On meeting Jesus – an imagined argument
By Parson Thru
Thu, 29 Oct 2015
I had an imagined argument. It was along the lines of “What would you ask Jesus if you met him?”
It bubbled to the surface whilst thinking about the wealth of The Church and the very human aspect of its organisation, its hierarchy and its rules. Don’t forget that you might be tortured and killed for breaking those rules not so very long ago – and in some places, under some codes, you still can be.
Who are these holier-than-thou people (men, mostly) who administer the code? Whose rules are they and where did they come from? Perhaps most importantly: why?
Don’t go waving scripture at me. Someone wrote all that stuff. The Old Testament contains stories that make me squirm with discomfort – tricking a dying man into passing his inheritance to the wrong (younger) son. Just an example. The New Testament kind of starts off well. As good an account of the actions and words of a man named Jesus as we have, and of the actions of those around him. He appears to have lived by example, reminded people about some principles that guide good behaviour – respect for one another and so on – many from earlier scripture, many by simply doing. He was a reformer, but the religion he came to reform wasn’t really listening. So his followers formed a sect, which became the religion of the Gentiles. From that point on, the plot gets murky for me. In fact pretty-much everything from the first three gospels on becomes instrumental. Who wrote all that stuff, and why? In essence, it’s what those people wrote that became Christianity. The man they called Christ disappears into the mists of time.
I don’t know enough about the other two Abrahamic religions to form a real argument, but one looks suspiciously like a book of rules designed to maintain a patriarchy that harbours a deep fear of female sexuality.
In the main, Christianity has reformed. It had to. Endless and disastrous wars of religious freedom saw to that. But the intent was / is there, particularly in the established traditional church. Why is an organisation that manipulates the weak and uneducated into believing everything it has written and endorsed – its rules – a good thing for humanity? If the transgression of those rules might result in excommunication from church and community, torture or death, how is that a good thing, and how does that relate to a message of compassion and love attributed to a man called Jesus?
Heresy. Never a good thing to be accused of by religious authorities. Stretched on the rack, turned on the wheel, burned at the stake – why? Was the heretical argument so strong that it was worth subjecting another human being to such torment? Was the orthodoxy so weak?
Palaces. Why do the senior clergy live in palaces? Why are churches so richly decorated? Why so much gold? Why do clergy have to dress in furs and wear great, ugly gold rings? Why have they traditionally come from rich and powerful clans and gorged themselves on food and drink? Where does Jesus fit into all that? What is the thing with status and wealth?
Well. One thing that springs to mind is that Christianity was eventually adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire – The State.
It’s no accident that The Church split into Western and Eastern, in the same manner that the Empire itself did. The Western Church is, of course, still based in Rome. The Church was established as an arm of State. In fact, it still is – the last surviving part of the Roman State – the Roman Empire. Autonomous from everything that collapsed and burned around it. The Anglican Church? Same deal, just appropriated from Rome by that English Caesar, Henry. It largely follows the same book of rules.
So. Where is spirituality in all of this? Well, I don’t think it involves filling a building (grand or small) with strong-smelling smoke. No, that isn’t the Holy Spirit you can smell. It doesn’t involve grandeur and it doesn’t involve theatre – or costume. You see, I believe in the spirit. A matter of having to, really. I’ve had two encounters over the years with things that there just is no explanation for – you might call them ghosts, presences, I don’t know. Here’s your chance to stop reading (if you haven’t already). You could say I’m deluded, that I suffer from hallucination. Fine. But so, then, do the people who experienced those things at the same time. They seem pretty normal people to me. Anyway, unless I turn on my own sanity and deny it, I have to say that I believe there’s more to this world than usually meets the eye.
From a spiritual point of view, I think it’s a great shame that ambitious, powerful and insecure men have built this great self-serving structure down the millennia that obscures and contradicts the simple beauty that lies behind it. Religion as an arm of State has abandoned its meaning and its spirituality and joined with those who work against the message of peace, love, charity and protection of the weak from the strong.
As for meeting Jesus. I could never say my hands are unbloodied and my copy-book clean, but I might be in a better position than most who've led The Church and other major religions. I would actually like to meet him. I reckon he was an alright person. We really don’t have much to go on as far as the historical character goes – the Synoptic gospels are as good as it gets. I’ve lent my copy of Geza Vermes’ “The Changing Faces of Jesus” to a friend, but will pick it up again when she’s finished. A “Life of Mohammed” about Jesus would have been a good idea at the time. They obviously learned a lot in six hundred years about the value of recording events and people. Instead, we have theatre, propaganda and befuddlement. But none of that has done The Church any harm.
When I was very small, my father and the local priest had an argument about who owned me and choices about my education. My father decided that he did. The Roman Catholic Church was never particularly welcoming of me after that. I got to watch, mostly. When I was about seven or eight, I went along to the Elim Pentacostal Church Sunday School for a while. Just got on the bus outside our house and went. I’m not really an expert, but that Sunday School to me seemed a lot closer to wherever Jesus might be, or have been.
I’m carrying a Kindle (he’s armed!), but the only actual book I’ve brought along is a recent Penguin edition of Lorca’s poems. He’s Spanish, probably a heretic, some would say a blasphemer, but when I read his words I read the words of a complete human being. I hear his spirit crying out in the wind. I hear his honesty.
Needless to say, I’m fond of all honest writers. In fact, I need them. We all need to open up our hearts.
The views along the Camino are stunning, the history is captivating, the people are beautiful (warts and all) – that’s why I’m here. I placed another makeshift twig-cross among the many thousands in and around the fence today and said a prayer for those who might need it, and for peace in the world. It’s needed as much today as it’s ever been.