However, for a while in college I was actually a Religious Studies major. I was seven other majors over the years, but who’s counting? The meaning of life has always been an interest, so I explored it from all sorts of perspectives. Great for the mind and soul, useless if you need to get a job.
Eventually, I settled for English with a minor in Asian Philosophy. You can’t really study the history of English literature without reading the Bible, so that’s how I learned about what we call Christianity. I went to various churches and even participated in a group panel interviewing the local boss of the Satanic Church, whose philosophy was like listening to Monty Python’s Argument sketch. “Whatever Jesus said, we disagree.”
The Asian Philosophy minor schooled me in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and a spot of Zoroastrianism, all very different takes on existence than the various versions offered by the Christian sects. Still, I found myself attracted to what Jesus had to say but was left with a puzzle.
I rather liked Jesus, but I didn’t like anything about Christianity.
I found that many of the people who called themselves Christians were anything but charitable, meek, non-judgmental and anti-materialistic. They were selfish, arrogant, narrow-minded and greedy. Many were pro-military, which makes sense only if you believe that Jesus was an earlier incarnation of George Orwell and really meant that Peace is War.
I’m not sure how things got so screwed up, but I think that part of the problem is that people have missed the narrative thread of the Bible. Christians believe that the whole Bible stands for Christianity. That’s simply not true.
The Old Testament describes what went on before: where we came from. The Gospels describe a complete break from the philosophy in the Old Testament: where we need to go.
The rest of the New Testament is St. Paul weaving in a combination of fear and misogyny to organize a religion that would play with the fearful, misogynistic traditions of the people of the time. Paul was a sales guy and knew he had to connect with the audience to really make this religion thing click. Jesus spoke in riddles and didn’t bother to pander to narrow self-interest. He was a lousy salesman, a great philosopher.
For Jesus, the pursuit of wealth was a non-starter. The material world is unimportant, so render that shit to Caesar but don’t put any energy into it. Don’t judge, categorize or dismiss your fellow human beings, for we all have our flaws and weaknesses. Love them and accept them instead. The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, not in wealth, war or prejudice.
So when I hear the right-wing talk about the wealthy as job creators instead of people with zero chance of getting into heaven, when I hear the left-wing attempt to justify insane government expenditure by evoking the virtues of Christian charity, and when I hear Christianity associated with support of war in any form—-and then I hear these people referring to themselves as Christians—-I think I must have read a different book.
Or that Jesus is the forgotten man of Christianity.