February 26, 2012 by Bill
A popular hymn in Christian churches is “Fairest Lord Jesus.” I have wondered if the author of that hymn ever read the life of Jesus in the Gospels. Assuming they are even half way correct there is certainly no fairest Jesus presented as “fairer than the meadows… fairer than the moonlight… fairer than the twinkling stars.” You almost choke over the perfumed sweetness of it all.
I say again, assuming the Gospels are even half way correct, there is no “fairest of the fair” there, no spine-less wishy-washy trying to be everyone’s friend. You would never hear Jesus singing “smile and the world smiles with you”…or hear him say, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
He would never have taken a Dale Carnegie course on “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He would never have been voted “Man of the Year” by the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.
To the Pharisees he said, “you vipers… you hypocrites… you are full of extortion and rapacity. You are like whitewashed tombs… you are full of dead men’s bones and iniquity.” To the religiously pious and self-righteous he said, “The prostitutes will go into the Kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) You don’t hear many sermons on that text by those who play church.
This is the man who responded with anger on many occasions and who walked through the temple and cleaned it out. He had no intention of being everyone’s buddy or friend. No imperial power wastes time crucifying contemplative, harmless, spiritual mystics. Jesus was killed in the manner of one found guilty of insurrection. “Fairest” people are not killed for insurrection.
This man, born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew and said repeatedly he was only fulfilling the Jewish religion. Being a Jew means that today he would not be admitted to many of our private clubs run by Christians. Many of us Christians who belong to those clubs would have to visit with Jesus out on the sidewalk if he dropped by.
Those Jesus chose for friends would be a terrible offense to many of us sitting in our cozy pews on Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, Peter and Andrew, James and John, crude fishermen, Zacchaeus and Matthew, hated tax collectors. Jesus was accused of being a “drunkard and a glutton.” (Matthew 11:19) and of “being beside himself.”
The distinguished historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that the people who were involved in the early first century church after the death of Jesus would most closely resemble today those who live in communes and on the streets.
The much loved Senior Minister of the famed City Temple of London, Leslie Weatherhead, told his congregation one Sunday that if Jesus were alive today in London he would not be at the Women’s Church Tea parties, but rather he would be down in the red light district and the pubs of the docks visiting with those who labor and are used. Read more
February 19, 2012 by Bill
I ask this question raised by Carl Jung: “Why are so many millions of people willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?” Why are so many today willing to turn their mind/brain…soul/spirit over to outside individuals, institutions and ideologies, whether it be Jewish, Muslim or Christian “authorities” of dogma? Or whatever the outside authority might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life.
I ask then, how do we withdraw from such a childish dependency if we want to reclaim our mind/brain and our very own life? I answered this by saying that first you must begin by taking a long, hard critical look at all so called religious authorities wanting to control your life, and be willing to accept the risk that goes with such courage and independence.
Our first six presidents had the courage to do that. American history scholars, writing for the Encyclopedia Britannica, have stated that our first six presidents were Deists and not Christian. I quote: “One of the most embarrassing problems for the nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was the fact that not one of the first six presidents of the United States was a Christian. They were Deists.” (1968, vol 2 p.420, Mortimer J. Adler, editor in chief. The Annals of America: Great issues in American Life: A Conspectus)
Thomas Jefferson used these words to express his view: “On the dogmas of religion, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” (Jefferson to Carey in 1816, ms 1V)
One of the most valuable books in my library, and one I have reviewed many times, that will make a monumental contribution toward historical and religious literacy is 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People With The Courage to Doubt by James Haught, published by Prometheus Books. James Haught is the Executive Editor of the Charleston Gazette. He has received many honors and awards from the National Press Club, the American Bar Association, and People For The American Way. Read more
February 12, 2012 by Bill
Theodore Hesburgh was one of the great Presidents of the University of Notre Dame. Upon his retirement he issued a most remarkable statement. He said, “You know there is really no such thing as Roman Catholic University.” He went on to explain that a true university represents an open-ended search for truth regardless of where it leads, combined with the best scholarship known to institutions of higher learning. Whereas the very words “Roman Catholic” represent dogma, doctrine and indoctrination, the very antithesis of an open ended search for truth.
I know what he meant. When I was teaching at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, I was often with faculty members from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. They were owned by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church. One of their faculty members, with tears in his eyes, said this to me one day: “You have no idea how much we envy you. You are free to teach and explore all of the latest scholarship in every area of religion. We are not free like that under Missouri Synod control. If we were to teach or expose our students to anything that would threaten Missouri Synod doctrine, we could be fired.” You see…there is no such thing as a Missouri Synod Lutheran university.
All over this country are churches and “colleges” promoting themselves as “Bible” centered and “Christ” centered. For a church, that label is valid. But there is no such thing as a “Bible and Christ” centered college. “Christ and Bible” are dogma, doctrine and indoctrination. A college is, according to my Unabridged Editorials: “An institution of higher learning, one providing a liberal arts education.” Do you think for one gullible and naive moment that anyone could expose those students, in a bible college, to any of the most distinguished scholars in the world who could demolish their narrow and restricted “bible” indoctrination?
You can rest assured that “bible” centered indoctrination does not include any contemporary scholarship, such as was revealed in the April 13, 2009, edition of the Los Angeles Times. On the front page, column one, was an exhaustive article on the fact that scholars have known for years that there was no Exodus, and that: “The biblical epic of Moses NEVER HAPPENED. Even Jewish scholars admit that it is myth.” And: “Joshua’s fabled military campaigns never occurred.” As one Rabbi put it: You can never know God by denying the truth, and the truth is Moses and the Exodus never happened. It is mythology.”
George Ernest Wright and Frank Cross were two of the most respected and distinguished biblical scholars in the world. They were the Protestant representatives on the first translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and were my professors at Chicago. They both went on to Harvard. I’ll never forget the first day of class. They held up a bible and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a bible. We are STUCK WITH IT. Now, let’s try and make the best of it.” Read more