It makes some people impatient when I go into Christian theology, but try to remember that I can only talk about things I know about. There may be a lot of philosophy you would rather hear about, but I don’t KNOW it.
But I can give you examples about how the words of Christ became twisted into what is called Christianity, how the exact same Wordism Christ denounced, element by element, in his own society took over from what he preached. If my background were different, I would use other information, but I must use what I know.
The teachings Christ denounced were a product of societal evolution. They gave the priesthood power and wealth. Jesus made the concessions he had to make to stay ALIVE in his society, but if you get lost in the theology, you miss a more basic fact:
Jesus was denouncing the institutions that had survived for specific purposes in his own society. His own society was, in this sense, not too different from later societies.
To quote Kipling again,
“The bitch returns to her vomit
The sow returns to her mire
And the burnt fool’s bandaged finger
Goes wabbling back to the fire.”
It should surprise no one that the same societal evolution that produced what Jesus denounced would make the institutions that developed in his name a carbon copy of the one he denounced. I am sure the exact same process occurred in other cases, but this is the one I know about in detail.
The ability of ianity to get the wrong end of EVERY stick is flawless. Take The Lord’s Prayer. When I read the text this comes from, I notice that Jesus was not primarily giving us a prayer. He said that “It is enough to call a fish a fish.” He then gave a short prayer, one completely different from the endless moanings of the priesthood, as the way you should talk to God. It was a RADICAL idea for a person to talk directly to the Father, and to ask him first for one’s daily bread, to promise him you would forgive others if he would forgive you, and to ask for guidance.
There was nothing specific the way a prayer is supposed to be, asking God to help Tiny Tim or explaining how you wish for good things. Jesus seemed to have this ridiculous notion that God knew what you needed better than you do: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
Then came the word that illustrated, “Call a fish a fish.” He said,
At the end of a prayer illustrating how to calla fish a fish, the word “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever” makes no sense at all. It’s beautiful. I was raised with it and I love it, but it makes no sense at all.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I cannot remember a single passage in which Jesus asked people to Praise the Lord. That was what pagans did. Pagans would go and tell their gods they would do awful things to themselves if God would give them what they prayed for. They made Zeus and Minerva feel good, and if you have read the Odyssey, you know what happened to people who DIDN’T make Zeus or Minerva feel good.
In fact, the whole point of the Lord’s Prayer is that you don’t have a thing to OFFER God. Until that wonderfully poetic ending, the whole thing is a short, stark set of requests, what you need from God.
Jesus had another radical idea here. He seemed to think that God not only knew what you needed more than you did, but you didn’t even have to tell God that he was something special.
But those who set the New Testament down were raised in the Old Testament tradition. You couldn’t just stop a prayer without praising God. We hear the Lord’s Prayer endlessly in church, but not the lesson that actually went with it.
But that praise at the end makes good poetry, good church stuff.
Another stick: “The poor we have always with us.” We have all heard THAT one preached abut endlessly. But it was exactly what Jesus was NOT talking about. Tens of millions o words have been written about what this meant abut the treatment of the poor. Al the big, modern church leaders got together an agreed that their mission was to take care of the poor.
What Jesus SAID was that we have the poor with us always, but he was here about salvation. This is very embarrassing to the modern church, where being a minister or priest is a Profession that doesn’t depend on that salvation stuff. Can you imagine a bunch of modern church leaders getting together and deciding their mission was Salvation?
If you read what Jesus said abut the poor, he was always warning about how the treatment of the poor might hurt the poor, but it would DAMN the rich. This was not Social Justice. It is what people today would call religious fanaticism.
The bottom line here is that people think of Christ as coming to knock down a particular set of institutions. So once he exposed them, they would go away. But what no one considers is that those Wordist institutions he denounced had a power of their OWN. If one realizes that, he will see that it was inevitable that the Christian theologians would evolve exactly the same institutions.
Wordism evolves in institutions with the same naturalness that a dog returns to his vomit and the pig returns to her mire.
THIS burnt fool’s bandaged finger will NOT go wabbling back to the fire.