There would seem to be at least some truth in what Gaius proclaimed. If we cannot come face to face with our faults, and accept who we are, then we can hardly expect to accept the faults we find in others. But there is a difference between regarding ourselves as perfect and accepting ourselves – and others. The challenge is to love even as we strive to improve – whether ourselves or the world we live in.
Yet there is in many forms of religion an inherent negativity about various aspects of human life, and rather than live with the guilt, we focus on the sins of others and create convenient blind spots with respect to our own. Or we focus on those sins that others do as the real sins.
The danger if we cannot embrace our own humanity is that we will not be able to embrace that of Jesus either. Perhaps we will embrace an imagined doctrinal humanity, a Jesus who sweats and bleeds in key stories that we’ve become accustomed to, but normally strides an inch above the ground, never needing a break, or a moment’s privacy for a bowel movement. And then we proceed to hide our own worst sins from ourselves. Condemning others for that which we have not committed ourselves – murder, or adultery, or whatever else – we become blind to our own arrogance and pride.
I presume that conservative Christians will be the first to dismiss the “Gospel of Gaius” as either New Age claptrap (pantheism, after all, leads naturally to the affirmation of the perfection of all just as it is) or a feel-good pseudogospel. But the irony is that, if you truly believe Gaius is wrong, then that should lead to a self-critical introspective look at the ways in which you may have been accepting your own perfection uncritically.
Here are some of the ways that, in fact, brands of conservative Christianity have been proclaiming a form of the “Gospel of Gaius”:
- Your wealth is the result of divine blessing and has nothing to do with how much you keep for yourself vs. how much you pay your employees. You and your business are perfect – just as you are!
- You don’t need to read scholarly books to understand the Bible, or educate yourself, or know things about the historical and cultural context. You understand the Bible perfectly – just as you are!
- God has predestined you to salvation, and all things are as they were determined to be by God’s perfect sovereign will. You can only change if God wills it, and you aren’t changing, and so that means (you guessed it) you’re perfect – just as you are!
- The book of Revelation (as you premillenial dispensationalists understand it) says that everything will get worse before the end, so there is no point in trying to help the environment, change policies, or be a good Samaritan towards our neighbors and the world. How convenient that your self-serving policies and gas-guzzling SUVs are perfect – just as they are!
- The way you interpret and express your faith most likely suggests you are suffering from mental illness, but rather than try to get you help, but we’ll blame demons, or praise you for your exuberant faith as a “spiritual warrior”, because you’re perfect – just as you are!
If you reject the Gospel of Gaius Baltar, you had better make sure you aren’t hypocritically adhering to it yourself at the same time.