament—and they’ve repeatedly bastardized the Scriptures, insulted the intelligence of the faithful, and given the middle finger to the Gospel in order to do it.

And millions of Christians have held their noses and washed their hands while still trying to make their beds and cast their lots with the most openly vile, profane, hateful Presidential nominee in history. The desperate theological gymnastics and excuse making professed Bible-believing churchgoers have engaged in to try and justify it all has been the height of tragic comedy, with all the laughs coming at the expense of the Good News.” – John Pavlovit

And spare me the excuses – I don’t want to hear them.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone trying to make excuses for Christians selling-out to Trump…

“They don’t really support Trump, they just think he’s the lesser of to evils.”  First of all, you don’t get to claim “two evils” when there where four fucking candidates on the ballet!  Secondly, I don’t care by what standard you measure “evil”; Trump wins by a landslide.  This goes especially for those who claim that they “live their lives according to Jesus”.  Can people honestly convince themselves that Trump in any way, shape, or form, is anything that even remotely resembles the life and teachings of Jesus?

Jesus healed the blind, Trump mocks the handicapped.

Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, Trump threatens to sue anyone who speaks badly of him.

Jesus loved his enemies, Trump wants to bomb their families.

Jesus taught not to look at a women with lust, Trump sexually assaults them.

Jesus taught to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’”, Trump is a compulsive liar.

Jesus taught not to take up treasures on Earth, Trump is a greedy, corrupt billionaire.

Jesus cared for the poor and needy, Trump wants to kick them out of this country.

Jesus taught peace, Trump insights violence.

Another common excuse I hear is that people are voting for Trump because they believe he is “pro-life”.  Please.  Just because he has made baseless claims of appointing a SCOTUS judge who will overturn Roe vs Wade to pander to his gullible voting base, in no way makes him pro-life.  (Never mind the fact that it was a Republican SCOTUS that legalized abortion, and a Republican SCOTUS that upheld it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey)  “At the heart and core of what it means to be pro-life is a deep, unshakable belief, that all life has infinite worth and value,” writes Benjamin Corey, “and that this innate worth should be something we as a culture honor and value.”  Corey continues:

“Nothing about saying, “I like to just grab women by the pussy” reflects a view that all people have sacred value and that they should be honored.

Nothing about mocking people with physical disabilities says that a person holds a foundational belief that all life has worth and value.

Nothing about grabbing a woman and kissing her without consent, telling an employee that she’d “look really good down on her knees,” or saying that it’s hard for women with small breasts to be beautiful, tells us this is a man who believes that the image of God in others must be honored and protected.

Nothing about deporting the undocumented parents of U.S. born children, destroying family units and creating orphans, speaks to a foundational belief about the value of human life.

Nothing about advocating that we kill the entire families of suspected terrorists tells us that he believes that all life is sacred.

To claim that Donald Trump is pro-life is to say that one can belong to a movement without *actually* believing the foundational beliefs that a given movement is based upon.”

Christians are without excuse when it comes to their unwavering support of Donald Trump.  They can claim “lesser of two evils” and “pro-life” all they want, but the real reason Christians support Trump is pretty clear – they’re towing the party line.  The Evangelical church got into bed with the Political Right decades ago and it has been their primary source of “truth” ever since.   Having sold their souls to the Republican party, seemingly intelligent, well meaning Christians all over America voted for a man that is the polar opposite of everything they claim their religion to be about.

So, from now on, whenever a Christian chimes into a discussion regarding social and political issues and wants to claim that they have the all answer, or the “TRUTH”,  because they read the Bible, follow Jesus, go to church, whatever; you can politely remind them that if they supported Trump, they no longer get to claim they have a superior moral standing than anyone else.

Pavlovitz writes in his article 7 Things Christians Are Giving Up By Supporting Donald Trump:  Christian no longer get to talk about “family values” or the “sanctity of marriage” “after supporting a candidate currently on marriage number three, one with a documented history of infidelity. Their continued efforts to deny LGBT people a single marriage on the basis of protecting supposed God’s ordained one man-one woman standard, ring noticeably hollow as they tolerate Trump’s trinity of ever-younger spouses.”

Christians no longer get to claim to be “pro-life” after supporting a candidate who, with his open racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and his contempt for immigrants and the working poor, Donald Trump has shown contempt for a great swath of Humanity. Advocating for him to preside over all the laws of our country and all of its people, is not a gesture that honors life beyond the most narrow definition of it. It becomes more about politics and semantics than defending the living.”

No longer do they get to police people’s “sinful behavior” as societies designated adults.  One of Evangelicals favorite pastimes is evaluating the conduct of other people and measuring their moral worth accordingly. Celebrity preachers and ordinary pew-sitters like to pull-quote Jesus and demand to see “the fruit” in the lives of others as conformation that they are people of Jesus, that they have sufficiently repented, that they indeed have been born again: the proof is in the pudding. To then rationalize away the orchards of rotten fruit in Donald Trump’s personal and business history by saying ‘God looks at the heart’ and warning those who bring these things up by chastising them ‘not to judge’, puts them on really shaky ground and gives them zero credibility to ever critique anyone else again.”  

And finally, no longer do Christians get to ask atheist, agnostics, and “nones” where we get our morals from.  No longer do they get to claim, “No God, no morality!”.  We have all seen what the Evangelical standards for morality are and just how far they are willing to go to excuse one of their own’s behavior, no matter how deplorable it is.  You don’t get to question where my morals come from while supporting a man like Donald Trump.

This election is yet another reminder of why this country needs to become one based on secular principles, not religious.  Secular countries surpass the US in just about every category that matters.  The Religious Right has been the sole obstacle to social progress for far too long.  Let’s hope that this election marks the turning point, where religion starts to loose its power and influence over society and politics.  Want to “Make America Great Again”?  Start by getting religion out of politics.

Thanks for reading.

 

Mythbusters: The Uniqueness of Jesus

In the first century CE, there was a man born in a remote part of the Roman empire, who’s life would later be described by his followers as “miraculous”.

Before he was born, his mother had a visitor from heaven tell her that her son would be no mere mortal, but in fact divine.  His birth was accompanied by unusual sign in the heavens.

As an adult he left home to begin his preaching ministry.  He went from village to town, telling all who would listen that the should not be concerned about their earthly lives and their material goods; they should live for what was spiritual and eternal.  He preached to both the common peasants and the elite.

He gathered a number of followers around him who became convinced that he was no ordinary human, but was the Son of God.  He did many miracles that confirmed their beliefs: healing the sick, casting out demons, raising people from the dead.

All was not well however, as he aroused opposition from the ruling class of Rome and was eventually put on trial.  He was accused of receiving the worship that is due only to God.  He was sentenced to death.

They may have killed his earthly body, but they could not kill his soul!  He ascended into heaven where he lives to this day.  But to prove that he lived, he appeared to one of his followers doubting followers.  This followers later wrote books about him which we can still read today.

The man’s name was Apollonius.

He was a polytheist and a renowned philosopher who came from the town of Tyana.  His followers thought that he was divine and immortal and worshiped him long after his death.  What is know about him comes from the works of his devotee Philostratus.  Philostratus’s book was written in eight volumes in the third century.  He had done considerable research for his book, and his stories were largely based on the accounts of eyewitnesses and companions of Appollonius himself.*

If this all sounds strikingly similar to the account of Jesus, there’s a very good reason for that.

Myths are stories that are based on tradition.  Some may have factual origins, while others are completely fictional.  But myths are more than mere stories and they serve a more profound purpose in ancient and modern cultures.  A myth taps into a universal cultural narrative, the collective wisdom of man.  An excellent illustration of the universality of these themes is that so many peoples who have had no contact with each other create myths that are remarkably similar.  So, for example, cultures worldwide, from the Middle East to the distant mountains of South America have myths about great floods, virgin births, creation, paradise, the underworld, the afterlife, etc.  These commonalities are known as archetypes – universally symbolic patterns.  True to their universal nature, archetypal characters and stories appear again and again in myths across many diverse cultures.

The account of Jesus as described in the Gospels is one such story.   As we’ll see , the myth of Jesus follows a very old and familiar literary pattern familiar to nearly all hero legends. “We should not think of Jesus as unique”, states New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, “if by that term we mean that he was the only one ‘like that’ – that is, a human who was far above and very different from the rest of us mere mortals, a man who was also in some sense divine.  There were numerous divine humans in antiquity.”

The similarities between Jesus and Apollonius are striking, but they are far from unique; there were many stories that followed this archetype in the ancient world.  This is because they both follow what is often referred to as the “Hero’s Journey”– the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.  Also referred to as monomyth, examples of this can be found throughout the history of literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  

A more specific version of hero’s archetypes is the Rank-Raglan mythotype which are narrative patterns that lists different cross-cultural traits often found in the accounts of heroes, including mythical heroes.  Raglan developed a 22-point myth-ritualist Hero archetype to account for common patterns across Indo-European cultures for Hero traditions.  These points are:

  1. Mother is a royal virgin
  2. Father is a king
  3. Father often a near relative to mother
  4. Unusual conception
  5. Hero reputed to be son of god
  6. Attempt to kill hero as an infant, often by father or maternal grandfather
  7. Hero spirited away as a child
  8. Reared by foster parents in a far country
  9. No details of childhood
  10. Returns or goes to future kingdom
  11. Is victor over king, giant, dragon or wild beast
  12. Marries a princess (often daughter of predecessor)
  13. Becomes king
  14. For a time he reigns uneventfully
  15. He prescribes laws
  16. Later loses favor with gods or his subjects
  17. Driven from throne and city
  18. Meets with mysterious death
  19. Often at the top of a hill
  20. His children, if any, do not succeed him
  21. His body is not buried
  22. Has one or more holy sepulchers or tombs

A Hero’s tradition is considered more mythical the more of these traits they hold.  Popular characters who make the cut include Romulus, Heracles, Dionysos, Apollo, Zeus, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Alexander the Great.  How many points does Jesus get?

One can clearly see that the story of Jesus follows the Hero’s tradition.  Is this merely a coincidence?  The number of points the Jesus story gets and the close resemblance to other deities makes it a tough point to argue.


One popular internet meme would have us believe that Christianity is superior because of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.

Those who share this meme should spend a little more time studying the history of religion and ancient mythology.  Gods rising from the dead was commonplace in ancient cultures and examples are plentiful:

Attis –  born of a virgin by unusual means, gruesome death, death involved a tree, resurrected/eternal life, celebrated annually in spring season

Adonis – born of royal blood, unusual conception and birth, gruesome death, resurrected/ascended to heaven/eternal life, celebrated annually in spring season

Osiris – son of royalty, became king, taught his people a new way of living, traveled to teach others, was murdered by someone close to him, resurrected, became a god

Dionysus – born from a union between a god (Zeus) and a human (Semele), traveled to spread his message, had disciples, brought people back from the dead, gruesome death (dismemberment), brought back to life, celebrated in spring

Tammuz – parents were divine, had power over nature, foreshadowing of death, descended into the other world but was brought back to life, celebrated in the spring

All of these example proceeded the life of Jesus, some by thousands of years.  You’ll notice some other similarities that I included as well, again, examples of the hero mythology archetype.

Speaking of rising from the dead, some have tried to argue that Jesus’s resurrection is proof of his divinity.  Yet, according to the Bible people being brought back to life, while considered a miracle, was not unusual.  Elijah and Elisha both raised people from the dead.  In fact, Elisha’s powers continued after death as someone was even resurrected simply by touching his bones.  Jesus raised Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow on Nain.  Peter raised Dorcus and Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul.  In a scene straight out of a zombie movie, we hear of whole cemeteries opening up and saints wandering the streets after the crucifixion (Matt. 27:50-53).  Are we to consider all of these people divine as well?


Interesting similarities can also be found between Jesus and Buddha, who pre-dates Jesus by 400-500 years.  Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) was:

  • Born to a royal family
  • Birth foretold in dream
  • Visited by “wise men” shortly after birth
  • Prolonged fasting before starting ministry
  • Renounced worldly riches and required his disciples to do so also
  • Taught that true riches are not material
  • Extensive traveling to spread his message
  • Had disciples who traveled with him
  • Performed miracles, such as curing blindness and walking on water
  • Dispatched disciples, shortly before his death, to spread his message

Some have claimed that what set Jesus apart were his teachings, yet while Jesus’s message was certainly counter-cultural, it was nothing original.  As with Apollonius, Buddha taught many of the same principles that we find in the Gospels.  Here are a few examples:

The Golden Rule

Buddha
Jesus
“Consider others as yourself.” (Dhammapada 10:1)
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

Love others

Buddha
Jesus
Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world.” (Sutta Nipata 149-150)
“This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Love your enemies

Buddha
Jesus
Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good. Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth. (Dhammapada 1.5 &17.3)
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6.27-30)

Turn the other cheek

Buddha
Jesus
“If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words.” (Majjhima Nikaya 21:6)
“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” (Luke 6:29

Help others

Buddha
Jesus
“If you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.” (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3)
“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)

Do not judge others

Buddha
Jesus
“The fault of others is easily perceived, but that of oneself is difficult to perceive; a man winnows his neighbour’s faults like chaff, but his own fault he hides.” (Dhammapada 252.)
“Judge not, that you be not judged… And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1–5)

Disdain wealth

Buddha
Jesus
“Let us live most happily, possessing nothing.” (Dhammapada 15:4)
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

Do not kill

Buddha
Jesus
“Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword.” Digha Nikaya 1:1.8)
“Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Spread the word

Buddha
Jesus
“Teach the dharma which is lovely at the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely at the end. Explain with the spirit and the letter in the fashion of Brahma. In this way you will be completely fulfilled and wholly pure.” (Vinaya Mahavagga 1:11.1)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Does mean that the writers of the Gospels simply copied the story of Buddha?  Trade routes between India and Middle East were well established at that time and goods, as well as ideas, certainly traveled back and forth between them.  While it is certainly possible that the Gospel writers knew of Buddhism, it’s doubtful they simply retold the Buddha myth to match that of Jesus.  I bring up the similarities to once again illustrate how common the Hero archetype was and how influential it was on religious mythology of the time.

While some have argued that Jesus was not an actual historical figure, the majority of scholars and historians would believe that he was.  However, while these scholars would agree that a religious leader named Jesus likely existed, the stories surrounding him are most certainly the product legend and mythology; a story retold over time to fit the hero’s narrative. 

This poses a problem for Christianity, as it depends on the mythology of Jesus.  Without the immaculate conception, miracles, death and resurrection, Jesus is just another ancient religious figure.  As Bob Seidensticker explains: “Strip away any supernatural claims from the story of Alexander the Great, and you’ve still got cities throughout Asia named Alexandria and coins with Alexander’s likeness. Strip away any supernatural claims from the Caesar Augustus story, and you’re still left with the Caesar Augustus from history (and a month in our calendar named after him). But strip away the supernatural claims from the Jesus story, and you’re left with a fairly ordinary rabbi. The Jesus story is nothing but the supernatural elements.”  This is why it is not hard to find apologist desperately attempting to explain away evidence like what I have presented and insisting the Jesus was more than just a teacher/philosopher, but in fact was God, and has to be God.

So, where does all of this leave us?  For me, understanding the true nature of the Jesus story, it’s origins, and how similar it was to other narratives, was part of what led to my de-conversion.  It is yet further evidence that Christianity is a man-made religion, following a similar pattern of mythology, allegory, and legend-making that can be found in all religions.  Christianity is not unique, it is not special, and it certainly isn’t the one true religion as most of its followers would like to believe.

I do, however, admire the central teachings of Jesus and wish more people, specifically his devotes, would actually follow them as it would make the world a much better place.  The practice of treating others as equals, helping others, being slow to anger and judgment, and avoiding materialism, are principles which everyone should embrace.  Whether these principles are coming from Jesus, Buddha, Gandi, MLK, or a host of others; they are universal in nature and lead to a more civil, progressive, and humane society.  It’s when these principles are replaced by religious dogma that we see social progress slow down or even move backwards.  It’s time that the myth of Jesus be put in it’s rightful place so that we, as a society, can move forward.

Thanks for reading.

 

*The story of Appolonius was taken from Bert Ehrman’s “How Jesus Became God”

**Some apologists have argued that the claims regarding ancient figures such as Adonis and Dionysus can’t be proven to be historically accurate.  It can’t be proven that Jesus was born on Dec 25th either, yet his followers universally celebrate that date.  The same holds true for the gods the preceded Jesus – little may be known about their actual existence (if they had one), but we can make certain claims regarding what their followers believed and how they worshiped.  

 

 

 

 

 

Deconversion De-constructed

 

I’ve had a few people ask me for a more thorough explanation for why I deconverted from organized religion and no longer believe in God.  I touched on it a bit in my “coming out” post that I wrote earlier this year.  I also talked about the reasons why I didn’t lose my faith in a previous post.

I’ve been hesitant to write about this for a couple of reasons.  For one, it felt like an overwhelming task.  It’s difficult to take two years worth of research and condense it into a tidy, concise, and relativity short post.  Second, by attempting to simplify my reasons and possibly not provide sufficient information, it leaves the door wide open for unwanted criticism.

However, I’ve decided it was time that I attempt explain things a little better, as some people seem genuinely curious.  For the sake of simplifying things, I’ve decided to leave out all the issues I have with Christianity itself and instead focus on why I don’t believe the truth-claims made by Christianity.  I devote a good amount of words to what I dislike about Christianity, particularly Evangelicalism, but those are not the reasons that I lost my faith.  I had most of these same complaints even when I was a Christian.  I could have just as easily found a different church or denomination and been writing from a progressive christian standpoint. (In fact, that was my original intention when I started this blog)

But, the more I learned, the more I studied history, science, psychology, and critical thinking, the more my faith fell apart.  Like peeling an onion, the layers kept getting stripped away, one by one.  I tried to fight against the tide- I really did.  I didn’t want to become an atheist, but I had to follow the evidence where it took me.  If I was to be honest with myself, if I was to be critically and scientifically minded, I had to let the facts speak for themselves.

So, strap in folks – this is going to be a long, bumpy ride.  Here is a “Cliff Notes” version of  the reasons that I deconverted from Christianity:

The Bible

The foundation of the Christian faith is the Bible.  Everything Christians believe and live by is somehow tied to this one book.  It is held up as the literal “Word of God” and many consider it to be without error.  As such, it is considered authoritative and binding to all functions of the Church, both institutionally and privately.

Ironically, it was reading and studying the Bible in earnest that led to my deconversion*.   The process went something like this:

I took a year to read the Bible from cover-to-cover.  I read it in chronological order, and as such, was sometimes reading the same story, from different sources.  What I found was shocking – far from being inerrant, the Bible is littered with contradictions, errors, and discrepancies.  It also become pretty apparent that the authors of the Bible were a product of their time – pre-science, Bronze Age, primitive times, steeped in supernaturalism and mythology .  Left scratching my head, I decided to look into the history of the Bible itself, as a book.

The Council of Nicea was intended to bring some sort of unity to Christianity, and with it, determine which of the hundreds of sacred texts in circulation at the time would be canonized.  History books revealed that the decisions as to what books would be canonized had more to do with politics than with religion.   There are countless stories of corruption, bribery, and violence that made up proceedings at the Council of Nicea.  And even after the Council, it would be another two centuries before a unified version of the Bible began to take shape.

Within Christian circles, you will often hear people arguing about which translation of the Bible are most accurate in regard to the “original Greek and Hebrew”.  The problem is that there is no original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  In fact, there are no original copies of any of the books of the Bible.  What we have is copies of copies of copies.  We have no idea that the original authors said.  Some would like to believe that those copying the texts would take great pains to make sure the copies were exact, however, that is far from true.  There are thousands of copies of ancient Bible texts in existence, but there are virtually no two that are the same; there are tens of thousands of discrepancies between them all.  While most of the errors are small grammatical ones, many are huge, with whole sections being added and/or taken away.  It was not uncommon for scholars to add their own insight into a text when copying it, and this went on for centuries. 

Looking into the individual books themselves, I found many glaring problems that I never heard talked about in Church.

Like the fact that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but was written centuries after Moses died, is comprised of at least four separate texts, and is largely folklore, mythology, and propaganda – not literal history (more on this later).

Also, the fact that the Gospels were not written by Jesus’s disciples, and are not eye-witness accounts.  Rather, they were written decades after Jesus had died by anonymous, Greek-speaking scholars, who never knew Jesus personally and wrote based on the oral traditions that had been passed down.  This speaks volumes as to the credibility (or lack thereof) of the stories, especially when you consider the many discrepancies between the accounts.

There was also the problem of Paul, who though credited as being the one most responsible for spreading the word about Jesus, never know Jesus personally, never had access to any of the Gospels (they were written after his ministry), and doesn’t seem to know anything about Jesus’s ministry on earth.  There is no mention of the virgin birth, nothing of Jesus’s miracles, none of Jesus’s teachings, nothing about the Easter story, and nothing about Jesus being God in any of Paul’s writings.  There is also a great deal of debate as to the authenticity of the books credited to Paul.  Some, including Ephesians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus, are believed by many scholars to be forgeries, and 2 Thessalonians is widely accepted as being a psuedepigrapha.

Going back to the Old Testament, archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians have discovered that most of the stories told regarding Israel’s history are nothing more then folklore and mythology.  There was no captivity in Egypt, no Ten Plagues, no Exodus, no wandering in the desert for 40 years, no Battle of Jericho, no Kingdom of Solomon, etc.  There is simply no corroborating scientific or historical evidence outside of the Bible to support any of these events as being historical.

The same holds true in the case of Jesus and his life.  There is no non-Biblical sources from the first-century that corroborate any of the extraordinary claims (virgin birth, miracles, divinity, resurrection, etc)  made of Jesus.  In fact, there is no mention of Jesus at all, in any of the manuscripts from that period.         

After this thorough investigation into the Bible, I came away with this conclusion – The Bible is a wonderful and inspiring work of literature that gives us a look into the culture and history of the Jewish people and the earliest Christians.  Yet, it is purely the work of human hands and is not the “Word of God”, nor is it divinely inspired, and it is certainly not inerrant.  As such, it can not be, nor should be, authoritative in any way. 

The Man-Made God

I want to offer up a quick story by Carl Sagan, called “The Dragon in My Garage”, as an introduction to this section:

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, and see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle–but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heat-less.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heat-less fire; and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, and assertions immune to disproof are worthless in determining veridicality, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerges, you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative– merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.”

This story perfectly illustrates my thoughts on the subject of God – there is currently no empirical evidence to support the existence of a theistic God**, in fact the evidence is strongly against it, but if new information ever were to emerge, I would be prepared to examine it and go from there.  

Whenever a claim is made, the burden of proof is always on the one making the claim.  And as Carl Sagan would say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

When I’m talking about evidence, I’m talking about what can be tested, replicated, and independently verified using the scientific method.  (It is important to note that good arguments are not evidence, nor are personal experiences, or unanswered questions.)  Modern science has looked outward, and has measured the size of the universe, determined how fast it is expanding, has detected and measured previously unknown substances like dark matter and dark energy, and has determined with reasonable certainly how everything came into existence.  Science has also looked inward, breaking things down the subatomic level, and studying the quantum physics that make the whole system work.  In all that research, scientists have never found any evidence of a divine being, entity, or gods, either in the present nor the past.

So where did this idea of a divine being come from?

Cognitive science science shows that humans are biologically designed towards a pre-disposition of trying to make sense of what we don’t understand.  Ancient humans were surrounded by an aw-inspiring, yet scary and dangerous world.  They did not have the luxury of science to explain things like thunder storms, earthquakes, or diseases.  In an attempt to explain these natural occurrences, they turned to the supernatural, and gods were born.  The earliest gods came from various forms of animism, or giving a spiritual essence to plants, animals, and inanimate objects.

As societies grew and more people were living in communities, these early beliefs were co-opted by the governing powers as a way of unifying and controlling the masses, hence; the earliest forms of religion were born.  Religion is a natural phenomenon, and has evolved and been reshaped by cultures throughout the centuries. Polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, panentheism, deism, and many other philosophies sprang up as people tried to understand the world around them.

When one reads about early Judaism in the Old Testament and compares it to the prevailing religions of the time and those that came before, it’s easy to see that Judaism and  monotheism were simply another rung on the evolutionary ladder of religion.  The same can be found when one looks at the history of Christianity.

All of this lead me to conclude that all religions, including Judaism and Christianity, are man-made.  So too, are the god(s) that they believe in and worship.  

Head Games

The next question I needed to address was this – If god(s) are a human construct, why do people claim to have had experiences with God?  How do you explain conversion experiences and other similar religious experiences?

To find the answers I turned to psychology and neuroscience.  I learned that all humans have a “hard-wired” tendency to believe in the supernatural.  This phenomenon is also described in psychology as part of our childhood development of maturity, the one James Fowler labeled the Intuitive-Projective in his Stages of Faith.   This is why children will often have imaginary friends and why a large percentage of the population believes in UFOs and angels.  I also explains why so many people, especially those taught at a young age, believe in god(s).

I learned about such things as Theory of Mind,  Agent Detection, Apophenia, and Rituals, and how these provide a perfectly natural explanation to people’s religious or spiritual experiences.  The latest research has shown that religious ideas are simply the extraordinary use of everyday cognition.  And like music or reading & writing, are the product of cognitive mechanics designed for other purposes.  This leads me to believe that peoples’ religious experiences are the product of our minds natural tendencies, and not divine intervention.

I then focused on the concepts of willful blindnessconfirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and cognitive dissonance to understand why people would hold on to their beliefs despite contradictory evidence.  To avoid these pitfalls, the single most important skill I have found is that of critical thinking.  “No one always acts purely objectively and rationally.  We connive for selfish interests.  It is ‘only human’ to wish to validate our prior knowledge, to vindicate our prior decisions, or to sustain our earlier beliefs.”  Because of these pre-disposed prejudices, one must apply critical thinking skills to every subject, including the subject of god(s).  The scientific method is crucial to this, as is the understanding of logical fallacies.  I found that having learned the common logical fallacies and how they were used, it became easy to spot them in any debate in which tangible evidence could not be provided.  This includes nearly every argument that has been made by apologists concerning God/The Bible.

That’s about the long and short of it.  There’s a lot more that I could have gone into – the contradictions of God’s character throughout the Bible, the myth of Jesus’s divinity, heaven & hell, the Devil, etc.  This post is already a bit wordy for me, however, so I just focused on the main points.  I’m sure for some, I’ve invited as many questions as I’ve answered***.  Perhaps in future posts I’ll explore some of my points in greater detail.  I’m sure some will take issue with a lot of what I have to say – and that’s fine.  As I’ve said many times on this blog, this is my journey and my experience based on what I’ve come to know and understand.  I’m not looking to “evangelize” or convert anyone.  But, I know there might be some out there who are having doubts about their faith, and hopefully this discussion can be helpful.

* – I’m not alone in this; a good majority of former believers would also sight the Bible as the main thing that lead to their deconversion. 

** – I emphasize the term “theistic” here, as it refers to God as a conscious supernatural being (a God who listens to and answers prayers, cares about humanity, intervenes on its behalf, etc).  This is different than what some traditions and philosophies would regard as the “God of essence” (“The Ground of All Being”, non-anthropomorphic, abstract, spiritual, etc.)

***- I didn’t add a lot of links to the information I presented, as is usually habit for me, for a couple of reasons.  First, much of the information I have received has come from books, not online sources.  Second, it would have taken considerable time to try and find links for everything.  I can assure you that the facts presented are not merely my own conjuring or opinion, but were gathered from reliable, well-accepted, academic sources, There are a number of authors and works I can recommen to those of you looking for more information.

 

History Repeating Itself

George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.”  It would seem that in the case of the current situation in the Middle East, both sides are doing just that.

Many lives have already been lost in the struggle between Israel and Hamas, and there is sure to be more to come as the two sides stubbornly fight in what has become an all too familiar drama played out over the last several decades.  While some would place the start of this struggle at 1967, when Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank began, this part of the world has a much longer history of occupation, violence, and struggle.

In 63 BC, Jerusalem was conquered by Rome and Israel was made a client state of the Roman Empire.  Each province of Israel was ruled by a governor appointed by Rome (Herod, Pontius Pilot).  The ruler would then work with the local Jewish leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees) who oversaw the day-to-day affairs of the people.  Under the rule of Rome, Israel’s citizens had relative freedom to go about there lives, however, political oppression and economical exploitation were the norm.  With Rome exerting a heavy tax on Israel, its common citizens were forced to hard labor.  Many lost their own land, yet still had to work it.  Hunger, disease, and violence were widespread and common.

Whether in the top echelon or a common peasant, few people were happy about being under Roman rule.  Rome not only imposed heavy taxes on Israel, but they were free to use its citizens for its own means (When Jesus mentions going two miles instead of one in Matt 5, he is referring to the common practice of Roman soldiers making peasants carry their packs).  One such group that was particularly unhappy were the Zealots.  The Zealots were a political sect that objected to Roman rule and sought to incite the people to rise up in rebellion against it, despite Rome’s reputation for its fast and furious response to any uprising against it’s empire.

Jesus spent his whole live under Roman occupation and seemed to have a keen insight into the social and political climate of his day.  Jesus warned against the consequences of violence, seeking retribution, and repaying evil with evil.  Despite all of his warnings, in 66 CE the Zealots led a revolt against Rome.  Rome responded in force and the results were devastating.  Thousands were  killed, Jerusalem was burned, and the Temple was destroyed.

Fast forward to present day.  Israel has become the new Rome.  They hold control over Gaza and the West Bank.  Gaza has become what is essentially the words largest open-air prison.  Fences and barricades are continually placed in and around the West Bank, restricting all movement.  Land is taken away, homes bulldozed, and residents forced to move to make way for Israeli settlements.  Palestinians live in oppressive and in terrible conditions.  Israel has broken numerous international laws (and its own) over the last several decades against Palestine, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Like the Zealots before them, some people have grown weary of being occupied and treated like prisoners.  Tensions rise.

Three Israeli kids are kidnapped and killed.

Israel blames Hamas and launches airstrikes.

Hamas responds violently with rocket strikes.

With one of the largest and most advanced militaries in the word, Israel has pummeled Gaza with it’s large munitions.  Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Hamas refuses to relent.  In a viscous cycle of violence, both sides match each others moves with rockets and bombs.

Violence begets violence.

Like the Israel of ancient times, it is the whole who suffer because of the actions of a few.  Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, most of them civilians, including children.  Hamas believes that they are fighting for their people, but it is the people who suffer the most from their actions.  Israel claims to be acting is self-defense, yet continues to kill innocent victims.

The violence needs to stop.

Hamas needs to lay down their arms for the good of the people they claim to be fighting for.  Violence will not solve their problems.

Israel must heed to international laws and stop holding Gaza and the West Bank as prisoners, give them back their land, and treat them with the dignity that they deserve.

Conservatives need to stop with their indiscernible support of Israel and it’s unjust, unlawful, and inhumane actions.  They need to stop blessing this war as if it is God’s will.  Children dying is never God’s will.  Supporting Israel in this time is akin to supporting Rome in Jesus’s time.

Liberals need to stop treating Hamas as innocent victims whose hand was forced.  The bombs that fall don’t only fall on them, but on the innocent around them.  Civilians should not be collateral damage for their political agenda.

My heart aches as I hear of children being killed in Gaza.  My blood boils as I see Zionist propaganda being spread by ignorant Christians.  My frustration ignites when I read journalists condoning Hamas’s actions.

My hope is that there will be some who will work towards seeing this situation ended for good.  Not a simple cease fire that leaves nothing resolved and will erupt again in the near future, but a sustainable peace.

My fear is that this will never be a reality, and that Gaza, like Jerusalem before it, will be laid to waste by the empire that controls it.

 

 

Cake or Death?

The other day, my wife and I received a letter in the mail informing us that we had won two round-trip plain tickets to anywhere in the states and two nights hotel stay.  Sweet!  So, I call the number to claim our price and find out that we had to attend a 90 minute presentation on how we can save big money on future vacations!  Ah, yes, this old game.  Well, the wife and I did end up going and receiving our free gift without being duped into spending $9500 dollars on a travel club membership.  (BTW, if any of you end up going to one of these, we found out that all you have to do to get out of their sales pitch is say, “Dave Ramsey says I can’t afford this right now”.  They will loose. their. shit.) 

I’m a pretty stubborn person as it is and with the years I’ve spend working around prisons inmates, I’m use to having people try to trick, manipulate, or talk me into things and have developed a very acute bullshit detector.  So, going to this presentation didn’t really pose much of a challenge and it wasn’t a hard decisions to make on whether or not we should go.

Now imagine if when I had called the number, the person that answered told me that when we attended the presentation we would have two choices:  to either accept the membership that they were offering (for the low, low price of $9499.99!) and have a lifetime of exclusive deals on vacations, or we would both be drug into the next room and beaten within an inch of our lives.

Umm…  No, thanks.  I think I’ll pass.  You can keep the airline tickets.

What kind of sales pitch is that?  Who in their right mind would actually be interested in this?

It reminds me of another sales pitch I’ve been hearing for year from certain people:

“Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior!  If you don’t, you will go to hell where you will suffer for all eternity.”

That doesn’t sound too enticing either, does it?  Yet, that’s exactly the message, whether directly or implied, that many churches are using to “evangelize” people.  I’m not going to get into the different theologies regarding hell, but I am going to say that people need to stop using it as tool to try and control, manipulate, or influence people.

Here’s the deal, if you really want people to have a relationship with Jesus, quit using fear as a motivator.  Who wants to be in any kind of relationship where fear is a dominant factor?

Quit twisting Jesus’s message of love, peace, and acceptance and turn it into a cattle prod to corral people into your social club.  Jesus’s primary focus was on this life, not on the afterlife.  When he spoke of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, he was referring to establishing a kingdom of peace and fulfillment here on earth.  While Jesus would often refer to Hell, it was always in the context of saying, “You won’t be a part of my kingdom here on earth if you choose to continue on the path you’re going.”  It’s also important to remember that he saved his harsh critiques for the religious leaders who thought they knew who was “saved” and who wasn’t and who tried to use their religion to control people.

Quit talking about this “God of Love” and then make him out to be some psychotic, angry lunatic who’s hell-bent (no pun intended) on punishing people for all eternity who don’t believe the right things about Him.

Because guess what; it isn’t working!

4000 churches close their doors every year.  More and more people, especially young people, are leaving the church and no one is coming in to fill their spots.  The “turn or burn” message is falling on deaf ears.  Maybe it’s because people can see the glaring contradictions.  Maybe they can see the hypocrisy of it all.  Or, maybe some people are just tired of being told they’ll be punished forever for not living up to some person’s or religion’s expectations.

If your god is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a few short years, not amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality. – Rob Bell

I’ve heard it said that we need to tell people about hell and tell people about the consequences of their actions.

No, we don’t.

We need to respect people and the decisions they make and be ready to give them some help along the way if they need it.  There are consequences to sin, certainly.  But those consequences are already felt by all of us, every day, as we live in this broken world.

I find it interesting that people where so drawn to a lowly, Jewish peasant that they were willing to give up everything to follow him. When he spoke to those around him, he gave a message of hope a better life here and now, not after we die.  The message of Jesus looses all it’s power if it’s reduced to nothing more then a question of who get’s into heaven and who doesn’t.

Following Jesus: You’re Doing it Right

My wife said to me the other day that it’s good to have a balance in the subject matter of one’s writings.  I asked her what she meant, to which she replied: “Don’t always be so negative.  People like to read positive things too!”  My reaction was much like The Dude’s in The Big Lebowski when The Stranger confronts him about swearing:

But, after realizing that my wife is in many most ways, much wiser then myself, I decided to take her advise.  So this post will (hopefully) have a different tone then my other ones.

I spend a lot of time on this blog bemoaning the shortcoming and failures of conservative Christians/Evangelicals and I’m certainly not the only one on the internet doing so.  But, I think it’s worth while to show the other side of the coin, the side that doesn’t enough attention. The side of humanity, whether Christian or not, that is quietly loving those around them in their own small way.

I came across this video recently and it really touched me.  I have a heart for the homeless, and seeing everyday, common people taking an active role to bettering their lives puts a big smile on my face:

This is what it’s all about!  This is what caring for “the least of the these” looks like!  When I see the gentleman’s reaction at 2:11, I can’t help but think of Jesus bringing good news to the poor and how they must have reacted to his random acts of kindness.

What I really like is how deliberate and selfless this act is.  Whether it’s dropping money in a cup on the street or into a collection plate in church, neither requires a personal investment.  This kid obviously did his research and found out the things that homeless people most need and then took the time (and money) to put the backpacks together.  But, best of all is the act of getting personal  with the people he meets.  He asks them their names, asks about their life, sits down with them, talks with them, let’s them share a song.  Taking a moment of your time to sit and talk with someone can often be just as meaningful as a material gifts.  This kid gives both.

Stories like this give me hope.  They make me realize that there are people out there doing it right and making a positive impact on their community and on the world.  People like this inspire me to keep seeking the greater good, to not get stuck in a pit of my own negativity and loathing, but to take that energy and do something good with it.  What a different world we would live in if everyone would follow his example.

God Seeks Justice and Mercy, Not Theology or Worship.

I recently read an excellent post by Chuck Queen; Faithfulness Is More Important Than Veneration (Back to the Future with the Jewish Jesus). At first I was a little bummed because I was working on a similar post and Queen’s version was way better then mine.  But, with Queen’s permission, I decided to spin off of what he wrote and expand on it, so I’d encourage you to read his post before continuing on with mine.

In my previous post, I stated that any interpretation of scripture that causing others to be harmed, marginalized, or oppressed is the wrong interpretation, no matter how traditional, historical, or exegetical it may be.  I want to clarify that statement here, by saying that God is far more concerned about how we treat others then in what theology of doctrine about Him we subscribe to.  As Queen puts it, Jesus is far more interested in our faithfulness to the way of Jesus than our worship of Jesus or veneration of his deity. Having the faith of Jesus is more important than what we believe about Jesus.”

Current church culture often dictates that what you believe is what defines you as a “true Christian”.   It’s my opinion that one’s beliefs are simply a compass that points one in the right direction in life.  Queen echoes this by saying that, Our beliefs are mere pointers; our human way of trying to grasp and explain what is beyond our comprehension. Whereas beliefs tend to divide us, a living faith unites us.”  This is not to say that one’s beliefs aren’t important.  Queen states, What we truly believe in the core of our being impacts how we live, or at least how we want to live.”   It would seem that for many however, rather than beliefs simply pointing one in the right direction, they have become the journey itself; the goal and the emphasis of what defines faith.  It has also been my experience that most people of faith hold and defend their belief system with such vigor that it’s hard not to see them as idols.  These “idols” very often can lead to wrong and destructive positions in regards to such topics as LGBTs, women, immigrants, poverty, other religions, capital punishment, violence, and so on.

There is a perpetual fear amongst many Christians that if they don’t follow what the Bible says to do (or more accurately, what the church/religious leaders say to do), then they will incur the wrath of God and/or lose their salvation.  Without diving into the error of this sort of fear-based faith system, I hope to show scripturally that God’s primary concern is with our actions towards others, not with how closely we follow religious dogma.

When asked what the underlining theme of the Old Testament prophets’ message to Israel was, most would say that it was to stop worshiping idols- and they would be correct.  But the other common message found throughout the prophetic books is God’s anger at Israel for its neglect of the poor and marginalized.

In Isaiah 1, God tells Israel that he is tired of their offerings and their feasts, and He will no longer hear their worship or listen to their prayers until they get themselves right with Him.  What must they do to get right?

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

Again, in Isaiah 58, we see that despite seeking God daily and delighting to know his ways, and be a righteous nation, it’s not enough.  What does God want from them?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Amos continues in the theme of Isaiah with God once again being displeased with Israel’s feasts, offerings, and songs.  In a verse made famous by MLK, God demands:

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)

In my ESV Bible, the heading above verse 6 of Micah 6 is titled: What Does the Lord Require?  We find the answer in verse 8:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Go ahead and read the verses that proceed this one.  What does God require?  Not offerings or sacrifices, but justice, kindness, and humility.

You see this word “justice” come up a lot.  Justice usually evokes images or ideas regarding a courtroom or the law, but in broader   terms, justice is the quality of being fair, just, or impartial.  It is “a principle or ideal of just dealing or right actions” according to Webster.  Frank Schaeffer makes the point that “tribalism and excluding classes of people is the enemy of justice.”

The writers of the New Testament were equally concerned about matter of social justice.   James writes that:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

James goes on to show that faith and kind sentiments are meaningless unless they lead to actions which help others:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

John echos this sentiment by saying:

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

Peter tells us:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

I find it ironic that the apostle Paul, whose words are all-too-often used as justification for the oppression and marginalizing of others, was so outspoken of the fact that religious traditions accounting for little in God’s eyes; only love.  In his letter to the church of Galatia, he writes:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

Again, in his famous passage on love, Paul writes:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

If you’re wondering why I skipped over the Gospels, rest assured; I saved the best for last.  Jesus, more then anyone else in the Bible, taught and demonstrated that caring for others is more important then devotion to scriptural law of religious traditions.

Despite the assertion by most that Jesus was “without sin”, I would argue that this is a relative claim.  In whose eyes are we talking about?  Because certainly in the eyes of the dominant religion and it’s leaders of the time, Jesus “sinned” frequently and unashamedly.  In modern language, he would be accused of “living in sin”.

Jesus broke purity laws by touching lepers, dead people, a women on her period, handicapped, and the demon possessed.  He hung out with prostitutes.  He broke the Sabbath.  He associated with Samaritans.  He dined with “sinners”.  He disregarding fasting laws.  He pardoned people of their sins.   He was irreverent when speaking about God and taught his disciples to do the same.

Jesus seemed to have little regard for the “inerrancy” of the Torah, either.  In fact, Jesus frequently undercut scripture, stating the, “The Law says this, but I say…”  Can you imagine if an Evangelical pastor got up some Sunday and said to the congregation, “The Bible says this, but I say forget all that, listen to what I’m saying now!”  He would be fired before he even finished his sermon.

And what about the parable of the Good Samaritan?  Who was considered the good neighbor towards the beaten man?  Not the priest or the Levite, but the Samaritan bandaged him, cared for him, and offered to pay for all his medical expenses.

Finally, in the most telling example of love trumping law,  in Matthew 25 we read about the final judgement and how people what people will be judged on:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

No mention of correct theology.  No word about sound doctrine.  Nothing about standing up for “Christian values”.  Not a thing about defending “truth”.  Just caring for the “least of these”.  That is what living as a follower of Christ is all about.

Are ones beliefs important?  Yes, but only in so far as they are used to love and care for others.  If certain beliefs cause others harm, it’s time to drop them, or at the very least reevaluate them.

Who someone is and what they do is all that matters” says Frank Schaeffer

In closing I would like to offer a modern interpretation of Paul’s words to the church of Corinth.  We’ll call it “Rob’s Letter to the Church of America”:

If you have vibrant, Spirit-filled worship services, but exclude outsiders from joining in, it’s all just a bunch of noise.  If you have the most exegetical and theologically-sound teachings, but use them to harm or marginalize others, it is all just useless words.  If your own beliefs are more important then serving your neighbor, then your faith is meaningless.  If you give all that you have to help build your own church, but ignore the poor and the hungry, you are throwing your money away. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haven’t Met Jesus?

I didn’t write this blog post, but I wish I would have.  It articulates so well the kind of response one typically gets when they choose to have a faith that doesn’t follow the status-quo.  I’ll have a new blog up sometime this week.  In the meantime, please enjoy this well written post by Chris Attaway:

http://thediscerningchristian.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/what-i-think-when-you-say-i-havent-really-met-jesus/