1) God is a jerk. At least the Bible seems to suggest so.
Christiana writes: Is God a jerk? The Bible certainly portrays him as a total dick. Who’s the dude that God tricked into sacrificing his son to prove his love to God? Of course God took it back once he realized the poor bastard was more than willing to kill his son in the name of God. . . . And a God who required his only son (aka Jesus) to be tortured to death for us? Again…WHAT A DICK! No wonder Jesus had to go to the desert for 40 days—he wasn’t confronting Satan…he was confronting what a jerk his father was.
I think you got the problem right in front of you. But for me neither of those stories tell us who God is, the tell us who we think God is. You see, I do not believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, neither do I believe that it is history. I believe that it is our attempt to explain who we perceive God to be, and in the context of the culture, the Hebrews and early Christians understood God as hateful and vengeful. I DON'T. I perceive God as a loving presence with me in the good and bad of life.
In other words, I don't believe God sacrificed Jesus for my (or your sins), I believe we murdered Jesus because his "Way" was to difficult for us to follow. I also don't believe that God demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac (Ishmael - in the Koran). They are stories about US attempting to understand God.
So no, I don't think God is a jerk --- I see God in the words of the great theologian Paul Tillich as "the ground of all being." Or as Moses understood God; as "I am".
2) The whole issue of trying to save people.
Christina writes: What's the deal with "saving" non Christians? Case in point: When white man began to assimilate the Indians in the New World, one of the things that REALLY messed with their heads was how amazingly hypocritical Christianity was/is. Cultural assimilation of native populations --- especially religious assimilation --- has done a lot of harm to cultures world-wide (I'm an anthropologist so I know a bit about it . . . )
Your right, and we can look all over the world at our attempts to enculturate people not just with our religion but our social/political systems. Is capitalism the best for the world? Sure it is, if you are on the consuming side, rather than the producing side. And we in America are on the consuming end of the arrangement and aren't in any hurry to switch sides.
The whole notion of "Saving" people comes from our presumptive idea that we have THE WAY rather than A WAY. And of course if religion (as an institution) is going to have power than you have to have some kind of carrot so that you can hit people with a stick. That is exactly what that we have done for 2,000 years. Believe this, give this. do this --- or you are going to hell. It is no wonder the sexual scandal that is going on in the church (particularly the Roman Catholic --- but not exclusively) when one can hold heaven and hell over you --- even the slightest implication, and many people are willing to do whatever you ask (demand). And it is evil!
We don't need to "Save" people from hell. What Christianity has to offer is I believe is the best way to know God, but I say that from my very cultural Christian position. But not the only way. And I am willing to acknowledge that if I grew up in a Jewish home, I would probably believe that that was the best way.
For me, the key is to help people have a relationship with God --- I just happen to do that through the lens of Jesus Christ.
3) Why do people become Christians.
Christina you are right as I just said, most are Christian because that is the cultural system that they were born into, or raised in, or live in.
But the bigger question is why do people remain Christians, and unfortunately I think I know the reason (and I wish desperately I was wrong). Christianity has learned to use as the greatest lever for people to remain Christians the notions of FEAR and GUILT. It makes me sick when I look back and see the times where I have used those very things (often very subtly) but have used them nonetheless.
I am a Christian because I have a relationship to God through the life/death/resurrection of Jesus. Jesus has helped me to understand how my life can be made more whole. I don't always do it, but it is the way that makes most sense to me.
4) What's up with heaven.
Christina writes: When I read what Jesus says (including the books that early Christian power mongers left out of the Bible for political reasons), it seems to me that Jesus was talking about a Kingdom on earth within our selves. I think he was referring to a self love and self acceptance that is all encompassing. When we love ourselves for EXACTLY who we are now, we achieve an inner bliss that is, indeed, heaven on earth. When we achieve that state, then we can effortlessly show that love and give a little bit of our inner Kingdom to others
I agree 100%. I think Jesus message was always earth bound. He invites us to a way of life here and now. And it seems to me, that if we live the way Jesus invites us to live right now, Heaven (whatever it is) will take care of itself.
Christianity has the opportunity to be a powerful force of change in the word. Not by beating people up with Jesus, but rather by living the WAY of Jesus.
- loving others
- not judging others
- sharing all that we have with others
- caring for others and the world
Thanks Christiana for your honesty. That is what God wants more than anything else, is for us to have a faith with integrity!