Resetting Christianity Re-Attack
And now for something completely different…
I’ve had some time now to further clarify my thoughts regarding THE hot-button known as Christianity. Even before the last few weeks, I’ve been knee deep studying Jesus for some time. If anyone is looking for books that are sure to become known as the standard, I suggest picking up A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. So far John P. Meier has written four volumes, and a fifth is promised within a few years. Comparing these books to those I read in college, I’d say they are written at a master’s level, with doctoral level notes. The point being, that they are not page turners. The other book, which happens to be remarkably similar in message, I’ve been reading is The Gospels In Brief by Leo Tolstoy. Yes, Tolstoy himself took up the task of evangelizing. (I’d love to chat with any Tolstoy fans who have a gut-reaction to this information.)
My thoughts on the matter come as the result of reading these books and my experiences. I find myself agreeing nearly 100% with Tolstoy’s introduction. If you can read it, please do. It is astounding.
In short, when I express my desire for a resetting of Christianity, I think what I really mean is a better expression of the concept I grew up with, that being that Jesus met people where they were. I’m not talking about supernatural Jesus, but literally Jesus of Nazareth. According to Meier’s research, the historical record shows that he was on a mission, and he wanted everyone to join. One activity that set him apart from others on their own mission was that he seemed to seek out the dregs of society. Tolstoy’s re-working of the text leads the reader to conclude that the dregs of society are closest to God anyhow, but my point is to simply highlight that there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever avoided a group that was willing to listen to him. That they killed him in a public execution only emphasizes his persistence.
At least in the America that I’ve been a part of, this isn’t the feel I get from churches or Christians. If I believe that evolution is a fact and that the creation story is a myth, I know I’m not going to be welcome in a church. I know I’m going to disagree with a Christian. After reading these books, however, I’m not so sure I would feel this unwelcome-ness from Jesus of Nazareth. What do you think?
Hey Pete. I can appreciate where you are in investigating your beliefs. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew. Orthodox Judaism has a strong family and community basis, and an unswerving belief that God is the Master of the Universe and must be obeyed. Jesus was presented as a renegade and was not to even be mentioned. I had doubts about Orthodox Judaism from age 9 and the cracks enlarged until age 27 when I decided that the Bible is not the word of God, so all laws that emanate from it are not the word of God. I chose a life of Deism, a belief that God is intertwined with the Natural World and there is no “one way” to understand life and belief in God. Each individual chooses for him/herself. I shy away from any religion that professes to know what is best for all, be it Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, Islam, you name it. I believe the Universe and its Natural Laws are too large for a human religious figure of any kind to explain to me how and why the world works. I still embrace the cultural positives of Orthodox Judaism — like family, community, morals.
Thanks for sharing David. So here’s what I perceive as the big million dollar question: If I say that I think that Jesus of Nazareth preached that everyone is a sinner, and needs salvation (both tricky, possibly broad, possibly narrow, concepts) do you include that in what you “shy” away from? More specifically, I am trending towards the universally applicable description of everything as the sinner/salvation concept, but not necessarily excluding truths found anywhere else. This applicable-to-all-sinner/salvation-concept being “right” or “accurate” whereas say (and I’m just picking something easy) that I don’t see any truth or reason to believe in reincarnation. Thoughts?
Thanks for your comments and question. I shy away from *any* religion that preaches sin. The main reason is that that implies there are people — human beings, fallible human beings — who decide that what others do is a sin. Sin is one of many things that are subject to interpretation. Once interpretation is involved, you have fallible human beings doing the interpretation. Right and wrong in society has always been relative to the society involved. To me what’s right — and this is deeply rooted in my Orthodox upbringing — is respecting others’ rights to choose their lives as long as they don’t encroach on others’ rights. “Rights” are defined by the society we live in, in our case, American laws. Some of America’s laws are rooted in Judeo-Christian beliefs; others are based on social progress. I don’t believe in reincarnation. I believe what Thomas Paine wrote in “The Age of Reason,” which is “I believe in one God an no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.” Note the word “hope” there. I don’t *expect* and consciousness or awareness after death, but it can’t hurt to hope for it.