Jesus Was Killed for Being Too Progressive

Jesus Was Killed for Being Too Progressive April 27, 2016
By James Tissot - Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, 00.159.309_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10904744
By James TissotOnline Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, Public Domain

When mainstream society uses the term “Fundamentalism,” they aren’t referring to a specific Protestant movement or a defined set of theological beliefs, instead they’re describing a stubborn attitude of strictness and close-mindedness that’s affiliated with hate, bigotry, fear, and ignorance.

It’s a term meant to be demeaning and negative.

Contrarily, the term “Progressive” is usually spun in a favorable light, and is associated with groundbreaking ideas, positive reform, and moving forward—not backwards.

If we take these definitions and apply them to Jesus, we can see that Christ was hatefully targeted by “Fundamentalists” for being a revolutionary “Progressive.”

But imagine if God had been fundamental instead of progressive.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve craved absolute control. So instead of giving us minds, hearts, and souls, we would’ve been lifeless beings devoid of any free will.

But God created us with the ability to think, feel and choose—to love, even if it meant chaos, rejection, heartbreak, and sin.

A Fundamentalist God tasked with selecting disciples would’ve created an arduous application process, where distinguished candidates would be tested, quizzed, and rigorously vetted for the sake of weeding out unqualified candidates. Only after a lifetime of preparation and an endless list of accomplishments could you even dream of applying. Eventually, after exhaustive observations, interviews, and examinations, only a lucky handful of the very best professional theologians, spiritual leaders, experts in the law, and religious elite would be chosen.

Instead, Jesus invited ordinary, unqualified, and unknown everyday people to be his disciples.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve required his Son to attend top religious academic institutions, formally learn the law, and successfully navigate through the most elite echelons of rabbinic society.

Instead, Jesus was a carpenter born into a lowly family with no wealth, fame, or fortune.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve gone to a wedding ceremony and sternly warned people about the moral dangers of dancing, frivolity, and intoxication.

Instead, Jesus turned water into wine—very good wine—so that the party could continue.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve used a powerful network of kingdoms, mighty armies, and severe laws to enforce a mandatory ideology.

Contrarily, Jesus uses a ragtag band of followers to create a grassroots movement of meekness, forgiveness, and sacrificial love to form divine relationships.

A Fundamentalist God, upon seeing moneychangers in the temple, would’ve demanded a cut of the profits to build a chain of temples capable of monopolizing communities, creating popularity, building political clout, and establishing power and control.

Instead, Jesus stormed in and overturned the tables, driving out the moneychangers with a whip—confronting corrupt institutionalism.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve followed strict religious customs and enforced “traditional” behavioral guidelines and expectations.

Instead, Jesus committed almost every social faux pas imaginable.

A Fundamentalist God wouldn’t have talked or socialized with women.

But Jesus goes out of his way to talk to women, dine with women, is bankrolled by women, and publicly recognizes the ministry of women.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve avoided the appearance of sin and avoided impropriety at all costs.

But Jesus lets a woman wash his feet with perfume—using her hair!

A Fundamentalist God would’ve treated an adulteress by saying, “Pick up some rocks and stone her to death!”

But Jesus tells the woman she isn’t condemned and asks her to go and sin no more—the mob disperses.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve relied on the most severe adherence to the law when settling legal matters—even corporal punishment.

But Jesus bestows mercy and forgiveness, and instructs us not to judge others.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve followed the Sabbath customs.

But Jesus performed miracles and healings on the Sabbath.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve opportunistically eliminated all enemies.

But Jesus commands people to forgive their enemies and even talks about the traditional archenemies of the Jews—the Samaritans and Romans—in positive terms.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve respected and enforced religious authority.

But Jesus routinely condemns, confronts, and provokes the spiritual leaders of his day, even having the gall to call them hypocrites and a brood of vipers.

A Fundamentalist God would’ve ruthlessly imposed social hierarchies.

But Jesus broke all societal norms by teaching that the first will be last, the poor will be rich, the meek will be powerful, enemies will be forgiven, foreigners will be cared for, the rejected will be loved, and there will be neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female—but all will be one in Christ!

A Fundamentalist God would’ve survived at all costs and avoided the appearance of weakness—even if it meant killing others.

But Jesus condemns violence and sacrificed his own life for the sake of humanity.

Eventually, the religious leaders of Jesus’s time couldn’t take it anymore. For them, Jesus’s love for others was too extreme, too absurd, and too offensive.

In almost every way Jesus was radically progressive, and it was because of this that he was targeted as a heretic, troublemaker, and criminal. People wanted him dead.

Throughout His entire ministry Jesus was slandered, abused, hated, and persecuted for many things, but not once was he ever accused of being too conservative, or too careful, or too legalistic, or too safe, or too restrained, or too orthodox.

Jesus was killed because he never would, did, or want to conform to religious and cultural expectations. Jesus was a progressive maverick.

For the Fundamentalists of Jesus’s day it was inconceivable that he would dare question the strict rules, regulations, and expectations of their religion. They were incapable of seeing any other way beyond their own predetermined and narrow-minded path.

When we idolize tradition, crave power, judge, hate, and are fearful of change we can similarly become anti-Jesus.

It wasn’t long ago that Christians were fearful—some still are—of changing their practices of baptism, communion, and liturgy, and resisted the use of music in services, stubbornly fought against ending slavery, persistently endorsed segregation, spoke out against interracial marriage, refused to empower women, denied them the right to preach from a pulpit, and didn’t defend the human rights of anyone who was an outcast or social minority.

We didn’t want to forsake our religion for the sake of God’s love.

Some of today’s Christians continue to reject Christ by refusing to acknowledge racism, oppression, injustice, hate, and inequality. Instead of loving others they want to reject refugees, deport immigrants, and legally discriminate against people they view as “immoral.” They refuse aid to the poor, succumb to xenophobic rhetoric, selfishly hoard wealth, crave power, perpetuate fear, and yearn to kill their enemies.

These modern Christians are guilty of being like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned—having a fundamentalist mindset.

Thankfully, God isn’t a fundamentalist. God is love.

But imagine if God’s love for us was divinely described as being conservative, restrained, wary, oppressive, judgmental, and limited. What if God’s love could be taken away on a whim?

Imagine how horrible God’s love would be if it were regressive instead of progressive.

It’s unthinkable that God would be stingy with love, that there would be increased stipulations to who could get it, how it could be taken, and when it could be received.

The notion that God’s love is prohibitive goes against the entire gospel message.

Ironically, one of the only things Jesus tells us to be conservative about is judging others.

Unfortunately, a restricted love that is accusatory and riddled with guilt is often what Christians communicate to the world around them. They assume God’s love is only for particular people who believe particular things and act in particular ways. Instead of God’s love being generously given to everyone, it’s rarely given to anyone.

The reality is that God’s love is boundless—infinite.

This doesn’t mean that our world has succumbed to moral relativism or that there’s no such thing as sin or any differentiation between right and wrong, it simply means that God loves everyone—and so should we.

God’s love is for you.

So let’s pray that we can love others to the extent that Jesus did, beyond all practical sense and logical reason—beyond our own cultural and religious norms. God help us.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tim Kennedy

    Unfortunately, your basic premise in starting with your definitions are completely subjective and therefor, your entire argument is false. Sorry. And Jesus didn’t say to invite a man into your home who’s armed and has repeatedly stated he wants to and is planning to kill you. Jesus didn’t ask us to be irrational and stupid.

    • tyler

      jesus was actually pretty clear about how to treat people that mean you harm:

      “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

      that is matthew 5:39, incidentally. regarding the “jesus didn’t want us to be irrational and stupid” part, well,

      Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      it seems to be a recurring theme in the gospels that “righteousness in god” is not synonymous with “pragmatic” or “practical,” or even “wise”…

      and regarding your objection to the usage of fundamentalist and progressive, here are the relevant dictionary definitions, sans the connotations:

      Fundamentalist: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles (via merriam-webster)

      The contemporary common political conception of progressivism in the culture of the Western world emerged from the vast social changes brought about by industrialization in the Western world in the late 19th century, particularly out of the view that progress was being stifled by vast economic inequality between the rich and the poor; minimally regulated laissez-faire capitalism with out-of-control monopolistic corporations; and intense and often violent conflict between workers and capitalists, thus claiming that measures were needed to address these problems.[4] (via wikipedia, because every definition on the online dictionary appears to be “what progressives believe in”)

      needless to say, the examples our host provided appear to fall much more in line with a concern for “vast economic inequality” than for a “strict and literal adherence” to scripture.

  • Al Cruise

    It’s laughable when people use the, intruder into their house, as a wholesale justification for violence. Jesus is referring to a different kind of violence. It’s the violence used by fundamentalists, not for self defense, but simply because people oppose their views. Christian fundamentalists have relied on violence to impose their views throughout history and not because of “self defense”. White Christian fundamentalists enforced their right to own slaves solely with the use of extreme violence. In modern times Christian fundamentalists bombed Churches with children inside. Small school girls were a threat to them?? Atrocities fueled by fundamentalist beliefs on native Americans was often beyond the pale. Most of the violence against LGBT people has it’s roots in Christian Fundamentalism. The list goes on. I strongly suggest that some of these commentators need to take a history lesson. Using the ” person breaking into my house” as an argument to distort the teaching of Jesus is irrational and stupid. Fundamentalism and the inability to critically think are synonymous.

    • webejustsayin

      I would clarify Al’s last line to say “the inability to think critically about the Bible and Jesus’ life and teachings.” I don’t believe the fundamentalist argument is stupid; I believe the argument is made out of fear, and lack of real faith, and Biblical instruction. So we have work to do.

      • Al Cruise

        True, and I would argue that the gatekeepers of fundamentalism know exactly what they are doing.

  • JM

    TIM KENNEDY:
    Your comment makes no sense. Stop trolling. Otherwise, I’ll have to waste valuable time explaining to you and the internet why you’re wrong. And we all know how well that works, LOL https://xkcd.com/386/

  • Arbustin

    The Fundamentalist God you imagine already had decreed that there could only be one place that the Torah’s system of sacrifices could be performed (Deut. 12). Why would he want a chain of temples? You’re tripping over yourself in an effort to paint the “religious leaders of the day” as diabolical.

    • landsart

      As indeed they were

  • Suzanna Turner

    Damn Straight Cindy. Preach it girl.

  • BrotherRog

    Indeed. God isn’t a fundamentalist. Thank God that God is love.
    Re: Why They Killed Jesus, I suppose you could call it being progressive. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/06/why-they-killed-jesus-2/

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like chrsitianity”

  • Al Cruise

    Donald Trump loves you.

  • Arlene Adamo

    Yes!

  • Frank

    Jesus would not recognize what passes for progressive Christianity today.

  • Brandon Roberts

    um jesus was killed for claiming to be the messiah and posing a threat to the roman empire and pharisees (i could be getting the pharisees part wrong)

    • buricco

      That’s because the Pharisees were the fundamentalists of his day and his social milieu.

  • Mark Rich

    I quite agree with the author about his argument. It’s just that I would also like us to be more specific about the issue over which Jesus chose to get himself killed.
    In Mark 11:15b-18a: “And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, and he would not allow anyone to carry anything into the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him…”
    Jesus stopped the sacrificial system in the temple, both the sale in animals and people bringing in their own animals. He not only took a side in the centuries-long debate over whether there should be sacrifices and whether God had in fact commanded them (see Amos, Hosea, Micah, first Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Psalms 40, 50, and 51), he actually went into the temple to stop them. He thus forced the chief priests to kill him, because all of their power and authority was based on the belief that God had in fact commanded them. It was either them or him at that point, and they knew it and he knew it.
    The best reference book I know of in this regard is Pinchas Lapide’s The Resurrection of Jesus.
    The moral/spiritual point here is that all forms of victimization are banned by Jesus, and that furthermore, becoming a victim in the cause of God for peace and life is the highest of all callings.

    • wickedethicist

      It wasn’t necessarily that Jesus opposed all sacrifice (at least, before he sacrificed himself; after the crucifixion, further sacrifice was considered unnecessary). The moneychangers were there to help the priests of Jerusalem make money through the sale of sacrificial animals. Pilgrims to Jerusalem were expected to sacrifice the best of their livestock, and the priests had a practice of rejecting the animals brought along for the purpose and selling their own instead. Whatever his feelings on animal sacrifice, Jesus was clearly against priests exploiting the tradition for money–hence the “robbers” comment.

  • AlanCK

    There has got to be a better, more theological appropriate word than “progressive” to describe the location of people who are detoxing from fundamentalism and narrow forms of evangelicalism. While well meaning, “progressive” is a term that nevertheless still frames and subjects God’s freedom to the dictates of culture. A truer naming of the escape from fundamentalism and certain forms of evangelicalism into a larger world would be along the lines of “dynamic”, a word which has a much greater correspondence with God’s Triune life. All the word “progressive” does is define those who were once “static” and label them as those who now in “flux”. And God is not flux.

    • webejustsayin

      No, but life is. And we progress through that. Hence, progressive.

      It’s just a word. You can call the process whatever you like.

  • Seraphim Hamilton

    Congratulations, you win the “Most Pretentious Post of the Year” award. If you get to define “Fundamentalist” and then you get to label traditional Christians as “Fundamentalist” (thereby associating them with all the nasty, horrible, things you described above), then of course you win by default. Just to take a few points:

    “A Fundamentalist God would’ve required his Son to attend top religious academic institutions, formally learn the law, and successfully navigate through the most elite echelons of rabbinic society.”

    Interesting- so I suppose liberal Christians will stop appealing to the academic consensus? Finally.

    “Instead, Jesus was a carpenter born into a lowly family with no wealth, fame, or fortune.”

    Carpenters were part of the top ten percent of Judean society.

    “A Fundamentalist God, upon seeing moneychangers in the temple, would’ve demanded a cut of the profits to build a chain of temples capable of monopolizing communities, creating popularity, building political clout, and establishing power and control.”

    This is bizarre. My experience with Protestant fundamentalist preachers is that they usually are relatively poor. Perhaps you are referring to Prosperity Gospel folks, who don’t fit the traditional use of the word “fundamentalist.”

    “A Fundamentalist God would’ve relied on the most severe adherence to the law when settling legal matters—even corporal punishment.”

    Like Jesus whipping folks at the Temple?

    “But Jesus bestows mercy and forgiveness, and instructs us not to judge others.”

    And calls the religious leadership the sons of Satan.

    “A Fundamentalist God would’ve respected and enforced religious authority.

    But Jesus routinely condemns, confronts, and provokes the spiritual leaders of his day, even having the gall to call them hypocrites and a brood of vipers.”

    Yeah, exactly. Dude, you guys run the Mainline Churches! Stop pretending to exist on the fringes.

    “A Fundamentalist God would’ve followed the Sabbath customs.

    But Jesus performed miracles and healings on the Sabbath.”

    The point of the healings is that this was the message of the Sabbath in the first place. That’s why Jesus mentions liberating one’s ox on the Sabbath day. Israel is the ox (and is described symbolically as such in the Pentateuch and prophets) liberated from the pit of death in the exodus, in which God granted Sabbath rest. This isn’t Jesus flouting the Scriptures, it’s Him affirming the Scriptures.

    “Jesus was killed because he never would, did, or want to conform to religious and cultural expectations. Jesus was a progressive maverick.”

    You’re not a maverick, man. Your views place you firmly in the mainstream of American society.

    A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In reality, your closest parallel in the first-century would probably be the Sadducees, whose views allowed them to cozy up to the mainstream of their society and who rejected most of the Scriptures.

    Those who find that their “Jesus” fits precisely with the Republican Party platform should be suspicious, true.

    But so should those who find that their “Jesus” is a card-carrying Democrat.