that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth
not, shall be damned.”
– Luke 16:16, supposedly quoting Jesus of Nazareth
THE SPIRITUAL JESUS
Except for the last day of his first life and his short second life, Jesus preached a spiritual message.
He gave us the Golden Rule which applies to everyone equally and provides a proven method for choosing behavior. If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to them. It still works – for everyone. Inclusive and uniting, it uses our innate empathy.
He gave us the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the tale of a man who went out of his way to help an enemy who had fallen among thieves. It leads us away from anger and resentment. It reaches across tribal, racial, cultural or national borders. It substitutes empathy for enmity.
He taught us not to react in anger but to be humble and contrite, to look for our own part in creating enmity and to avoid blaming others.
He was a healer and he served others asking for nothing in return, not even belief. He didn’t question those he healed on their religious views or tribal affiliations. He didn’t require them to be baptized.
Many times Jesus asked followers to be poor and to give to the poor. The concept here is kindness towards others. Nowhere is there a caveat that says those in need must qualify in some way. The rule was simple as I understand it: give what you can to those in need. He was convinced, I surmise, that greed and kindness aren’t compatible.
As I understand it, he didn’t turn away from anyone because of “sin.” He was quoted as saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone1.” He didn’t ask for prayer or religious devotion; he asked for mercy, compassion and generosity towards fellow human beings.
I understand Jesus was baptized by John, but he didn’t go around baptizing everyone or preaching about belief or religion; he talked about attitudes and behaviors toward others … about inclusive, spiritual values; about kindness, compassion, and generosity.
Throughout almost all of his later life, he acted and spoke humbly and inclusively.
In the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, he talks about a lot of characteristics in people that are blessed: meekness, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful people, those who are pure in heart, and peacemakers. He doesn’t even mention believers explicitly; those who can accept without proof or logic; which, after he died and rose again, is the suddenly the only criterion for Grace.
If he says that peacemakers will be called the children of God; if he insists that those persecuted because of righteousness will have the kingdom of heaven; why then does he say something absolutely contradictory after his crucifixion and resurrection?
Interspersed with these spiritual teachings are a number of miracles taken directly from a flawed translation of the Septuagint, the Jewish prediction of a Messiah who would rule Earth with absolute power. It is clear to me that Jesus rejected this role. It did not fit with his message or the life he led.
THE SYMBOLIC JESUS
At the end of this first life and throughout his short second life, we have a completely different Jesus.
He performs a Pagan ritual right in the middle of a Jewish religious celebration of Passover, something which might have dumbfounded his followers and makes no sense to me. During the Last Supper, he is no longer kind or inclusive. He serves pretend blood and pretend flesh to his friends and tells them to eat and drink. He calls out Judas, who kills himself. He is into symbols, mysticism and rules, not mercy or kindness.
After the original Easter, he comes out with a completely new rule: one must believe that he died and was resurrected in perpetual atonement for all sin if one is to be “saved.” All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter if one has been meek or merciful or pure in heart. One must believe and be baptized!
This message isn’t spiritual. It’s divisive and exclusive. It hasn’t provoked meekness or kindness or reconciliation out of most of the people who took it to heart, either.
Furthermore, this message isn’t sensible or workable. Anyone who isn’t irrationally credulous – meaning anyone who is logical or scientific in their thinking – is immediately excluded. At the time Jesus was to have first said this, all but the people in the room and possibly a handful of others were to be damned. If I were in the same room with Jesus and he said this new rule, I could not believe in him, his resurrection, or his new message. I would mourn, for the spiritual Jesus was gone, replaced by someone or something totally different.
This Jesus is Christ, Dictator of the World, vindication of ancient Jewish prophecy, a symbolic sacrifice necessary to fulfill Jewish beliefs about sin and sacrificial atonement. He no longer represents the poor or the downtrodden. He no longer champions kindness or compassion. He is no longer inclusive. Instead, he represents the credulous and the obedient and damns everyone else to Hell.
Furthermore, this new “Christianity,” this symbolic role, overshadows and supersedes his earlier messages of universal brotherhood and compassion. By NOT being compassionate, this new Jesus is setting a completely different standard for our behavior: be credulous and obedient; that’s all that is really important. Forget compassion and universal brotherhood because, those guys are going to Hell because they don’t believe in the resurrection and they weren’t baptized!
Going through the Twelve Steps, I learned how spiritual healing occurs. Premature forgiveness based on credulity isn’t part of it. One must recognize one’s defects of character and behavior and fix the damage one has caused wherever feasible and non-destructive.
This is different from secret confession and blanket absolution! It is quite clear to me that believing in the irrationality of a blood sacrifice, of Jesus as a scapegoat to be punished for our sins, doesn’t work well. Yes, it makes us feel better for a time, but it avoids the difficult work of seeing how we adversely affected others and then learning more effective behaviors. Instead, we stay as spoiled children, slightly regretting bad behavior but perpetually absolved of responsibility and accountability.
JESUS OF THE TRINITY
In 325AD, a group of bishops selected and protected by the Roman emperor, Constantine, promoted the Trinity, a single God with several aspects. Having been killed and ridiculed for over two centuries and only recently legalized, I can imagine that these selected bishops (25% of the total) were concerned about making decisions that would avoid martyrdom. They were also embroiled in widespread disputes over which Christian beliefs were valid and which were “heresy.”
The Trinity created a schizophrenic God so distorted that one can justify almost anything. If we want peace, we can use the Beatitudes and the early messages of Jesus of Nazareth. If we want war, we can concoct a “covenant” with Jehovah, which makes invasion, slavery or rape perfectly legal and acceptable, underwritten by God Himself. Alternatively, we can call something or someone “evil.” If we want something else, we can say the Holy Spirit told us to do it. When all else fails, we can fall back on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “To every thing there is a season …” which makes anything acceptable at one time or another and who’s to say when the time is right? This schizophrenic God led Western society for a millenia and a half and only a divergence into science and away from blind credulity, obedience, and loyalty prevented this narrow, restricted, and socially-reinforced view from continuing indefinitely.
Jesus and Christ and Jehovah were put together, creating a being so ambiguous that the Roman armies, conquerors of the known world, carried Christian banners, leaving injunctions to not kill or covet meaningless and generosity, kindness, and compassion ignored. While the spiritual Jesus was still in their holy books, The Symbolic Jesus and the Trinity made up the bulk of an average religious education.
Today, we have Corporate Capitalism, a system that works solely to benefit the already wealthy and walks on the backs of the meek, the poor, and the powerless. Corporate Capitalism and Christianity stand side by side and we cling to the belief, without thought or proof, that this is reasonable.
This Christ, this symbolic incarnation of Jehovah, is to live a third life and rule the Earth as absolute dictator for a thousand years, a role he clearly avoided in his first life and didn’t even begin to fulfill in his short second life.
None of Jehovah’s teachings or actions in any way correlate with the teachings and actions of the spiritual Jesus, and none of Jesus’ sermons about meekness and forgiveness would even hint at a future of world dominance, but we must believe these three are an inexplicable part of an inexplicable unity. We willingly submit our minds and the minds of our children to these strange and irrational catechisms.
We are left with a choice. We can believe – or pretend to believe – the unbelievable. Or we can be shunned by our families and our peers in church. Christianity forces us to choose. We must allow it to divide us from each other or divide us from our honest selves!
When I explore the spiritual Universe, I see a persistent trend towards unity. People normally and naturally want to belong and include. The bigger the unity, the better we feel. Even enmity overcome feels peaceful, loving, and safe. The teachings of Jesus of Nazareth before the Last Supper are in total accord with this spirit of unity. Jehovah, Christ, and Jesus’ final days are consistently divisive, contentious, and spiritually harmful.
The rule requiring faith immediately divided the world into believers and non-believers and, from the start and ever since, has created disunity even within Christian communities themselves! While they seem to agree that one must believe to be “saved,” Christians are in strong, sometimes violent, disagreement as to the specifics of those beliefs – and have been since Christianity was first promoted2.
©David N. Dodson, October, 2016, Phoenix, AZ
1This story doesn’t exist in any of the older manuscripts and isn’t mentioned in the earlier critiques of the Bible. It’s an anonymous addition many centuries after the rest of this Gospel and the events it is supposed to chronicle.
2Galatians 6-9: Paul condemns “heresies” as “accursed.” This was written some time between 50 and 65 AD.