What If Conservatives Actually Followed The Teachings of Jesus?

Love the title … but this article is also excellent.

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Jesus and the Big Picture

For those who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know that I often refer to postings on the Finding Truth blog. Nate has developed quite a following and the discussions there often get pretty heated.

A participant in one of his recent postings is an individual who goes by the name of “Kathy.” This person, for all intents and purposes, is a Christian. She appears to believe God is real and the bible is his message to the world.

While many on the Finding Truth blog tend to believe there are contradictions and/or errors within the holy book, Kathy staunchly defends “The Word” by claiming she is the only one who is looking “objectively” at the scriptures in question. She further claims that all who disagree with her are doing so because of their “liberal” (atheist) perspective.

In one of her defenses against bible inconsistencies, she made this comment: “We can TRUST the ENTIRE Bible because it was approved by God. You are focusing on things that are INSIGNIFICANT.. because again, it reveals what is in your heart. If your questions related to contradictions in the actual MESSAGE of the Bible, then I could see your point.. but times and dates.. it just doesn’t matter in the big picture of what Jesus did for US on the cross. (Emphasis mine)

THE BIG PICTURE

At the heart of Christianity is the belief that salvation comes through believing in Jesus and his atoning death on the cross. Few are aware this doctrine was never mentioned, promoted, or taught by Jesus himself. Nor is it addressed anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. OT scriptures used by church leaders today to corroborate this teaching did not hold the same meaning to the ancient Jews. In fact, it wasn’t until (the apostle) Paul developed his theology about who Jesus was and why he came that things changed.

This change didn’t occur overnight. It was primarily through the plethora of Paul’s letters that (some of) the early Jews began to view the ancient texts in a new way. Using his skills as an eloquent writer, a powerful and charismatic orator, and an effective evangelist, Paul was eventually able to convince them that Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah.

But he didn’t stop there. Since he had abolished the Torah as a requirement for salvation (Galatians 3:10), it was necessary for him to put a new requirement into place that would ensure Yahweh‘s approval. This he did by developing the doctrine of “original sin” (humanity’s state of sin resulting from the fall of man), and pointing out that only through faith in his “Christ” could anyone gain favor with God.

In other words, the conception that Christians have today about “what Jesus did for US on the cross” is based solely on the teachings of Paul — teachings that originated from his reported “vision” of a disembodied Jesus.


“Paul’s words are not the Words of God. They are the words of Paul — a vast difference.”

— John Shelby Spong

The Resurrection of Jesus: What Really Happened?

Following is an excerpt from my book: Things I Never Learned in Sunday School: Facts about the Christian faith that will surprise and astound you.

Like many other believers, I had a vision of what took place on that eventful morning. Several women visited and found an empty tomb. There was an earthquake. An angel appeared and said Jesus had risen. The guards became like dead men. The women were told to go and tell the disciples what they had witnessed.

But is this what really happened? Upon closer examination, I was surprised to find the gospel writers each had a slightly different version. In fact, they agreed on only three things: (1) Mary Magdalene visited the tomb, (2) it was on the first day of the week, and (3) the tomb was empty.

They did not agree on: the precise time the women visited the tomb; the number and identity of the women; the purpose of their visit; the appearance of the messenger(s) — angelic or human; what the women were told, the women’s response.

How are we to account for these variations? Considering that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses, plus the fact the gospels were written several decades after the death of Jesus, it is highly likely the resurrection accounts were based on oral tradition. In fact, as previously noted, the writer of Luke commented at the beginning of his gospel that he was writing about things that had been “handed on” to him.

Many feel the noted differences are unimportant. They point to the theme that runs throughout each story — Jesus was not in the tomb. For them, the words written over 2,000 years ago about a dead man missing from a grave is all they need to affirm their belief in the resurrection.

When we consider the resurrection story from a rational perspective, the only thing we can say for certain is that Jesus died. What happened after depends on whose view you favor among the four that are offered.

As with many other passages in the bible, the inconsistencies are rampant. Yet, believers refuse to question them, preferring to accept whatever version is presented to them by their church leaders.

The interesting thing about the resurrection is that there is no mention of a man named Jesus returning to life anywhere but in the scriptures. Not one word. Surely seeing a dead man walking around and talking to people (at one point, 500 at a time) would have prompted other writers to record the event. But to date, no historic or scientific evidence has been uncovered to validate this extraordinary phenomenon.

For those of us who prefer facts over faith, it seems the resurrection story must remain in the skeptical file.

Jesus: A Different Perspective

jesusWhile I’m no longer a “Christian,” I do have respect for Jesus. Not the “divine” Jesus of  the Christian world, but rather the man who lived over 2000 years ago and spoke wisdom to his Jewish followers. The Jesus who is eloquently described as a “humanist” (someone concerned with the interests and welfare of humans) on the Unconventional Spirituality blog.

I am often saddened that Paul and, in turn, “the church” has turned this humble man of Galilee into a figure of worship and veneration when, I believe, he simply wanted to show people how to “love one another.”  

I urge both Christians and non-Christians to read the above post. Try to put aside the image of Jesus that Christian teaching has embedded into your mind and view him instead as “a spiritual leader who wanted to give rise to humanity and the moral high ground.”

Catholic Leaders and Their Fancy Clothes

cardinals

Does anyone (besides Catholics) ever wonder why Catholic leaders wear such elaborate garments?

Cardinals parade around in their scarlet choir dresses (often with added red cassock, white rochet trimmed with lace (worn over cassock), scarlet mozetta (short elbow-length cape) and scarlet biretta (square cap with three or four peaks or horns).

Bishops are also seen in the choir dress, but often with a purple cassock. They may also wear a purple zuchetto (skullcap). When presiding over liturgical functions, the mitre (a tall folding cap, consisting of two similar parts, front and back, and rising to a peak), along with a stole (a band of colored cloth) may be included, as well as the cope (a long mantle or cloak). Sometimes they carry the crosier (stylized staff).

And there’s more …

Catholic clergy may also be adorned with the amice, alb, camauro, cappa, cappa magna, cincture, chasuble, chimere, dalmatic, farraiolo, humeral veil, maniple, and surplice (see this website for detailed explanations, if interested).

The Pope wears many of the same garments as the other priesthood, but exclusive to him are the Ring of the Fisherman, which is a gold ring decorated with a depiction of St. Peter in a boat casting his net with the name of the reigning Pope around it. (Obviously, the ring is destroyed once the reigning Pope leaves office.) He also carries the Papal Cross (staff topped with a crucifix) rather than the crozier. The Pope alone wears a special type of pallium (different from the one worn by lesser clergymen, his is a thin band of white wool worn around the neck with black crosses on it) and a fanon (similar to a shawl with alternating silver and gold stripes). He even has special clothing when he’s “lounging at home,” which consists of a white simar (cassock with shoulder cape attached) girded with the fringed white fascia (a sash, often with the papal coat of arms embroidered on it), the pectoral cross (usually platinum, gold or silver, sometimes with precious or semi-precious gems) suspended from a gold cord, red papal shoes (usually made by a special cobbler), and a white zuchetto.

(Even the choir and altar boys wear special clothing!)

Obviously, no one knows what Jesus wore, but it would seem safe to say he did not wear the number and style of garments described above. So why does the Catholic Church feel it’s necessary for their leaders to array themselves in such lavish attire? Does it make them more “holy” to dress this way? It would seem so according to the above-referenced website where it says: “Vestments are a sacramental (sic). That means they are set apart and blessed by the Church … to increase devotion in those who see and those who use them.”

Some would say such apparel is prescribed by God in the Bible (Exodus 28), but the clothing described therein is for the Jewish priests. Since the Catholic clergy claim to be representatives of Christ (who never claimed to be a rabbi or any other dignitary in the Jewish faith), from whence does their dress code spring?

Personally, I feel such exhibitionism discredits the humble man who walked the dusty roads of Palestine. But then, I’m not a Catholic.