An Open Letter to Jesus: Find Common Ground

An Open Letter to Jesus: Find Common Ground January 25, 2017
An Open Letter to Jesus: Find Common Ground

Dear Jesus,

Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the majority of what you stand for. Your message of love and unity is exactly what the world needs right now. And I’m thankful to see your stance toward oppressed peoples on the margins of society. They deserve to have more good men like you standing with them.

So understand that my criticism is coming from a place of general agreement with you. I just feel that your platform would be a lot more effective if you toned it down a little bit.

Perhaps some examples would be helpful. In a single diatribe, you lambasted the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites,” “sons of hell,” “blind guides,” “fools,” “greedy,” “self-indulgent,” “whitewashed tombs,” “lawless,” “murderers,” “serpents,” and “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:13–36)!

Look, I understand your frustration. I really do. And, you know, if this were a one-time incident—if you had simply lost your patience on a bad day—I wouldn’t even bring it up. But the thing is, your speech is full of this kind of rhetoric.

Most of these accusations are repeated elsewhere in your talks. You’ve additionally claimed that the Pharisees are sons of the devil (John 8:44). You say that they, as well as King Herod, are tainted with leaven (Mark 8:15). And the latter you even called a fox (Luke 13:32).

Jesus, your own disciples have an awful lot to say about respecting authority, and I have a feeling they got that teaching from you. Maybe it’s time to start listening to this advice? Like it or not, Herod is our king, which means his authority comes from God, so what good will criticizing him do?

As for the Pharisees, honestly, Jesus, you should consider the possibility that you’ve latched on to them as a scapegoat. Read some René Girard, and I think you’ll see what I mean. You have to remember that they’re not the enemy; God loves them too.

And then there’s your protest incident in the temple (John 2:14–22). I get that you’re a prophet and that you wanted to make a big gesture to get your point across, but was the destruction of property really necessary? Don’t you realize that such actions render your protest illegitimate?

And what about the merchants and money changers in the temple? They were just trying to feed their families. What are they supposed to do about the lost income you caused them? And the same goes for those pig farmers who lost their entire herd thanks to your careless exorcism (Mark 5:1–20).

Jesus, I’m afraid you’re getting so caught up in your activism that you aren’t taking the time to think through your actions.

For all your grand talk about unity, what you’re actually doing right now is creating division. You so strongly oppose groups like the Pharisees, but you’re really just switching to a different kind of Phariseeism. That’s not very progressive of you.

You’re even on record as saying,

You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof. (Matthew 10:34–36, REB)

Can’t you see how divisive that is? What you need to do is find common ground with your opponents.

Don’t worry so much about the people they’re oppressing or the harm they’re causing. Just focus on healing the wounds of division between the entrenched camps of your followers and theirs.

Sincerely yours,

A Concerned Friend

In case you haven’t picked up on it, this letter is satire. Let the reader understand.

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  • Rex

    Hi H.H. Your blog is not a satire to me, you’re asking ‘how could Jesus have so many negative character traits and still claim to be the epitome of righteousness?’ Jesus has no manners or even cleverness, he’s just verbal abuse. Compare him with how the prophet Nathan skillfully guided king David into self condemnation (2Sam 12:1-6). Jesus is like a bull in a china shop next to Nathan. Please don’t tell me you have no doubts.

    The Jesus described in the Gospels has many personality traits in common with Caesar, a Caesar who must be rendered to as being equal to God according to Jesus. Despite the Romans brutally conquering Judea and Israel, Jesus has no bad words to say against them, quite the reverse, one Roman has ‘no greater faith, not in all Israel’. His spleen, as you’ve noticed, is reserved for Jews, particularly the leaders. Can this be an impartial account of God’s love for all humanity?

    It’s very possible Jesus worked for Rome to forestall a war of rebellion being planned by the Zealots and Sicarii. Divide and conquer’ was Rome’s tactic. Religions were used as cultural war flags, so Rome attacked their religion by splitting it in two. A political leader who gets his enemies fighting among themselves wins by default. To the Jews, Jesus was a political trouble-maker. This explains why the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels of Mary Magdalene, Phillip, Thomas, and Judas are completely different to Rome’s versions. Someone is lying, and it’s more likely to be Rome. Why would a group of primitive Coptic Christians with no pretensions to political power carefully hide forged texts far from Rome’s ubiquitous destruction? Rome’s reasons for lying and adulterating the Gospels are obvious. PAX ROMANA.

    • Hey, Rex. We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. Jesus issued some certainly harsh but very needed rebukes to those who were abusing their positions of power and oppressing people. There are times for more gentle approaches, and there are times for what we see here. Jesus was a master at both, depending on which was called for in a given situation.

      As for Rome, the canonical Gospels are chock-full of Jesus’ anti-empire ideology. But he followed his own advice to be both innocent as a dove and wise as a serpent. Had he gone in lambasting Rome openly, his crucifixion would have been immediate, and he would not have had the chance to carry out his fuller mission. And the fact that he praised an individual Roman for his faith is no surprise, as Jesus was able to see both the good and the faults in everyone.

      All that to say, the fact of the matter is that the canonical Gospels make Rome look very bad. There’s not a hint therein to suggest that Jesus supported the Pax Romana. He condemned it at every turn.

      • Rex

        Hi Chuck. As you say, Jesus certainly had no latitude to express hostility against Rome, suggesting to me he completed his earthly mission with Rome’s permission. The feeding of the five thousand, with thousands of extra women and children, was a mass meeting that could only have happened if Rome knew there’d be no military uprising.

        Roman centurion Cornelius was apparently instructed by an angel (Acts 10:1-9) to get involved with Peter’s post-Jesus Church, which makes room for a Roman connection too. Peter ended his days in Rome, so a connection is a possibility.

        The interesting character here is Paul, a Roman citizen and Christian who appealed to Caesar for justice. This was despite him later telling the believers they should not appeal to non-believers for justice (1Cor 6:1-3). Should we believe Paul’s words, or his actions? Did Paul change his mind? If so, for what reason?

        On his journey to Rome Paul had an angel of God tell him ‘you shall stand before Caesar’ (Acts 27:24). Thus we can honestly say that Paul’s God validated Caesar as God’s judge, which again affirms a Roman connection at the highest spiritual level. Interestingly, the crucial meeting of Paul and Caesar is not recorded in the Bible despite the prophesy.

        Paul’s words show he was quite at home with Caesar and his people. ‘All the saints salute you, chiefly those that are of Caesar’s household’ (Gal 4:22). Caesar was commander-in-chief of the Roman military and always under threat of assassination. High officials were constantly coming and going. He was protected by the Praetorian guard, and security was tight. No-one got out, or back in without a rigorous security check, especially slaves.

        Caesar’s palace was the equivalent of America’s Pentagon, but Paul wanders in and out keeping in touch with his friends. Obviously he was completely trusted, despite being (apparently) a provincial Jew who’d changed sides, but still mixed with Jews. (Acts 28:17). He has his meeting with Caesar behind closed doors, and the nature of the discussion is not divulged in the book that prophesies it. One possibility for this is the ‘official secrets act’. Significantly, I think, Paul ended his days in Rome too.

        Finally, Jesus at his trial said to Caesar’s agent Pilate; ‘thou could have no power over me except it came from above–‘ (John 19:11). (Referring to God-the-Father of course). With God, Jesus, and Paul all empowering Roman judges, how can a Roman connection not be a possibility? A military explanation is also quite possible. I look forward to your reply.
        Kind Regards, Rex

        • Hey, Rex. I’m going to offer one more brief reply, and then I’ll let you have the last word. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to devote to this particular line of reasoning.

          You could say that Jesus “completed his earthly mission with Rome’s permission” in the sense that they had the power to oppose him (humanly speaking) and did not. In one way or another, every action carried out under Roman occupation was done with their permission (again, humanly speaking). But this merely means that they tolerated him; it does not, to my mind, suggest any kind of Roman conspiracy.

          As for Paul, he could have simply been inconsistent. He was human after all, and the desire to save his own neck may have overridden the ethic he would suggest for others. That said, I do think his personal appeal was of a rather different nature than the kind of lawsuits he spoke against. But I won’t press it. As for his level of freedom, the text makes it pretty clear that he was under house arrest. His alleged crime was not of a violent nature, so there would have been no need to place him under any heavier level of security.

          And finally, in Jesus’ conversation with Pilate, the very statement you quoted was Jesus way of saying that Rome is not in control at all. Jesus was undercutting Pilate’s power, not suggesting collusion.

          • Rex

            Hi Chuck, thank you for your reply. Your site says ‘Hippie Heretic”, and frankly I’m surprised I’m the only commentator. Are we two the only ones who want a synagogue-style discussion? Another thing, you’re no more a heretic than the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury, so to some extent you’ve led me astray. Speaking satirically, you’re a ‘sheep in wolf’s clothing’.

            I believe in a God whose ethic is truth and honesty first, so I’m not a complete heretic either. We must speak the truth in love, and love the speaking of truth, even if it’s not our truth, ‘hosting the dialogue of faith’ is what Patheos is about.

            I’m sorry you are too busy to continue our discussion. Why not ring-fence this neglected site and we can use it at our leisure for private discussions? We both have a goodly knowledge of the scriptures and can see the big picture. I may be able to see stones you would otherwise trip over.

            I agree, Paul cannot be explored too deeply if your faith is weak. Paul ended my Christian walk many years ago with his ‘I speak as a fool’, his ‘I’m the chief of sinners’, his ‘seeking uncircumcision’, and his Satan who improves Christians. Explainable to some extent singly, they nevertheless add up to a pile of wooden nickels for me.

            However his ‘test all things, hold fast to that which is good’ is the essence of science. My faith in God survived Paul’s ‘foolishness of God’, I thank the wisdom of God for that.

            My thoughts are available to you if they can help you, so I’ll leave this blog on my list. If you ever decide to become a real heretic, you can always put down your cross and follow me. (More satire.) So, it’s back to dealing with persons who don’t look at both sides of issues. (Sigh). God bless you with all truth, and thanks once again.
            Kind Regards, Rex

          • Yeah, the “heretic” label is one I’ve chosen to embrace because so many others have thrown it at me. But I don’t really believe I’m a heretic by any objective standard of Christian orthodoxy. Do stick around, and I’ll look forward to your thoughts on future posts. All the best!

          • Rex

            Hi Chuck. You’ve embraced the label, but not the product. I’m picking over the rubbish pits of thought to find the useful things most orthodox Christians throw away. ‘Not offending our friends’ often limits our access to truth. ‘Know the truth and the truth will set you free’ applies in all areas of life, not just Christianity. Don’t become a heretic if you’re useful where you are. There’s no pension fund in being a real heretic.
            Keep in touch, Rex