Editor’s Note: Hello! The Rational Doubt Blog is back — with one of the things it does best: featuring Clergy Project members. In this case, a member reviews a book that another member wrote. May you enjoy the book as much as you enjoy this excellent review of it. /Linda LaScola, Editor
By Alexis Record
Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words by David Madison is a well-reasoned missive that doesn’t back down.
While I usually avoid titles that seem antagonist or presumptuous, this one made a clear case for its thesis and didn’t waste a single page arguing its points. I quickly moved it to my shelf of useful books I’d be referring to again.
In 2016, Madison wrote a similar title: Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief.
In my review of that book for Rational Doubt several years ago, I described the author’s conversational tone as…
“gently irascible, oft-repetitive, and highly relatable.”
Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught is instead crisp and concise while remaining just as personal. The subtle change is perhaps due to Madison’s collaboration with Tim Sledge from Inciting Growth Publications. I found it made the subject material more pointed and convincing.
It takes some guts to take on Jesus: Madison was up for the task.
This particular biblical character elicits strong feelings in readers, yet Jesus has been stretched and bent so much over the convening two thousand years since his invention that there is no action outside of his character.
- You love a peacenik, sandal-wearing Jesus that is an example of loving-kindness? There’s a version of that.
- Bloody warrior in the sky Jesus? Sure.
- Radical cult leader Jesus telling people to hate their families and drink his blood? The Bible’s got you.
When a Christian looks to the biblical Jesus to decide rather they should turn the other cheek or strike someone down with a sword, the answer is yes!
Madison made it clear that not only is the paragon version of Jesus not the one most people follow, but the darker version who invented the concept of eternal torture is equally ignored. It’s not the believer’s fault, since no healthy person can follow all these teachings. I know this full well; as harsh as my fundamentalist life was and as much as I suffered due to its limitations and strictures, I fell short of many of Madison’s list of ten teachings. Well short.
I loved how Madison stuck to the biblical text version of Jesus that has caused a lot of harm instead of the pop culture version that is morally superior. This may be a spoiler for those new to biblical study, but Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who is recorded as claiming the world would end in his disciples’ lifetime.
Some people can’t figure out why many of the things Jesus teaches were taught in the first place, e.g.:
- Turning the other cheek
- Giving away all one’s earth possessions
- Not having a savings account
- Not being concerned with how to feed yourself or clothe yourself, etc.
For those people, it makes more sense to imagine Jesus on a street corner holding up one of those cardboard signs stating the end is near. Your life is simply not important when there’s a fireball coming!
If the world is ending, there isn’t time to be tied to family obligations either. That helps explain Jesus telling a young man not to bury his father and telling families to hate their children or parents if they are not also followers. I remember praying as a small child that I would not love my mommy more than God for this very reason. There’s just simply no time to be bogged down with anyone not on task of issuing in God’s Kingdom.
Of course, oops! The world went on. Those who ignored Jesus’ teachings on mutilating their bodies or ruining their relationships were better off for it.
It’s not just Christians; we all wish Jesus hadn’t taught these things. Madison is just mad enough to say it out loud.
Bio: Alexis Record is a feminist, humanist, ex-Christian atheist, and mother to children with disabilities. She devoted the first 30 years of her life to Christian study and service due to indoctrination, and is working to repair the years the locusts have eaten.