Written by: Henry Hasse ~ August 12, 2013
There was a city in Asia Minor near the north-eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea called Tarsus. It was a center of learning that rivalled Alexandria in Egypt. It was also the center of Western Persia’s Mithraism and the home of Saul. There are eerie similarities between Mithraism and Christianity that one has to wonder about. Did Saul convert from it only to bring the ancient ways of Persian Mithraism into his vision of Christianity? Did he, as Paul, use Mithraism as the common ground to speak to the Gentiles about his “Christ?”
Words tend to fail one because Paul’s total rejection and reversal of the Father’s forgiving unconditional love (Jesus’ core message) was so crass that it seems to require words similar to his for the sole purpose of smacking down Paul’s brazen vision by using the same damning force of rejection.
Paul was so skilled at challenging Jesus’ comforting message of the Father’s compassionate unconditional love that through his (Paul’s) use of the well-known ancient apocalyptic counterpart which claimed “fair and just punishment,” and then by fitting in the threat of a “hellish end for unbelief” that Paul’s ”Christ” message actually seemed very plausible to the casual listener.
Paul was able to do that by simply leaving the punishing judgment up to God. Only God could deal it out fairly. It was like saying, “Yes, Jesus, you have nice ideas about love, but we humans cannot be trusted enough to be that loving and forgiving so that we might even forgive our enemies. It is much better to let God sort this out.”
The common listeners were unable to see the impossible oxymoron of saying that their God could have it both ways, that is, be forgiving and punishing; much less could they argue the point with a skilled lawyer like Paul.
What they heard was that God loves us so much that he promises to punish all those who hate us or take advantage of our weakness. He even punishes us for our disobedient sins against him. Let him do the “getting even” for us. Only God could come up with a salvation plan that involves propitiation for us. Only God could send his Son to be punished as a worthy sacrifice in our place. Only God could raise his Son from the dead to prove to us that his Son’s bloody payment sacrifice was acceptable. Only God could satisfy his anger with us and our enemies. In other words, only God’s retributive pay-back justice could satisfy mankind’s mindset concerning getting even!
Oh, BTW, Paul added that we must, of course, believe God’s salvation plan which was fulfilled for us through the shed blood of “Christ” in order to have eternal life waiting for us after our resurrection. And those who do not believe it will face the judgment and the everlasting anger of God in a terrible hellfire punishment!
To top all this nonsense off, Paul insists that his scripture and all other scriptures are God-inspired, so you best not challenge any of it or you will have hell to pay. So avoid those who cause divisions by questioning my (Paul’s) words of salvation!
Such was the masterful invention of a skilled defence attorney for a prodigal humanity. Make use of an acceptable substitute to make your payment due for disobedience. Completely disregard the voice of the Father concerning his compassionate love for us and his presence among us. Never mind what the dreamer from Galilee said about forgiveness. Forget about his claims that God accepts everyone as they are. Instead, God will have his justice served in “Christ.”
I do not intend to use such forceful words as “damning to hell” Paul’s apocalyptic ideas in order to get people to believe what I write. Just as well too, because that would turn off many would-be listeners today, folks that have begun to see past these myths and leave their churches while seeking a better message.
Of course, there are also those who would swear on their Bible as being the one and only source of truth and salvation for humanity. And they are willing to use the payback parts of it to justify destroying their unbelieving neighbours. Unfortunately, they cannot see the twinkling lights hidden among all the weeds, lights that illuminate God’s everlasting love for humanity, lights that Jesus found and shared with everyone, lights that show another way of life, God’s way of justice, a way of acceptance, forgiveness, and love for everyone.
Many others merely treat their churches as social institutions where good friends gather for potluck dinners or collect used clothes for the needy in their community. Not that these gatherings and projects are bad. Of course not! But why not also gather to proclaim and reassure each other of God’s unconditional love for humanity? Absolutely no conditions, no threats, and no sacrifices required! Only being like God, as much as it is possible for us to do – treating others, even our enemies, like he treats us, here and now, through his presence, with a compassionate acceptance, and a loving forgiveness – and especially reminding each other of God’s loving promise to never leave us or forsake us, not even in death. The original Jesus followers did exactly that.
Today, those who have had a near death experience continue to attest to this fact – that the God of love never left them, but remained with them, and assured them of his acceptance, no matter what they worried about concerning their past. Their past experiences were merely meant to be learning experiences, experiences that brought them to learn about a better way of life.
That was Jesus’ message in a nutshell! Jesus’ core message is summed up in Matt. 5:38-48. Please check it out. It is a total rejection of Paul’s lies and the church’s lying creeds, just as it was a total rejection in his day of the sacrificial temple rituals and the priest’s threatening promises of an end-time judgment, the lie they had picked up during their Babylonian/Persian captivity. And do not forget that beside the sacrificial rituals Jesus also challenged and rejected the words, “eye for an eye” as being unjust, words which Paul claimed were God-inspired and must not be challenged or you will have hell to pay for it!
Jesus was brutishly tortured and murdered for challenging holy words, the temple religion of blood sacrifices, and for being falsely accused of starting another rebellion against the Romans. But Paul saw an opportunity to use this for his vision of an apocalyptic salvation plan. And the gospel writers soon followed after by using Paul’s ideas and by adding their own. Although hidden within their narratives, at least they did preserve Jesus’ core message of a loving ever-present Father pleading with us to mirror him by using his loving ways on our neighbours. That core message, scattered about in the gospel narratives, is all that is left of the Jesus’ sayings which had been passed on orally by original followers. After the influence of Paul’s letters (50 CE), and after the Jewish war with Rome (69-70 CE) and the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jesus’ sayings recorded by the gospel writers began to indicate an apocalyptic slant.
So how could we turn Paul’s trick, which the gospel writers and the church bought into later, upside down on them? – Something like Paul and the church did by reversing and rejecting Jesus’ message which had proclaimed a loving Father who only pleads for sharing his mercy with the oppressed and who never has demanded a bloody sacrificial payment for them.
Why are the church’s creeds all about sacrifice and a bloody payment for sin by a “Christ,” the one and only Son of God? Why is the son of man’s message of an ever-present accepting, loving, and forgiving Father not even mentioned in the church’s creeds?
I should think that it may take the similar skills of a masterful prosecuting attorney. And that attorney would need to gather endless evidence of the love that the Galilean Sage spoke of. That attorney’s final summation would need to convince the jury of humanity that the news of a bloody salvation payback-justice and an apocalyptic end of the world is actually guilty of spreading horrible fears among prodigal humanity (Paul’s “defendant”). He must also convince the jury that such a message is not the “comfort” it claims to be, nor does it offer an authentic comfort, not even when the defendant tries his best to believe it.
In fact, it spreads so much fear that it tends to encourage a similar horrible treatment and tyrannical behavior toward fellow humans who refuse to participate in such madness as Paul’s “Christ” vision, a myth which soon duped the early rural Q followers who had previously been passing on only Jesus’ core sayings by word of mouth, then duping the gospel writers a generation later, and eventually Paul’s “Christ” vision also duped the new Christian church itself.
How could this happen? Well, we need to remember that Jesus was well-aware that his message was so outrageously new and so totally opposed to the well-known apocalyptic mindset of the day that he even warned his followers not to attempt to “place new wine into old wineskins.” In other words, the two messages were incompatible. And yet, Paul attempted to do precisely that very thing.
Rather, consider the compassionate message of the OT pre-captivity Prophets who understood the presence of a loving God who pleaded for us to share his mercy toward humans, especially the oppressed. Then consider the compassionate message of the Galilean Sage, who insisted on being called nothing more than “the son of man,” one who also felt the presence of a loving Father among us and who tried to pass that love on to everyone.
Consider these as one and the same messages concerning our Creator/God, one which has been his message to all of humanity from the beginning. It treats each and every one of us as his sons and daughters and tells us that all that he has is ours to use and to enjoy and to make things better here and now.
Let’s get on with it and leave the rejecting and opposing messages, loud and numerous though they may be, buried in the dust of historical foolishness! Follow the path less chosen, and it will make all the difference for you and for others. Discard words that require the need for payback retribution. Look for, discover, and hold on to the gemstones of love hidden among all the weeds of the scriptures, words that are not holy by any stretch. Most of them speak of an angry sky-god who encourages and participates in mankind’s need for a payback justice, a justice that is unknown to the real Father’s justice of love as it was exposed, taught, and practiced by the son of man from the little farm community of Nazareth.
Can you hear the gentle voice of the son of man who delivers an unconditional loving message from our Father? It is a voice that destroys nothing. It is a comforting sound to every oppressed prodigal soul. And yet, it is also like a mighty wind moving across the earth, one that sweeps away the salvation myth of Paul and the church. And it leaves behind the only sacred thing that there is, ordinary humans doing very ordinary loving things for each other.
Listen. Can you hear it?