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Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Was This Jesus?

Dare we say it? In the secret places of our heart - excluding most conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, of course - I believe it's the case that the vast majority of people who would identify as mainline Christians, especially mainline Christians who aren't regular church attenders any more, don't believe in what at one time were the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Since I don't want to put anyone else on the spot, why don't I just play a little Q & A with myself?

Q: Do you believe that Jesus was the biological Son of God?
A: No.

Q: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?
A: I believe that Jesus was the Son of God in a unique, but not exclusive, way because he was fully awake, fully enlightened, and achieved full union with God while still alive. I also believe that all humans are children of God, and that any of us could achieve precisely what Jesus did (union with God) while still alive. I believe the primary thing stopping more of us from doing so, despite the fact that Jesus himself said we would do greater things than he, is that the church has been insisting we cannot for two thousand years and we believed it. We may see some pretty amazing things now that the church is for the most part no longer credible.

Q: Do you believe that Jesus was God Incarnate?
A: I believe we all, every last one of us, are Incarnations of God. Again, most of us are completely unaware of this and so don't even come close to living into it the way Jesus did, but the potential is most definitely there.

Q: Do you believe Jesus died to pay the price for our sins and meet some kind of payment plan that God insisted on?
A: No. In fact, I find such a notion repulsive even as I understand the reasons a first century Jewish Christian might have arrived at that interpretation. How a twenty-first century Christian arrives at that interpretation is another issue.

Q: Do you believe in the literal Virgin Birth?
A: No. In biblical times you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone allegedly born of a virgin. Being born of a virgin was a mythological way of saying that someone was special. It had nothing to do with the status of that person's mother's hymen.

Q: Do you believe the birth stories found in Matthew and Luke are actual, factual accounts?
A: No. They were written much later, some seventy years after the birth of Jesus. Of course, that's not to say that they cannot inform us about how Jesus was understood by his contemporaries - or how he might be understood by us, for that matter, if we learned to abandon our insistence on literalism. Jesus was born in a backwater town long before birth certificates or hospital births. There was nobody there recording events for the record.

Q: Do you believe in the bodily resurrection?
A: I am an agnostic on the bodily resurrection. I wasn't there. I know that something about Jesus, more accurately the Christ in him, did live on - whether physical, spiritual, and/or something else I do not know and it doesn't really matter to me. Something continued, and it was so powerful that it changed the course of human history. It is beyond plausibility that a fictional account contrived by a handful of peasants did all of that. So I believe in the resurrection without feeling the need to define it to death (pun intended).

Q: Who killed Jesus, the Romans or the Jews?
A: The Romans, no doubt about it. The biblical accounts of Jesus "trial" are mythological - there were no court reporters in those days. All of it, including the whole, "release Barabbas" business, is a story designed to convey a truth but not a literal newspaper report. Maybe Pilate did wash his hands, maybe he didn't. The point is we will never know. What we do know from independent sources is that Jesus was crucified. If we choose to, we can spend the rest of our lives pondering the minutiae that may or may not have surrounded those events but to me they matter little. Much more important to me is to discover what the biblical writers were trying to convey and what the stories are calling me to do.

I could go on and on for some time, but by now my point is clear. What's more, I believe if we snuck into most church coffee hours this weekend and spirited the pastor out of the room for safety's sake we could have interesting conversations with the run of the mill church member and get pretty much the same answer to most of the above questions as I gave. In truth I believe we'd get the same answers from the pastor as long as their members weren't around to witness the interview. The question is, why does anyone play the game? I understand it's a requirement of membership, but what organization worth belonging to forces its members to lie in order to remain members? Mind you, there will doubtless be at least one angry comment to this blog post that announces that I am not fit to be called a Christian, and that's fine with me because if Christianity has become a religion where seeking the truth in an honest way is a problem them I don't want to be a Christian. The goal of my spiritual journey isn't religion, it's God, and we have seen far too often in recent history how the former gets in the way of the latter. So why go on pretending? Is Christianity the goal of our journey or is God the goal? I believe there are more than a few churches that have that equation backwards!

Just imagine what might happen if we could have honest conversations about the important questions on the spiritual path. Fortunately, you don't have to imagine. There are places like the organizations I founded, The UAC, and the RHIMES lineage of Interspirituality, where that can happen. There are blogs like this one and sites like my main website where these discussions can be had with honesty and integrity. Why not check places like this out today, and start asking those important questions? Don't let peer pressure keep you from asking the important questions of your life!

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