Written by: Wendell Krossa
Let me use something as a takeoff point to muse or vent (much like many are using the Zimmerman trial).
Let me repeat in a variety of ways…Christianity made, not just a screw-up of his message, but the worst screw-up in all history and it has not yet corrected that or shown much interest in correcting that major screw-up. Christianity missed an opportunity to engage the greatest liberation ever and to carry on that liberation of human consciousness to new heights, but rejected that and instead, under the guidance of Payback Paul retreated back into the old payback framework. Hence, the success of Christianity in pagan culture such as Rome. There is no offense at all in the Christian message if you simply reaffirm what most people believe- that people are corrupt sinners and justice demands some form of payment for wrong, some form of atonement, violent payment of blood to appease angry deity, and so on.
And this view of Paul’s- the most influential person in history (Tabor)- is Christianity. It missed what Jesus was presenting that is so entirely opposite, so entirely new and contrary, so entirely anti-payback, that well, you can only call it a screw-up of monumental proportion.
Now here is my bit of hyperbole to make a point. Historical Jesus (HJ) made a series of statements that have been included in the Sermon on the Mount (5:38-48) that is the same as a similar bunch of comments in places like Luke 6. I will suggest or argue that this brief summary is the most explosive, most insightful, most condensed insight, most profound, most….whatever…that has ever been made by anyone in all history. Why? Because it, in a few brief comments t sums up all that went wrong with life, and all that is needed to make life right. It summarizes the entire old narrative of most of history for most of humanity and the essence of that narrative and its destructive impacts on humanity. He uses, for instance, this key summarizing statement for the entirety of the old payback viewpoint- “eye for eye”. Retaliation. Revenge. Harsh justice as payback. Punishment. Getting even. I have traced something of the history of this and its damage in life in my ‘From Retaliation to Unconditional Love’ essay. It- eye for eye- is what is wrong with life. Whether viewed in terms of the animal retaliation, or later forms of justice as payback and apocalyptic myths of grand revenge and punishment.
To illustrate that this is what went wrong with life, pick out some event in history and note the relationships to that event of this core belief in payback, eye for eye, and see that it does help understand all that went wrong in life. Look, for instance, at Hitler believing Spengler’s apocalyptic fear-mongering and seeing himself as the Christian messiah, later as the violent Savior of Revelation, to save Germany from the Jewish threat (Landes in his book Heaven on Earth details this). Running all through the Hitler thing is payback thinking and its related myths (Carrol- Constantine’s Sword- noted this just from the Christian focus on violence aspect- just one small aspect of the greater payback package). Or look at Rachel Carson and her use of an apocalyptic framework to stir fear and how that led to the death of millions. Behind so much misery in history there is that theological/mythological base (in her case apocalyptic framework) and that relates to ancient origins in payback thinking re deity. That worst mistake of the ancients that led to the creation of apocalyptic myth and Salvationism, just further expositions of payback thinking that have continued to produce such misery in life (Carson and other environmentalists engaged more specifically the fear of an angry planet- upset nature- that needed placating by anti-development Salvationism). Oh, I don’t need to make all the linkages and relationships again and again. Bob has also done a lot on relating these mythical themes to violence.
So when in a few brief statements Jesus presents the solution to all this darkness and misery and screw-up, well, that is profound, explosive, the greatest insight ever, and so much more hyperbolic statement to describe this incredible contrast he makes in such a short space and few words. Payback (the old belief/narrative) and now the new- unconditional (the new focus and narrative, the new liberation from the old).
So yes, payback thinking does summarize all that is wrong in life, the world, and history. It embodies all of that animal-like predation, domination, small band exclusion and opposition, and punishment of the enemy, and all of the rest of payback thinking that was developed into religion. And historical Jesus counters it all with those simple, brief insights on unconditional response and relating. This grand solution to payback- unconditional. Turns it all upside down.
So in my humble estimation you are looking, in that brief summary of his on payback/unconditional, at the turning point in the history of the cosmos, the turning point in grand narrative history, the turning point in human consciousness- from the old to the new. From slavery to liberation. From darkness to light. There is the answer to TOE (Theory of Everything). There is the key to human meaning and purpose. The reason for the cosmos. For life. The “will of God” for any religious types. What we are here to learn and experience and discover. And yes, Christianity- Paul- missed it. What a screw-up.
What went wrong and how to make it right. All in such a few brief words. Nothing more important to engage and understand in all human knowing or experience or life. Payback-unconditional.
So yes, Herb, there is a screw-up by Christianity which is to say by Paul (despite other good things he said). And it is so monumental as to be staggering if one considers the outcomes for humanity and life. And many others are making this same point about screw-up but not so much in terms that people like Bob or I are making.
And feeling hyperbolic and getting carried away, something I have never done before…again…<:…. let me add this boast. Just to give you a sense of how privileged you are in this group. You are getting some of the best scholarship (such a pretentious word at times) in the world and all history in this group. Exaggeration? I don’t know of many others out there that are covering these topics quite like we are on this issue of unconditional as related to payback thinking. I have not seen it in the Jesus Seminar research, as valuable as that is. I don’t know of many out there so thoroughly challenging the old payback perspective quite like Bob has in his careful theological work over many past essays (such as on justice). This is theological breakthrough insight of the best kind. So yes, I don’t know of any other research out there that is so clear on this general payback/unconditional issue as you get here. So enjoy your close proximity to this. Sure, the NDE movement is giving us all a “feel” for this new discovery of unconditional but it often lacks greater historical context, something which we can provide.