This was an interesting read from another forum that I frequent. I’m curious to see what everyone here has to say about it.
I realize that this post will ruffle some feathers, especially among the deeply religious on this board, so I post this with the greatest respect to those people. This post does not take a stance on the divinity of Christ, and it is not meant to be anti-semitic. However, it is written from a liberal point-of-view.
Anyway, regardless of whether Jesus was divine or not, we can conclude several facts about his life. (These are related to the bible but are not directly taken to the bible, rather they were presented by Marcus Borg in his book “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time”.)
- Jesus was a deeply religious character who preached about God.
- He had the ability to inspire people to follow his teachings.
- A large part of his message was the need to revise moral issues of that time in the area he preached, which was dominated by Jews.
Israel, at that time, was mostly ruled by the Jewish elite. A large part of the law back then was the set of “purity laws” that were in place. These laws, mostly taken from the book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Much of these purity laws were based on the written words “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This sort of holiness became interpreted by the church as a strict requirement to be “pure” and “holy”.
Just before the time of Christ, it came to be that these purity laws were used to oppress women, the poor and the lame. The wealthy were considered to be “pure”, men were considered to be pure, and such. Women, the poor and the disabled were considered to be “impure”. Why? The church back then believed that the poor were so because they were not favoured by God, and hence became so. The fact that women were impure comes from The Fall of Man. Hence, the poor, women and the disabled were heavily oppressed by the Jewish ruling elite at that time.
Jesus’ message was primarily about equality and the love of God, and hence found the greatest audience among the poor. The ruling elite would have none of Jesus because his message did not suit their faith, and even moreso, did not suit their interests. Jesus was firmly in the left wing, while the Jewish had been in the right wing. The early Christian movement was also a left-wing movement, characterized by an idealogy of equality and rapid progression. Jesus was not particularly concerned with morality; he was after social reform. The Jewish church, on the other hand, was interested in morality.
While Jesus was obviously responsible for Christianity, much of its rapid spread was due to Paul of Tarsus. It is important to note that Paul’s teachings were focused towards the Gentiles, not Jews. Hence, instead of reforming the status quo, Christianity became a separate movement, creating a rift between Christians and Jews. The ones who followed Jesus were those who would benefit from his message, while the wealthier side stuck to their current religion and rejected the claims to divinity of Jesus and his teachings. By the 3rd century Constantine I began unofficially sponsoring Christianity, which contributed to its rapid growth.
Nowadays, Christianity has moved far away from its original state. It is completely removed from the left wing, and most Christians (especially fundamentalists) sit in the right wing. While some churches do spend much time advocating social programs, most churches use their political pull to enforce moral issues, trying to prevent the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and occasionally, equal treatment for women. Similarly, most poor people have become athiest. Christianity is far more common among the upper class than in the lower class.
We are in a similar situation as we were two thousand years ago. Christians are awaiting the coming of the Messiah, just as Jews were back then. But there is a problem. Even if Jesus returns and delivers the same message as he did, it will be at odds with what the bulk of the Christian population would want to believe and it would go against their interests. Because we will probably have no way of verifying whether this newcomer is in fact the Messiah or not, the same thing is going to happen again. The majority of the Christian populace will reject him, and instead of reforming Christianity, a new religious movement made up of former non-believers will be started.