Source: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube
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Music generously provided by Paul Jernberg. Find out more about his work as a composer here: http://pauljernberg.com
Anyone who has been a follower of Jesus and a member of his Church for long enough will eventually encounter the accusation that, “You Christians need to be more like Jesus. He was just a really chill guy who told people to love each other and avoid being judgmental.”
Which is another way of saying that the Jesus that is represented by the Church isn’t anything like the original. The original was mild-mannered, unfailingly kind, and maybe even a bit sentimental. But at some point, the Church obscured the real Jesus behind rigid dogmatism, exclusivity, and excessive legalism.
Now, Jesus did say and do a lot to promote the concerns of the excluded, the poor, and the forgotten. He promoted love and acceptance for all, even that most unlikely class of all, the rich and powerful. But he also taught a lot of other things, by word and example, that if someone were to read the gospels, completely objectively, for the first time, they wouldn’t come away with a sense that he was a chill dude who was exclusively concerned with how much everyone just got along.
They would likely be confused and mystified by the portrayal of Jesus that they found there. Someone who spoke with unprecedented authority, as if on behalf of all concerned parties in the world. They would encounter someone who can speak and act so delicately and merciful in once instance and with the full weight of blind pitiless justice in another.
When I first became convinced that God was real and that Jesus was a possible ingredient in his interactions with humanity who, alone, he imbued with a rational soul (that we know of), I decided to read the gospels for myself without any existing tradition to inform that reading.
And the first thing I noticed about them was an apparent lack of utility. With the gospels, there are two explanations that you can arrive at when you encounter them. One is that the people telling this story, that is the early followers of Jesus, are sincere and truly believe what they claim about their experience of knowing and following him.
The other is that they were lying and inventing this story. You could also claim, if you were inclined, that they all experienced mass simultaneous hallucinations and psychosis, but there really isn’t any precedent for such an explanation. So, if we’re honest, let’s stick with the first two alternatives.
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