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Entry 7 – WWJD?

September 28, 2009

I think Jesus (or least the person that the Christian Gospels speak of as ‘Jesus’) often gets a much undeserved pass on hell, fire, and brimstone discussions. By that I mean Jesus is often cited as the great peacemaker; one who demonstrates pure love to the world, turning the other cheek both proverbially and literally. Rarely do you hear someone talk about the dogmatic Jesus, one who says people will be tormented in Hell for their evil ways.

I have come to view the figure of Jesus after rereading the New Testament, and taking into account all of his purported statements, as quite an unhappy, disturbing figure. I hope in reading further this post people will at the very least truly investigate all the verses in the Bible critically, and think about the complete picture of Jesus, not just the peace, love, and happiness parts.

The New Testament of the Christian Bible has many passages where Jesus speaks directly of the terror that awaits those who don’t believe in Him and his Father. For instance, Jesus tells people to cut off their hand or foot, or gouge out an eye if it causes them to sin for it would be better for a person to be maimed and avoid hell than to enter into hell fully membered (Mark 9:43-50). In Matthew Chapter 10, Verse 28, he states, ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Or if that language isn’t strong enough for you, apparently the author(s) of Luke was/were able to provide a little more fearmongering, if you will, than Matthew and Mark’s author(s). In Chapter 12, Verse 5, Jesus says, ‘But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.’ There are many other statements about Hell attributed to Jesus, but I think you get the point. Jesus doesn’t shy away from talking about hell. In fact, he seems to be particulary interested in it.

Jesus also appears to have really had it out for fig trees. He used one as a teaching device in his ‘Faith 101’ class to the disciples whereby in Matthew 21:18-22 he simply tells a fig tree ‘May you never bear fruit again!”. And in the next verse the tree is purported to have withered right there on the spot. Being an avid gardener, and one who loves plants, I do think cursing of fig trees a bit much.

I have come to view Jesus as such a sad, confused character so as to have lost all interest in worshipping him. Someone who would incite such fear in his followers about an unseen world where people are tortured for eternity, or who goes out of his way to curse trees to prove a point really has some serious issues in my book. I’d rather spend my time learning more about the great scientific discoveries that were occurring around or before the time of Jesus with the Romans or the Greeks. Seems like a much more interesting read.

On a somewhat unrelated note, Jesus’ purported statements on peace and family are particularly egregious to me. Matthew Chapter 10, Verses 34 through 37 read as follows, ‘”Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (New American Standard Bible translation). I’m sure there are many who would try and interpret these verses metaphorically, but even so, think about the shock value of someone uttering these statements in a democracy such as ours in the United States. Family ties are irrelevant and it’s pretty clear that Jesus is backing his followers into a corner and saying that you are either with me or against me.

Now in all fairness to Jesus, he does talk about forgiveness and compassion, especially in his parables. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is especially touching as it deals with one human’s compassion for another despite cultural norms that forbade such niceties. The irony of the parable is that one need not turn to a supernatural power to explain how the Samaritan comes to help his fellow human being in need. Such compassion is innate in all human beings regardless of religious, cultural, or gender identies. Do we really need Jesus to tell us to pay attention to someone suffering on the side of the road? Even Chimpanzees and Baboons have the ability to help their fellow chimpanzee or babboon, respectively, out of harm’s way. These same animals are also known to do the opposite and harm their fellow animals. Sometimes we human beings do the same thing. I would venture though that most of us if put in the situation to help someone in need would respond in kind to help that person. People who do help these people suffering are not necessarily athesit or theist, they may be equally likely to be either. They are simply being human beings. We have learned over time that to help someone makes not only the person in need better, but it makes the person helping better too. It is something that keeps our society functioning, this helping one another simply because we are all going through life together on the planet Earth.

So the next time you see a ‘WWJD’ (What Would Jesus Do) T-Shirt or bumper sticker, maybe you will give it more of a second thought. I have already decided that to look for answers to my moral dilemnas from someone like Jesus would definitely put me at a disadvantage. If I want to reduce ethical quagmires, I think it best to ask yourself what would you like to have done to you if you found yourself in a difficult situation. Probably you’d like to have someone help you. Well, there you go. Problem solved. Go out and help others who are in need. Secret to life right there. You’ll feel better. The person you help will most likely feel better and you will have started a chain reaction of helping others that maybe, just maybe might work its way around the world.

For next time, I’d like to talk more about why a number of people still think we need to go to the Christian New Testament or other ‘sacred’ texts or church for that matter to determine our morals and ethics.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by,

TRC
the.recovering.christian@wordpress.com

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