Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ

06
Oct
09

Christ Before Christianity

jesus_brown2There is a disturbingly common misconception among a lot of folks who are quick to say “praise Jesus” or “in Jesus’ name” who think that the Son of God preached for a few years to establish a religion. Too many people who think that what is laid down as church doctrine came from the mouth of Jesus.

Frankly, there are a lot of people hostile to religion who think the same thing, though I’m gratified to find a fair number of atheists and snarky agnostics who can separate their issues with early Christian church leaders from the teachings of the Christ himself.

Jesus did not establish a religion. Jesus preached that people should turn to God and be obedient to Him. That is, obedient to the underlying spirit of His commandments, which revolve around love, and not so much for the nit-picking of the laws and they way they put people in bondage and encouraged folks to double standards.

Jesus preached against anger and hate and intolerance. He often singled out hypocrisy as one of his biggest pet peeves. Ultimately, what Jesus taught was a spiritual awakening and awareness, and not a religion. After all, he already had a religion: Judaism. He was there to fulfill God the Father’s will and not reinvent the wheel. He was actually trying to tweak that wheel so that it spun true and straight, because it was twisted, pitted, kinked, rusted and otherwise pretty messed up by the time he came around.

True, the New Testament is filled with doctrine and rules and guidelines. Those things that formed the “walls” of the early Christian church, to build upon the foundation that was Jesus and his teachings. I totally understand why the apostles and other early church leaders did that. Keeping people on the right track and preventing heresy around Jesus’ message was important. Fragmenting into cults with personal agendas was something that horrified early church leaders, and rightfully so, because that could have undone everything that they were doing to spread Jesus’ teachings and the good news of the resurrection.

That said, even the early church leaders weren’t tying to establish some rigid doctrine in many cases. Perhaps not even most cases. Many of the things in the New Testament were letters to specific churches and regions, to deal with specific issues and problems they faced. Sometimes, we take a lesson that was meant to point out how easy it is to fall away from the path, and turn it into a rule that everyone must follow…OR ELSE!

Jesus believed in rules and in proper behavior. I don’t deny that. And what he taught was important. But some of what he taught was meant to make people think, not simply to compel them to a certain action or set of rules. I mean, does anyone with any sense really think Jesus was advocating that you rip out your eyes if, for example, you just can’t stop ogling the ladies? Come on, now…

Jesus taught with metaphors and symbols through his parables. He sometimes used hyperbole to make a point. He didn’t write down a doctrine and he didn’t create a church, nor did he command a new church to be created. He set his apostles on the path to create a church of ideas and of good lessons and of reverence to God, but Jesus portrayed himself as a servant as much as a teacher, and he didn’t crave to have people bow and scrape before him. He wasn’t trying to set up himself up as an object of worship but as a gatekeeper, guide, brother, teacher and advocate. He is the messiah and the savior, but he didn’t seek to create Christianity.

He strove to create godliness.

A couple Sundays ago, our pastor preached from the gospel of Mark, if I recall right. Or maybe Matthew. I’m too lazy at the moment frankly, to scour things and remind myself which “M” gospel writer it was or which chapter and verse. But it was the story of the apostles who, after having recently failed miserably at healing and casting out of demons, came to discover that someone outside their circle was casting out demons using Jesus’ name.

They were incensed, and went to Jesus to tell him that they had told the man to stop doing that. Jesus chided them for doing so, reminding them that they man was doing good works, and that “those are not against us are for us.”

Does this sound like a man who wants us to follow a specific church, or a specific religious leader? No. Jesus wanted us to serve and love and embrace God.

Yes, this is the man who also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and none shall come to the Father but through me.”

But that doesn’t mean he wanted us to embrace a religion called Christianity. It simply means he knew that God was going to put him at the metaphorical gates of Heaven to determine who was ready and willing to enter.

This is why I reject the idea that only those who claim Jesus’ name officially and directly are saved. Because Jesus was happy to hear about someone who didn’t follow him casting out demons and doing healing in his name. Doing  God’s work.

Yes, I believe that truly embracing the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and recognizing him as one’s savior is an express road to salvation. It’s the short cut, though admittedly a short cut that is riddled with bumps and potholes at times. It’s a better and surer path, but not the only one.

Jesus acknowledged that some out there weren’t his followers, but they were still allies and people to be thanked for doing good. Yes, we will answer to God through Jesus. Yes, we need forgiveness for our sins.

But it isn’t just the Christians getting into heaven, my friends.

And there are a whole mess of Christians who are very much against what Jesus taught, and who will find themselves turned away in the end.

01
May
09

Light Weight

orange-glowIn various things I’ve been reading on some of the blogs I frequent, and in just assessing myself and my approach to both the physical and the spiritual world, I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole “light of Christ” and “light of God” thing.

That is, as a Christian, I should be a reflection, as much as possible, of my savior and my father in Heaven. Their light, via the Holy Spirit, should shine through me. Ideally, in promoting the gospel, I will be both a beacon to draw people into discussions about faith and salvation, and a lighthouse to help point them in the right direction. Or a candle to help them study something and understand it as it relates to the Word of God.

But it occurs to me that this is a much heavier burden and responsibility than it might at first seem. It’s already daunting enough to try to be the best person I can be and to sometimes stop thinking of my wants so that my duty to God can be carried out.

What is more daunting is to realize that light isn’t always a good thing. We are supposed to be lights for God and Jesus, but sometimes, we don’t illuminate but rather blind people.

Shining a flashlight into a person’s eyes is not generally something that person will desire. It will make them look away, and it might evoke a nasty response if the flashlight is held there long enough. Going overboard and saying too much, too fast to someone about Christianity can be so generally blinding as to make it impossible to see the core truths and foundational things a person needs to start with before they dive deeply into a faith walk.

And, well, the military and special forces police officers sometimes uses flash grenades to stun and disorient people. That’s essentially light as a weapon.

I try to be light in this blog. And I don’t refrain from being snarky and even obnoxious at times. I don’t know that any of that will change any time soon, but I wonder if it must one day. Do the words and attitudes I throw out help to guide people in to learn more?

Or are the words I use (foul or otherwise) actually flash grenades that will do nothing but harm?

I don’t have answers. But it does bear examination.

And, hopefully, personal illumination.

28
Apr
09

Disproving Jesus

jesus_brown2Most atheists with whom I have interacted wisely stick to the argument that religion and faith are silly notions after centuries of increasing scientific discovery, and that Jesus, while a fine guy, couldn’t be the son of a God that doesn’t exist.

I understand this belief system. I really do. I even respect it, as much as I would respect any non-Christian religious belief system with which I did not agree.

But some poor fools in subsets of the atheist camp insist on doing something more: Arguing that Jesus never existed.

The thing is, how many ancient people in the historical record—religious, philosophical or otherwise—can we really prove existed? Siddartha Buddha? Moses? Sun Tzu? Aristotle?

We accept the existence of certain people based on a faith in the historical record. Either they wrote things themselves, people wrote about them, or both.

The New Testament documents, the gospels and the letters both, are among the most enduring and complete historical records around. I’m not saying that they can be proven to be 100% accurate in the details, but many surviving historical documents about famous figures we know to have existed (like Alexander the Great) were written centuries after they died. Between fragments of multiple copies of the New Testament documents and complete documents from within mere decades of Jesus’ life and death, we have sufficient proof—combined with mentions of him by Jewish authorites and historians of the time—to make the case that he existed.

Argue all you want about the divinity or the details, but he existed, and he made a splash when he arrived on the scene. A splash with ripples that continue well into today and far into the future.

Yet there are some atheists who continue to go through convoluted arguments about how Jesus was made up, or Jesus was an amalgam of multiple figures at the time. They are intent on proving that he didn’t exist, which is just as fruitless, pointless and stupid as Christians who feel they have to find Jesus’ final resting place and prove that’s where he was buried or trot out the Shroud of Turin as definitely being the burial shroud of the Christ. I’m all for archeology and science. And sometimes, they can bear fruit on filling in gaps and explaining things that once didn’t make sense in the Old and New Testaments.

But proving that you’ve found something of Jesus’ probably is virtualy impossible. Just like proving he didn’t exist.

And I wonder, why the drive to prove he doesn’t exist? If you don’t believe in his divinity, fine. But why try to expunge him from the historical record?

Unless he threatens you. Unless on some level, you are afraid he might exist as savior and Lord, and your faith that he isn’t divine rests of trying to convince yourself he never lived at all, much less rose from the dead.

Mind you, I’m not talking about atheists in general, whom I can respect even when they irritate the hell out of me. What I mean are those who insist on trying to wipe Jesus out entirely.

Because they remind me too much of the people who try to insist the Holocaust never happened. Sure, we say it’s something you cannot ignore or deny, but look how their efforts gain a tiny bit of traction with every decade that passes, with every survivor of it who dies. One day, decades or centuries in the future, people will be able to easily say, “That couldn’t have happened,” and the Holocaust may one day be relegated to mythology, even though it happened. Or, people may say it was a huge campaign of lies and disinformation, and wasn’t nearly as bad as the record says.

So, unless you’re planning to negate the existences of a lot of other people in ancient history, please give up trying to disprove Jesus’ existence. It’s intellectually dishonest and smacks of a cover-up job.

20
Apr
09

Renewal, Symbolic and Literal

spring_motif1So, here we are in the post-Easter time of year.

Fewer gray skies. Flowers popping up, in my case some lovely purple and white oblong things along the side of the house—Lord only knows what they’re called, as the former homeowners planted them and I know next to nothing about flora. The lilac tree in our yard has buds that will be leaves and flowers soon. The big-ass trees on our property should be sprouting leaves soon, too. Don’t have to huddle under blankets as much. Don’t have to shovel the house out from under piles of snow.

It’s good. And, it’s a reminder.

On the spiritual side, Christians like myself have just gotten done with celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. There are literal aspects, like the fact I believe he really died and really came back to life and that he died for our sins. There is the symbolic fact that this is also the time of the year that life comes back to the Earth after a time of “death” that we call winter.

Much in the same way that I view the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. I don’t believe that the bread and wine magically turn into bread (or cracker) flavored flesh and the wine (or grape juice) into vino-flavored blood. But at the same time, the breaking of the body and the spilling of the blood of Jesus was a serious thing, and we should view the taking of his symbolic body and blood very seriously and not treat it as some throwaway act we just do for the hell of it.

In this season of symbolism and spiritual renewal, I believe it’s a good time to take stock of where we are, in terms of God and in terms of our daily lives. For my part, I’m going to take some time to reevaluate what I should be doing in my spiritual life, but I am also considering some new paths for my career and the way I support my family.

Spring has sprung, folks, and I would encourage you to not only enjoy the nicer weather and blooming foliage, but also to look at where you are at, what you have gone through recently, and where you are (and where you should) be going.

28
Feb
09

Faithfully Frugal by Miz Pink

pink-cash-registerAnyone besides me ever think about what Jesus would think of our daily activities? I mean particularly in our consumption crazed nations like here in the ole U S of A?

Really by all indications the guy had at least one nice set of clothes (nice enough for some Roman soldier to gamble for his cloak) and he certainly didn’t seem to miss necessary meals except for that 40-day fast in the desert. He seemed to have some fun and hang out even while he “teached and preached” but he was a guy who didn’t carry a lot of baggage with him. Literally or metaphorically.

The amount of money any of the average one of us spends on bullcrapola like multiple daily coffees or fast food visits or worthless grooming products or new clothes we don’t need and might not even get around to wearing. Buying stuff that’s on sale even if we don’t need it. Getting a new car when the old one is running fine.

So much money down the tubes. Money we could be salting away. Money we could be using to help the poor. Money we could be using to help our churches continue to pay their bills and staff. Money we could….o heck I’ve made it clear already.

Alot of conservative folks like to think that Jesus would vote Republican. Yea right! Not sure he’d vote Dem either but he sure wouldn’t side with a bunch of folks who think the best thing in the world is to make sure rich people get richer and more people get poorer to make that happen. Jesus was into spreading the wealth and not hoarding it.

Not saying you have to hermit up in your homes or anything. But in the old days (and I don’t even mean as old as J.C.’s day) people could stay around the house or walk around and stuff and somehow remain entertained. Too many of us think that we have to do, do, do, do, DO. Get, get, get. Go go go!

Yes, having lunch out can be cool. So can seeing a flick at the theatre. But how many times do we spend and get and go when we should be staying by the hearth and figuring out how to be closer to our families and enjoy a little stillness and thrift in life?

30
Dec
08

Too Offended By the Nails

crucifixionThis past Sunday, our pastor did a “Cannon Sunday” service.

I’d never heard the term before, but apparently it refers to the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s, during which attendance is traditionally so low that you could fire a cannon over the pews and not hit anyone.

So, no formal sermon, no choir, the normal music director wasn’t the one playing the organ.

Figures that it would be a pretty heavy attendance that day.

But, that’s not my point. I’m going tangential on you. Point is that instead of a sermon, the pastor answered questions handed in from the congregation and randomly selected from the pile. Sort of a town-hall style sermon.

One of those questions wasn’t really a question, and it went something like this:

I am so offended by the image of those railroad nails being driven through Jesus’ hands and feet that I cannot get past the the pain and suffering and refuse to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

I don’t get this. The pastor, for his part, deftly honored the person’s question instead of calling him or her out as a flaming dipwad, and mentioned how it shows sensitivity and compassion to so hate the image of crucifixion and the suffering it entailed.

Now, I can get down with that point, of course. We rarely spend enough time truly understanding and appreciating how much Jesus suffered. This wasn’t some simple execution and not some simple form of torture. Crucifixion remains one of the most excruciating and prolonged methods of killing a person that there is.

That said, the person who handed in the question is still a flaming dipwad.

Sorry if that seems harsh. But it’s how I feel. Honestly.

Because, you see, before he died, Jesus told us to remember him through the Lord’s Supper. Or rather, our imitation of it. Our symbolic representation of it. He called upon us to break bread in his memory, as a remembrance of his soon-to-be-broken body, and to eat that bread as a symbol of taking him into our lives. And we were to drink wine in the same manner as a remembrance of the blood he was shedding as part of the new covenant with God.

He exhorted us to take that bread during worship. It is one of the ways we honor Jesus.

To refuse to take Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper—whatever you call it in your Christian denomination or specific church—is a kind of insult, I think. To say that you are so offended by the crucifixion of our savior that you cannot honor what amounted to his dying request…well, it is silliness at best, and ignorant at worst.

Remember that Jesus paid the price for us. He suffered for us. He told us we would often suffer in his name, but we never have to suffer as much as he did. Nothing we can go through can equal the crucifixion plus bearing all of our sins and having his own heavenly father have to turn His back and cut off the connection between them for a time.

The least we can do is eat a piece of bread without getting caught up in some overblown and, to me, somewhat insincere indignation over what he suffered.

Jesus knew what he was getting into. Let’s respect that, not put such a sharp focus on his suffering that we lose sight of what he wants us to do. And to feel. And to be.

15
Nov
08

Sweet Talk by Miz Pink

pinklips-sugaryHoneyed words can be powerful stuff you know. I certainly got a few guys in my younger years to do things or part with money they couldn’t afford to because I sweet talked them into it.

I’ve had my share of boyfriends over the years who I kept around lots longer than I should’ve just cuz they could sweet talk me back into their lives.

And with me and Sir Pink sometimes a lot of sweet talk can get either one of us out of dutch with the other in a hurry or get the other person to give up some goods they’ve been holding back on.

Mini Pink models 1 and 2 have sweet talked me into plenty of gifts and treats and out of punishments at times.

Yup. The right words can get you out of trouble as easy as they can get you into it.

But don’t try it on God or Jesus.

In the end we have to answer not just for whether we chose Christ but we have to be willing to answer for what we did. More important we are going to answer for our intent. Did we truly side with heaven and try to do the right thing or did we go to church and say all the pretty prayers and sing the pretty hymns and claim to be Jesus’s people?

We aren’t always gonna do the right thing. Some of us will rarely do the right thing.

But do you want to? Are you trying? Do you feel that you’ve let God and Jesus down when you don’t make the grade? Do you try to do better in the future? Those are the actions of a Christian.

When you cash out of this life, it’s too late to be trying to talk your way out of anything. Jesus said it nice and clear in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 7 and verses 21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

30
Sep
08

Jesus the Grifter

So, it was brought to my attention recently through the comment thread at another blog that Jesus was the ultimate con-man.

Imagine my surprise. Well, that’s it. I’m going to stop doing this blog and renounce Jesus.

Or not.

Look, I understand a lot of folks don’t buy into Jesus’ divinity. But as much as I can see how they come to their views, I find the notion that Jesus was a kook—who gathered around himself 12 easily led automatons who mass-hallucinated his return from the dead—far, far more believable than Jesus as con-man.

But hey, let’s entertain the notion for a moment. For Jesus to have been the ultimate con-man, here’s what he had to pull off (mind you, this mixes the skills sets of a grandmaster stage magician, con artist, orator, community organizer and master manipulator):

  • Jesus had to convince not only his followers, but also a priesthood and government (both of which were predisposed to think him a fraud), that he could cure obvious ailments (blindness, leprosy and paralysis).
  • He had to convince his immediate followers that he was able to calm storms in pretty much an instant, as well as cause food to multiply.
  • He had to convince a lot of Hebrews that he was the messiah and that a healer and teacher would be the messiah, at a time when the kind of messiah people wanted was a leg-breaker and sword-swinger who would get rid of the Romans.
  • He had to survive a brutal beating after being condemned to death but before being crucified, without once giving into the temptation to save himself possibly by recanting the notion that he had declared himself the son of God.
  • He had to fake his death on the cross, arrange to be buried alive, and then be spirited away before he died wrapped up in his tomb.
  • He had to convince his apostles that he could walk through a wall, after they thought he was dead, and perform other tricks and convince them they were real miracles.
  • He had to fake his ascension into heaven.
  • He had to do all of this so convincingly that his remaining 11 apostles would risk their lives for years to preach that he was the risen son of God.

Wow!

That’s a lot of risk for a guy to go through for a con, don’t you think? And pretty hard to pull all that off without slipping up over a three-year period. And let’s see, for all that effort and risk to life and limb, his ultimate goal was, um…hold on…whoa…yeah.

Folks, the only reason to pull off a deliberate con that elaborate is to get something fantastic out of the deal. Power. Money. Prestige.

By being dead, Jesus couldn’t enjoy any of those things. And if he was “fake dead,” then how was he profiting or going to cash in? From the loads of money that the early church was raking in? Oh, that’s right, the early church was mostly struggling not to get wiped out by the Romans and the Jews, and it wasn’t anywhere near the fabulously wealthy thing we see with Protestant mega-churches and the Roman-Catholic Vatican.

Yeah, ultimate con-man indeed.

Don’t be fooled folks. If you want to believe Jesus was a nut (rude, but I’ll forgive you) or that he didn’t exist (doubtful, given the historical record), fine.

But con-man?

Give me a break. It sounds good as a soundbite from a non-believer and it might sound good to another non-believer who doesn’t bother to think things through.

Me, I’m not conned.

(Image: “Christ in Profile” by Georges Rouault)

29
Aug
08

It’s Just a Crucifixion

OK, I’m probably already on shaky ground with the headline for this post, because saying “it’s just a crucifixion” is kind of like saying, “sure, that woman was raped and tortured, but at least they didn’t damage her face.” Just bear with me. I have a point, truly, and it might even be a good one.

So, this morning I was catching up with my main blogs, and saw this post at Deus Ex Malcontent. (The original MSNBC story on the controversy is here, and I’ll copy past it in the comments after I post this in case the link should change later.)

First off, I felt I had to produce a valid excuse to use that crucified frog image to your left, because it’s just so freaking weird and absurd, but as it turns out, it has inspired a real meat-and-potatoes topic for today.

Second off, it’s just a crucifixion, folks.

If Elmer Fudd runs his finger across his throat with a “hhrrrrkkkkktt” sound to threaten Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, do we get up in arms about how it disrespects people who end up getting Columbian neckties? Is every overblown scene of someone being zapped to hell in the electric chair (whether in a drama or a cheesy horror flick) an insult to those families who have had loved ones executed that way?

Crucifixion was a terrible and cruel form of execution, let there be no doubt. I said as much in my post What Jesus Endured. But it was a form of execution that was practiced on tons of other folks prior to Jesus, and after him as well. That Christians chose to pick a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion as the major symbol of the faith is all well and good, but Jesus wasn’t the only person to be nailed to a tree wearing only a loincloth. The people who built up the institutions around our faith in Jesus picked an image that was very stark and intense, but also one that could be easily misused. The crescent and star of Islam and the Star of David for Judaism are more abstract and maybe we would have been better served with something more along those lines. Maybe we should move more toward the fish symbol or flying doves or something if we can’t handle the crucifixion being used in art in a less-than-flattering manner.

And yes, when someone “mocks” the image of Jesus crucified, it is in many cases an attempt to ridicule or slight Christianity. So what? Even if that’s the case here—and I’m not convinced it is—didn’t Jesus tell us we would catch a lot of shit for following him? Let’s take our hits like grown men and women and move on. Whining and bitching like little babies isn’t going to get us respect and it isn’t going to change attitudes.

In the end, being killed (and how) isn’t what makes Jesus special. What makes him special is how he lived (sinlessly), why he died (for our sins) and how he followed up that death (by rising back to life and ascending to the right hand of the Father).

Moreover, Jesus never asked us to defend him. He doesn’t need to be protected by us. He can handle his own business. He told us to lift him up in glory when we interact with others (or at the very least not deny him) and to be shining lights for him. That means showing Christ-like character, not trying to prevent people from mouthing off about Jesus.

26
Aug
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Jesus by Deacon Blue

As I noted recently, I mention Jesus a lot but don’t really address him directly and as a specific topic as much as I should. Who he is. Why he’s important. What you need to know about him. Today’s “two-fer” topic is another step in the right direction toward correcting that, along with my August 8 post What Jesus Endured.

As a topic, “Jesus” is pretty broad, but I guess that’s kind of the point of these two-fer’s, so that Miz Pink and I will rarely tread over each other’s points on Tuesday. What I want to focus on is what was said about Jesus in the Book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 2, that he is the “author and finisher of our faith.”

Author of Our Faith

To me, this one is really interesting. On the one hand, it clearly indicates that Jesus has “written” out for us what to do. He did it through verbal teachings and actions, of course, and others wrote it down later, but he’s still an author. He had written out the plot lines for our lives and let us know the things we need to do and why.

But what really makes this resonate is the statement in the Gospel of John, chapter 1, which tell us in part (in verse 14):

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Not only is Jesus author of our faith, he is also the very Word of God in the flesh. We have the Word in the form of the Bible now, but it was fully realized in one place in the human body and godly spirit of Jesus Christ. He’s not just the author of our faith, he is the embodiment of the whole story of creation and eternity.

Finisher of Our Faith

In the one sense, you could say that this ties back to Jesus being author/story, and he is the dramatic conclusion. But more fundamentally, he is the person who corrected the basic problem of the world: the lack of spiritual connection between humans and God. It took one very special person to screw it all up (and make no mistake, Adam and Adam alone is to blame; Eve played a part but her decision wasn’t what started the ball rolling). And it took one much more special person to fix it once and for all.

There is a reason that Jesus told people “No one comes to the Father but through me.”

Jesus walked the walk, talked the talk and did everything he was supposed to. Everything that we are supposed to but don’t, he did for us.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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