Rejecting Jesus the Christian way

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I’m sometimes taken to task for pointing out that Christians don’t make much effort to live as their saviour says they should. The title of my first book, Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead sums it up. Since the very beginning, believers have replaced the radical commands attributed to Jesus with mythology, mysticism and magic formulae, none of which he’d recognise and all of which are far less demanding than going the extra mile, turning the other cheek and loving enemies. So today, when confronted with what Jesus says is expected of his followers, believers are inclined to say, ‘what right have you to tell us how we should be living?’ to which the answer is, ‘it’s not I, nor any other commentator, who tells you how to live; it is your Lord and Saviour. All we do – all I do – is remind you of what that is.’

Christians don’t like this, primarily because they don’t like what Jesus commands – it’s too exacting, too radical, too impractical – and they want to go on disregrading it. It’s damned annoying being reminded of it and being challenged on how far they are from complying with it.

Have those of us who point out Christians’ failings any right to do so? Well, of course. Christians spend their time judging, castigating and condemning others and as Jesus himself points out, judging others leads to being judged in return (Matthew 7.1-5). He sees this as something of a natural consequence, a yin for a yang. But ‘judge not that ye be not judged’ is another of his commands his followers like to ignore. Even so, if Christians are going to insist on pointing out the speck in others’ eyes, they must expect others will have something to say about the plank in theirs. That’s the way it works – Jesus says so.

So, Christians, if you don’t like me and others challenging you on how far you fall short of your Lord’s expectations maybe you need to lay off atheists, LGBT people, those you consider to be sinners, those of other faiths and even fellow Christians you think haven’t got the right theology. Put your own house in order first and then maybe we’ll listen to you (or maybe not). But don’t say we’ve no right to look at how far you measure up to Jesus’ standards. We’ve every right to ask whether the so-called Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5.13) has any of its flavour left.

 

Call yourself a Christian?

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So you think you might be a Christian? Try this handy-dandy checklist to see if you’re a true follower of Jesus or just someone who’s paying lip-service. You’ll need to score big if you’re ever going to get into his exclusive club!

1) Have you relinquished all wordly goods as Jesus tells you to in Matt 19.21 & Luke 12.33?

If not, better get to it. It’s pretty important to him – he mentions it at least a dozen times in the gospels.

2) Have you forsaken your loved ones, taken to hating them even, the better to serve him and his Kingdom?

No? Than what are you thinking of? Not Luke 14. 26 & 33 that’s for sure.

3) Do you constantly go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, give to all who ask, love your enemies and forgive others repeatedly (Matthew 7.12; Luke 6.27 & 29; Matthew 6.14; Matthew 5.38 etc)? In short, are you perfect as he says you should be?

Some work to do here then, to come up to the expected standard?

4) Do you sacrificially serve others – the sick, the imprisoned, the homeless, the hungry, the naked (Matthew 25.34-46)?

Better get round to it as the only way to avoid Jesus’ blacklist.

5) Do you work tirelessly and exclusively to bring about God’s Kingdom on Earth (albeit in the first century) like Jesus commands in Matthew 6.33?

Why not? Get with the programme!

6) Have you stayed single, never marrying, and certainly never getting divorced?

You haven’t? Shame on you, because you can’t into the Kingdom with a spouse and definitely not with one you’ve discarded along the way (Luke 20.34-35).

7) Have you given up judging others?

If not, you can expect to be on the receiving end of a hell of a lot of judgement in return (Matthew 7.1-2).

8) When you throw a party do you invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind instead of your friends (Luke 14.12-14)?

I think we know the answer to this one.

9) Are you tireless in denigrating, campaigning against and ranting about same-sex relationships and marriage?

Well, good for you though this has nothing to do with being a follower of Jesus (see 7 above).

10) Do you believe in a magical incantation that is going to preserve the essential ‘you’ in Heaven forever?

Jesus didn’t.

So how did you do? Are you someone Jesus would say, ‘Well done you good and faithful servant’ to (Matthew 25.21), or would he insist he never knew you (Matthew 7.23)? –

0-2: Pathetic, especially if the two in question are 9 & 10.

3-7: You’re neither hot nor cold. Expect to be spewed out of his mouth (Revelation 3.16).

8-10: You’re getting there, but then, you didn’t really answer truthfully, did you? Your yes didn’t mean yes (Matthew 5.37).

Never mind, you can always get back to singing songs, waving your arms about and condemning others because they have a speck in their eye (Luke 6.42). Everybody knows that’s what being a Christian is really all about.

The Gospel of Hatred

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You might have seen the disturbing BBC documentary America’s Hate Preachers this week, featuring hunky Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church’ in Tempe, Arizona, and chunky street preacher Ruben Israel (above). If not, it’s available here for the next few months (and also, I understand, on YouTube, but of course I couldn’t possibly endorse that.)

Both Men of God™ claim they’re preaching the gospel, which is strange when all they have to offer is bile, hatred and self-aggrandisment. Anderson actually says at the end of the programme that he does what he does – mainly reviling gay people – because he wants to ‘do something big with (his) life.’ Maybe that’s what the gospel is – bile and hatred mixed with self-promotion. There’s nothing of the good news attributed to Jesus or Paul’s ‘love-is-all’ message in the vitriol spewed forth by these two sorry individuals and their various acolytes.

The gospel they preach and the Jesus they convey is spiteful, judgemental and unforgiving. Who knows, maybe that’s what he was. But if you claim to believe in Jesus, all you self-righteous souls, all you grandstanding screwballs, then fine, so long as you do as he tells you: sell all you have and give to the poor; hate your father and mother; remain unmarried; tend to the sick, the needy and the imprisoned; give to anyone who asks; turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and be perfect. Do you do these things? Are you faithful to these words? If not, then you don’t really believe in him either.

People like Anderson and Israel take what little good there is in the Bible and poison it all the more with their own prejudices, their own putrification, their own sour self-hatred. This is the fruit we see in them and in others like them, which would also be fine if they kept it to themselves. But they can’t. They are compelled to try to infect the rest of us with their nasty perversion of a gospel.

 

 

 

The stuff Christians say… God Gave Us Free-will

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Did he really? He doesn’t mention it in his ineffable, infallible, inerrant Word and you’d think he would when it’s so important. It’s a favourite cliché of Christians whenever they’re challenged about why God has let the world get in such a mess, why he allows children to die, why there are hurricanes and earthquakes, that kind of thing. These are all, they like to tell us, the result of humans using the ‘free-will’ God gave them to make the wrong choices – which are anything that’s not God himself. When that happens, he deserts us, abandoning any idea of a duty of care. But that’s not his fault – oh, no – it’s ours for using the free-will he gave us… freely.

So even though we have free-will, we’re in big trouble if we use it any other than the way God thinks we should. Of all the options available to us, only one is any good; there are so many penalties for choosing anything other than him. It’s as if he says to us, ‘obey me or I’ll abandon you, make everything shit and ultimately torture you’. And you’d be right to ask how this is in any way ‘free’ will. Imagine a human father saying, ‘Now, kids, choose to do as I say or else I’ll throw you on the fire.’ Would children presented with a choice of this kind really be ‘free’ to make their decision?

Still, apparently we are, and wouldn’t you know it, we choose the wrong things. This might have something to do with there being far more ‘wrong’ things than ‘right’ ones, but that’s how God has set things up and who are we to point out the inconsistency of his mysterious way?

More than this, God has handicapped us by making us ‘slaves of sin’ and ‘servants to corruption’ (John 8.34 & 2 Peter 2.19) which naturally disposes us to use our free-will in such a way that almost always leads to the wrong decisions. How about that? Not only does he say ‘obey me or I’ll abandon you, make everything shit and ultimately torture you’, God has given us up to our base desires and so impaired our ability to make the ‘right’ choices.

Ultimately, the idea of ‘free-will’ is a Gordian knot created by Christians, who, finding themselves unable to explain why a loving God would allow everything to be far from perfect, added it to the their already shaky theology. But free-will isn’t scriptural; as we’ve seen, the Bible teaches that God does the choosing not us. Nor does it stand up to  scrutiny in the real world. Science tells us that free-will doesn’t exist, it’s an illusion. Our subconscious mind makes our decisions before informing our conscious mind of what these are. This means our decision-making is neither free – our subconscious mind is shaped and constrained by environment, genes and upbringing – nor the product of our conscious mind, our ‘will’.

Still, this is of little interest to Christians who cling tenaciously and blindly to the notion of ‘free-will’. They’ve made the right decision by opting for God and in so doing have surrendered the free-will they otherwise insist is crucial in explaining the state of the world. They’re not going to need it in heaven, I don’t suppose, sitting around praising God all day long. Given though that they’ve made the right decision, why is it the world continues to be such a muddle? Why is life for believers not noticeably better than for the rest of us? Why are they as subject to life’s tragedies and calamities – cancer, disease, death – just the same as the rest of us? Shouldn’t their free-will decision nullify the disasterous effects of rejecting God so that we can see some overall improvement in the state of the world, or at the very least in the lives of God’s Chosen themselves? Why doesn’t it? What good is ‘free-will’ which, even when exercised in the ‘right’ way, appears to make no difference at all?

God’s Election

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As we saw in the previous post, the Bible tells us that God chose his ‘Elect’* before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1.4-6). Which begs the questions –

1: On what basis did God select the favoured few untold eons before they were born? Did he decide by looking at their dress sense, as Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22.1-14 suggests? I guess it must be, given the Bible is the ‘literal’ word of God.

Or did God assess ahead of time just how righteous his Chosen would turn out to be? In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says righteousness is the yard stick (though naturally Christians don’t believe him because Paul says something different).

Or did God decide in advance – Paul says he ‘foreknew’ – who would repent and turn to Jesus, free-will be damned? Maybe, but then Jesus suggests that not everyone who does even this will make it into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 22.1-14).

What a bummer! Looks like God’s decision is/was purely abitrary. You make it, or not, on the whim of a capricious monster.

2: What’s the point of evangelism? If God chose who was going to have eternal life/enter the Kingdom/live in Heaven before the creation of the world, then there can be absolutely no need for anyone to tell anyone else about Jesus, sin and salvation. Why? Because it makes no difference; God’s Chosen will remain his Chosen, as they were long before they were born, and he’ll be sure to rescue them once they die. Those who haven’t been pre-selected will stay lost and will go to Hell whether or not they’ve heard or responded to the gospel.

‘But how will the unsaved Chosen hear the message if we don’t tell them?’ ask our zealous evangelical friends, still not getting the point. Jesus, lads! The Chosen don’t need to hear the gospel: God – has – already – chosen – them. They will go to Heaven, live in the Kingdom or whatever, regardless of your efforts. You and your evangelism are superfluous.

3: How can you be sure, if you’re a Christian, that you’re of the ‘Elect’ and so destined for Eternal Life? Yes, you’ve chosen Jesus – but has he chosen you? How can you know? Your own sense of righteousness, your faith, self-sacrifice and adherence to sound doctrine (whatever that is) are no guide to whether or not you’ve made the grade. Only God knows that, and he’s not telling.

Not yet, anyway, so you’d best make sure you’re buried in your very best clothes, just in case.

* Jesus is made to call the chosen few ‘the Elect’ in Matt 24.22, 24 & 31; Mark 13.20, 22 & 27 and Luke 18.7.