Saturday, July 29, 2006

The 21st Century Jesus

Speaking for Jesus politically is difficult because it is darn near impossible to get an interview with the Savior to get His opinion on the hot topics of the day... though certain tele-evangelists claim to have personally bridged that little divide... and other common folk, by the humble and sacrificial lives they lead, seem like they just might be privy to a sacred one-on-one. I fall into neither of these categories, but since I have an opinion about most everything... I will foolishly speak for the Almighty, and suggest how He might live as a Jewish American... if he came back as a man to dwell among us for a while.

Jesus knows that the physical universe (as opposed to what we'll call the real world) has a life span, and he knows exactly when this temporary world will die. He knows the Earth was created perfectly adequate to it's purpose. So I can't see him as an environmentalist, although since He welcomes praise for the beauty and magnificence of the Earth, He would never litter or erect a billboard.

Jesus wouldn't be in favor of hiring a homosexual as a teacher or a scoutmaster because He would want to protect His little ones from the influence of evil... and, he would want to protect the homosexual, that He loves, from the damning effects of that influence. And he wouldn't hire a promiscuous heterosexual for the exact same reason.

He would take a weekend and drive to Virginia and have a long talk with Pat Robertson, and then give him a big hug.

He would favor lower taxes because it would mean He would have more money to do good things and help the poor. He would pray for, and witness to... the lazy, as He allowed them to flounder and fail. But there would be no poor widow or disabled person in His neighborhood that would go without His help.

Jesus wouldn't talk on a cell phone while driving.

He would see the open border with Mexico as an invitation for law-breaking and so He would support the building of a fence. When an illegal crossed His path He would help him in any legal way that He could, and terms like wet-back and towel-head would not lounge in His vocabulary.

Based on what I have read in the Old and New Testaments, Jesus would hate war but support the use of power to accomplish good. He would pray for the soldiers, for a righteous outcome, and for peace.

He would spend an entire morning talking with Joni Eareckson-Tada, and then they would spend the afternoon together playing tennis.

He would be color-blind. When He filled out a form that asked for His race, He would leave that part blank... because it would annoy Him.

Jesus would hate abortion and put His money where His mouth was, supporting un-wed mothers and facilitating adoption.

He would support the death penalty, but aggressively work to save the souls of those on death row through prison ministry.

Jesus would of course support Israel and daily pray for her... and for a change in her neighbors' hearts.

Jesus would have one TV, but it would almost never be on, except in the fall when Notre Dame played football. (Maybe.)

Jesus would live humbly and He would be frugal. He would have one home and drive one vehicle, a big pick-up with a very scratched-up bed. His surplus income would be distributed between His church and charitable organizations... and He would stick a little in His retirement savings. He would rarely travel more than fifty miles from His home.

He would be single. When a pretty girl walked by, he would turn his head and think of Notre Dame football.

When He needed to relax He would go to a lake and fish, and He would be very, very good at it.

I think I know which church He would attend, but regardless... He would concentrate on those things that unite us rather than the topics which divide. He would love Church parties. He would cherish and cater to the old folk in His Church... as an example to the young.

There would always be plenty of food at His Church's picnics.

He would look a lot like Jim Caviezel and He would be the best neighbor EVER.

He would be ultra-liberal with His love, and ultra-conservative in His adherence to the truth.

You might see Him one day getting out of His truck at Home Depot. He would notice you staring at Him and He would stroll over with a big smile. He would put His hands on your shoulders and whisper, "Now I want you to stop worrying... You're mine, and I'm not letting go."

32 comments:

SkyePuppy said...

I agree with everything, except one.

He would rarely travel more than fifty miles from His home.

He would go to other places regularly (but not constantly), because there are people at other Home Depots who need to have His hands on their shoulders and His reassurance that they're His and He's not letting go.

Beautiful.

Malott said...

Skyepuppy

When I wrote this I knew you'd have trouble with the lack of travel. I was kind of referring to the fact that he never really travelled all that far during his ministry... but you probably realized that.

SkyePuppy said...

Chris,

He went so many places. Galilee, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Bethany (I know, that wasn't far from Jerusalem). He even went into Samaria just to touch the life of one woman. So I think He'd do more traveling than you think He would.

He probably wouldn't drive around the country in a motorhome, though.

janice said...

This is such a beautiful post, in many ways I've imagined Him just as you described, even the Home Depot visit and owning a truck.

FKAB said...

I've often wondered what Jesus would do if he were around today. I think it's pointless to postulate which political side he would favour, because I can think of a few dozen reasons why he would be extreme left, extreme right, and all the shades of grey between.

I think you're right that he would be ultra-liberal with his love, because this is how many Christians try to portray him.

However, I have some issues with adherence to God's commandments. I don't need to tell a Christian that part of God's holy book is, well, pretty evil. I find it hard to believe that a peace loving pacifist like Jesus would support such a tyrannical old terrorist dictator.

(Oh yes, I am ready for the angry retorts. Bring it on!)

Malott said...

fkab,

Nice to see you back.

First of all, I choose to believe the Bible, and that Jesus and the Creator are the same, and that the clearest, most descriptive view we have of the Creator is the life and teachings of Christ.

I think once you choose to accept that, accept the "saving" part of Jesus'life and death... and begin to seek Him... he deals with you in a supernatural way, and reveals his true nature to you.

Like you, I have trouble with his commandments. I have trouble being generous. I have trouble with lust. I have trouble loving my fellow man. But He is working on me.

As far as his Holy Book being evil, Spinoza, a philosopher I think you would appreciate, said that man has no business judging God by man's "little notions" of right and wrong. It's His creation... His ballgame. Fkab, part of faith is "surrendering" to the only One that can fill that big hole in your heart.

But part of my faith tells me that you probably already know that.

Anyway, it was great to see you back.

Malott said...

Janice,

Thanks.
I'd like to be like that guy.
I've got the truck...

jihadi tracker said...

That's a great retort to fkab Chris. I too have challenges living my faith. Part of being mortal is our imperfection. If we were made to, forced to love Him in a "perfect" world, I believe God would be bored. He could have made us that way, but He didn't. He gave us free will, the choice is ours to seek, find and submit to His will and accept His loving grace and salvation. It's a choice.

You'll seek Him when you've tried everything else and it just can't be fixed. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize you need Him to save you from yourself.

SkyePuppy said...

FKAB,

God's Holy Book is all a unified whole. The "terrorist" Old Testament and the "pacifist" New Testament. The Law of Moses and the Grace of Jesus. God's work to create a new nation and God's work to create new individuals.

It starts with His ideal and the Fall. Then it shows how He chose a people to be His own and taught them His will through the Law and began working in the hearts of some of them. Finally, it shows how He came to earth as a man to teach us that He wants His will to be written in our hearts.

His will has always been the same: a relationship with us. The Bible is the story of how He gets (us) there.

A unified whole.

FKAB said...

I'm starting to get the impression that I am the only one who has read the Bible. Ironic is the word that comes to mind.

You might feel comfortable living in your convenient watered down version of Christianity, where only the good stuff is preached and the rest is left to ignorance, but if your God really exists and the Bible is his word then I would think that you are as much inviolation of his word than I am.

Jus' saying.

FKAB said...

in violation*

Christina said...

fkab,

I don't presume to have all the answers, but I would guess that all who have posted to you already have indeed also read the Bible, as have I. The question I would pose is, have you done more than simply "read" the Bible? Understanding the Bible requires studying it, the historical time period in which it was written, understanding of the original language, etc... Merely a cursory reading, as one would do with a novel, is not enough.

I can see how many people who have "read" the Bible would come to similar conclusions as you. However, from all the studies that I have done, and the explanations I have heard (from very well-educated people) over the years, the Bible never ever contradicts itself, it is historically accurate and its words are as true today as they were when they were first written.

By the way, I don't go to a church where "only the good stuff is preached and the rest is left to ignorance..." At my church, the preachers read directly from the Bible (one even reads from the original Greek and/or Hebrew translations) and they don't gloss over what it says.

Are there churches out there that do only preach the "good stuff"? You bet, and they are doing a huge disservice to Christianity, but there are also some very good Christian churches that do their best to teach all that the Bible has to say, IN (and with historical)CONTEXT. Without the proper context, the Bible does seem contradictory and confusing...I'd be the first to admit it. But with in-depth study and the desire to understand what God is saying, the words take on a deeper and clearer meaning.

There's a lot more to understanding Christianity than simply reading the Bible, though that's a great place to start. An open mind and a desire to dig deeper are also necessary.

FKAB said...

Without the proper context, the Bible does seem contradictory and confusing...I'd be the first to admit it. But with in-depth study and the desire to understand what God is saying, the words take on a deeper and clearer meaning.

A hackneyed line, one that I don't buy.

If you're saying that God's laws apply as you see fit, then this doesn't say a whole lot about your faith. Using the old context argument is tired, and more than just a little bit weak. God's word is supposed to be infallible and eternal, so it is not adequate to simply disregard some icky or uncomfortable bits purely because you disagree with it. Either the Bible is God's infallible word (and in which case you must obey everything in it) or it is an ancient storybook.

The fact that you would ignore certain parts only reaffirms my belief that you only believe in your God out of convenience.

Malott said...

fkab,

I'm not sure what "parts" you're talking about.

The part that always disturbed me the most was the killing that the Israelites did when they took the Promised Land.

Anyway, I think your reason probably tells you that there is a Creator, although you may not like Him. And since so many who witnessed the life of Christ were martyred rather than deny Him, I think you probably believe He has a connection with Creation.

Maybe you are conflicted because you are saddling God with your middle-class morality, your sense of fairness, your preferences, and sense of justice... which is very presumptuous... like you coming to my house and telling me how to arrange my living room.

But it all comes back to the accepting and surrendering that I wrote of before. Still, I know you are a very bright person, and somehow I think you know all this already, but you just don't like it.

But I would definitely caution against divining God's character by examining His Church. We try, but for the most part we are poor examples of our Savior... I think you might agree? So may I suggest that you instead look directly to Him?

Thanks again for taking the time to post.

jihadi tracker said...

fkab, Christina didn't say we ignore the "icky" parts. What parts are "icky" in your "mind"? In the OT when our Lord commanded the killing of some tribe that went against God and was corupt? I agree with the killing of those that disrupt the social order, just as I do today. I don't find that "icky" I find it to be true as true as it is today.

jihadi tracker said...

Very well said Chris, you ARE a kind and gentle soul.

FKAB said...

Anyway, I think your reason probably tells you that there is a Creator, although you may not like Him. And since so many who witnessed the life of Christ were martyred rather than deny Him, I think you probably believe He has a connection with Creation.

Er, no.

Andrew said...

FKAB,

I have chosen not to respond to you before, because it is clear that you have preconceived notions and are unwilling to contemplate the possibility that you are wrong. However, I merely want to point out that you are doing a disservice to yourself, and others, when you reframe comments made by others to suggest they are saying things they aren't.

Nowhere in Christina's post does she say, as you suggest, that she only applies God's laws as she sees fit. You made that up out of whole cloth.

Next, you say, "[u]sing the old context argument is tired, and more than just a little bit weak." Why? It seems only common sense and good scholarship to attempt to discern the context of the historical text that a person is studying. For example, the passage in which Jesus washes his disciples feet seems silly to us today. Without the proper historical understanding of this tradition, it likely would make little sense to the modern reader. Your desire to flippantly disregard the importance of understanding the historical nature of the Bible in the proper context belies your unwillingness to part from your preconceived notions.

You attack Christina's post with: "God's word is supposed to be infallible and eternal, so it is not adequate to simply disregard some icky or uncomfortable bits purely because you disagree with it. Either the Bible is God's infallible word (and in which case you must obey everything in it) or it is an ancient storybook."

Again, you are putting words in her mouth. She clearly states that: "the Bible never ever contradicts itself, it is historically accurate and its words are as true today as they were when they were first written." In other words, the Bible is infallible.

You conclude with: "The fact that you would ignore certain parts only reaffirms my belief that you only believe in your God out of convenience." Once again, nowhere in Christina's post does she say she ignores parts of the Bible. Just what parts do you think she (or any of us) is ignoring? Instead, to paraphrase you, I would assert that the fact that you would ignore certain parts of Christina's post only reaffirms my belief that you only deny the existence of God because of your decision to ignore evidence and logic to the contrary.

As I said before, I have no desire to debate with you, largely because you seem primarly interested in twisting the words of others to paint them into the stereotype within which you want them to fit. The "icky" parts of the Bible, as you call them, are understandable in historical context and in the context of a just and holy God. His willingness to send His Son to receive my punishment for me, however, also demonstrates his sincere love for me, and all mankind. The gift of salvation is free to all those who wish to accept it.

You may choose to ignore it, and even scoff at it, if you wish. God permits us each the free will to do so. Just remember, however, that if you ultimately turn out to be mistaken, the end result will be an eternity of something much more "icky" than anything you dislike in the Old Testament.

Christina said...

fkab,

Several other people have addressed your comments in a much more eloquent fashion than I probably will. I wholeheartedly agree with them and appreciate their help in further explaining my position.

I won't reiterate what has already been said, but I would like to pin you down on what you consider "the icky parts" of the Bible. If you truly want to debate, if you are honestly trying to figure out how to reconcile certain parts of the Bible with your understanding of Christianity, then please give us some examples of the parts you find contradictory. You've got to do more than mention "icky parts" to truly contribute to the continuation of this debate.

If you sincerely want to understand why those of us here choose to live as Christians, then give us your questions and allow us to try to answer them. I will do whatever I can to help clarify matters. If I don't know the answer, I'll find someone who does. However to continue to twist words and simply make very false assumptions about what others here believe is not a fair tactic, particularly in a debate.

janice said...

Andrew & Christina, very well put. I see everyone else trying
(to no avail) to pin this guy down.

You guys played bad cop/good cop extremely well. (poor Em)
Andrew point by point, fact by fact got right to it with NO wiggle room. Outstanding!
Then we have Christina, with her kind, directional mothering. Ready to help answer the hard questions. Again, with no wiggle room. You guys were great, Bravo!

SkyePuppy said...

I'm going to both stick my neck out and position my foot right outside of my mouth and see if it jumps in...

The most frequently referenced "icky" part of Scripture that I hear is God's command to the Israelites as they were about to conquer the Promised Land. (Please forgive any mistakes on the nit-picky details, because I don't have time to look up the exact occasion of this command.)

He told them to kill every man, woman, and child of the Canaanites (not sure if it was all the Canaanites everywhere, or just the ones in Jericho). This command really upsets a lot of people, and is a favorite of critics seeking to discredit the Bible ("Your God kills innocent babies!").

But recently, before the Gaza/Lebanon fighting started, I saw quite a few pictures on the internet of Palestinian children. The older ones were already training to go out and kill Jews. The younger ones--including infants--were dressed up in Hamas-wear. They had the fatigues, the checkerboard headdresses and scarves, and they carried plastic AK-47s.

When one of my nephews was under two years old, I visited my sister, and her husband would ask their son, "Are you an Aggie (student at Texas A&M)?" And he would answer a horrified, "NO!!!" At 22 months old, he already learned who he did and didn't identify with.

I certainly don't advocate killing all the Palestinians. But their indoctrination of their children from the earliest age to hate and kill Jews gives a vivid picture of what the Israelites of Moses and Joshua's time were up against. Those old enough to grow up remembering their parents' hatred would keep killing the Israelites, and those too young to remember wouldn't have any parents to take care of them.

This isn't a command that Christians believe applies to us today. Context. But the presence of it doesn't make God's holy book "evil."

janice said...

Skye, I have heard that preached and analyzed many, many times in both Sunday school and bible studies. You just made it crystal clear for me. Thank you

FKAB said...

A lot of you have asked me to list some of the icky parts of Bible. Since there are literally thousands of them, I will instead point you to some very good websites:

A very comprehensive compilation of some of the unsavoury Bible passages can be found here:

http://www.evilbible.com/

It's a very good source of information for people who want to learn the Bible beyond what their preacher wants them to read.

You can read all of these quotes in their proper context here:

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/

I also articulate my thoughts a lot better at my weblog here:

http://www.googlyeyedrocks.blogspot.com/


While you're reading these quotes, ask yourself whether or not this is the god that you want to expose your children to.

Thanks.

PS. I can't figure out how to work out the html code to create links. Any tips are appreciated.

SkyePuppy said...

FKAB,

To activate the links in a comment, I always have to go into my own blog in another window, edit a post, switch to the HTML tab, and then copy a whole "< a href=" thing all the way to the "< /a>", and paste it where I want it and spiff it up. Sometimes I paste it in a Notepad file and fix it there before pasting it in the comment. I can never remember the exact order without help.

Andrew said...

FKAB,

I took a quick look at some of your links, as well as your own blog. Rather than engage in a point by point refutation of your "analysis," however, I simply will make an acknowledgement and then extend a note of thanks.

First, I acknowledge I did not spend much time reviewing your weblog comments as I see little point in attempting to engage in debate with those who feel it necessary to intersperse profanity in their "arguments". Maybe it's just me, but that seems to seriously detract from the legitimacy of the argument.

Second, based on my limited review of your comments, I want to thank you for making my point perfectly. Let me give you just one small example: you cite Psalm 137:9 as proof that the Bible commands "people to smash babies' heads on rocks." Indeed, Psalm 137:9 provides: "How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock."

Now, you tell us that was a command by God that people should smash babies' heads on rocks (my favorite part is that the link you provided describes this passage as what the Bible says about parenting - that's great stuff!). However, when your reference materials extend beyond "the-bible-is-icky.com" you are able to observe and understand the context and explanation for this verse. A good place to start is with reading Psalm 139 in its entirety. It is not the words of God commanding this type of behavior from His people.

Instead, it is a lament of the psalmist who experienced captivity in Bablyon. The first part of the Psalm describes that captivity. The psalmist then ends with a plea for Divine retribution on the Babylonian captors:

"7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem,
who said, 'Raze it, raze it to its very foundation.' 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock."

Interestingly, from what I know of the subsequent history, this passage also turns out to be quite prophetic. The Medes and Persians later overran the Babylonian empire and utterly destroyed it, thereby subjecting the Babylonian captors to the same treatment to which they had earlier subjected the Israelites.

I know, I know, it sucks some of the fun out of it for you, but it proves that context and historical knowledge is vital in understanding many of the portions of the Bible you consider icky.

You closed with the question: "While you're reading these quotes, ask yourself whether or not this is the [G]od that you want to expose your children to."

To that, I can most affirmatively state: "Absolutely."

Andrew said...

And Janice, thank you. Your comments are much too kind. I've never really thought of myself as the bad cop. Maybe it is something to consider. :)

FKAB said...

Andrew,

FIRSTLY: my weblog is my personal writing, and is not necessarily intended to be an academic amalgam of essays. It's just me writing whatever crap I feel like. If people choose to respond or debate me, I welcome that warmly (or with a barrage of profanity, whatever). But this was not my intention from the start, and I will continue to write the usual diatribes and will not give a second thought as to whether others will be offended.

Now, as for Psalm 137:9: I never said that God tells people to smash babies' heads on rocks. I said the Bible, which doesn't necessarily mean God:

If the Bible tells people to smash babies' heads on rocks...then I can't see how this can be interpreted in any other context

But even if God didn't say "smash babies on rocks" doesn't excuse the fact that such speech is in the Bible. I think you are also forgetting that the Bible is supposedly inspired by God. Either the Bible is inspired by God, and he did/does want people to smash their babies' heads open, OR the Bible is just a series of writings by some Middle Eastern cavemen. You take your pick.

As for the last bit about exposing the bible to your kids: It's funny how Christian parents will shield their kids from the Harry Potter books, but see fit to teach them about a man in the sky who spends eternity burning people.

Andrew said...

"Now, as for Psalm 137:9: I never said that God tells people to smash babies' heads on rocks. If the Bible tells people to smash babies' heads on rocks...then I can't see how this can be interpreted in any other context."

You say tomato...

Look, whether you are attributing the statement to God or not, you are still alleging that the Bible "tells" people to smash babies' heads on rocks.

You evidently chose not to read my prior post or the full text of Psalm 137. Neither the Bible nor God is telling anybody to smash babies on anything. It is simply a lament from somebody held captive by Babylon that wishes the same punishment inflicted on his captors that was inflicted on he and his country. It is not a Divinely-sanctioned authorization for inafanticide.

You then argue the following: "I think you are also forgetting that the Bible is supposedly inspired by God. Either the Bible is inspired by God, and he did/does want people to smash their babies' heads open, OR the Bible is just a series of writings by some Middle Eastern cavemen. You take your pick."

As already demonstrated, the passage from Psalm is not a Divine instruction to kill babies. God didn't/doesn't "want people to smash their babies' heads open." The fact that the Bible is Divinely-inspired (something I strongly believe and therefore am not forgetting) does not change the analysis. It takes very little time of reading the Bible to discover that God did not gloss over the character flaws of the people described therein. Therefore, if the particular writer of this psalm was harboring resentment and outrage against his captors, those feelings are portrayed in the text, rather than glossing over that reality with expressions of hugs and kisses for those who smashed the heads of Israelite babies on the rocks and otherwise decimated Israel just so you could feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The fact that we are even having this discussion, however, seems to prove one of my first points: I would be better off smashing my own head against the rocks than to try to budge you from your preconceived notions. Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Buckbeak is about to be executed).

Malott said...

Andrew,

If you need help smashing your head, let me know.

FKAB said...

Andrew,

Some interesting logic you've got there. The Bible is inspired by God, but is simultaneously full of stuff that God didn't like.

Riiiiiiight.

And in regards to my preconceived notions... what's your point? Am I not allowed to have firm opinions of my own? How is this any different to your preconceived notions? (Biblical infallibility is a good example. Let's start at that one, shall we?)

Andrew said...

Okay, FKAB, let's try your logic then. In short, if it's in the Bible, God likes and approves of it.

Let's start with David. He had an affair with Bathsheba. Therefore, God (or the Bible) must be telling us all to have adulterous affairs. Makes sense to me.

You are welcome to your preconceived notions. The problem is when one is not willing to consider that those preconceived notions may be mistaken. Thus far, you have presented nothing to make me question my preconceived notion that the Bible is God's infallible word.

To the contrary, you made the argument that Psalm 137:9 contains God's instruction to smash babies heads on rocks. I have explained to you why this passage means no such thing. Yet you cling to your notion that God is telling us to kill babies because that is what you want it to mean.

Fine, have at it. I've got better things to do with my time.

And Mr. Malott, were you offering to smash your head along with mine, or offering to help smash mine?

ChuckL said...

Although an interesting and provocative post, I think that serious Christians try to project the 21st century Jesus frequently. Christians facing 21st century issues want to respond in ways obedient and pleasing to Jesus.

I believe your most captive statement is, "He would be ultra-liberal with His love, and ultra-conservative in His adherence to the truth." This is the spot at which many Christians as individuals and groups find ways to split.

My observation is that conservatives are accused of lacking compassion because they point out that God's love includes obedience. Liberals are accused of lacking orthodoxy because their passion for compassion frequently ignores the necessity of obedience.

In truth, no rational Christian can escape either obedience or compassion. James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress AND to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

-chuckschants-