Christianity in Crisis
The release of the movie The Passion of the Christ in February 2004 at the same time that the American President is claiming the institution of marriage is in trouble has brought to light how the religion of Christianity is in crisis.
I attended a Catholic grade school for 8 years. I was taught how the Catholic Church was the true religion because it traced its roots to the life of Jesus. The Bible is the infallible word of God.
The last few years have seen many documentaries (mostly on cable/satellite) researching the historical basis for the events recorded in the Bible. Many books have been written as well on this subject, most are nonfiction but a few notables are offered as fiction though historical details are woven in the story line. The Mel Gibson movie has again brought this research into public conversation.
What if the historical evidence reveals that Jesus was born to be King of the Jews, drawing into question the Son of God aspect of his life? What if catastrophes noted in books of the Old Testament are revealed to be natural events, recorded by non-Jews as well, losing their 'act of God' cause?
While in grade school, I was taught God sent his own Son to this earth to die for men's sins, allowing us to enter heaven. I was told that the Jews thought Jesus was special to them but really God sent Jesus to 'save' us, and to start a religion through his apostles that would teach us the way to salvation. I was told the Jews of his time did not understand the real meaning of the life of Jesus. What if Jesus was born to be the religious leader of the Jews, due to his family heritage - a bloodline to David, via his father Joseph? What if Jesus was really born as the son of Mary and Joseph, like every other human child, rather than as part of an Immaculate Conception? According to the New Testament, James is the brother of Jesus. What does this brotherhood mean if Jesus is supposedly not of human birth? Did God really choose such an important Jew to be the 'body' for his 'son', to begin a non-Jewish religion - or is there something very wrong with the story being told by the Christian religions?
Chuck Colson during his recent Breakpoint commentary (Who Killed Jesus? Setting the Record Straight, February 12, 2004) said "The Jews didn’t cause the death of Jesus, nor did the Romans. They were merely instruments carrying out what God had decreed. He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so that the sins of mankind might be forgiven." What if the historical Jesus died because he was trying to lead the Jews in opposition to the Roman rulers and so he was crucified by the Romans for such treason? After all, the current controversial movie is about the passion of 'the Christ', where the 'Christ' is the messiah, the anointed one that is the spiritual leader of the Jews. I have often heard the phrase 'Jesus Christ', almost as if this is the first name and last name of the person, rather than the correct 'Jesus the Christ' since Christ is a title, not a name. The historical Jesus died because he was a Jewish religious leader, not because he was sent by God to Earth to spawn a non-Jewish religion.
If the Jews and Romans were just 'instruments' of God, then the life of Jesus was just a 'play', with all the actors having assigned roles. (Is this the real message of the movie, a 'play' for the big screen? Was the passion itself originally a play?) This is just a repeat of the Master Plan theory of human life. We are not beings of free will but just do what is part of God's plan for each of us. Those that suffer are given that fate by God. Those that are happy or privileged are given that by God. Nothing is earned or deserved, it is just granted or dispensed according to a plan. The Christians will believe Jesus died for our sins but since our behaviors are always according to God's plan, how has the death of Jesus changed anything? We commit sins because they are part of God's plan. This theory of Jesus being the Son of God, not the son of Mary and Joseph conflicts with the historical evidence.
I think that Christianity cannot have it both ways. The religion cannot claim it is based on the actual life of a person 2000 years ago when the mythical story does not match the historical evidence. Christianity is left with a mythical story with no historical basis. There is no valid claim to a historical record of events. Christianity is rooted in the writings of Paul, who never met Jesus, which were a perspective on the life of Jesus himself. Christianity is based on the mythical stories involving Jesus, not on the actual life of the historical figure of Jesus.
What does this conclusion mean for Christians?
I strongly feel that Christians must evaluate what their religion represents. It is based on incorrect interpretations of events recorded long ago.
I also feel that Christians must evaluate how their religion can be used as a foundation for moral behavior. These values are based on interpretations of writings thousands of years old, when many people were illiterate. How can such old writings be relevant today?
Our moral values must be based on our human nature. These values must be based on the recognition of the rights and responsibilities inherited by each of us within our social structure. I have tried to elaborate on this basis on another web page (there are several pages with such religious tones).
Over the past 2000 years, the influence of Christianity was fluctuated. During the Dark Ages, the Church was powerful, controlling its believers such that alternatives could not be considered. After the Reformation, alternatives were possible and so the Renaissance followed, as a result of the unleashing of the human spirit.
In recent years, the Christian fundamentalists have noted how many doubt these ancient teachings and beliefs. The lack of moral leadership for its followers has contributed to the moral decay of our society. When the basis for moral teachings is questioned, the associated morality is questioned as well. The fundamentalists seek to squash any alternatives, with the hope that uniformity will bring a return of morality. Unfortunately, the 'cat is out of the bag' and now these teachings based on myths with no historical basis are not very convincing.
I am certainly not one to declare all rules are off!
I am very concerned that current scientific research is lacking any moral basis. When research is conducted for short-term monetary or political gain, with no concern for possible consequences, we are ripe for disaster. I can well imagine the development of a virus, a chemical, perhaps even a clone of some kind, that could/will wipe out mankind.
Our government is being managed by a few elite, wholly for the benefit for major (contributing) corporations, with little consideration for mankind. When too many Americans complain about pollution or other problems of corporate America, the multinational corporations push these problems onto people in foreign lands. The American people need to somehow regain control over their lives and their future, and the future of the world. Morality does not come from the Bible, it comes from people.
Christianity has not provided rational moral leadership for a long time. It is now in crisis mode because more people are realizing its lack of a historical foundation. The much publicized penchant in recent years of protecting criminal priests has only magnified this lack of moral leadership. Unless people wake up and consider an alternative such as proposed in this web site, when the Church is ignored as irrelevant even though it had been assumed to present moral leadership, there will be a big hole in such moral guidance for the Western Christian cultures.
I am very concerned about the growing belligerence of the Christian fundamentalists. I do not recall Jesus ever directing his apostles to shun anyone. I recall that he made the point to do the opposite. There are several Biblical passages involving the Gentiles, the non-Jews. He also sought those that were not welcome, like the lepers. Many are now trying to draft a constitutional amendment to prevent any civil union for other than a man and a woman. Humanity is diverse in many ways, with many cultures and belief systems. There are also different sexual preferences. As long as one person does not interfere with anyone else, there should be nothing wrong with those acts. This is a demand for basic civil liberties and the recognition of human diversity. These Christian fundamentalists are doing what fervent Christians have done in the past - divide those that are like us from those that are not like us. Bush once said that he was influenced by the teachings of Jesus, but his actions rarely reveal such an influence. This current initiative is born of religious fervor, not 'love your neighbor as thyself'.
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created - Feb. 2004
last change - 11/07/2004
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