God’s Blunt Instruments

CultI get so tired of how Christians think they should show ‘love’ to others. They’ve got clear instructions in their holy book about how to do this but as with so many of their beliefs, they by-pass the commands of their saviour, to come up with their own, less costly ways of ‘loving’ their neighbour.

The righteous will (say), ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25.38-40)

Christians, however, have decided that the best way to show love is not to do what Jesus says but instead to call out others’ ‘sin’, to rant about how lost they are and how they’d be so much better if they adopted the same beliefs as Christians themselves.

I’ve experience of this in my own life. ‘While you’re a sinner of the worst kind,’ I’ve been told, ‘I love you enough to tell you about Jesus’ –

As if I’ve never heard about Jesus before;

As if there’s any credence to the entirely religious concept of ‘sin’;

As if this kind of emotional blackmail equates in any way with love.

In case you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it yourself, there’s plenty of this kind of stuff online too: try here or here or here or here for starters. As Matt Barber, who modestly describes himself as ‘an instrument of God’s truth’, puts it, ‘all we, all you, as faithful Christians can do is to speak truth in love and pray that those truths plant a seed that bears fruit in the hardened hearts of lost souls.’

Oh yes, it’s all done in the name of ‘love’ – and the cherry-picked bits of ‘God’s truth’ that appeal to the self-righteous.

Of course, gay people get more than their fair share of this brand of Christian love™. There’s no sign of the unconditional love of which Jesus speaks for the ‘sodomites’ regularly trashed by Christian Voice (Stephen Green’s choice of phrase, not mine) and those ‘mired’ in ‘the homosexual lifestyle’ (no, I don’t know what it is either) invented by the likes of Matt Barber and others who mistake their prejudices for truth and their bigotry for love.

Christians just don’t seem to get it that their ‘witness’ doesn’t consist of judging and condemning the rest of us for our ‘sin’, accosting us with ‘God’s truth’ and telling us how they love us really, even though they don’t show it.

It is – or should be – about action; doing and showing love unconditionally and sacrificially. How do we know this? Because their saviour says so. And until we see this, Christians, you’ll forgive us, won’t you, for not taking very seriously your claims to be instruments of God’s truth nor your empty rhetoric about ‘love’.

 

The words in the speech bubble above are Bill Muehlenberg’s, another of God’s self-appointed tools. Even Jesus, who was not averse to unpleasantness, didn’t spout the vitriol that some of today’s Men of God™ delight in. In any case, doesn’t Muehlenberg’s claim describe Christianity so much more accurately than it does ‘homosexualism’, whatever that is? Just try replacing the term with ‘Christianity’ and you’ll see. Bill doesn’t know a cult when he’s in one. (Well, he wouldn’t, would he.) And don’t you just love his mismatched pronouns?

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Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 7: You Must Be Born Again

Born Again

Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again (or ‘from above’).’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (John 3.3-5).

While John’s gospel isn’t the only source of Christian nuttiness, it’s certainly a mine of golden nuggets. This is mainly because it was made up so long after Jesus lived, by people who had, in all probability, never met him but who belonged to a sect led by someone who claimed he had.

Imagine, in a world without technology, photography and literacy, writing an account from memory (or from other people’s memories) of events that had occurred sixty years earlier. It would be like attempting to create today the history of a charismatic, back-water nobody who lived in the early 1950s – but without any reliable written records, pictures or sound recordings. How much faith would you have in such an account? How far would you trust, at such a distance, the account’s supposedly verbatim dialogue, especially when it conflicts on nearly all crucial points with the few other stories that circulate from the period? Of course you wouldn’t. And yet this is precisely what we have in ‘John’s gospel’, where we find the famous exhortation to be ‘born again’.

Let’s be clear at the outset; Jesus did not say ‘you must be born again.’ The point of the story is that he meant something else (equally ludicrous, but different nonetheless). Despite this, today’s Christians still insist he did say it and that to be truly saved you must indeed be ‘born again’.

But, as Bart Ehrman explains in Jesus, Interrupted (p 155), the misunderstanding central to this exchange, between ‘born again’ and ‘born from above’ occurs only in Greek. As Aramaic speakers, Jesus and Nicodemus would not, if they knew any, have resorted to Greek for this one conversation, just so this very confusion could be created.

The word in question is the Greek word anothen, which can mean both ‘again’ and ‘from above’, and it is this double meaning that prompts Nicodemus to ask if he is expected to crawl back into his mother’s womb so he can be born ‘again’. The contrivance allows Jesus to make a show of correcting him and to make his real point; ‘No, Nic, you dumbkoff. Not ‘born again’, but ‘born from above’. What do they teach you at synagogue school these days?’

So in a conversation he never had, depending as it does on a misunderstanding of the Greek he didn’t speak, ‘born again’ is not what Jesus means: his point, as the writers of John’s gospel make clear (in the Greek Jesus didn’t speak, but they did) is that one has to be ‘born from above’.

And why do people have to be ‘born from above’? Because that’s where the story’s creators believed heaven to be – above them, in the sky. Jesus himself would have believed this too, even though he didn’t utter a single one of the words attributed to him in this fabricated conversation.

Why_Christians_Don't_Cover_for_KindleThis post is adapted from my (five-star rated!) book Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead, available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

 

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 6: The ‘I Am’ sayings

CampLet’s be clear from the outset here; Jesus never actually made any of the seven ‘I am’ claims put into his mouth in John’s gospel. You know the ones: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’, ‘I am the True Vine’, ‘the Good Shepherd’, ‘the Light of the World’ and so on. So it is a little unfair to lump them with all the idiotic things it’s more likely Jesus did say (see previous posts.)

How do we know he didn’t say them? Lots of reasons. Firstly, they’re not in the other three gospels all of which were written earlier than John’s, and are therefore closer to the time Jesus lived (though the earliest, Mark’s gospel, was probably put together thirty to forty years after Jesus lived.) If Jesus had really made all those grand ‘I am’ claims, wouldn’t the other gospel writers have recorded them too? Yet none of them mentions even one.

Secondly, in the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – Jesus has a different message from the one given to him in John’s gospel. The earlier gospels have Jesus talk about himself only very rarely. Instead, he goes on at length about the coming of the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) and how y’all better get ready for it ’cause it’s a-coming soon. Was he wrong about that one! On the odd occasion he does refer to himself in the synoptic gospels, he often does it in a sort of coded way, calling himself ‘the son of man’. He hardly ever uses ‘I’, let alone makes grandiose claims about himself.

Thirdly, all three of the synoptic gospels rely on earlier sources, now lost to us, and none of those has Jesus make ‘I am’ statements either. How do we know? Because, again, they’re not there in any of the three accounts – Matthew, Mark or Luke – that are built up from them. Significantly, one of these sources is an early record of Jesus’ sayings; that’s a ‘sayings gospel’ that doesn’t relate any ‘I am’ sayings.

Fourthly, John’s gospel is late – at least sixty years after JC’s death and also after Paul’s supernatural Christianity had gained a foothold among the gullible. The Jesus of John’s gospel is a reworked version, more in-line with the ‘Christ’ that Paul preached and much less like the Jewish peasant who had lived and preached the Kingdom of God. Despite what Christians claim, John’s gospel is not another eye-witness report (none of the gospels is) that differs only in minor details from the other three accounts. It is total reworking of the story, with its central figure transformed into a sort of divine Superman, and the idea of the coming Kingdom relegated to a single mention. This change of agenda renders the fourth gospel utterly unreliable as an historical record of anything the earthly Jesus might have said.

Fifthly, Christians claim John’s gospel differs from the others because in it Jesus reveals special, secret truths about himself to ‘the disciple whom he loved’, traditionally the John whom the gospel is named after. But again, the problem with this explanation is that the synoptic gospels don’t mention Jesus favouring one particular disciple over the others (unless it’s Simon Peter). In these, John, a loud, brash fisherman, plays only a minor role. Why don’t the synoptics refer to the special, more intimate relationship that John’s gospel refers to? Largely because there wasn’t one – not until the fourth gospel came to be written and ‘John’, who led the community that produced it, wanted to bump up his part.

So, idiotic as it would have been for an itinerant Jewish preacher and ‘prophet’, whose mission ended in failure, to make these claims about himself, Jesus never did. He didn’t say he was ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Or ‘the Vine’. Or ‘the Good Shepherd’. These are claims made for him long after he lived, by people who were persuaded by a snake-oil salesman that a God-man had mystically ‘saved’ them. They ‘re-imagined’ Jesus, sayings and all, to fit their idea of what he must have been like – and John’s gospel was born.

Its Jesus, if he was being honest, should really have said, ‘I Am… nothing but Pure Invention.’

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 5: Give to everyone who asks

Beggar

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you… Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:30-35)

I’d really like to see this. I’d like to see Christians giving to anyone and everyone who asks them.

Asks them for what? Jesus implies in this ridiculous command that it’s ‘what belongs to you’. He’s talking about physical possessions – give your possessions to whoever asks, he says, and don’t try to get back any item that someone takes from you. There can be no making a metaphor out of this, or symbolising it away. Christians try to of course; see here and here for their lame attempts at explaining why Jesus doesn’t really mean they should give their stuff away. But he does mean it, and just in case Luke might’ve got it wrong, the writers of Mark’s and Matthew’s gospel record him saying much the same thing.

So how about it Christians? How about giving away all you’ve got? Even a little bit of it to everyone who asks of you? Should you own cars, property and businesses when there are charities asking you to give generously to the needy (‘give to all who ask’) and when there are people out there with nothing? Your Lord and saviour proposes you sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor (Mark 10.21), so how about it? How about conceding (civil) same-sex marriage to gay couples, without making the shameful song and dance about it that you do? How about shouting less about the ‘rights’ you claim are being taken from you when your Lord specifically says not to? Why not try doing instead just what he commands?

Because you don’t really believe him. You prefer the super-hero Jesus, the ‘Christ’ that St Paul invented, who ‘saves’ you, guides you and doesn’t make demands like Jesus did when he was alive. That Jesus you don’t believe in. And who can blame you? He was a fanatic who believed the world was going to end very soon (Matthew 16.28). His idiotic demands, like this one, were for this soon-to-end system of things. You could give everything away when God was about to intervene and set up his own Kingdom in which you would be rewarded for your generosity. It’s this radical Jesus you reject; you don’t do what he says because he’s just too damned demanding.

Give to all who ask? Let others take things from you? Sell all you have?

Don’t be ridiculous.

 

Idiotic Stuff Jesus Said 4: Rivers Of Living Water

Or more precisely: Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7.38).

WoundMe: What does this even mean, this ‘rivers of living water’ stuff?

Christian: It’s a metaphor. Jesus means it symbolically.

Me: Symbolically, how? A metaphor for what exactly?

Christian: The wonderful life-giving message that is the gospel.

Me: Which gospel? Jesus’s or Paul’s?

Christian: Oh, you’re splitting hairs. They’re one and the same.

Me: They most certainly aren’t, but we’ll let that pass for now. So by ‘living waters’ you mean that death-obsessed, rag-bag of negativity that fails to deliver in any way? (See all previous posts).

Christian: Well, I wouldn’t put it quite like that, but when one is reborn of the Spirit, then this wonderful feeling takes hold of you. That’s what we mean by ‘living waters’.

Me: I see. So all it comes down to is how good it makes you feel inside. ‘Living waters’ is just a metaphor for feeling good.

Christian: Oh, no, it’s more than that. It’s the Love that compels us to share the good news with others – that’s really what Jesus means by rivers of living waters.

Me: So banging on about hell and how the world is doomed (because, you know, gay people) and how only you know the Truth, is letting your love flow, is it? Is that what we see on sites like this, and this and this? Living waters of love? Or running sores of bile?

Christian: Well, those sites and those people aren’t representative of true Christians.

Me: That’s funny. They say the same about you.

Christian: Now you’re being unfair.

Me: And what’s more, there’s no reference to ‘rivers of living water’ flowing inside people anywhere else in ‘Scripture’. That’s another bit of made-up nonsense.

Christian: Oh, no, you’re mistaken about that. You must be. Jesus wouldn’t get a thing like that wrong.

Me: You know, maybe none of you have rivers of living water sloshing around inside you. Maybe this is just another of those idiotic things Jesus said, or was made to say about a hundred years after he lived, that means absolutely nothing at all.

Christian: Ma! He’s persecuting me.

Let’s Suppose…

This article originally appeared as a guest post on Bruce Gerenscer’s U.S. blog, ‘The Way Forward’ a couple of months back. Bruce has since had to close his blog and as a result the article became inaccessible. I’ve rescued it, my little lost sheep among a hundred, and present it here for your delight and delectation. Or something.

While on ‘The Way Forward, the post generated quite a few comments from Bruce’s readers. Feel free to respond to it here in like manner – and indeed to any other posts. All comments, spam excluded, are published whether agreeing or disagreeing with what I have to say.

BlessedLet’s, for the sake of argument, suppose that Christians could prove that the universe was created by a supernatural agent.

Let’s further suppose that they could demonstrate conclusively that this supernatural agent is none other than their very own God, as opposed to, say, Allah or Atum or Marduk.

And then let’s say they are able to show us, with sundry proofs, that an itinerant Jewish preacher, generally known by the Greek name, Jesus – though he was never called that by those who knew him – was somehow a manifestation of this God on Earth.

Then let’s say we grant them, although it doesn’t seem it from reading Jesus’ story in the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke, all written between forty and sixty years after this man lived) that his death somehow or other bridged the gap between humanity and this very touchy deity.

And then let us suppose that, although he never met Jesus but only had some sort of hallucination about him, the man Paul was right to say that through magically invoking Jesus’ name, people could be reunited with God and completely remade.

Let’s further grant them that, although their book about Jesus and Paul doesn’t actually say so in so many words, they really are going to go and live in Heaven when they die.

Assuming all of this is true – even though Christians are unable to demonstrate even the first of these propositions (the one about the universe being made by a supernatural being) – why is it they disregard and otherwise ignore most of what their god-man, Jesus, tells them about how they should live their lives?

Why are they, for example, so cavalier about forgiving others when he says in order to be forgiven they must first forgive those who have offended them? (Matthew 6.14-15)

Why are they so harsh in their judgements of others when he tells them that how they judge others will be how they themselves will be judged? (Matthew 7.1-2 & Matthew 25.34-46)

Why are they so lacking in compassion, when he says the amount of compassion they’ll receive is directly related to the amount they show others? (Matthew 5.7 & Luke 6.38)

Why are they so vociferous in their condemnation of others when they should be dealing with their own ‘sins’ first? (Luke 6:42)

Why do so many of them fail to serve others sacrificially, without expectation of reward and with no ulterior motive? (Mark 9.35 & 10.43-44)

Why are they not known for selling their possessions, giving to all who ask and going the extra mile? (Luke 12.32, Matthew 19.21, Luke 6.38 & Matthew 5.41)

Why do they not turn the other cheek, bless and pray for those who abuse them, and treat others like they want to be treated themselves? (Luke 6.28-29 & Matthew 7.12)

Why do they not love their neighbour as themselves, and their enemies too? (Matthew 22.39 & Matthew 5.44)

Shouldn’t they be doing these things, and more, as if their eternal lives depended on it? Especially when Jesus says their eternal lives do depend on it (Matthew 25.37-40). Shouldn’t they be just so much more radical than they actually are, changing the world by serving others? (Matthew 25.34-40)

Yes, they should, but they’re not, and they never have. Deep down, they know that Jesus is too extreme, too demanding. They make excuses for themselves; he doesn’t really mean the things he says; he speaks in metaphor and uses hyperbole (specially when he’s saying something they don’t like the sound of) and they invoke the bumper-sticker theology of ‘we’re not perfect, just forgiven’, even when ‘perfect’ is the very thing Jesus tells them they must be (Matthew 5.48).

The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from all of this is that Christians don’t really believe the man they call God and Saviour. Their actions, or lack of them, speak far louder than their words. It’s so much easier to claim Paul’s magical incantation, looking heavenward and damning the rest of us, than it is to do what Jesus demands. Who cares what Jesus said anyway. What did he know?