Christianity or Christianism - What Jesus Never Said
What is Christianity, really? Some theologians have come to call it Christianism instead. Why? Because there are a lot of ideas in the religion associated with Jesus that he never proposed.
In the last article, we looked at 4 ways to uncover what Jesus actually taught. Now we'll look at some common misconceptions ... things attributed to Jesus that he never said.
Other Religions, Including Wicca
Jesus himself never said anything against Witches, for example, or any other religion. The only time he talks about people of other faiths is in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
When Jesus said to "love thy neighbours," someone asked him who that should include. Jesus answered with this story, in which a man was wounded and lying in a ditch, while the priests and people of his own tribe passed him by. But a Samaritan -- a foreigner who worshipped different gods -- stopped to help and even paid for a room at an inn for the unfortunate man.
In other words, Jesus was saying we are all neighbours ... even with people we judge and think of as different.
Nationality is no barrier. Religious differences are no barrier. Jesus was saying that we are all family, regardless of such superficial distinctions.
In essence, Jesus was saying that it's okay to worship in different ways, and that it's our actions rather than our philosophy that matters. (A theme he repeated several times.)
Quite unlike the fire-breathing vindictiveness and racism of the Old Testament, isn't it?
Jesus and "Unacceptable Lifestyles"
Neither did Jesus say anything against homosexuality. For that matter, he seemed to go out of his way to befriend social outcasts of all kinds... everyone judged and discarded by the authorities.
In fact, the only people Jesus himself actually condemned were the religious authorities and money-lenders, ie, bankers.
How odd it is, then, that we never hear of Christians protesting against the ecclesiastical hierarchies or banks! Why does no one spout Biblical quotations to "prove" that God hates bankers and bishops, or at least, their lifestyle?
Isn't it odd how the Old Testament (the rules of which Jesus was overturning left and right) is used extensively as ammunition by the fundamentalists, but the New Testament (the ideas which, presumably, Jesus himself advocated) is never mentioned?
It's these little quirks that make Christianity so entertaining, or, if you will, frustrating, to those outside its protected circle.
Jesus and Abortion
Likewise, there’s nothing in the Bible -- Old or New Testament, about abortion, or when a soul enters a foetus and it becomes a person. The topic certainly never came up in Jesus’ teachings. In fact, there’s nothing in Christianity about when a child gets their soul and becomes human.
Different cultures have had vastly different beliefs about when a baby becomes a human. In some times and places, it was considered to be up to toddler-age before they were thought to have a soul! This seems surprising to us, but it seemed perfectly reasonable in other cultures.
This may seem a bit off the topic, but this is actually a very important issue for Wiccans to get behind. Because the real issue being debated, under cover of the supposed immorality of abortion, is control over women and by extension the disempowerment of the Goddess. Not that most of Christianity is aware of this connection; they just accept the passionate vituperation by their church leaders.
(If you think that’s farfetched, consider: what possible reason do Christians have to rave and froth and even kill over how sinful abortion is, when it isn't even mentioned in the Bible? And if it were really about caring for a child’s life, why does that care end abruptly as soon as its out of its mother’s womb instead of making sure children are well-fed and housed and cared for?)
Will The Real Jesus Christ Please Stand Up?
Who was Jesus anyway? God or human?
This question has caused untold misery, as factions fought to make their version of Jesus the sole one.
But what did Jesus say about it?
Jesus As God Incarnate
Over and over, Jesus refused to be singled out as anyone special, stating that he was a Son of Man, that is, just an ordinary human being.
He never claimed to be someone to be worshipped as if he himself were God. In fact, he insisted the opposite.
Yet modern Christianity ignores all that, and doggedly preaches his (unattainable) divinity.
Elaine Paigels, in her eye-opening book, The Gnostic Gospels, shows that the struggle between the different doctrines of early Christianity was all-too-often a political rather than strictly theological issue.
For instance, on the debate over whether Jesus rose from the dead in a physical body or in spiritual form, she writes...
For when Gnostic and orthodox Christians discussed the nature of God, they were at the same time debating the issue of spiritual authority. P 40 [Emphasis the author's]
But in terms of the social order, as we have seen, the orthodox teaching on resurrection ... legitimized a hierarchy of persons through whose authority all others must approach God. [Emphasis mine]
Gnostic teaching... was potentially subversive of this order: it claimed to offer to every initiate direct access to God of which the priests and bishops themselves might be ignorant. - p 32
Then the Bible was doctored to promote the winning faction's viewpoint.
So bits were added in (in the least reliable sections of the Bible), and "son of Adam" or "son of mankind" began to be translated instead as "son of God." It became a crime punishable by death to suggest that Jesus rose in a symbolic mystery rather than flesh-bone-and-blood resuscitation.
Even so, 3 of the 4 primary Gospels note that Jesus specifically refused to be deified.
Thy Kingdom Come
A stunningly huge misconception is that Jesus said ...
The kingdom of Heaven will come sometime in the future,
You go to it when you die, and
Only for certain people get to go (defined by every faction as the ones who believe their version).
In fact, Jesus tried to stress the fact that the kingdom of God was not far away, not in the future, but here all around us. And all of us can get there, by doing good for others.
Jesus as Saviour
Another blood-curdling error is the idea that Jesus set himself up to die for our sins, and all we need to do is believe that he did so... and we'll be "saved."
This is the worst mistake that can be made, from a spiritual perspective.
It simultaneously erases all personal responsibility for the evolution of our souls, and sets Jesus up as an absolute authority.
This is a particular betrayal of Jesus' teachings,
In the first place, Jesus continually declared that each of us is responsible for the state of our souls, and that we are to do the work of seeking the Light within ourselves. He said that how we gain the kingdom of God is by taking care of people.
And in the second place, he absolutely rejected religious "authority" of any kind.
To Hell and Back
Did you know that Hell didn't even exist as such in Christianity? Plutarch (46-125CE) and the early Christians viewed Hell as a symbolic place.
Then one day, one pope thought this way: If there's Heaven, where good people go to get rewarded, there must be an opposite, where bad people go for eternal punishment.
This started a downhill trend in Christianity, but it was good for business. It kept people Christian... since otherwise they'd suffer eternal torture.
Still, there is positive change even within the Roman Catholic doctrine. In 1999, Pope John Paul II revised the literalist understanding by stating that, "rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God."
Jesus himself never said anything about going to Hell.
In fact, the only thing he said that could be in reference to Hell was when he said that God is a forgiving Father. In other words, not a vengeful torturing merciless tyrant.
The church authorities have these records, of how the Bible was altered over the centuries, as people put their own ideas in and took out ideas they thought had to be wrong, or just didn't want (like reincarnation -- Jesus himself refers to reincarnation, but one pope thought people would slack off if they thought they had future lives to depend on… so he took it out).
Wiccans, however, have a more symbolic perspective. We don't believe in a place of damnation and hellfire.
Obedience to the Church Hierarchy
The ecclesiastical government has, almost from the very beginning, insisted that only through the priests could a person reach God. They demanded unquestioning obedience, stating directly that they spoke for God, and cannot be questioned...
Whoever refuses to 'bow the neck' and obey the church leaders is guilty of insubordination against the divine master [God] himself. - p 41
In contrast to this popular ecclesiastical doctrine, the Apocalypse of Peter, which Elaine Pagels quotes in her exploration of the history of Christianity, The Gnostic Gospels, says ...
The risen Christ explains to Peter that those who "name themselves bishop, and also deacon, as if they had received their authority from God," are, in reality, "waterless canals."
Although they "do not understand mystery," they "boast that the mystery of truth belongs to them alone." - p 29
(The Gnostic, or non-orthodox Christianity, could therefore never compete as a religion for world domination. It had no context for domination and hierarchical authority. It existed to help people find God directly. )
And those demands for obedience to orthodoxy is what Jesus warned us about.
Jesus stated very clearly that we should disbelieve the priests who take the keys to Heaven and won't enter, and won't let you enter either.
He saw through their pretense of piety, that they were spouting doctrine to make themselves rich and powerful, but had no true spirituality within them.
But worse, they became thieves of others' spiritual lives, denying us the knowledge and right to find God within ourselves and the kingdom of Heaven that is already around us.
Quoted in the Gospel of Thomas -- which is believed to be the original source of the 3 synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke ...
Jesus said, "Woe to the Pharisees [religious authorities], for they are like a dog sleeping in the manger of oxen, for neither does he eat nor does he let the oxen eat." (102)
As for it being the "one true church," Jesus said that by its fruit will you know whether something is good or bad.
When you look at the horrors orthodox Christianity has perpetrated over two millennia, it looks like that tree is evil to the core.
Christianity or Paulism?
The worst offender at mutilating the message of Jesus was "St. Paul."
Some scholars believe he was sent to deliberately twist the teachings, and cancel this threat to the status quo. Others wonder if he were "an agent for the dark side."
Jesus' words of personal spiritual authority and an immediate kingdom of Heaven on Earth were a direct threat to both the religious and secular authorities of the day... which is the reason he was executed, according to Tom Harpur in The Pagan Christ.
While his motives are lost in time, and he may have been more ignorant than malicious, or merely speaking in metaphors which have been misunderstood (as The Pagan Christ claims), Paul certainly could not have done more damage to Jesus' message if he had deliberately tried.
As Rex Weyler writes in The Jesus Sayings: The Quest For His Authentic Message...
Most of Paul's writing defends his reputation, proclaims doctrine, and formulates community rules. P 63 [Emphasis mine]
This, despite Jesus insisting that his followers should not make rules.
Everything Jesus taught, Paul turned on its ear.
Where Jesus said point blank that the kingdom is all around you right now, Paul said the kingdom comes after you die.
Where Jesus said, go out and share the word and heal people but take no money for it, Paul said that every worker deserves his wage, so he should be paid for healing and teaching.
Where Jesus warned again and again about authorities, Paul commanded people to obey the authorities.
Where Jesus averred that the kingdom of Heaven is attained by good deeds, Paul claims that belief is the key.
Even though Paul had never met Jesus, he claimed to know what Jesus meant better than Jesus' friends, disciples, and even his appointed successor!
And even though Paul not once quotes Jesus or talks about Jesus' life, and specifically states that his (Paul's) information is from inner revelation rather than someone else's teachings, Paul's message was the one that was used to define Christianity.
In fact, scholars, both Christian and otherwise, acknowledge that the "Christianity" of today is more Pauline than Christian ... following Paul's doctrine rather than Jesus' teachings.
Of course, it's tricky to sort out the true teachings of Jesus from the rewriting of those who lived after him, but it can be done. In fact, it has been done by teams of scholars who have examined the earliest versions of the gospels that exist.
In fact, an excellent resource on this study is Rex Weyler's The Jesus Sayings: The Quest for His Authentic Message… a book everyone should read!
It strips away Paul's personal opinion as well as the forgeries that have been woven into the New Testament, to uncover what it is most likely that Jesus himself taught.
It's a very inspirational read. (Plus interesting and easy to read... I hesitate to say I could hardly put it down, because it shows what a spiritual-nerd I am. Nonetheless, it's true.)
What's the Old Testament Doing In Christianity?
This is, to me, one of the most puzzling things about modern Christianity. It purports to follow Jesus, yet promotes the opposite of his teachings!
For instance, Jesus utterly refuted the Old Testament laws of conduct. He spoke out against the dietary rules, the hypocrisy of washing the body while the mind is unclean, the shunning of "undesirables."
He was very clear that the Old Testament was not to be his followers’ guide.
Yet certain Christians routinely dredge up 2000 year old rules of behaviour, to judge their neighbours with.
And very selectively!
How many people do you hear railing against the sins of ...
Playing football with pigskin (Leviticus 11:6-8 -- "Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch"),
Using a dish that has touched the ground, say, at a picnic (Leviticus 11:33)
... and on and on.
Likewise, no one today would condone selling their daughter into slavery, as Exodus 21:7 sanctions, or killing a person for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), or making the citizens of neighbouring countries into slaves (Leviticus 25:44).
Not to mention the long list of scandalous sexual practices we find praised in the Old Testament!
Jesus himself came to update things, and free people from the limitations of the old religion. Not merely because the old rules were no longer necessary, but because they were substituting for real spiritual awareness.
So how is it that the Old Testament is part of the Christian Bible?
I've never heard any answer to this question that makes a bit of sense. It directly contradicts Jesus' teachings in the most fundamental ways.