Sunday, December 6, 2015
Some Words in Defense of Jesus...
Drive around Paradise, California and you will see more churches than fast food restaurants, thrift stores, and pickup trucks combined. The churches are everywhere. The biggest one is called the "CMA", and it is monstrous. It is probably the biggest building in Paradise and is certainly in better repair than the high school that serves 1,200 students. The church is so big, they have their own gym. The parking lot is gigantic enough to host a farmers' market every Thursday with ample parking.
On the Church's website, spend some time poking through the sermons archive and you get a nauseating combination of self-help tripe combined with simplistic steps to take to solve any problem. It is a church for white families who own Chevy Tahoes. It's one of those popular churches that are in vogue for people who are lonely and find life without meaning. A meaningless, lonely life sucks and I don't think it is an awful thing to go to church to place a little salve on it.
What I do object to is the ostentatiousness of the Church. Turns my stomach. I'm not so certain that Jesus wouldn't be nauseated by the whole thing too.
I consider myself a Christian. Although I find most of the post resurrection stuff about Jesus as a work of fiction. Dead people do not become alive again. Atonement for sins is silly. I don't want anyone paying the price for my sins but me: I deserve it. It is called cause and effect. To me grace is just luck.
I don't believe Jesus was born of a virgin while three wise men followed a star to his cradle. That's a beautiful story, but it is a myth.
I don't believe Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, I doubt any body was ever recovered. Generally crucified people were fed to the dogs.
I don't believe Jesus is coming again. I don't believe he was God. Some say he didn't even exist. I think he did.
That doesn't really leave much of the Apostle's or the Nicene Creed to recite. All that stuff comes from the Post Resurrection Jesus. The Post Resurrection Jesus is responsible for a whole lot of problems. I like the Pre-Resurrection Jesus. The historical Jesus. The one that Jesus scholars have been uncovering, like an archaeological dig. That Jesus excites me. That Jesus makes me proud to say I'm a Christian.
So what is there to love about Jesus? Jesus was a poor, Mediterranean peasant who preached radical egalitarianism, was critical of the rich, and was full of wisdom. He practiced free healing and the one ritual he created was a common meal. What's not to love about fish, bread and wine? What's not to love about making a ritual out of such a simple meal? What's not to love about providing access to healthcare?
Every indication states he was a practitioner of non-violence. He resisted becoming a Che' Guevara to the Roman Occupation. That doesn't mean he didn't rebel against it: it was the Romans that ultimately killed him.
The stories in the gospels are thrilling. Some real; many fictional. What is real, I believe, are his humble upbringing, his healing, his wisdom, his charisma, his common meal, his devotion to service, his devotion to his God, his poverty, his travels by foot (he was a hiker), his act of civil disobedience in the Temple that led to his death.
He was a real man. Not some fictitious character that overcame death and lived as a god. Somehow that cheapens the story for me. A real Jesus, standing up to the temple, to the Romans, to the elites of the Temple who take in the donations and side entirely with empire---getting pissed off in the Temple, causing a demonstration and then dying a political death because of that: that is real. That is courage. That is worthy of worship. A man like that is worth following. That's not the man they worship at the CMA Paradise Alliance Church in Paradise.
So that's who I follow. I don't mind celebrating such a person's birth at this time of the year. Even if all the nativity sets have wise men there. Wise men and women will listen to this man's powerful story and, hopefully, emulate it.
And for hikers, there is a new "Jesus Trail" in Galilee that connects Jesus' two home towns: Nazareth and Capernaum. That's an adventure for the bucket list.