Posts Tagged “jesus”

S. Apollinare Nuovo Marys at TombFor nearly all of their religion’s history, the vast majority of Christians have taken for granted that the single most important of their beliefs, is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Everything about their religion, they assume, revolves around that. This assumption goes back to the first century; the apostle Paul, for example, wrote:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (1 Cor 15:13-14)

Yesterday, though, the Religion News Service asked what, for many Christians, is (WebCite cached article) an unthinkable question: “Can you question the Resurrection and still be a Christian?” RNS’s response to that question is a collection of nuanced views held by modern Christians. But having studied early Christianity, I can offer a different answer, one that goes back to the religion’s first decades and is based on scriptural scholarship.

Since the 19th century, scholars understand that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke have a good deal in common. That commonality gave these three the moniker “synoptic,” meaning they’re similar. The most common explanation for what they have in common, is that the evangelists who wrote Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, as well as another document which no longer exists. This other document is known as Q, which stands for German Quelle, meaning “source” (German being the native language of most Biblical scholars at the time). Q is sometimes referred to as “the Sayings Gospel” or “the Lost Gospel.”

Comparing and contrasting the content of the synoptic gospels provided a fairly good view of what Q must have been like. And based on what they found, it must have been a collection of Jesus’ sayings, with minimal — or possibly no — narrative content.

There was, of course, a rather glaring problem with this: Early Christian documents of this type were unknown. Nothing of that kind had been preserved by Christian communities. This hypothesis, then, appeared highly improbable.

That changed in 1945 when a cache of heretofore-unknown Christian documents was found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Among these was something called the Gospel of Thomas, and rather remarkably, it was precisely such a document: A collection of Jesus’ sayings. Thomas didn’t have the same content as Q, although up to half of Thomas’ content may have been the same as, or very similar to, Q. Finding a document of the same style, written in classical times, suggested that the hypothesized Q very well might have existed.

Now, because Q contained virtually no narrative, this meant it didn’t describe Jesus’ passion, death, or resurrection. Yet it probably existed by the late 40s CE (which is right around the time the earliest of Paul’s genuine epistles might have been written). It likely was based on an oral tradition, meaning it was even older than that.

So we know there were Christians collecting and recording Jesus’ sayings, but not, apparently, his resurrection. This is significant: They thought well enough of Jesus’ teachings to record them for posterity, but not enough of his resurrection to preserve that story. Assuming they believed in the latter, it’s difficult to account for such a choice. If Jesus’ resurrection were as central — and mandatory — to their religion as Paul said it was in 1 Corinthians, it seems truly odd that the authors of Q would have left it out, when they’d made the effort to preserve his teachings.

It’s not unreasonable, then, to conclude the earliest Christians, who’d contributed to Q and thence to the synoptic gospels, didn’t believe Jesus had been resurrected. We see, then, that at least one of the earliest Christian communities didn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection. (Aside, of course, from the Corinth church, which Paul’s letter tells us also didn’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection.) Even so, the resurrection-less “Q community” managed just fine, without it.

Now, a lot of Christian apologists would condemn this reasoning because it’s based on speculation. And it is. The Q source no longer exists, and it hasn’t since around the turn of the 2nd century (and possibly before then). It’s true this is a lot of speculation, but it happens to be well-founded. The existence of a collection of Jesus’ sayings (i.e. Q) is currently the best explanation for how the synoptic gospels came into existence as they are; and given that it must have existed, it’s not hard to distill from the synoptics what its content must originally have included. We can, and should, feel free to reach conclusions based on this information … at least, until we discover flaws in this model. (To date, while this “two-source hypothesis” has some critics, especially among fundamentalist Christians, it remains the majority view of scholars.)

The final question that ought to be crossing your mind right now, is: How could one group of 40s CE Christians have been writing their own sayings gospel — which didn’t even mention Jesus’ resurrection, so that evidently they didn’t think it occurred — at nearly the same time the apostle Paul insisted the resurrection was a mandatory component of Christianity and its single most important facet? Here we stumble upon a rather profound problem, which is that, even in the earliest years of their religion, Christians did not all agree as to what Jesus’ teachings were or the meaning of his ministry. Different Christian groups, even in the religion’s initial decades, had very different approaches to the new faith. That much is incontrovertible. As for what that means … well, for the moment I’ll leave that up to you, Dear Reader.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gospel of Jesus' WifeIt’s been awhile since it was a hot topic in the news, but the so-called “gospel of Jesus’ wife” is in the news again. The New York Times reports that, after some non-destructive tests have been done on it, the fragment is probably of classical or early-medieval origin (WebCite cached article):

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.…

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.

The last time I blogged about the GJW, I’d commented on a rather rash Vatican dismissal of any possibility that the fragment could be genuine. Now that some tests have actually been done — which hadn’t been the case back when the Vatican pitched a fit over it — I don’t doubt they’ll still refuse to accept it might be genuine.

That’s a shame, because quite obviously, whether or not GJW is genuine, doesn’t mean Jesus had to have been married. It only means some classical or early medieval Coptic Christians wrote as though he had been. Sure, it seems a really bizarre idea to modern eyes, but there were lots of Christian groups that believed a lot of different things in antiquity, and a lot of those ideas were strange (even to other Christians). If you want to read a really weird account of Jesus’ childhood, for example, read the (possible) 2nd century Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In it, a young Jesus literally curses people to death. No Christians today take that seriously, but some Christian definitely wrote it, back in classical times. There really isn’t any rational reason for anyone … the robed denizens of the Vatican included … to get their knickers in knots over this.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Homeless Jesus' by Timothy P. Schmalz / photo by WCNC-TVA statue of Jesus in Davidson, NC has some local folks upset. No, it’s not blasphemous, not even slightly; in fact, it’s in front of a church, one which willingly hosted it. The problem with it, is that it depicts Jesus as … <drumroll please> … a homeless man, of all things! WCNC-TV in Charlotte explains this “controversy,” if one can call it that (WebCite cached article):

A sculpture of Jesus as a homeless man installed outside a church in Davidson has neighbors and church leaders debating its message and appropriateness.

According to articles on sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s website, the same “Homeless Jesus” now at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church was rejected by cathedrals in New York and Canada. Schmalz’s site also includes articles claiming Pope Francis blessed and accepted “Homeless Jesus” into Vatican City.

From a distance, especially at dusk, you would swear the sculpture is a real-life homeless man sleeping on a bench in front of the church.…

Crucifixion marks in the feet offer the only clue to the man’s identity on the sculpture itself. A plaque next to it shows the “Homeless Jesus,” title and that the inspiration came from a passage in Matthew: 25.

Here’s WCNC’s video story:

A local woman — I assume, Christian — interviewed for this story had called police about the statue, fearing for her family’s safety.

Later in the story she complained about it:

[Cindy Castano] Swannack says it’s an inappropriate message and wrong for the neighborhood. She wishes it showed Jesus standing over the homeless protecting them.

“Jesus is not a vagrant, Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help,” she said, “We need someone who is capable of meeting our needs, not someone who is also needy.”

Actually, Ms Swannack, if you’d actually read your Bible (most Christians, sadly, have never done so) and noticed the mention of Matthew 25 at the site, you’d realize what this was about. It was about one of Jesus’ more notable teachings:

“Then the [Son of Man] will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ message is a simple one, which is completely lost on Christians like Ms Swannack. And that simple message is this: Treat the lowly as though they were Jesus himself; whatever you do for them, you do for Jesus. Honestly, how much plainer could that be? How can it not, therefore, make sense to depict Jesus as homeless?

Artist Timothy P. Schmalz’s Web site is available here, and here is his page about this particular statue. After spending some time looking at the site and Mr Schmalz’s art, I can’t see how anyone could possibly conclude his work is anything but reverent, and (contrary to Ms Swannack’s assessment) appropriately Christian.

Photo credit: WCNC-TV photo of Timothy P. Schmalz sculpture.

Hat tip: CNN Belief blog.

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The Conservative Christ / Michael D'AntuonoThis is something that’s been making the rounds for a few days, but I’ve only just gotten around to blogging about it. I commented on it yesterday in a Delphi forum, and will use some of those remarks here.

A tendency of Christians is to project something of themselves onto Jesus Christ, the founder of their religion. This is understandable since projection is a common psychological phenomenon. Retired general, raging Neocrusader, and avowed Christofascist Jerry Boykin recently fell into this trap, when, as Right Wing Watch explains, he declared Jesus was a warrior, and had inspired the Second Amendment (WebCite cached article):

The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 is [sic] says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A might [sic] warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.

And I believe now — I’ve checked this out — I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.

Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? … From the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus when he said to his disciples ‘now, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’

RWW offers audio of his comments, if you need to hear them:

Given humanity’s predilection, as I noted already, for projection, it’s understandable that Boykin, a retired Army general, would envision Jesus as having been a warrior. But his desire to view Jesus as having been like himself, just isn’t valid. It certainly doesn’t mesh with other aspects of Jesus as reported elsewhere in the gospels (e.g. “turn the other cheek,” “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” etc.).

Boykin is quoting Luke 22:36-38, which is:

And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Taken at face value — without keeping the gospel’s ongoing narrative in mind — Jesus’ instruction to “whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one” certainly does appear to be his way of preparing his followers for military action. Why else would he ask all his followers to arm themselves? However, just a couple sentences later, he concedes that just two swords within his own company “is enough.” These two sentences conflict; he went from saying that “whoever has no sword” should acquire one, i.e. wanting all 12 of his apostles armed, to deciding that only two swords are sufficient. He cannot logically have meant to say both of these things. What’s more, this passage comes after the Last Supper and before his arrest, which presumably he knew would happen soon. It would have made no sense for him to plan for his group to take on a platoon of soldiers, armed with only two swords among them. That would never have worked out. Had Jesus been a soldier first and foremost as Boykin claims, he would never have settled for just two swords!

Many scholars believe this passage was injected into Luke (or into the pre-Lucan source) as a way of having Jesus fulfill prophecy (Lk 22:37 quotes Isaiah 53:12). It does also serve well as a plot device, providing the soldiers who would soon arrest Jesus an ostensible reason to do so (in other words, giving them cause to “number” Jesus “with the transgressors”). This makes sense within the terms of the story Luke is telling: the reader can easily presume the Romans wouldn’t have wanted a band of armed Jewish (potential) bandits lurking around in or around Jerusalem, around a Jewish holiday. Having just two swords among them might easily have justified an arrest within the terms of the story, but not enough that a pitched battle might take place.

Overall, the idea that Jesus was a warrior quite simply doesn’t make any sense. This is particularly true if one compares this section of Luke with its parallel in Matthew, where shortly after this point in the story (specifically in Mt 26:52), Jesus famously said, “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Aside from Lk 22:36-38 the only other place Jesus was said to have expressed any kind of violent attitude was in the Cleansing of the Temple, especially as reported in John 2:13-16 which reports he actually made a weapon (a scourge of cords) and used it on people. While I concede this is an example of violence done by Jesus, I can’t see how this sort of thing stacks up with claims such as Boykin’s that Jesus was a “warrior.” The warriors of the time didn’t settle for just using cord-scourges on people. They certainly didn’t rob people with them, or take on soldiers with them, or cause anything other than minimal mayhem. No, warriors used blades (of whatever sort they could get their hands on), as well as clubs, spears, and other implements capable of causing much worse injury than any scourge ever could. A scourge is by no means the weapon of a “warrior” … not in the 1st century Levant, and not now.

Boykin also bases some of his thinking on Revelation 19, but if Christian legend about this book is correct, this is not a description of how Jesus was in the past; instead, it’s a prediction of what he will be in the future. In other words, after Armageddon (Rev 16), Jesus will arrive as a warrior. But, he wasn’t one during his first incarnation, and he isn’t one yet.

Now, I’ll grant the Abrahamic God — to whom Jesus is related — certainly was warlike. A number of times in the Old Testament, he’s called YHWH Tzevaot and similar names, which are usually rendered in English Bibles as “the Lord of Hosts.” In Exodus 15:3, he’s explicitly called a warrior. But as much as Christians would like to view Jesus as being the same as YHWH, the cold fact is that his portrayal in the gospels is very different. The Jesus described in the New Testament is nothing like YHWH, and if most Christian denominations are right, this was intentional.

Lastly, Boykin’s assurance that he’s “checked out” that Jesus will return armed with an AR-15, is just a fucking joke! What mechanism could he have used to “check out” this assertion? How did he confirm it?

Photo credit: Michael D’Antuono.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, Friendly Atheist, Gawker, and others.

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Jesus weptWhen I heard Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’s screaming, tantrum-throwing prime-time gadlfy, was writing a book about the life and death of Jesus Christ, I groaned inside. Lots of people over the years have attempted to write about the historicity of Jesus, so it’s not as though the topic has never been handled. I’ve read a lot of those books, and most of them are poor attempts at historiography. Based upon reviews of Billy’s book I’ve seen, by scholars like Candida Moss, the Fox News host’s effort is no exception.

O’Reilly’s contention is that Jesus was killed, because … <drumroll please> … he objected to Roman taxation.

That’s right, folks. Billy-boy’s Jesus was a first-century tax protester, ergo he was killed.

Think about that for a moment. Just stop, and think about it. For a moment.

There’s a very simple and very obvious problem with this claim. It shouldn’t take most Americans long to come up with it.

Go ahead. Stop. Think. I’m sure it will come to you.

In case you haven’t got it by now, I’ll explain: According to the gospels (well, three of them anyway!), Jesus was clearly, explicitly, and specifically not a tax protester! Allow me to quote from the Billster’s own Catholic Bible:

Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away. (Mt 22:15-22)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:13-17)

They watched him closely and sent agents pretending to be righteous who were to trap him in speech, in order to hand him over to the authority and power of the governor. They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent. (Lk 20:20-26)

Given that Jesus was reported by three gospels to have said this, how can anyone rationally conclude that Jesus objected to the Romans’ taxation? Clearly, he did not! The Billster’s effort to turn Jesus Christ into a classical-era prototype teabagger is laughable, transparent, absurd, and — perhaps most importantly — directly contradicts what Christian legend tells us about Jesus.

Before anyone asks … no, I haven’t read O’Reilly’s book. And no, I have no plans ever to read it. (The same goes for Reza Aslan’s book that I blogged about back in July.) I’ve long since soured on books that claim to dig into the life of Jesus as a historical topic. Almost invariably those books have nothing to do with “history”; truthfully, most of their authors are not interested in “history” in the first place. All they’re doing is selling their own ideas about Jesus by cloaking them behind the claim of being “historical.” Unfortunately, the actual historicity of Jesus is more elusive than most people, including scholars, will admit. Barring some kind of discovery that sheds new light on the matter, that’s the way it’s going to stay. Centuries of Christian legends, history revision, myth-making, and trampling of the historical record, have made sure of it.

P.S. If you really feel the need to read about books that examine the historicity of Jesus, I suggest starting at the beginning of that contemporary effort, and read The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer (yes, that Albert Schweitzer, the famous philanthropist-physician … he’d been an accomplished theologian before embarking on a career in medicine). Although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, nor do most other scholars, his book got the ball rolling, and that alone makes it seminal. For a more recent work on the subject, I suggest Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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ZEALOT: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH, by Reza Aslan, via Reza Aslan Web siteYou’d think people in the United States in the 21st century would be clear about “freedom of speech.” You’d think they’ve read the First Amendment and understand that, barring slander, libel, or extremes (such as the proverbial “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”), people can say and/or write whatever they want to. You’d think they understand there are no controls on who can write about what. Americans learn about this in school and they have no excuse for not being aware of it.

But when the people you’re talking about are the Religious Right, all of that goes out the window. They get their self-righteous knickers in knots when certain people write about certain topics, sanctimoniously presuming the authority to pronounce certain topics off-limits to certain people.

A sterling example of this religionistic outrage involves scholar Reza Aslan, who wrote Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. As Slate reports, the problem here is that Aslan is (curses!) a Muslim (WebCite cached article):

Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”…

Aslan has become the target of anti-muslim rhetoric this past week as he’s made numerous media appearances to publicize his book. Author and pastor John Dickerson harshly criticized media outlets on FoxNews.com [cached], saying reporters “have failed to mention [Aslan] is a devout Muslim.” In a piece for WorldNetDaily [cached], Pamela Geller writes that “jihadist operatives like the vicious Reza Aslan are carried on the shoulders of the media and intelligentsia like a football hero at the end of an impossibly fought game.” Many who share these views have taken to Amazon to give the book one-star reviews. Aslan “is a Muslim and not a historian,” reads one of the one-star reviews.

The train-wreck Fox News interview mentioned in the Slate report is available via Youtube:

For any other Religious Rightists who’re furious over this horrific Muslim-&-Mass-Media conspiracy to dis your precious Jesus, allow me to explain a few facts that I’m sure you’re unaware of:

  1. As I explained above, “freedom of speech” entitles any American Muslim to write about Jesus if s/he wants to, and there’s not one fucking thing you can do to stop it.
  2. Aslan is a multi-degreed academic, with expertise in religions (contrary to what some Amazon reviewers have said). He has the credentials to discuss the topic of Jesus competently. In fact, he has more credentials than the average Christian, to do so: The average Christian has no education in ancient history and does not know any Biblical languages.
  3. Muslims do, as it turns out, have a religious interest in Jesus, because they view him as a prophet. They don’t believe the same things about him that Christians do, but that doesn’t mean they have no interest in him or his teachings.
  4. Christians themselves have no reservations about discussing Islam and/or Muslims. Franklin Graham, for instance, has pontificated about Islam. And here’s a report about a conference where a whole bunch of Christians went to blather on at length about Islam and Muslims (cached).

Seems to me that any Christians who’re sanctimoniously enraged that an insolent “jihadist” Muslim dared write about their Jesus … and worse, that the mass media have insidiously conspired with him to cover this up … are being hypocritical, if they also feel free to call Mohammad a pervert (cached), or a cross-dresser (cached), a moon-worshipper (cached) … or any number of other disparaging claims. Those Christians need to crack open their Bibles for the first time and read about how their own Jesus clearly and explicitly forbid them ever to engage in any hypocritical behavior, and then just fucking stop already. Their childish act is wearing pretty thin.

Oh, and one last thing: This cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen also hosts a Web site concerning the early history of Christianity. Yes, that’s right. An insolent non-believer has dared write about your precious Jesus and the origins of the religion he supposedly founded. How awful of me!

Photo credit: Reza Aslan Web site.

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'Most Christians Lack Jesus' Love for Others' / Barna Group / Christians: More Like Jesus or Pharisees?For many years I’ve been pointing out that Christians largely refuse to think and act in the ways Jesus told them to. I even posted a page on this blog pointing out specific Bible verses they absolutely will not obey, no matter how often they’re told about them. In most cases they’ve cooked up some bizarre rationales to squirm out from under Jesus’ instructions, and for the rest they just fall back on the old (and largely irrelevant) whine, “But you’re taking that verse out of context!”

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s noticed that Christians are consistently un-Christian. The Barna Group, an evangelical Christian polling firm, undertook a study to see just how Christ-like America’s Christians are. And their conclusion is, that Christians are more like Pharisees than like Jesus (WebCite cached article):

One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people.

A new Barna Group study examines the degree to which this perception may be accurate. The study explores how well Christians seem to emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus in their interactions with others.…

The findings reveal that most self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical. Just over half of the nation’s Christians—using the broadest definition of those who call themselves Christians—qualify for this category (51%). They tend to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness.

On the other end of the spectrum, 14% of today’s self-identified Christians—just one out of every seven Christians—seem to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found to be consistent with those of Jesus.

In the middle are those who have some mix of action and attitude. About one-fifth of Christians are Christ-like in attitude, but often represent Pharisaical actions (21%). Another 14% of respondents tend to be defined as Christ-like in action, but seem to be motivated by self-righteous or hypocritical attitudes.

The folks at Barna are, quite understandably, not going to agree with me that virtually no Christian who’s ever lived, has proven him/herself to be truly Christ-like. Nevertheless, they’ve concluded that the majority of Christians fall short of their supposed goal, and Barna’s use of the term “Pharisaical” to describe some 51% of the Christians they surveyed, is a clear indictment and acknowledgement of a severe problem within the religion of Jesus.

Now, if only the Barna folks can convince their co-religionists to pay attention and do something about it. Somehow I doubt they’ll get very far.

Photo credit: Barna Group.

Hat tip: Hartford FAVS.

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