I believe that Jesus was a human being, not a God. Therefore, I don’t give him homage, but I do occasionally read his alleged teachings, which I evaluate one-by-one. Jesus allegedly said some things that make sense to me, but other things attributed to Jesus don’t make much sense to me. When I run into a teaching of Jesus that doesn’t make sense, I set it aside as something that doesn’t make sense. I’m free to do this, because I’m not a Christian. If I were a Christian, however, I would think that I should follow ALL of the teachings attributed to Jesus, because if I were a Christian, I would probably believe that Jesus is God, and who would I be to disagree with God?
One of the things Jesus seemed to teach quite clearly was that we should love our enemies. Robert Wright summarizes these teachings:
The “Love your enemy” injunction, as we’ve seen, appears in both Matthew and Luke. In the Matthew version, Jesus says, “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In the letter to the Romans, written more than a decade before Matthew or Luke was written, Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” And if Paul doesn’t quite say to love your enemies, he does add “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” Paul also says, in that same passage, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … never avenge yourselves.” Similarly, Jesus, just before advising people to love their enemies, says, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
CNN reports that the U.S. Air Force has just scrapped a long-running program that taught nuclear missile launching officers that the Bible is OK with nuclear war:
The Air Force has suspended an ethics briefing for new missile launch officers after concerns were raised about the briefing’s heavy focus on religion. The briefing, taught for nearly 20 years by military chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, is intended to train Air Force personnel to consider the ethics and morality of launching nuclear weapons – the ultimate doomsday machine. Many of the slides in the 43 page presentation use a Christian justification for war, displaying pictures of saints like Saint Augustine and using biblical references.
This program had been taught for two decades before the recent change.
I’ve often expressed the view that if Jesus came to modern day American, his message would be so incredibly inconvenient that the conservative right would promptly call for his death. This video (which I first caught at Daily Dish) develops that same idea. The video takes the form of a political attack ad on Jesus:
I somehow got onto a emailing list that sends me lots of information on God and heaven. The latest email included a provocative photograph of Jesus. He looks like a wealthy young man from Los Angeles, hanging out at the beach. These sorts of “photos” of Jesus were extremely popular when I was growing up. These sorts of images still appear in the Christian literature handed to me on the streets and at my front door.
It makes me wonder, though, whether Jesus would be nearly as popular if he was represented as he might have looked in reality (if he existed at all): He would have had much darker skin and hair; he’d likely be much shorter than most modern men; he would not have been so well groomed, his complexion wouldn’t be that of a pampered movie star, his clothing would not have been well-washed and he would not have spoken nor understood English. If he visited our modern world, he would hang around prostitutes, criminals, other types of sinners, and the poor and down-and-out. He would likely assume the role of “terrorist,” attempting to detonate the corporate temples of the big Wall Street money-changers/Mammon idolaters. He would, if he visited us, encourage his followers to give up their suburban lifestyles, and to empty out their 401K’s and give all of that money to the poor, which would mean that they would be asked to hand their hard-earned retirement money to needy strangers. If he visited us, he would also ask his followers to conjure up the images of the people (gays, atheists, Democrats, Iranians) that they most despise, and to affirmatively take real life steps to demonstrate that they love them. If he visited in person, those who love the beach-boy Jesus, would become dismayed that Jesus is actually a prickly, even accusatory fellow (as he often was in the new testament stories), challenging people to dramatically change the way they lived their lives. He would not be the kind of fellow most Christians would repeatedly invite to their cocktail parties: “This is my best friend, Jesus, who will follow you around tonight insisting that you give away all your property to poor strangers and criminals.”
I know that many folks would say that they would follow Jesus no matter what he was like, but is that so? How many American Christians have any friends who fluently speak only a language used in the Middle East, and whose skin is darker then their own? Who spend lots of time giving comfort to street people and criminals? If the answer is “none,” then it is unlikely they would have paid any attention to Jesus.
The Christians who bond over images like the “Jesus” shown above need to at least have the courage to get the picture more accurate before deciding how much they love him.For more on what Jesus “looked like,” see this earlier post.
In that same email, I was sent a cartoon summing up that God loves me so incredibly much that he will send me to hell for eternal torture if I don’t love him back. Hell is usually described in such terms that it would clearly be unconstitutional. Of course, it’s always presented as “my choice.” I’ve heard that such warped and sadistic people like this exist on Earth–love me on my terms or I will get violent. I avoid those people like the plague–as all rational people should do. This little cartoon vividly illustrates the principle that the “God” is “good” even though he allegedly loves us like an abusive parent would “love” us, at least for some Christians. And BTW, it was the kind and gentle beach hippie Jesus of the New Testament who invented hell.
When I was a teenager, I sometimes got annoyed hearing people getting all excited when they talked with their children about the Disney characters Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. I thought this was strange, because very few people could tell me anything at all about the personalities of these cartoon characters, other than what they looked like. In fact, I had seen a few old cartoons involving Donald and Mickey, and many of them left me unimpressed, bored or disturbed. Donald often flew off in a fit of anger. Not always, but often enough. Mickey didn’t have the anger problem of Donald, but people who “loved” him usually couldn’t tell me anything about him other than that he appeared in some cartoons, including “Steamboat Willie.” Is he an exemplary character? Very few of the people who love him seem to care. I see the same phenomenon today.
Tonight, I ran across this especially disturbing cartoon of Donald Duck, probably not one that you’ll see featured at Disneyland. I can hear it now . . . “Hey, kids, look! There’s a funny cartoon where Donald Duck commits MURDER!” I’m sure that most people don’t care that Donald committed murder. They “love” him no matter what he has done.
This cartoon goes to show you that people can think that they love a character without knowing anything at all about that character. We are really good at projecting, filling a knowledge void with good things (or bad things) about a character, a movie star or even a God. Case in point is Jesus, whom many people claim to know or love yet they know so very little about him. Or think of the people who insist that God loves us, yet they aren’t interested in knowing about the many genocides committed by the God of the OT. Or consider a more modern example of a person who many people “love” or “admire” without knowing anything about her: Sarah Palin, who I’ve previously compared to “Helly Kitty.” It turns out that many modern corporate characters are intentionally left empty, allowing the public to drum up their personalities in their imagination.
Mexican Supreme Court judge scheduled to be executed. Criminals to be set free!
Mexico City, Mexico – The Mexican Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow the entire criminal population of Mexico to be set free in exchange for the execution of one of its judges.
In a statement released to the press on Wednesday, the aptly named judge Jesus Santos declared that his death would be a fair exchange for all of the crimes committed by all of the criminals incarcerated. “My sacrifice will substitute for their sentences. They will all be set free forever.”
The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, addressed the country on national television. “This is a great day for certain chosen people of Mexico who have been oppressed for far too long. We have picked one of our own to suffer for you so that you can be free.”
Execution by lethal injection is set for this Friday at 3:00.
Judge’s death called a hoax!
Mexico City, Mexico – Just three days after being put to death by lethal injection, the body of Mexican Supreme Court judge Jesus Santos is missing. Judge Santos had been executed as payment for the sentences of all Mexican criminals and since Friday the jails have been emptied. However, early Sunday morning three cemetery caretakers found the door to his mausoleum pushed aside and the coffin empty.