Thursday, February 18, 2010

Would You Run and Hide...If You Were Jesus?

How would you handle the following situation; a story from the good book John, chapter 8...

One time a group of card-carrying Old Testament doctrinaires and Jesus doubters interrogated Jesus pretty heavily, and he rolled with the punches, answered calmly and in kind (though cryptically of course). But he referred to himself several times as being personally sent to Earth by God, and the mob eye-rolling and head shaking intensified.

And then when he told this gathering of experts that he'd been around since before Abraham - the great patriarch of their Israelite and Jewish lineage - well, the inquisitors had had enough. So in keeping with Moses' level-headed, fair and judicious laws, they picked up a bunch of rocks and were about to lay some good ole fashioned Mosaic justice on this upstart rabbi from Nazareth, by stoning him to death for his heresy.

And what did Jesus do?

"Jesus hid himself, slipping away", the Bible claims.

Would you hide and slip away?

I wouldn't, not if I were the incarnation of Almighty God on Earth, the Savior of Mankind, Deus Postestas In Terra. And you wouldn't either...would you?

Look closely: if you could walk on water, change the course of Nature, raise the dead, and you'd been around since the Universe was born...would you actually run and hide from a band of loudmouth rock-throwers?

You kidding me? Using miraculous power - as Jesus did many times - you'd simply calmly supremely stand tall as the rocks hit you...but with no effect, yes? Or... you'd stop the stones in flight (like bullets in The Matrix Reloaded - cool!), or evaporate them, or turn them into flower petals, or allow the stones to bounce and turn back toward your accusers.

Now wouldn't such miracles surely convince these skeptical accusers? And wouldn't they then become believers to further spread the Good News? No better witnesses than former disbelievers; Saint Paul comes to mind.

(Why bother to convince them? Part of Jesus' self-described mission included the declarations, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners," and "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel". Would you abandon a prime teaching moment toward these sinners and liars, these pathetic Pharisees and lost Israelite sheep, to save your immaculate skin?)

To reiterate: I'd run and hide from anyone about to throw rocks at me. So would you. But would God incarnate? After all, God incarnate (AKA Jesus) rightly protected a woman from being stoned, just a few verses earlier in John 8. And that was by the force of simple rhetoric; Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Imagine the effect if you, as Jesus, had stood unharmed as the rocks flew, fixing your transcendent stare on the rabble; grieved, disappointed, understanding...and forgiving...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Would You Admit You Weren't Good? Would You Deny Being God...If You Were Jesus?

Kids, I doubt you'd make such claims, since doing so would throw Christianity into an existential breakdance tailspin. Yet get this: that's what Jesus of Nazareth himself actually claimed...

From the Good Book, let us now read Mark 10:17-18. Here's the famous tale of a rich man who runs up to Jesus, calls him "good master/teacher" and asks, "how do I get eternal life?" Before dropping the Socialist dime on the dude with the dreaded news to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor, Jesus says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."

Wait now. Huh? Jesus Christ claimed that he wasn't good? Was he propagandizing, using his position as a holy man to set a moral example of humilty? To set a condemnatory standard of goodness -- that no one is "good"? If he thought he was the Son of God, was he being disingenuous for the sake of a recondite teaching moment?

Or...was the rabbi of Nazareth conveying his simple truth?

If Jesus was god incarnate, or part of god, or one third of the godhead, or the embodiment of invisible god, or consubstantial with god, or equal among the Trinity -- (whatever your sect calls this incoherent and exasperating concept) -- why did he not just acknowledge the rich man's characterization, and say, "You have believed in me, and you have achieved your reward..."

Look closely: Jesus didn't tell the rich man, as you might have, "Understand that only part of me is good; as the son of God, it's true his divine essence is in me, and I'm of it. But I'm also human, and that part of me isn't good. I appreciate your faith in me though."

Nor did Jesus expound to the rich man, "Well, as a member of the Heavenly Trinity, I - They - We are 'good' collectively; but see, while I'm here on Earth for a while, my Earthly existence makes me not good...sort of... in comparison to the other two thirds of the holy trinity...godhead...divine family...who are really good up there in being the same as them though...since I'm part of them...but then I'm born of a to commiserate with you mortals I'm not a relativistic existential human sense...look, it's complicated..................."

Nope. Jesus said none of that. Jesus' words in the Book of Mark are contextually clear, and the implicit intent is solid: "Don't call me "good" or make me out to be something supreme; I'm just like you, I'm not divine, not god. Our God alone - the one God, that I'm not a part of or descended from - is the only thing that's divine and good."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Kind of Book Would Your Bible Be...If You Were God?

Would it be one that needs a warning label to protect children and adolescents from the depravity of its content, and to warn adults of its irreconcilable absurdities?

Look closely: if you were god and you decided to reveal yourself, your rules and ideas and your wishes to mankind for all the ages in one grand, inimitable and perfect medium, a book to be the guiding light, the single ultimate source, the one literary moral, ethical, spiritual beacon that humanity could always trust and look to and could never pervert, mis-translate, mis-interpret or edit...

...would it be, of all possible choices, the Bible?

If it would be, you haven't read the thing. If you've read it and studied it and you actually think that's the best Almighty God can do, you're either blissfully self-deluded, a Catholic nun, a tinhorn evangelist or - scariest of all - an academic theologian. If you think that the Bible is unique in its wisdom and astonishing in its profundity, you haven't read very many books, have you? (The collected works of just one 16th Century English writer -- William Shakespeare -- rival the Old Testament in more ways than you realize. Also, by sheer volume, not to mention a sharper wisdom, the Buddhist canon --all the teachings of Buddha and his close contemporaries -- stack up to several dozen bibles.) I could go on and on, kids.

Okay, enough my-holy-book-can-beat-up-your-holy-book...

Following is the warning label that, if you were God, I bet you'd want stuck to every Bible cover...knowing what was in it:


This book contains references to -- and often graphic descriptions of -- the following acts and concepts: polygamy, adultery, seduction, fornication, masturbation, prostitution, pedophilia, ritual male genital mutilation, castration, violent abortion, homosexuality, bestiality, rape, gang rape, incest, teen pregnancy; cannibalism; murder, mass murder, genocide; war, total war; Satanism, demonic possession, ghosts, witchcraft, ritual symbolic vampirism/cannibalism, torture, crucifixion, disembowelment, suicide; ritual human and animal sacrifice; reanimated corpses; slavery; nudity, lasciviousness, pornography, drunkeness, voyeurism, blasphemy, bribery, corruption, disease and pestilence, insanity, shit eating, piss drinking, existential abandonment, hopelessness, helplessness, armageddon, eternal ferocious hell, a talking donkey, a talking snake, and kids-making-fun-of-a-bald-guy-who-then-cursed-them-in-the-name-of-the-lord-and-got-his-revenge-when-two-bears-appeared-and-tore-apart-the-42- children. Amen...

Or maybe the warning label should simply quote the following, from one of America's greatest early writers and thinkers:
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.
-- from The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, American Founding Father

Friday, March 6, 2009

Would You Want People To Prosper, Be Wealthy...If You Were Jesus?

Here are Jesus' most famous quotes on the wealthy:

“Blessed are the poor…the hungry… But woe to you who are rich…well-fed…”

“How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

“[to follow me]…sell your possessions and give to the poor…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Would You Confuse Your Children...If You Were God?

Well you might, if the interplay between Immortal Parent and mortal children were a great chess game to you. If you were like Zeus, King of the Greek gods, watching the human anthill below Olympus, it just might be interesting to confuse those two-legged ants now and again, see what might happen, teach them a lesson or two.

But would you, as a loving Almighty God, confuse an already confused race?

See, once upon a time - the Book of Genesis claims - humans had only one language. Then, in an area we now call Iraq, a collection of these humans got real proud and architecturally clever and they decided to build a great city with a tower that would reach to the heavens. This remarkable and grand human endeavor seemed to threaten the Bible God though. So here's what that God did to all humans because of the actions of a few very good builders:

"If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world.

So the ability to communicate, to understand each other, was bad?

This is another prime example of how the Bible reduces God to a petty, insecure, not-too-bright deity: so inscient that he thinks nothing will be impossible to humans, and that confusing their language will prevent them from such haughty endeavors; so insecure that he feels challenged by these two-legged ants trying to raise their anthill a few feet...

Genesis minimizes God to the level of Zeus, just an average ant diety.

Now, if going to the trouble of confusing language, why did the omniscient God of the Old Testament do such a half-assed job? He seems not to have realized that scattering people would still leave them with remnants of a common core language -- which is why it's easy to trace the English word "God" to the German "Gott" which came from way-back Proto-European "ghut" and so on. He also seems not to have forseen that it would take about half a minute for, say, Genghis Khan, Ramses II, Geronimo and Abe Lincoln meeting and pointing at a rock, and saying their respective words for the object, to understand and start translating their confused languages.

Get it? Verstehen sie? Usted entiende? Okay, enough of the Tower of Babel. Where else does God confuse things?

He gave Moses two conflicting versions of The Ten Commandments; that's confusing.

One commandment says, Thou Shalt Not Kill, yet God repeatedly sanctions killing; that's confusing.

Instead of one ultimate pristine beyond-question true version of The Bible there have been hundreds, often contradicting each other. To this day, the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles have at least a dozen more books than any Protestant bibles; that's confusing

Jesus taught to honor your parents, and to hate them; that's confusing.

Et cetera and so on. This is getting tedious, kids.

Would You Judge People Guilty for Breaking Unknown Laws...If You Were God?

You would? Moses did, and he blamed it on God’s orders. His “guilt offering”. Look closely:

‘The LORD said to Moses: "When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally…he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver….He must make restitution…and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.’
"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram… the priest will make atonement for him...and he will be forgiven. “

So, if you sin unintentionally, or do what’s forbidden without knowing what’s forbidden, you’re guilty and held responsible. In Moses’ day though you simply bought your forgiveness, paying a priest with one of your male sheep.

Bummer for those unintentional violators and ignorant scofflaws who accidentally wove two kinds of thread together or who - in their hunger - ate some shrimp. Off to the Priest; but what if they were too poor or too old or too crippled or too mentally deficient to have a ram to pay with? And just for instance, wouldn’t it be impossible for a blind and deaf man to a)understand the laws and b) pay restitution?

Since Moses decreed over 600 laws, and since books didn’t exist in his time, were all Israelites – and Christians and Jews today – supposed to memorize every law? Or rely on what the priests told them? How could one not be unaware, not do something forbidden? Try this: Open your word processor and try to list 600 laws that apply to you. I’m kidding. Try to list 50, and their punishments. I’m not kidding.

Ignorance of God’s laws is no excuse, The Bible warns us. As if life weren’t hard enough, with us puny humans barely able to abide by laws we’re aware of and can understand.

Now true believers will scramble to point out, “Moses’ laws were way back then. God’s not nearly so strict now.”

Ah yes, The New Covenant they call it. (Saul-Paul of Tarsus expounded upon this, said you can skip the ol’ timey sacrificial, ceremonial and dietary laws now that Jesus was here). Whew, that’s a relief. I’m in my cotton/polyester blend, eating shrimp as I type, and I’ve broken some of The Ten Commandments in my time. And I’m all out of prime rams to sacrifice.

But wanna bet with Paul against God that the Old Testament laws have changed? Rationalize these as you look ‘em up:

“…all your righteous laws are eternal…” - Psalms

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” - Jesus

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” – God

Friday, February 20, 2009

Could You Be Wrong...If You Were Jesus?

If you could, on what topics might you be wrong? For insight, let's look at what the prolific writer and atheist-turned-Protestant C.S. Lewis wrote on the idea. (Lewis is renowned as a champion of "logical Christianity" [as opposed to Christianity by faith, which Jesus of Nazareth taught]. He's also widely idealized and quoted by American conservative evangelical Protestants, a practice as intellectually rigorous as Scientologists quoting L. Ron Hubbard.)

C.S. Lewis said Jesus was wrong. Check it out in The World's Last Night and Other Essays - 1960:

`Say what you like' we shall be told, `the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.' It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. …The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. …The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so.

Jesus was in error, he was ignorant...? How many "theologians" have been so brave to correct their deity. Of course it begs the following logical question: If, as Lewis judged, Jesus was wrong on one item, of what else was He in error? The Trinity, the Kingdom of Heaven, God, salvation, the soul, loving ones enemies, His own divinity?

If you were Jesus, could you have been ignorant, in error?