our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority
– a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. ….
– The Second Tradition of all Twelve Step Groups
The people in my mother’s Baptist church, quoting Mark 16:16, told me that if I didn’t believe that Jesus was the only begotten son of God and that the death and resurrection of Jesus would cleanse my sins and permit my redemption, that I’d be damned for eternity.
I know that people rise from being dead for a few minutes, but two and a half days without breathing would make a person brain dead and necrotic. I have been told by experts that the Gospels were written in Greek decades after the events they chronicled and that they mix together improperly-translated Jewish prophecies with the life of Jesus of Nazareth, creating a character, Jesus Christ, whose human half preached love and humility and whose Messianic half was expected to glorify and vindicate the Jewish faith in their own superiority or – in the Christian take – to sanctify credulous people willing to believe in their own unique goodness in the eyes of our Maker.
I loathe Jehovah, who devised blood sacrifices to substitute for atonement and tortured His adherents for sport to see if they’d do stupid, immoral things out of obedience and loyalty1. To me, Jehovah was foolish, ineffectual and narcissistic. He apparently hated His own creations – or at least many of their distinguishing characteristics. To Him, credulity and obedience were the highest virtues while integrity, intelligence, curiosity, kindness or compassion might send someone to Hell or turn her into a pillar of salt2. Jehovah was perpetually violent even though this violence never really worked. He was bigoted and sponsored wars of conquest where one group of people stole from and enslaved another group of people. This irrationality was never reconciled with the Ten Commandments where He tells us not to covet or to murder.
Christ, the Messiah, was slated to subjugate humanity for a thousand years and to preside over the Jewish/Christian vindication where “believers” are exalted and where doubters and non-believers are to be ripped from their families and sent to Hell.
Jesus of Nazareth, the philosopher, had a bunch of great spiritual ideas: love one another; love your enemy; treat others as you would like to be treated; return enmity with humility; give to the poor. Not only were these revolutionary concepts, they actually work! Jesus was not destructive. Jehovah was.
Jehovah and Christ are, to me, religious icons, idols to be worshiped; created to control people by telling them that their belief or their ancestry or both make them special. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have all been used to justify territorial conquest. I believe that they are still being used in this way.
Jesus of Nazareth discovered spirituality and taught us ways to be truly happy by treating each other with kindness and consideration, with meekness, tolerance and forgiveness.
Jesus and Jehovah didn’t have the same values, attitudes, rules, or behaviors. They create, when united, a schizophrenic God who tells us to be kind, generous and tolerant to each other UNLESS something is “evil” or not espousing the “correct” beliefs or performing the “correct” rituals.
This loophole in the Golden Rule has resulted in murder and mayhem on a global scale since 325 AD when the Roman emperor took over control of Christianity. It somehow eludes our notice even though it is obvious.
The idea that Jesus was the Messiah, slated to rule humanity for a thousand years is absurd. For Jesus to preside over the suffering of the majority of the human race and the political subjugation of the rest belies every word and deed in his lifetime … except for a few pieces of non-spiritual dogma which I figure were added by someone else. Jesus refused the role of “Christ” toward the very end of his first life. He didn’t take it after resurrecting. I am convinced he would refuse it again if given another chance.
The rule is that you have to have a blood sacrifice in your name to be OK for grace or salvation or whatever good happens after you die. Then you have to believe Jesus was this sacrifice. The only thing that makes this a big deal is Jesus being Jehovah and that idea makes my flesh crawl … otherwise, he’s just one of many people who got on the wrong side of someone in political power. I believe he died on Friday and stayed dead, but I don’t really know. Furthermore, I don’t think any of us know or should be required to presume to know. There’s something inherently dishonest about the process of requiring us to believe something illogical and irrational or face being shunned by our families and friends in church.
According to Christian texts, God wants us to be gullible, incurious and obedient. This isn’t who we are. The Creator made us. And we’re curious; it’s a vital part of our nature. Therefore, I submit that the real Creator likes our curiosity and would never shame or shun us for it.
I’ve spent some time surrounded by Buddhists. They seemed far less greedy than most Americans. They seemed far happier with far less than we Christian Americans think we need. I liked them. I liked being among them. I saw no sense in a Creator that shunned them and damned them to hell because of some legal technicality which requires one to be incurious, credulous, and irrational and, for no sensible reason and with no sensible proof, believe someone died for two or three days and then reanimated His body.
The idea of Jesus being a zombie creeps me out, but not as much as him being Jehovah, the foolish, ineffective, misogynistic bigot.
Every year, my mother would write an elaborate Christmas poem about “the blood of the lamb.” She would send it to me and all her friends. I knew she meant well. I knew she believed all this and was concerned about my soul being eternally damned. I longed to say something to change her mind. I never found it during her lifetime.
Around 1994, I started writing a Christmas poem of my own. I wanted it to be similar to my mother’s: overworked, intricate, and scholarly. Yet I needed it to defend the Palestinians against Christian bigotry. I needed it to defy Christian violence. And I needed it to defend Jesus, the humble peacemaker against his ostensible “Father,” Jehovah, the violent bigot. I needed to somehow combat the self-serving nonsense “Christianity” has sprinkled over the body of Jesus of Nazareth making him into an idol, a symbol to be worshiped like the golden idols Moses detested.
I needed to defend the Islamic world from us, the supposed “good guys” who pledge their allegiance each day to the flag of the United States, a symbol of greed and waste; who believe with all their hearts that the death of Jesus was more important than his life’s work and that this irrational and ineffective belief will, in and of itself, free us from the consequences of our selfishness; from the results of our overweening pride, unrestrained bias and incomprehensibly childish choices.
A Christmas Poem
© Dave Dodson, 1997
The Gift of Grace
What happened there in Bethlehem two thousand years ago?
What happened there in Bethlehem? I’d really like to know.
Were angels there? Did trumpets blare? Did shepherds really fright?
Did wise men come? Did oxen stare upon a Holy Sight?
Such knowledge still eludes my mind. The contradictions show.
Such certainty’s for other men. It’s not for me to know.
Yet to my eyes in smaller size some miracles were shown to me…
Of love fulfilled, of sorrow stilled in hearts quite lost in misery.
I witness God in all that’s here, both far and near, both old and new.
The ageless skies and babies’ cries are awesome hints of what is true.
Two thousand years is but a sneeze, a hair’s breadth of the cosmic span.
A virgin birth? this tiny Earth? Too small a scale for God’s Great Plan.
And yet what size the human soul? What depth the human heart?
What task too small when worries pall beside the Master’s healing art?
I’ve felt the touch. My life renewed when I gave up my tortured will.
My heart found life, my joy reborn, the promised hope God did fulfill.
Let others talk about the day the Christ Child came to be.
I think I’ll talk about the way God gave new sight to me.
My fetid life in deadlocked strife was lifted on my darkest night.
My soul redeemed (I wonder how) when following the Maker’s light.
The Gift of Peace
It is a tale as tired as time…pitting one against another;
Making waste instead of hope and taking things from trusting brother.
Steeped in greed and blind to need, we fail to clearly understand
That bounty given must be shared if we’re to find our promised land.
So sing the songs and ring the gongs that celebrate that Hopeful Day
But don’t forget the needs unmet of homeless children far away.
What shock to mind were we to find upon being wrapped in God’s Great Plan
That chosen ones were left in need…that we betrayed what Christ3 began.
I wanted to send this message into the Christian world; to wake them up to reality; to shake them from their steadfast loyalty to an irrational, self-aggrandizing system of idolatry; from the belief that words and symbols created in the pre-Christian world of war and conquest are somehow divinely-inspired even though they have and will, over and over again, lead to war and suffering.
All this happened before the events of 9/11/01; before the Arab world tried to send us a message; before we lied about who they were and why they did what they did; before we irrationally, illegally and immorally invaded the cities and towns of Iraq halfway around the world; before ISIS and additional Arab reactions to our persistent dishonesty, cruelty, and destruction; before crisis after crisis and death after death; and well before the self-congratulatory nonsense we spout today when we thank our troops for “fighting for freedom” when freedoms have been lost, not won, and when we have proven again and again that the only real motivation for our troops in the Mideast is profit.
The fighting has not and will not lead to peace or freedom. Certainly our troops in other countries where they don’t belong won’t lead to peace or freedom. This is known. We started the killing. We, the credulous and gullible electorate, wanted this! Now, we may be sorry, but sending more troops won’t stop it; putting our troops in harm’s way didn’t help, isn’t helping and won’t help in the future.
Oddly, Jesus of Nazareth tells us how to proceed. He enjoins us to love our enemies, to lift them up when they are down. We need to find a way to rebuild that which we have destroyed; to make amends for our profiteering. Our troops need to stay within our borders. Our wealthy need to finance the infrastructure and rebuilding of the Third World, a place we’ve victimized for over a century just so the wealthy could get wealthier and we could pat ourselves on the back as “the world’s superpower.”
Destroying ISIS seems, to our addled thinking, like the “solution.” Once we “win,” the Middle East will cower in fear of our military might, their valid anger and resentment held in check by fear. We believe this. Our movies validate this. Our stories all show us to be heroes, not bullies and thugs. The problem is that our pretenses are not the truth and the truth lives on. Resentments from our wrongdoings persist generation after generation. The British, with our help, robbed the Palestinians of their country in 1919, giving it to the Zionists in partial payment of a gigantic war debt. We aided the forced immigration of Jews after World War II by closing our borders. We continue to send massive military aid to Israel, our colony in fact if not in name, every year while they bully all their neighbors with our advanced weaponry.
The intense reactions to our bullying over the last hundred years are now being felt around the world in car bombs and suicide bombing attacks; in New York City and Paris and in Nice. These will continue until we do something very different. Even genocide won’t solve this problem. Sincere and dedicated amends to diligently repair the damage done is the only way to stop this. Threats won’t work. Prayer won’t work. Violence won’t work. This is a spiritual problem requiring a spiritual solution. Jesus of Nazareth has the solution if we dare to listen to him and his spiritual message without taking in the religion which Saul of Tarsus and his followers added to it.
©David N. Dodson, November, 2015, Phoenix, AZ
2Mark 16:16, Genesis 19:26
3This poem was written before I had separated Jesus from Christ. In this poem, the names are synonymous.