Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why Jesus Would Have Hated Most Modern Day Religion

AlterNet excerpts from former evangelist Frank Schaeffer's latest book:

Jesus certainly was not a “Bible believer,” as we use that term in the post Billy Graham era of American fundamentalist religiosity that’s used as a trade-marked product to sell religion. Jesus didn’t take the Jewish scriptures at face value. In fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking relativist who wasn’t even “saved,” according to evangelical standards. Evangelicals insist that you have to believe very specific interpretations of the Bible to be saved. Jesus didn’t. He undercut the scriptures.

The stories about Jesus that survived the bigots, opportunists and delusional fanatics who wrote the New Testament contain powerful and enlightened truths that would someday prove the undoing of the Church built in his name. Like a futurist vindicated by events as yet undreamed, Jesus’ message of love was far more powerful than the magical thinking of the writers of the book he’s trapped in. In Jesus’ day the institutions of religion, state, misogyny and myth were so deeply ingrained that the ultimate dangerousness of his life example could not be imagined. For example his feminism, probably viewed as an eccentricity in his day, would prove transformational.

Jesus believed in God rather than in a book about God.

More here.

Thirty years ago, when I was a teenaged Southern Baptist, a lot of the person I am today had already been established.  For instance, I had a very strong interest in theology--the questions I was asking and comments I was making in Sunday school and church training classes were, apparently, not the typical fare with which church youth workers were usually confronted.  Noting this, an education minister we had back in the day strongly suggested that I read some Frank Schaeffer, who, as the son of one of the principal founders of modern Christian fundamentalism, Francis Schaeffer, was a writer steeped in religious intellectualism, with a reputation for an ability to write compellingly about issues important to youth.

I never did get around to reading any Schaeffer.  At least, not while I was still a Southern Baptist.  But I never did forget the name of the guy who could supposedly appeal to my religious and intellectual sides at the same time.  So when I started seeing his essays popping up over at AlterNet, the lefty clearing house for internet political writing I visit everyday, my curiosity was, needless to say, high.  It turns out that fundamentalism's cruelty, sexism, anger, and hostility toward reason and science had finally driven Schaeffer away from the religious point of view into which he was born, just as it had done to me.  But, as with me, Schaeffer continued to think deeply about the Bible, continued to find spiritual significance and meaning in Jesus, and struggled to find a new path in the wake of his rejection of his father's religion.

Let me tell you how profound this break was for Schaeffer: he and his father, almost by themselves, were the ones in the 1970s who persuaded American Protestants that they needed to join with Catholics in their opposition to abortion rights.  That is, Frank Schaeffer almost single handedly created the pro-life movement.  He was definitely a heavy hitter for the religious right, one of the heaviest.  And he turned his back on them.  Because he came to believe they were wrong.

I certainly don't agree with everything he's said about spirituality and politics in his post-fundamentalist period, but his spiritual journey hasn't been too terribly far from my own.  When he writes, especially about Jesus and Christianity, I always pay attention.  And you should, too.  Whether you agree with him or not, he always challenges his readers, either to find new ways to support and explain what they already believe, or to reevaluate those beliefs wholesale.

Click through and read this passage from his latest.  It's good stuff.