Monday, February 15, 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

Hello, Space Monkees.

Yeah, this is going to be one of those serious ones.  I'm always inclined to apologize for these, since they're so out of tone with the rest of this blog.  But on the other hand it does have a lot more substance than say, a review of "The Wolfman" or some anime I've been watching online.  So I guess this has its place here.

(For this entire commentary I'm going to assume that everything in the New Testament of the Bible actually happened exactly how its said.  So the Pharisees will just be the foolish opponents of Jesus as they are shown in the Bible, instead of the honorable scholars and precursors of modern Judaism and the Rabbinic culture that they actually were.  Whoever wrote the Gospels was extremely biased against these men for some reason or another.  However, I'm of the opinion that you can find some eternal truth in any story - even ones completely fictional, and since many believe that there is eternal truth in the Gospels, I'll just follow the mode of thinking.)

Jesus, as a symbolic figure, was a nice guy.  I think we all have to admit that at some point.  You may not believe he was the Son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity and all that jazz, like me, but you can at least find good life lessons in his ministry.  He was generally a very good person*, healed the sick, taught a bizarrely egalitarian message for his day, and believed in the good will of men.  I don't know how far his philosophy of everybody giving everything to the less fortunate might work as a society maker, but the saddest part is that nobody has ever really tried (except perhaps some Medieval monastic orders, debatable due to their isolation).   Today, more people call themselves "worshipers of Christ" than any other religious group.  I'm not saying that these people are not generally good people who look to the Son of Man for guidance every so often.  The vast majority of Christians are people who believe in right and wrong, good and evil, and are driven by their belief system to generally do what is right and just.  That alone makes the entire Christian faith something that should be commended, not despised.

And yet, the tragic part of this story is just how many people have such a warped sense of what Christ was about.  Jesus did not say that homosexuals were evil (he's silent on the subject in every Gospel), and he most certainly did not believe that they were to be hated or killed.  I mentioned earlier that Jesus's philosophy was egalitarian, meaning that he treated all people equally, no matter who they were, what they did, or how "unclean" they were seen in the eyes of the Hebrew culture.  This is why he walked amongst lepers and prostitutes.  If Christ were to appear today, he would be walking the streets of the inner cities, washing the feet** of every group this society hates or chooses to ignore:  the homeless, illegal immigrants, AIDs victims, etc.  And all these people would go to the Kingdom of Heaven long before our modern-day Pharisees.

The Pharisees were an ancient religious society during the time of the New Testament, and the chief opponents of Jesus's teachings during this time. They repeatedly come into conflict with the Son of Man, due to their strong beliefs in the letter of God's commandments, not the spirit.  These were the ones who were grievously offended by the idea of a Messiah cavorting with prostitutes and tax collectors***.  To the Pharisees, the chief concern was not to include, but to exclude:  to hate the unclean and sinful rather than try to help them or lead them to a more virtuous status.  More important to them was that Peter and the Apostles wash their hands before eating bread, rather than any true love of God or good works.  There was no love to their dogma, only empty rules and self-righteousness.

Is this sounding familiar yet?

I've alluded previously that there is a very large segment of the American population whose entire value system is very alien to me.  They call themselves Christians, and yet their key concerns seem to be with the most frivolous aspects of the religion.  So instead of feeding the hunger or clothing the homeless, they'll make donations to ludicrous "museums" (and I do use that word lightly) which attempt to put together a "scientific" (I'm using a lot of words lightly) basis for creationism/intelligent design.  Its an obsessive, militant call of "all or nothing" which somehow forces the entire religion to defend itself at every front, or else it will all collapse like a deck of cards.  If you were to listen to these folks, you would come away with the idea that Christianity's main concerns are to:  A) evangelize, B) hate 99% of the world, basically anybody who thinks, looks, or acts differently - especially homosexuals, C) abortion, and D) wait for the Apocalypse when all the sinful fools who didn't believe what they believe are burned in a glorious bit of fire and brimstone.

So there we are:  from "love thy neighbors" to "fear thy neighbors because their not like us and wait for God to punish all the sinners in the soon-to-come End of Days".  I don't know how it happened, but its there, and you have to face it.  Oh yeah, they'll try to help you through conversions, hoping that through a complete change of what you love and find true you can join them in Heaven once the end comes, but that's about it.  If you're starving on the street and are forced to pitifully beg, you won't get a dollar - you'll get a religious tract.  Though one should remember not to be hateful of these people.  They're not evil - purely by intentions they are doing a good work - but they are severely misguided, in some cases dangerously so.

Ultimately, I have to blame the leaders of these people, who I truly do hope are just charlatans leeching off their congregations.  Several must be, using the new mass-market Evangelical Christianity to get huge profits.  Yet others are quite simply deranged individuals.  Pastor Wily Drake, of the First Southern Baptist Church in California - I am not making this up - launched a campaign last June to pray for the death of Barack Obama.  Seriously.  And he continued his campaign today just in time for President's Day.  Dear me, what would this guy have said if atheistic Presidents like Jefferson or Lincoln were in office?  This man, supposedly of the same Jesus Christ I described earlier, wants the President of the United States to die, and for God to do it.  Obama isn't just misguided in Drake's eyes, no, he's so evil that he needs to die.  Forgot about the long Christian tradition of repentance or conversion, Obama is beyond saving.  Worse is that this isn't just the most lunatic of the lunatic fringes, Drake has a large following, and was even a third-party candidate for Vice President back in 2008.  He also protested Disney back in 1996 for "promoting homosexuality over family values" (perhaps the good Pastor didn't like Nathan Lane's character in "The Lion King", and damn him for not appreciating Timon!).

To be a little more topical, let's look at Pat Robertson's comments about the recent disaster in Haiti.  In a feat of extreme historical ignorance and hateful insensitivity, Robertson implied that the earthquake, and all of Haiti's tragic history, was caused thanks to a "pact with the Devil" during the Haitian Revolution.  He was met with almost universal derision even from most of the Evangelical Right, but the comment itself is still telling.  Similar statements were made about Katrina and New Orleans back in 2006, from none other than (and I am not exaggerating this) the Most Evil Man in America, Fred Phelps.  Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson would probably want nothing to do with each other, one is a respected newscaster in at least one fringe section of this country and the other is a crackpot who protests military funerals and gloats over natural disasters because he are tolerant of homosexuals in this country and leads an incestuous cult in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas.  But they both come from the same tradition, the same strain of religious thought.  We are better than Them, They will die in Armageddon, We will Triumph with God - all extremely unchristian thoughts.  The real Christ loved everybody, Fred Phelps' God "hates Fags"... and Jews, and Catholics, and Sweden, and Ireland, and pretty much all six billion people on this planet except for the seventy-one poor souls who follow pastor Phelps around****.

How did a religion of love manage to create so much hate?  Its truly stunning.  Though at the very least, one can remember fondly that most of the two billion Christians are good, honest people working to the best of their ability to make their lives and the lives of others better.  The rest... well, Jesus still loves you, I imagine, despite how embarrassed you must make him every day.  Just try to remember, before declaring that God hates so-and-so, What Would Jesus Do?

* Interestingly, though not without sin, a claim that goes only to the Madonna, Mary, Mother of God, the only person to be born Immaculate, without Original Sin.

** Washing feet was an extremely symbolic gesture, completely out of character for one who claimed to be the Son of God and a great King.  In those times, most travel was done on feet, totally barefoot.  You can only imagine what the Apostles' feet must have looked like after a long day's travel through the harsh Palestinian Sun.  Washing feet was the something the Son of God would have done to him; a servant's task.  There was no depth Jesus was not willing to sink to in order to save our souls.

*** Tax collectors were back then, as today, extremely hated members of society.  If you pay attention to just whom the taxes were going to, Rome, the hated occupiers of Israel, you'll know why the Pharisees were so annoyed by seeing Christ sitting down at a dinner table with them.  No liberation leader should be sitting down with the agents of the enemy!   This is but one of many contradictions of Christ that I find so fascinating in the man.

**** By the way, Great Britain knows exactly how to deal with people like Phelps:  bar him entry into the country.  He's one of the sixteen people who are officially and publicly banned for entering the country due to being "considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour [American sic] by fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the United Kingdom".  Way to go, UK!


  1. Good article. As a Roman Catholic, I have three things to say about your opinions: First of all, I have to say that the pastor's who think that "Obama should be killed" and all that, should be revoked of their status and spend some more time in other churces, or maybe even go to rehab, since they've clearly lost their minds. Second of all, most of the Catholics I personally know only don't like the Jews and Gays, or other nationalities, simply because they might become the majority one day. That's all there is. And finally, third of all, most religious groups will be misguided until their prophecies come true. If they do, that is. Anyway, I like your "serious" writing. Carry on now.

  2. I actually prefer your serious articles to your frivolous ones. I don't know if you'll take that as a compliment or not, but there you have it.

    An interesting article which, I feel, is related here:

  3. Wily Drake actually hated Obama because he believed that the charismatic, attractive, well-read guy was the anti-Christ. Apparently, in the bible, the anti-Christ would have those three features, and would rule the world as we know it.

    Since when does being president mean ruling the world? This is both an act of intolerance and xenophobia.

    But my real comment is that the media is an evil tyrant. My whole family didn't vote for Obama because he was, acording to FOX News, Muslim, and thus connected to 9/11. They are good people, but the are midlead by ignorant people who like to through out random versus and say that they mean "NO GAYS/ABORTIONS/OTHERS"

  4. (I wrote a brilliantly detailed comment, but a glitch killed it ALL. FUCK.)

    There's a webblog I follow called Slacktivist written by a liberal Evangelical (yeah, they exist) named Fred Clark. He's able to more deeply describe the the hypocrisy and failures of the right-wing evangelical movement than I can.

    Yuanchy, that article is extremely frightening to me, especially since I hope to be a history teacher myself. What the heck would I do if face with employers who want me to teach kids that "Only majorities can expand political rights in America's constitutional society" or the America is actually a theocracy(!!!). I really hope to avoid all that. Thanks, by the way.

  5. Ah, the wonders of religion. I am an athiest in Australia, so I seem to have been spared all this hypocracy.

    I have a friend who is a muslim, and he gets very personally ashamed when the extremists rear their ugly heads all over the media. Then I tell him of the KKK and basically what you just spoke about, and then that cheers him up somewhat. We then mutually agree that religion is best taken in small doses; beleive for guidence, but don't run your life on it.

    P.S. I think that it is great for you to want to be a history teacher, Blue. You have a certain quirkyness that will keep the brats engaged, and then you hit them with a deeply meaningful exposition such as this. I think you'll make a good teacher. Good Luck!

  6. Weird. I just had a conversation with my dad about Christians and I brought up most of the things you brought up in this article.

  7. I go to a school run by the church. We have (After)Life Orientation where we are taught that the world was condemmned the moment it was created and all the humans and animals upon it as well. But then Jesus made it all right and we have to submit to him completely in all things and everyone else is gonna go to hell. Of course my (A)L.O. teacher is one of these chosen few to teach us the way to salvation, Although this doesn't change the fact that we're only there to pass and so couldn't give two sticks and a ball bearing about what they have to say. Except for the principals niece who has no friends because all she ever does is evangelize and preach

  8. Many of the "don't associate with such-and-such group" actually comes from Leviticus, in the Old Testimate. While some rules are ignored because of the Peter dispensation, others ignored likely for sake of convenience (something about not wearing clothes made from multiple fiber types), rules regarding sexuallity were generally obeyed for quite some time. (Like don't marry your brother's widow, men should not sleep together, woman should not fuck animal...)

  9. ah blue being fasinated with assassins creed got me hooked up on older history the crusades the current suicide bombers problem. the crusades shook faith my fading belief in religion not in god but the people who practice it. they slaughter each other most dont even have choice in religin aside from the convert or herectic im scared of this happening to me 2 being roman catholic from the philipines (you know how we came to believe) didnt muhammed say to spread the word peacefully no mentionings of bombing each other. so in short we hate what we dont understand its sickening