Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Got Jesus' Back!

I marvel lately at how often I am defending the life and teachings of Jesus to Christians.  It seems that many of those who proudly take on the name of Jesus have little awareness of what his life and teachings were about.

For example, the other day on Facebook I got into a discussion with some Christians after I commented on a poster one had displayed.  The poster gave honor to a president who bombs foreign countries, but derides a president who would ever apologize to one.  This discussion migrated its way toward Jesus' teaching on enemy-love and turning the other cheek.  I, the agnostic, was promoting the ethic of Jesus... against three different Christians who felt that the directives of Jesus were simply unrealistic and not worth considering.  In fact, one of them felt I was being insulting by suggesting that the teaching of Jesus be taken seriously.

We live in interesting times.

Andrew Hackman Sure... a person can take that tact... but it does make any proclamation to our country being "Christian" laughable.
Joe  1st Samuel 17:1-58 Read It!! David and Goliath? Did God not bless Israel in war? Did God not guide Davids hand to KILL the enemy dead??? was David not a Christian??? Was God helping the ARMIES of Israel that day?
Andrew Hackman Judaism is quite different than the teachings of Jesus. America does not claim Samuel, or David... theoretically they claim Christ...
Joe  kann man sagen, dass in Deutsch bitte?
Cheryl  um, Jesus was a Jew......
Joe  I meant "Can you ask that in German?"
Andrew Hackman Jesus constantly takes the base, human responses of Israel and calls them to something more... "You have been told an eye for an eye, but I tell you..." "You have been told to love your friend and hate your enemy, but I tell you". When you use the OT as a basis for a proper response, you use the very measure that Jesus declared was unfit.
Joe  good night Andrew.
Joe In a perfect society, we would hold hands and pray for our enemies. But when they breach our shores and bust down our doors, what do you suggest we do?
Andrew Hackman Turn the other cheek?
Andrew Hackman Joe, you are making the same arguments the zealots made to Jesus... Jesus did not live in a perfect society when he gave those directives.
Joe  You turn the other cheek... if that doesn't work out... I'll cover you.
Andrew Hackman :)
Joe  night night people
Christopher  the jews in WW2 turned the other cheek when the gestapo and SS started to hunt them down and look what hapened to them... almost got completely anhilliated...
Friday at 22:55 • Like
Christopher "all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to standby and do nothing..."
Andrew Hackman Chris. You are assuming violence is the only action or solution available
Brook  yeah, and Jesus turned the other cheek when the soldiers came to arrest him and look what happened to him! that "turn the other cheek" shit just doesn't work!
Christopher Then why did God give governments the power of the sword and tell is to respect the laws of the government (does that mean following the draft too??) 

Jesus had a legitimate reason to turn the other cheek though... He had to do what he did. I'm not saying that turning the other cheek doesnt have its place in society.. It's more practical with day to day living with other people regarding arguments and idiots trying to start stupid fist fights. But, when your life is unnesecarilly threatened by a foreign governments military, an insane demon possessed man who's shooting up a shopping mall, or an intruder coming into your home to kill you, rape your woman and steal your stuff.. Well.. As the bible says, "theirs a time for peace, theirs a time for war, theres a time for love, and a time to kill". 

Since God or his personality and world view perspective hasn't changed since the old testament, we can safely say that violence has its place... Granted its place is small and circumstantial... But it's there. Remember, God helps those who help themselves...
Andrew Hackman I don't safely say that at all. As I stated above, Jesus was constantly declaring OT ways of thinking unfit for the kingdom he envisioned. I sometimes wonder why so many people become Christians... it certainly isn't an attraction to the teachings and life of Jesus, because I find most Christians have little interest there.
Christopher  The kingdom he envisioned doesn't come to earth until after the tribulation...
Christopher  Out of curiosity, if a pistol was next to you and a mad man with a knife was running at you twenty yards away, would you shoot him or let him filet you like a fish?
Andrew Hackman I'm not sure... since you are a Christian, I am curious how you feel your master, Jesus, would have you handle yourself...
Christina  Shoot him. The mad man has intentions to kill me first and therefore no longer an innocent person.
Andrew Hackman Is that the dividing line Christina? Turn the other cheek... unless the person is not an innocent... then fire away? I am curious how you reconcile that with how Jesus had his followers deal with Rome... unless you are not a follower of Jesus, at which point you have to determine what your own ethics are on the matter.
Christina  What happened to Jesus is what he became man for. You have a God given right to defend yourself. Over my dead body will I turn the other cheek about terrorism toward the United States of America. 9-11 is why I joined our Armed Forces and went to Iraq. To defend America and her beautiful Constitution. You dont mess with America and get away with it. Just like on a much smaller scale, you dont come after me, terrorize my home, scale my fence, attempt to kill me and my family and expect to get away with it by me turning the other cheek.
Christina  And if you are an athiest that fine, but your arguements about Christianity and more specifically Catholism for me, become moot. I will not try to justify my religious beliefs and how it becomes my moral and ethical backbone if you have none.
Andrew Hackman Which is fine Christina, you can choose your ethic... that just isn't a Christian ethic. You would have a hard time making a scriptural argument that Jesus call to enemy-love was simply for himself but he had no expectation of it for his followers.
Christina  You can research this "scriptural argument" by reading the Bible, spending time studying it, going to a church of the Christian faith and ask these questions to religious clergy with an open heart to really understand instead of critizing others of faith and trying to use it against them.
Andrew Hackman I have read the bible Christina (you are making a lot of misplaced assumptions). I offer no criticism of anyone's faith... other than pointing out where the follower is living in contradiction to the master. In each of those cases, I offer a scriptural argument, because I think there is one to be made. I hear a lot of human rationality being presented here, but very little drive to implement the Christian ethic. That is because love is a narrow way, and few find it. Protecting the self and the ego is a broad path, and it is the one humans default to without the words of someone like Jesus offering a different path and a willingness to take on those words.

Most Christians don't really believe they are capable of loving their enemy. Loving your enemy, doing good to those who wrong you, turning the other cheek.... these have all been moved to the miraculous category. Yes, Jesus loved his enemies... but he also walked on water and raised the dead. In the minds of most Christians, they no more believe an enemy can be loved than they believe they will walk on water this evening. So, they quickly move past these commandments to ones that are more do-able... say, witnessing or going to church.

I also think Christians struggle to take these teachings seriously because their faith is often built on a faulty foundation. To love your enemy, you are going to have to put aside your needs, your pride, your need to be right - perhaps even your safety. You have to give up self-protection. Your ego is going to have to die... daily.

However, most Christians turned to the faith by an appeal to their ego and their sense of self. Jesus will save you from Hell - or from drinking or drugs - or from a bad relationship, etc... saving one's own ass is a primal response.

With all of this ME cemented into the foundation of popular Western Christianity, is it any wonder that enemy-love gets scant attention from Christ's followers? Go to a Christian church in America this Sunday and you will most likely hear a message about Hell or what blessing God has in store for you next. A message on how to do kind acts for the person who opposes you, hurts you, hates you? How to joyfully surrender your rights and protections? Not so much.

People like benefits of church culture, belonging, being in the "right" group... but I find few Christians who have an interest in living like Jesus


Bruce Gerencser said...

Ah yes, gotta love multiple personality disorder many Evangelicals have. :)

Of course the core issue is that politics and religion have been merged and this results in the bizarre, laughable, and sad thinking evidenced in the discussion.

The funniest person was the one who told you to study the Bible. Never thought to do that did you Andrew? :)

Andrew said...

Yep Bruce, we all know that agnostics and atheists wouldn't be agnostics and atheists if they would just read their bible. ;) My problem is lack of bible knowledge!

The thing is, I can sympathize with the Christian who says "Turning the cheek is a hard thing, if it came down to it, I am not sure I could". Great, nothing wrong with being honest.

However, these three out the gate were completely rejecting the idea as ridiculous... and "I" was defending the teachings of Jesus... dark comedy at its finest.

and I loved the justification that we need not work for peace because that won't come til after the tribulation... I haven't heard that thinking in years... laughable and frightening at the same time.

There may have been a time when politics buttressed religion, but it is clear to me that Christianity, by and large, is simply a tool to buttress folks political notions.

JanetDax said...

Uh huh. Of course the teachings of Jesus are hard. I tend to believe that what most people think of as Christianity really isn't. The irony is that atheists and agnostics are among the few people aware of it.

Jon said...

Ha ha Andrew, I TOLD you you were still a Christian ;)

Andrew said...

Heh ;)

The Arkwelder said...

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I actually don't think Christianity is meant to be all that hard. What's hard is "letting go". The Sermon on the Mount seems to be asking us to do incredible, masochistic things, i.e., "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," but I think many of us are missing the deeper meaning, which is to not be so concerned with your own self-preservation. "Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it." Ironically, Christianity is hard not because of its rules, but because of its lack of rules--because it is asking us to be calm, peaceful, in-the-moment, etc. It's asking us to go against our instincts and stop fighting, stop resisting, stop struggling. Admittedly, that is hard in a sense, but for those who feel world-weary and battle-worn, there's a definite easiness about it.

societyvs said...

I've been having these conversations with Christians for years and I arrive at the same conclusion you do - always.

They really don't want to take Jesus that seriously - they like aspects - but they love country and flag more - and they confuse Jesus' teachings with that of their own country and those priorities.

The war debate is an interesting one since I think it is normal for countries to defend themselves and their citizens from harm. Now where a Christian is supposed to line up on there - well - this is where the debate gets intriguing.

I see Jesus as a non-violent person (you mention Rome and the zealots)...I think he was opposed to their way of doing business (which included violent overthrow and oppression). But Christians have a place in the army - we do need medics after all.

The Arkwelder said...

I think the Bhagavad Gita has the most insightful thing to say about war--at least as I understand it. God basically tells Arjuna to go into battle, not because it is important, but because it isn't important. That is, not for some selfish or even altruistic end, but because it was his dharma, his calling, his duty. Put another way, when you become "awakened" or "liberated" or "saved" (as a Christian might call it), what is there left to do? Is it still important to...say...feed yourself? Not really. But you do it anyway, in a sense because you're still you. You're still John Doe, so you do what John Doe does.

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