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November 11, 2008 10:25pm
There is so much wisdom in the bible. It is a shame that it is mixed in with fairy stories. Surely, God would not give wisdom to some men and not others. What God has given has been given equally. That must be true. Men have perverted that balance ourselves. Men tell lies. That is one truth we have been given. Over time, truth is covered by lies and lies are revealed by truth. That is wisdom too. When I see images of a European jesus, I know that the church has revised history. That is enough for me to believe that holy scripture has been "edited." Tell one easily decernable lie, and everything else comes into doubt too. The teachings of Jesus seem true to me too. I understand that there are not many in the bible - that all of jesus teachings all together make-up a few hours worth of his lessons. The rest is what others say. Look at this excerpt from an article by Jay Williams - Walcott D. Bartlett Professor of Religious Studies, Hamilton College :

First of all, Jesus demands complete, voluntary poverty. Not only does he tell us that it is blessed to be poor, but he also commands his hearers to give away all their property. We are not to "lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal" (Matt. 6:19). Even after we have divested ourselves of our goods, he tells us to give away even our clothing if someone should ask it of us (Matt. 5:40). To enter the kingdom of God one must be free from, must renounce, all earthly goods. That is the reason why it will be more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:23-24).

While the Second Helvetic Confession (Ch. XXIX) tells us that there is nothing wrong with being rich as long as the rich are "godly," Jesus himself radically disagrees. "You cannot serve both God and mammon" (Matt.6:24) implies for Jesus absolute renunciation of mammon. His followers are told to live like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. They are required not to plan ahead or worry about where their next meal will come from. God, says Jesus, will provide (Matt. 6:25-33).

Second, Jesus requires his followers to renounce all family ties, indeed, even to hate father and mother and wife and brother and sister. This actually follows logically from the first renunciation, for if one has no money, one cannot easily engage in family life without letting others (e.g., mom and dad) pay the bills---which is hardly renunciation at all. Jesus recognizes that some people are already married and ought not to break that relationship with divorce, but it would appear that following Jesus "distances" one from one's spouse. One is reminded of Gandhi's vows of brahmacharya, i.e., sexual renunciation within marriage. Peter certainly was married, for we hear of his mother-in-law, but we hear nothing of his wife throughout the Gospels.

Jesus says that some are born eunuchs, some have it thrust upon them, and some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:12). That is, Jesus is not even opposed to self-castration for the sake of the kingdom. All this suggests that Jesus does not teach much that is positive about family values. He says he comes with a sword to divide, not unite families (Matt. 10: 34-36). In fact, he would not even speak to his own mother or his blood brothers when they came to see him, regarding only those who do the will of God as his "family"(Mark 3:31-35).

Third, Jesus demands a life of absolute non-violence. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other one. If someone makes you carry his load, carry it a second mile (Matt.5: 38-41). You are to love all enemies and to do good to all who "despitefully use you." Jesus knows that wars will continue to be waged, but he stands opposed to all forms of violence. Even anger toward your brother he considers very, very dangerous (Matt. 5:21-22). His followers should render no person evil for evil but should respond to evil with good. Retaliation is anathema; forgiveness is absolute. Although the Second Helvetic Confession (XXX) encourages Christians to fight in defense of the state and offers no support for conscientious objection, it is difficult to imagine that Jesus would agree.

Fourth, Jesus demands complete emotional control. Anger is as damning as murder, lust in the heart, as adultery. One must avoid judging others and must forgive all apparent wrongs 70 x 7 times. "Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Complete trust is to be placed in Jesus and through Jesus in God alone. Although Luther and Calvin, standing the Augustinian tradition, argue that because of sinful human nature such control and perfection are impossible, Jesus offers no such "escape hatch." Jesus assumes throughout that what he requires is not only possible to achieve but essential for entering the kingdom of God. Unlike many theologians, he is not adverse to speaking of punishments and rewards, and commends working to enter the kingdom. Like the jewel merchant, the follower must give up everything else to obtain the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46).

Fifth, although Jesus sometimes attends public religious ceremonies, such involvement regularly results in conflict. When he speaks in the synagogue in Nazareth, he is thrown out and nearly killed (Luke 4:16-30). His visits to the Temple lead to his overturning of the tables of the money changers and to conflict with the "authorities." In fact, Jesus seems to have little use for "organized religion." He tells his listeners not to pray in public but to go into their closet and close the door when they wish to communicate with God (Matt. 6:6). When he prays, he usually goes, not to the Temple or synagogue, but away into the hills. Fasting, he says, should also be done secretly and without outward show so that no one else is aware of what you are doing. Alms are to be given so that even your own left hand does not know what your right hand does. His relation with God is personal and private and that attitude hardly supports corporate religion in any usual sense of the word.

Indeed, his essential quarrel is invariably with the religious leaders, the priests, scribes, and Pharisees whom he describes as a brood of vipers (Matt. 23:33) and whitewashed tombs (Matt.23:27). As a consequence, he gives the Pharisees, in particular, a bad name. In fact, however, what he intends to do is to give religious functionaries a bad name. He tells his followers not to use terms like "Rabbi" and "Father" (Matt. 23:8-12) (or I suppose by extension "minister" or "pastor" or "the Rev.") because disciples are to be humble and not claim for themselves a status they do not really have. (Should any minister think of himself as reverend, i.e., revered?) He also predicts the destruction of the Temple, the center for worship for all Jews, without particular grief or sadness. His tears are for the sins of the people, not for the loss of a cultic center. In brief, it would appear that Jesus calls upon his followers to renounce public worship, public exercises of piety, hierarchical orders, the Temple--- that is, religion in any usual, corporate sense.
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