A few days ago, notorious God-botherer and TV evangelist, Pat Robertson, said on his TV Show that churches should revise Jesus’ stern teaching about divorce to better fit modern sensibilities. As today’s Christians divorce at about the same rate as non-believers, old Pat thinks it a mite inconvenient that they should feel guilty about it. He reminded his viewers that Jesus gave the church authority over all things and that it should therefore amend Jesus’ teaching. That’s amend as in ‘ignore completely’.
Which is fine, I guess, if you take the same approach to everything else Jesus said. That way, Christians would be safe to ‘amend’ his commands about feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, healing the sick, turning the other cheek, welcoming the stranger, going the extra mile, forsaking possessions, relinquishing wealth, giving to everyone who asks, not judging, putting themselves last and others first, loving their neighbour and enemies alike… and so on.
But wait – they do that already, don’t they? Most Christians don’t practise these things. They don’t see these commands as applicable to them. They work hard, and unconvincingly, at interpreting his words as metaphorical – ‘he didn’t really mean give everything away because where would that leave us?’ – or claim they’re being taken out of context, or insisting they have a spiritual meaning…
Which is to say, nothing Jesus said is to be taken literally, even though the most straight forward reading of his pronouncements is that this is how he meant them. It’s how his early followers, the people who preserved or created his words in the gospels, understood them. Why record them otherwise?
But Jesus’ moralising is inconvenient, impractical, exacting, extreme; ridiculous, in fact, and Christians know this. Still his commands must be dealt with somehow. So the Righteous™ work round them – like Robertson and the teaching about divorce – or they ignore them completely and replace his priorities with ones of their own: worshipping him; defending his reputation; striving for power; complaining about secular society; promoting aggression; acquiring wealth; trying to control others’ behaviour; interfering in others’ sex lives; suppressing LGBT people; arguing that religious rights trump those of minorities; opposing abortion.
None of these figured on Jesus’ agenda. Some are in direct opposition to what he’s made to say in the gospels.
When we see Christians doing the things Jesus tells them they should be doing, maybe then we’ll listen to what they have to say. When they demonstrate credibility rather than hypocrisy, maybe they’ll have earned the right to be heard. But as there’s not much chance of that happening any time soon, it’s way past time we ignored them, and their superstition, in much the same way they ignore their Lord and Saviour™.
*See my book of the same name: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/147016373X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0 (US) & https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/147016373X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0 (UK)
I don’t see all this as simply metaphorical, but I do think that Jesus used hyperbole at times to emphasize important truths.
This was a technique used by rabbis of His time. I don’t think this understanding though, should be used as a way to get us off the hook to stop caring about the needs of the poor, the orphans, the homeless, etc. For me, it’s all about following the essence and spirit of the teaching of Christ, and how this can be applied to our lives today.
Here’s an interesting link to consider. May have shared it before.
Hello Neil. If Christians are free to simply ignore parts of the bible they do not agree with like eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabric and even divorce, why can they not do that with the part that deals with same gender sex? Could it be they simply are bigots who hate the LGBTQ and use their religion as an excuse? So according to Pat Robertson they no longer can blame their religion for their hatreds and harmful actions. Hugs
Apologies for the late response. I’ve been away for a while, including to New York for a holiday and to take part in World Pride, which was fantastic.
You’re right; the bible is invariably used to support pre-existing prejudices. It can be made to say anything at all, in fact. I’ve always thought that religion is like alcohol – both bring out a person’s true nature. If a person is mean-spirited and hateful to begin with, drink and religion bring those characteristics to the fore. All in Jesus’ name, of course.
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Hello Neil. I hope you enjoyed your trip. Life is too short not to enjoy holidays. Yes I think you are correct, I wish I had thought of that comparison my self, it sure explains a lot of behaviors. Hugs