Editor’s Note: As we near the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it’s good to be reminded of a few facts about him. Who better to set us straight than a seminary graduate? True, he’s left the fold, but it makes him more equipped, in my opinion, to sort through the myths, present the facts and ask the right questions. After all, he learned about this stuff in grad school, not in Sunday school! /Linda LaScola, Editor
By Chris Highland
Jesus was not the founder of the Church or the Religion that calls itself by his name.
He overturned the religious community and continually challenged and contradicted religious leaders. Why does the Church think he was only concerned about Jewish leadership and not all religious authorities?
So Peter’s “confession of faith” as “the rock” upon which Jesus will “build my ecclesia” has nothing to do with the institution or the religion built in his name (those who think sohave to explain why they do not “give up all your possessions,” esteem the poor and powerless (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven”) above all religious authorities, and why they worship someone who insisted people worship God alone)
We don’t know exactly what he said or did, but the writings we do have do not support the “Religion of Christ”
What we have in the gospels and the writings of Paul are apocalyptic stories and teachings that demanded listeners give up their lives and die with their radical rabbi. Those who choose to do that are 2000 years too late.
Preaching “the End” and the imminent “Kingdom” does not correlate with creating a religious community that grew to power over centuries through ignoring or denying the most basic teachings of Jesus.
Most of the Bible is either ignored or misused by those who say it is “God’s Holy Word”.
No one in my experience has ever been a “follower of Jesus”
Any follower of the life and lessons of this man would not last long, living a short and painful life, especially in a “Christian culture” where “believing” is central and creeds and theologies are the tests of correct believing.
Jesus was blunt and harsh, as apocalyptic prophets are. He said he did not come to bring peace and unity but a sword of division. He instructed any serious disciples to “hate” (turn away, detach and be set against … in other words, to hate) family and any attachments to people or possessions.
My sense is that if Jesus wandered back, he would be deeply disappointed that his message was lost, along with him.
So, it seems the appropriate time for secular freethinkers to Save Jesus (those who actually want to “follow” him can help). We might even save him from himself, comforting him while helping him see what happened to his whole life’s message:
“Jesus, do you know that what you said and did has been essentially ignored by the majority of people in history who made faith all about worshipping YOU and dreaming of heaven?”
“Jesus, much of what you said doesn’t seem to work out too well in the real world, even Your People are divided, and that’s probably because you thought the end was coming. Don’t you think it’s time to have a do-over, to update the message for today? We can all work on that together. You’re not alone. We’re here for you.”
He may even “call” us, “commission” us, and “choose” us to save him, and anything salvageable from his life and teachings. This might begin with placing the bibles in museums, opening sanctuaries for … sanctuary … and for educational discussions about what Religion (and Life itself) could be, following its salvation, and the salvation–the healing and recovery– of the human being once known as Christ.
For heaven’s sake, let’s save Jesus!
Bio: Chris Highland was a minister and chaplain for many years in the SF Bay Area. Now teaching courses on Freethought in Asheville, North Carolina, he writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Citizen-Times. His new book, A Freethinker’s Gospel, is now available from Pisgah Press. Chris has been a member of The Clergy Project since 2012. To learn more, see https://chighland.com . The above post is reprinted with permission from his blog.
>>>>>Photo credits: By Pietro Perugino – http://surveyofwesternart.haloslinkup.net/studymaterial/276_delivery_keys.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8385182