Sunday, February 9, 2020

Ten things Jesus still can't say in church

This essay contains ten 'common sense' interpretations of some of the most cryptic and provocative sayings attributed to Jesus found in New Testament scripture. These interpretations are actively suppressed within Evangelical Christian Churches in order to maintain fundamentalist Christian orthodoxy, which in turn enables oppressive political regimes world-wide.

Jesus lived in a time and place where speaking truth concerning religion or politics in mixed company was not just 'impolite' but also a good way to end your life ahead of schedule.  Therefore, Jesus hid some of his most scathing commentary of religion and politics within very carefully crafted allegorical sayings - 'for those with ears to hear'.   Jesus described his cryptic teaching as seeds, concise packets of allegorical information which after the metaphorical code is cracked and the sometimes equally mysterious topic of conversation is deduced, those seeds then bloom into insightful 'common sense' understandings of the nature of reality - truth which can be demonstrated to be truth.  If you have ever read a saying of Jesus that seemed 'out of character' or left you simply scratching your head then chances are you have missed out on some of the most significant and self-empowering teachings of Jesus.

Like many who have experienced traumatic life-altering spiritual experiences I once sought to better understand my own experience through the lens of traditional religious teaching.   While traditional religious institutions provide the invaluable benefit of a supportive, like-minded community, these same institutions are often guilty of instilling dogmatic, irrational beliefs in the minds of young people ill equipped to foresee the grave danger embracing these beliefs can pose to their future mental health and their ability to acquire a fully informed, accurate and self-empowered world-view.

Fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism teach their followers to believe everything written in Scripture is truth - completely inspired texts which contain no error, contradiction or falsehood - books which speak as one voice - the voice of God.

This singular religious belief, more than any other religious belief, has the power to transform a person, once endowed with the virtue of common sense, into an irrational and disturbingly delusional individual, susceptible to all manner of psychological manipulation and even severe mental illness.  No mind retains the ability to read and judge scripture soberly after embracing as 'insight' the belief that all scripture was inspired by God, the voice of truth, and the voice of falsehood was somehow magically prohibited from the commentary.

Scripture contains wisdom and truth.   But scripture also contains contradiction and falsehood (both intentional and unintentional).  Those unable or unwilling to attempt to discern the difference and who spend a great deal of time studying scripture develop a distorted understanding of the nature of reality and are in danger of becoming enemies of themselves as well as enemies of truth.  Those who lack the benefit of a sound education in the history of world religions and the history of the creation of canonized scripture are at a particular disadvantage.

The promotion of the belief in scriptural inerrancy has always been institutional religion's greatest gift to sociopaths, hucksters and self-serving political manipulators and perhaps most significantly, the lessor angels of one's own mind.  No one who fully embraces this particular religious belief escapes the negative consequences and no one abandons this belief later in life without significant psychological scars.

Delusion - Definition:
An altered state of consciousness induced by embracing as 'insight' a false belief concerning the nature of reality.

Side effects include:
1.  Inaccurate perceptions of reality.
2.  Diminished ability for sound reasoning.
3.  Mistrust / fear of those not holding the false belief.
4.  Strong mental bias for thoughts supporting the false belief.
5.  Strong mental bias against thoughts opposing the false belief.

The interpretations in this essay have been derived, in part, from the following set of metaphor pairings - (Which can prove useful when attempting to interpret other allegorical sayings attributed to Jesus in the New Testament).

1. Eye:  How one sees the world, one's understanding of something
2. Body:  One's conscious and unconscious mind
3. House:  The collective beliefs/understanding governing one's mind, one's world view
4. Kingdom:  A philosophy or theology - a collectively held understanding
5. Son of Man:  The enlightened or evolved individual, future humanity
6. Demon:  Delusion, Consciousness controlled by falsehood
7. Angel:  Benevolent Consciousness controlled by truth
8. Unclean Spirit:  Consciousness controlled by unhealthy, destructive, self-destructive beliefs about God
8. Devil/Satan:  Malevolent consciousness controlled by falsehood
9. Hell:  A delusional state leading to mental and physical torment
11. Heaven:  Depending on context: The world as it should be, the perfect/ideal world - or - the unseen world, the quantum world, the world of mind
12. Kingdom of Heaven:  The philosophy of the perfect/ideal world

Below are ten Common Sense Interpretations of some of the more cryptic sayings attributed to Jesus found in the New Testament.  The common sense version (in red) is followed directly by the New International Version translation of each scripture (in black).

1.  Mark 4:24-25
Be very careful if you attempt to interpret sayings attributed to me.  The reasoning you use will be the measure of your success, and even more importantly your ability to soundly reason will determine the level of your success in all your intellectual endeavors throughout your life. Those who have sound reasoning will embrace informed rational assumptions and conclusions about both me and my teaching, which will lead to a deeper understanding of both me and the things I teach.  Those who do not use sound reasoning will embrace irrational assumptions and conclusions about me and my teaching.  This will nullify the value of the teachings of mine they did understand.

New International Version  -"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them."

2.  Matthew 23:15
Woe to you conservative religious leaders who teach that God is the author of scripture, you hypocrites. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have finally succeeded, you make them twice as delusional as you yourselves have become. 

New International Version - "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

3.  Matthew 16:11-12
How can it be possible that you don't understand I was not talking about bread when I said, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees?  Then the disciples understood that Jesus was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but instead to guard their minds against the many falsehoods taught by religious leaders who teach that scripture was authored by God - which gives rise to irrational and delusional thinking.

New International Version - How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

4.  Matthew 6:22-23
How you see the world illuminates your mind. If your perception of the world is correct your whole mind becomes exposed to insights. If your perception of reality is wrong your whole mind becomes exposed to fallacies. Embracing a fallacy as though it is an 'insight' makes the mind delusional. 

New International Version - "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

5.  Matthew 5:29-30
If your spiritual understanding disturbs and confuses you, better to approach life with a world-view void of any settled spiritual understanding, rather than have your whole mind thrown into delusion, and torment.  If your first hand spiritual experience disturbs and confuses you, it is better to reinterpret or ignore that spiritual experience than to have your whole mind enter a state of delusion and torment. 

New International Version - If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

6.  Mark 3:22-29
Prominent religious scholars explained, This man dispels demons by Satan's power.  

So Jesus called them and answered using symbolic language: How can a person's delusions be dispelled by offering them more falsehood?  Theology that contradicts itself has no solid foundation.  If your world view contains contradictions your mind becomes unstable.

And if a person controlled by hate begins to hate themselves as well, while attempting to juggle a world view full of contradictions, that person will end up losing their sanity. The fact is you can't help a person who has become pathologically delusional because of their strongly held religious world-view without first forcing them to re-examine their unhealthy understanding of God, then you can pick apart the various delusional elements of their world view.

The truth you need to know is this: The psychological consequences of any sin can be alleviated. But while one holds a false belief concerning the nature of God the negative psychological consequences of holding that belief will always remain.

New International Version - And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 

And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house.  

Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin."

7.  Matthew 12:43-45
When a person who holds unhealthy beliefs concerning God suddenly feels disconnected and estranged from their God they also experience fear, doubt, guilt, and confusion - so they go searching within themselves for a way to relieve their fearful feelings and mental distress, but they don't find it.

Then because they have been taught to fear God and religious authority they seek the advise of religious authority. After consulting with religious authority they then re-dedicate themselves to their same old unhealthy way of thinking about God.  But in order to successfully rededicate themselves and secure relief from their fearful feelings they will find they must first forfeit their intellectual integrity, by sweeping away any thoughts which might challenge their unhealthy beliefs concerning God.

Then that person cultivates and sustains their unhealthy religious worldview by surrounding themselves with like-minded people who have become even more irrational and intellectually dishonest than they have become.  So that person becomes worse than before their crisis of faith.

So it will be with this generation of irrational, fearful and intellectually dishonest religious leaders and their followers, those who
 become delusional by envisioning God as the creator of evil, an instrument of judgment, oppression and destruction, while using scripture to validate their unhealthy thinking.

New International Version - When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  

Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' on its arrival it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order.  

Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first."

So it will be with this wicked generation.

8.  Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 16:19, Matthew 13:44
Don't just assume that I have come to abolish scripture because you have heard me contradicting scripture and exposing the irrational thinking and hypocrisy of those who believe God is the author of scripture.  I have not come to abolish scripture, I have come to fulfill scripture's apocalyptic expectations.  

Because the sad truth is until there becomes no distinction between a coming perfect world on earth and this current earth in the minds of those who harbor apocalyptic expectations these poor people will remain fearful of and obedient to scripture.  Religious zealots will continue to attempt to establish even the most outrageous trivial minutia of scripture as the law here on earth.  This will continue to happen until people become convinced that the messiah has come and the intellectual foundations for the new world have been established - then people will gradually stop being slaves to the irrational dictates and fallacies of scripture.

Therefore, because of the current situation, if an enlightened person attempts to set aside aside one of the least significant commands of scripture and teaches others to do the same, that person will be persecuted and labeled by religious zealots as someone who has little understanding of how the perfect world should operate.  But the person who practices and teaches all the irrational and burdensome commands of scripture will be labeled by the same zealots as someone who is a visionary who has great understanding of the perfect world.  

What I have consistently been telling you is this, unless your intellectual integrity surpasses that of those who believe and teach that God is the author of scripture you will certainly not acquire understanding of the philosophy of the perfect world.

I will give you the key principals of the philosophy which establishes the foundations of the perfect world.

Note: (i.e., Love your fellow man as you love yourself, treat others as you yourself want to be treated, demonstrate your love by doing good for even your enemies, don't fear and envision God as an all-powerful judge but instead envision God as love, the father of benevolent consciousness, capable of only good) 

The philosophy which governs human behavior, the laws and institutions that you yourselves establish on earth will determine whether or not heaven is established on the earth.

Understanding how the perfect world can be created on earth brings joy and inspiration to people.  But the perfect world will remain hidden and unrealized until the people who have this understanding devote their lives to seeing the perfect world revealed and established.

New International Version - "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom.  Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy he went and sold all he had and bought that field.

9. Matthew 5:27-28, Luke 20:34-36
You have been taught that wisdom dictates you should not be sexually unfaithful in marriage.  But I tell you the heart desiring to own someone sexually is already being sexually unfaithful.

Jesus replied, People of this generation marry and are given into marriages of family alliances.  But the people who are fortunate enough to live in more enlightened generations - and in the life that comes after death as well - will neither marry nor be forced into marriage - and they will no longer die; for they will become people whose minds are controlled by love and truth.  They are God's children, since they are children of the afterlife.

New International Version - You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.

New International Version - Jesus replied, The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy to take part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels.  They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.

10. Mark 14:61-62,  Matthew 24:27
But Jesus remained silent and did not answer.  Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the chosen one, the son of the blessed one"?  And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see other enlightened individuals securing first hand knowledge of established power coming to shine their light on those dark things established power has done which keeps the perfect world from being realized.

For as great flashes of insight become understood around the world, so will be the evolution of humanity.

New International Version - But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

New International Version - "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."


Final thoughts:

Peace, prosperity and enlightened democratic government will never be fully realized without meaningful intellectual reform within institutional Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  As long as churches, mosques and synagogues continue to promote the belief in scriptural inerrancey, institutional religion will continue to unwittingly inspire self-destructive apocalyptic world-views in believers and retard the progress of positive social and economic change.  Corrupt political power will continue to utilize scripture and the fear of God as a weapon to maintain control of the political thinking of those captured by the destructive power of religious fundamentalism.

Author's notes - for those with ears to hear

Voices other than the voice attributed to Jesus found in scripture teach that we are sinful fallen creatures (rather than evolving creatures) who must be saved from the coming wrath and judgment of God.  However, Jesus clearly taught in New Testament scripture that both he and his father (His God) judge (condemn) no person. A clear contradiction.  Jesus taught that his 'teaching' would judge people.  Neither did Jesus state anywhere in scripture that he would return to earth to judge and rule over the world.  These ideas stems from other voices in scripture as well as tradition.

The fate of those who speak against fundamentalist orthodoxy
For this reason (and others) I believe, as did early Gnostic Christians, (The first Christians to be persecuted by other Christians) that the fundamental 'salvation' teaching of Jesus could be summed up in this way: You will be subject to and serve the God you yourself have envisioned.

The convoluted and often contradictory doctrines of fundamentalist Christianity offer only a partial cure for the mental illness fundamentalism inspires.