Jesus, Christianity, and Religion in general.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
I usually try to leave religion out of this site, but today I thought I would write some of my feelings on the subject. Please remember that these are merely my opinions and if you don't like them, then that is ok.
I like Jesus. Jesus is cool. Jesus liked everybody, no matter who they were. Some of the people around Jesus [Pharisees] didn't like the stuff that he did [eating with sinners, healing on the Sabbath, etc.], but Jesus didn't care. Just about everybody thinks of Jesus in terms of his divinity. Yes, the big J.C. was the son of God, but he was also the Son of Man. He was divine and human at the same time. I like the moments that slip out and show Jesus's human side. It reminds me of the imperfection inherent in all of us. For instance, my favorite passage in the Bible is:
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
I love this passage because Jesus gets pissed off at a tree. A tree. And He gets pissed off because He is hungry and the tree, which is out of season, has no fruit on it. That's like me getting pissed off at my bank for my not having any money in my bank account. This is one of those passages that shows Jesus's human side. Another passage that I like and that shows Jesus's human side comes right after the fig tree fiasco:
15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?' But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " " 18The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. 19When evening came, they went out of the city.
This is another passage that really shows Jesus's rough edges. One of the best versions of this scene is in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. In this movie, Willem Dafoe plays Jesus Christ. In the scene that is mentioned in the passage, Willem shows us the anger that Jesus had at the moneychangers had. The best description that I have heard is from my friend Daisy, who said "Jesus is having a shit-fit!" The other thing that I like is that right after Jesus throws tables and tells everyone how they're screwing up, he and the disciples high-tail it out of town.
There is a book that I just finished reading, called "The Prostitute in the Family Tree" Discovering Humor and Irony in the Bible". The book is written by Douglas Adams. No, not the Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide fame. This Douglas Adams is the Professor of Christianity and the Arts at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Adams is a great comedian and wonderful theologian. His book is full of sharp observations and quick wit. One of the basic themes of his book is that it when read in their entirety, many of the passages in the Bible are quite humorous. Also, Adams makes a distinction between what he calls "parent stories" and "grandparent stories." "Parent stories" are the kinds of stories that parents tell their children so that they will behave. "Grandparent stories" are the kinds of stories that grandparents tell their grandchildren about what their parents did when they were the same age as the grandchildren are. The Bible is full of these types of grandparent stories that show us that even the people in the Bible were human and had their failings. However, most people will only take a small portion of the stories and make them "parent stories." I highly encourage everyone, Christian or not, to read this book. Trust me, you'll get a good laugh out of it.
Another good book to read for both men and women is John Eldrege's Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. This book is about rediscovering your masculinity (and understanding what is happening to your man). This book is really hard to describe, but it has helped me tremendously. I feel like a new man even though I am only halfway through the book. Trust me, read this book.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, Christianity has screwed them over. Too many people in the Church and especially in groups like The Texas Wesley Foundation have too many members who are ultra-conservative in their views. These people are the "uptight" people that you hear so many people referring to when they talk about Christians. These are the people that frown upon swearing, drinking, smoking, sex, and the open discussion of any of the topics that I just mentioned as well as a host of others. Please do not misunderstand me, there are a lot of really good people associated with this organization. I won't name any of them here because I don't want to leave anyone out. But, most of the participants in this group and others like it simply cannot take a joke, they can't make light of themselves, and what's more is that they are very cliquish. Somehow, I don't think that Jesus was very fond of cliques. From my experiences with some of the members I would highly doubt that they have the capacity to forgive someone in their heart.
Speaking of what's in a person's heart...
Religion has been called "the opiate of the masses." It has also been used to do some pretty shitty things. (Crusades anyone? Indulgences?) One of the things that bothers me the most about modern religion is marriage. I have gone round and around with my pastor on this one and unfortunately, never the twain will meet on this issue. Marriage has been around for a lot longer than Christianity. If you take the evolutionary view point, then the first cave man who went up and smacked a cave woman and dragged her to his cave was the first marriage ceremony. If you take the creationist viewpoint, then Adam and Eve were the first married couple. Either way, Christianity has only been around for a little over 2,000 years. The argument that my pastor makes is that marriage is a lifelong commitment that has to be public before god and the community. I say that marriage is a commitment in your heart to love someone and not to screw around on them. If marriage was only about being a public commitment, then it would be a lot easier wouldn't it? But it has to be about what is in a person's heart. How do we explain the high number of divorces, even within the Church? These people made public, lifelong commitments to each other before the community and before God. Where is that commitment now? It's been flushed down the toilet because the commitment was not in their hearts. I know more people who are not married who are more committed to each other than most couples who have been married for a long time. Also, if marriage is about a lifelong commitment between you and your loved one before God and the community, then what about the people who go to the Justice of the Peace to get married? According to our society's laws, they are married. But did they make that commitment before God? Before the community? According to the Church, are they married? These questions are all related to one big question that a lot of people have and that they have to answer for themselves. Is sex before marriage wrong? I used to think that it was. Then, I redefined my views on marriage. I'm not to keen on having sex with someone that you have no commitment to, but I can't tell you how to live your life. I can only offer suggestions. It was because of the views on sex before marriage, that caused me to deeply hurt the only woman that I have ever loved. I can never take away that pain that I caused her by not being able to express my love for her physically. And to you, A., I am very sorry.
Another thing religion that bothers me is the tactics that some people use to get others to join. I'm talking about the churches that use Scare-Tactics to frighten people into believing. I'm going to just come out and say it. THIS IS WRONG! YOU NEED TO STOP IT! Even Niccolo Machiavelli said that it is better to be loved than feared. If people love you then they will be more apt to see things your way because they want to, not because you want them to. Scare-tactics are the bullies way of keeping people in line. Jesus didn't preach a message of damnation and suffering, he preached a ministry of loving and caring. Take a page from his book.
Evangelism and Praying
I severely dislike evangelists with a passion. Not just the televangelists. All of them. I dislike them, not because of who they are, but what they do. Here is a quote from the Bible that I like:
5"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."
Basically this passage says two things: One, you shouldn't be advertising everywhere that you are Super-Christian, because you're not. Two, that you should keep your prayer short and simple. I have listened to so many Christians drone on and on for five and even ten full minutes about every little thing. Like it says, God knows what you need before you pray for it, so keep it short. There is no need to thank God for every single blade of grass. Thank Him for His creation and move on. Don't "heap up words." I have a simple blessing that I use for meals. I will share it with you here so that you may use it too.
"Dear Lord, thank you for this food. Please use it to nourish my mind, my body, and my spirit so that I may do your will. In your son's precious and holy name. Amen."
Simple, yet effective.
While I know that this passage is not exactly an indictment against evangelists, I think that it comes close. Jesus tells us to go to a private place to pray to God. I think that we should be examples to others by how we live our lives, but I don't think that we should be passing out pamphlets on the street corner.
In the end, only you can decide what you believe and what you think is right. I hope that you will see things the way that I do, but if not, then that is ok. Remember there are many paths to Jesus Christ, but only one path to God, and that is through Jesus.
Posted byJ. R. Guinness at 3:22 PM