December 25, 2005
You Gotta Love Him
It is Christmas day and the rest of my family is watching a movie on TV, or surfing the net. I sit here the only non-Christian in the lot, and I am listening to Handel's Messiah and thinking about Jesus. I have always loved Christmas and Jesus. No, I don't mean in the inane bumper sticker terms (No Jesus, No Peace . . .). I mean in the real sense; for what he lived for, what he tried to teach, and what he died for.
You Christians take him for granted. You have made an icon of him, and in your rush to worship him you forgot what he stood for. You have been so busy unloading your sins on him in the frenzied search for redemption that you miss the point. I simply don't believe that Jesus came as a kind of divine sponge to soak up all the sins of the world and wash it clean with his blood. If the concept of sin has any validity at all it has to do with what we do in life, each one of us, and how that measures up against the yardstick of morality. You who see Jesus as some kind of "Get Out of Jail Free" card have cheapened his legacy.
I believe that, like all great teachers, Jesus intended the example of his life to be his lesson. He lived a life in love, humility, and peace. He died for what he believed in without raising a hand in his defense. To the extent that Jesus shows us the way to salvation it is not by taking from us our sin and providing a divine figure to be worshiped, but rather by challenging us to emulate him and learn from him as an example of what is best in man. I love Jesus not for his divinity but for his humanity. I do not need for him to save me, for I have already learned from him and others how to take responsibility and ownership for what I do and have done. I think that I must try to save myself, just as he did.
To the extent that either the New or Old Testaments seem to say otherwise, I believe that this is due to the priesthood, the second oldest profession. The religious bureaucracy that has been around since the beginnings of human society grew a new limb after the death of Jesus and sought to exploit his life and teachings by making him the object of a new cult of worship. By reinterpreting the old texts and inventing new ones, these early clerics succeeded in capturing a large market share of the religion industry. To secure this remarkable accomplishment they codified their efforts in a stunning work of revisionist history.
I have wondered (as many have before me) how things would look to Jesus were he to appear on this earth today and walk again among men. This, then, was my Christmas dream:
The scene is the Vatican in Rome on Christmas Eve. It is around midnight. A figure in a simple rough-woven cloth garment and sandals approaches the entrance and is stopped by a guard in full military regalia with helmet, breastplate and spear. The stranger identifies himself as Jesus of Nazareth. The guard hesitates until Jesus throws back his hood and looks him in the eye. Jesus asks: "Is this not a public place of worship? What do you fear?" The sentry responds: "There may be terrorists with suicide bombs or thieves who would steal the great art treasures." Jesus shakes his head and, putting his hand on the halberd that the guard carries, says, "Do you not remember what a Roman soldier did with one like this?" He leaves behind a shaken guard who has thrown down his spear and is in process of shedding his breastplate and helmet.
You have been so busy making Jesus into a God that you have lost sight of what it is about him that could make him holy. I am more fortunate than most Christians in that I never had to go through any kind of a ritual or process to claim Jesus. All I had to know is that he is family. In my tribal tradition, if he is family you have to love him.
William's Whimsical Words:
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