One, Two, Three, and …
Written By: Hank Hasse 8/30/2012
Several things have influenced big changes in my thinking during the past four years. They were huge revelations for me that shattered nearly everything I held dear for most of my life. Upon further reflection, whatever I had held so dear in the past was really based on the unquestioned beliefs of my teachers rather than a personal conviction based on my own study and deliberation on all available historical and archeological data. (Unfortunately, I grew up long before Al Gore had invented the Internet. Ha!) Actually, what started me on this course were a couple of presentations that asked some very poignant questions about the legacy of my Lutheran heritage. This was about 35 years ago. Those questions continued to nag my consciousness and led to even more questions on what I really believed and practiced.
My first major discovery not only nudged me away from Protestant Lutheranism but also into the uncharted waters of questioning the very core of Christianity itself. It was the unconditional love and forgiving acceptance that the Creator has for all humanity. (I have always loved you and will always love you, no matter what; and I will never leave you or forsake you.) Those implied affirmations grew to become the basis of a personal conviction while reflecting on the ordered nature surrounding us, my life and breath, and the many gracious experiences I have encountered which involved very compassionate human beings, both religious and nonreligious. These stand opposed to the violent “god” of the scriptures and the scripture myths and legends taught by the Church. Briefly, unconditional love, without payment of any kind, challenges the Church’s theory of salvation, including its proposed savior. To put it bluntly, their claim that Jesus’ perfect life and horrible bloody payment on the cross was offered up for humanity’s disobedience and affords ample satisfaction for their violent god’s anger for such disobedience is nothing but a lie based on incredible misunderstandings! It also betrays their own sick conclusion of what “justice” really is, and it betrays their sick configuration of a “god” as well. These two erroneous conclusions are not all that different from the ancient shaman’s conclusions, who tried to explain the source of the natural catastrophes around them which he surmised would require human sacrifices to stop such punishing “acts of god.” That their sacrifices did not seem to appease that anger indicated continued re-enactments of still more sacrificing. I write in greater detail of my findings concerning these gross misunderstandings taught by the Church, and, unfortunately, accepted as truth by many, in the most recent post of my blog at http://www.infoguyhank.wordpress.com . You will want to detour to this site later to find a more detailed view, based on archeological and historical evidence, discoveries which confronted my belief-system and encouraged my consciousness to make statements such as those above, statements which the Church is bound to label as heresy. So be it! At least they are not allowed to burn me at the stake any more.
The second discovery to jolt my personal belief system were the various collections of sayings of the historical Jesus, the Galilean sage, originally passed on orally between illiterate followers, but later recorded by scribes into Greek and Aramaic manuscripts. Only a few have been found. One German scholar divided them into three distinct groups. The final two groups were added to the first sayings as historical events progressed. When Jesus did not return as soon as was expected, the followers tended to include more apocalyptic references attributed to Jesus. Such references were generally well known in Judaism ever since their return from Persia. After Jerusalem was destroyed, they added a third group of sayings which indicated an angry tone toward those who would not listen. These sayings also found their way into the gospels where the writers used many of them together with the hearsay stories of Jesus’ three-year ministry to build their narratives. Collections which included such sayings as well as many other manuscripts were later banned by the Church mainly because the writer, John, not the disciple, had refused to recognize their value since they contained nothing about Jesus’ life. It was this contrived life found in the gospels, and what it was interpreted to mean by my teachers and their teachers for centuries, that had hidden the meaning behind these sayings from me. Not that I can attest to the authenticity of them all, however, several do relate to Jesus’ main message of the “kingdom” being present among and in us and indicate the unconditional love of the Father. Some of the other manuscripts, also interesting for the same reasons, were hidden by Egyptian monks. Unfortunately, most were destroyed when the Church ordered the burning of the Library at Alexandria, which, they claimed, housed too many heretical manuscripts.
Many sayings were found in 1945, hidden in clay jars along the Upper Nile. It turns out that some of them had been used by the first gospel writer, Mark, after 70 A.D., following the destruction o fJerusalem, the Temple, and the killing and dispersing of the Jews throughout Europe, the Far East, and North Africa. During the next generation, because Matthew and Luke had used much of Mark’s narrative content while adding their own views, such as virgin birth and second coming, many sayings can be found in their narratives as well. The first group of sayings mention nothing of an apocalyptic return to judge the world and destroy Jesus’ enemies in a fiery hell. This is probably the main reason why the gospel writer John, again, not the disciple, more than two generations after Jesus’ death, refused to give them much credence. If he was the same John who wrote later in the Book of Revelation, his mindset, like Paul’s, but nearly five decades later, was obviously tainted with the apocalyptic ideas of Judaism as well, which, as I wrote, had been learned in Persia centuries before. Another possible reason is because the first and a few of the second group of sayings only speak of the Father’s generous love for and acceptance of all his children, even his enemies. They speak of serving others, not ruling over them.
These collections, together with the OT prophet’s promises of better times ahead as more and more folks catch this spirit of loving compassion, especially for those who are oppressed with political and religious tyranny or are in dire need, like widows and orphans, caught and held my attention. Both the pre-Babylonian-captivity prophets and Jesus register their complaints against the religious establishment that still called for sacrifices, although no longer human sacrifices, and keeping the Sabbath, etc. in order to escape their humane responsibilities. This is why they have given me a new comforting view of the Creator’s real grace and mercy toward his prodigal children, including myself. It certainly has nothing to do with a bloody human sacrifice to pay for humanity’s disobedience! Rather, it has everything to do with an eternal unconditional love that is the Source of all good and beautiful things seen around us and seen expressed among the compassionate kindnesses of humanity, no matter their religion or lack of it, anything that encourages individuals to help relieve the oppressive situations others are experiencing. Unconditional forgiveness IS the mark of a Higher restorative justice that can finally bring permanent relief to both sides involved in a nasty situation caused by one or the other. However, forgiveness that depends upon a bloody violent payment for disobedience is actually not forgiveness at all. In fact, it is unjust because it brings little or no permanent relief and carries with it the big IF you believe! Therefore, it brings little, if any, change in behavior. Rather, it encourages us to demand the same type of unjust violent punishment for wrong-doing. The only thing permanent about a forgiveness paid for in blood is repeated fear, fear, fear, confessions, confessions, confessions, and mediated reassurances, reassurances, reassurance, and doubt, doubt, doubt..
Third, a good friend recommended that I read Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll. This book, written by a one-time Roman Catholic priest, documents the history of the Church and its violent treatment of the Jews from the very beginnings of Christianity to WWII and beyond.
Carroll was the son of the Chief of Staff, Gen. Joseph Carroll, U.S. Air Force, Wiesbaden, Germany, during the late 1950’s and was later assigned to the Pentagon in the early 1960’s. He was the General who hand-carried photo proof of the Russian missile build-up in Cuba to JFK. To the complete embarrassment of his father, James became a dissenter over the Vietnam War and later a RC priest.
As a priest, he began to study why the huge cross, erected at Auschwitz by the RC Church and then named the new “Golgotha,” was so offensive to the Jews. His discoveries were astounding and soon led him to leave the priesthood, marry, and become a writer.
Carroll found a) that the gruesome execution on a cross had been used by the Romans mostly for punishing the many Jewish “messiah” figures and their rebel followers, not just for usual criminals, for nearly 200 years, and it was not unusual to see scores of bodies hanging on crosses outside Jerusalem, and b) that the Apostle Paul, Doctor of Apocryphal Law, laws found in Judaism after the Babylonian Captivity and in the state religion of Persia, was looking for the fulfillment of the Apocalypse and believed he had found its promised messiah in Jesus and in his death on the cross as the promised savior, and c) that two and three generations after Jesus’ death, well after the Romans had destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, killing and dispersing thousands of Jews, the gospel writers added to Paul’s speculations, found in his letters written about 50 A.D., their own claims of Jesus’ virgin birth, his being the eternal Son of God, and his very soon return to judge mankind, destroy his enemies, and worse, d) the writers more than hinted that it was the Jews who had killed their Lord. (What else would you expect them to write? That the Romans had killed him?) Early Jewish followers, like James who was executed, had died, and other Jews had been killed or dispersed throughout Europe and elsewhere by then. Survival for early Gentile Christians during the first 200 years was difficult enough to say the least, especially with Nero blaming them for Rome’s big fire. Jews seemed to be excellent scapegoats to get Rome’s eyes off the Christians, particularly since they were assumed to be god-killers according to the gospel accounts.
This concept became well-seated among Christians after Constantine supposedly had his vision of the cross with the message, “in this sign, conquer.” His army won the battle for Rome and he became both a Christian and the Roman Emperor over York, Europe, Italy, and all the Eastern part of the Empire, including North Africa. He built his new Christian capital at Constantinople. It was a political decision made to unite the empire. It included ending Christian persecutions, setting them free from the mines, and from being used as targets for sport at the Roman games. Recognizing the many divisions among Christians, he called a Council of differing bishops from throughout the Empire at Nicaea, where he proposed acceptance of a unifying creed and at least the four better recognized gospels as the holy word of their god, to unite around and to teach universally among the churches. More letters and copied manuscripts would be added to the NT by other Councils during the following centuries.
After 325 A.D., instead of the fish, the cross became the symbol of Christianity, and also the excuse behind war and violence (Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, etc.) where Jews, not just pagans, always seemed to suffer most of the atrocities. Still, the Church, even the Protestant leaders such as Luther, continued to blame the Jews for killing their Lord. With the exception of only a handful of Popes who offered Jews protection in a ghetto, most of the Popes usually backed the emperors and monarchs for political and financial reasons, but whose primary goal was the eradication of the Jews. Even the horrible catastrophe for Jews during WWII in Germany’s camps began some years earlier when the RC Church backed the Third Reich and Hitler for financial reasons, hoping he could hold back the Communist Bolsheviks from invading Europe and taking over Church property. When the Nazi storm troopers came to collect Jews from Rome’s ghetto, the Church remained officially silent.
Carroll has gathered and documented more church history than I had ever been aware of. My better understanding of this history has obviously influenced my current thinking, and my former respect for the Church has been called into question, as has my former respect for the Bible. Now I see them for what they really are. The former is nothing but a religious establishment with the assumed power to rule over the minds of millions through their oppressive doctrines. And the latter is nothing but the literature of sick writers whose mindsets are based on payback punishment and legend. This is not to say that some truth cannot be found hidden among all the weeds. All this has given new meaning to Jesus’ words, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” Read this book and you will never again hang a cross around your neck!
Now another question is: what other long-held “truths” generally held by mankind will crumble next? Perhaps still more related to some of the respected sciences, like earth science or medicine maybe? Will the Mayan prediction for December 21 fizzle like other apocalyptic-like predictions always have? I wonder what influence politics and finances have over the sciences. Are simple, natural, and better discoveries being held back because they cannot be reproduced in a lab for a patent? When will whistle blowers have the courage to speak up about known deception and cover-up? We all have so much to learn, so much to search out, so many teachers to question. Good hunting!