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Sunday, January 5, 2014

QUESTIONING THE JESUS STORY



In the final episode of TV's BREAKING BAD, the last image we see is of the show's antagonist  lying down flat, arms outstretched, bleeding from a wound in his side.  Although I'm a big fan of the show, I couldn't help rolling my eyes at this when I saw it.  "Ugh!"  I thought to myself, "another Christ figure?"


Our Meth dealing Messiah

Yes, from superheroes like Spider Man and Super Man to science fiction characters like Neo in THE MATRIX, evoking the Jesus story in a Hollywood movie or TV show is often a cheap and easy way to build audience sympathy for their heroes. The Jesus story is such a huge part of Western culture, that it can be invoked through the simple gesture of having a character spread his arms. Along with references to Jesus, the life of Jesus has been portrayed numerous times in many different movies over the years, one of which, without a trace of irony, referred to it as THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. And then there are the uncountable versions of it in other media that have appeared over the years.  It is so accepted and acknowledged as a wonderful story of sacrifice,  that it is rarely questioned.  But why not?

 Consider the story, according to the bible, God created humans as its most beloved creation, and, while they occasionally disappointed it (causing it to at one point to flood the entire earth and kill all but a handful of people), it was mostly pleased with humans.  So, one day it decided to forgive us of all of our sins; now, considering that this is an all seeing, all knowing supreme being we're talking about here, it could have done so easily.  All it had to do was snap its fingers, wiggle its nose, tap its ruby red slippers, whatever the hell it wanted, to just easily forgive all of mankind's sins.  But instead it went through the long, drawn out process of impregnating a virgin, then having her son grow into adulthood, give some nice speeches, perform a few miracles, and then get railroaded and crucified, with the act of that crucifixion becoming the way that our sins were forgiven.  Why did a supreme being take such a circuitous route to bring forgiveness?  This is the same being that was supposed to have created the entire universe in a week, so why wait thirty three years to forgive the sins of mankind? Why all the bother, when it so easily could have done such a thing without even sending down Jesus?
The answer to that question would seem to be that Jesus had a message from God to bring to humanity.  But that also raises some problems: if you were to look a world map that showed were Jesus was born, lived and died, it would only be a tiny spot in the Middle East.  If Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, why did only such a small part of the world's population get to hear his message?  While it's impossible to know just how many people heard Jesus speak, it's safe to say that it was, at the most, in the  hundreds of thousands.  So, there were millions of people all over the world, in places like North America or Asia,who didn't get to hear this wonderful message, merely because they lived in the wrong place.  Did God not care about them?  Were they beneath its interest?  Couldn't a supreme being send down more than one messiah?  Why not ten, or a thousand or even a million?  Why not blanket the world to make sure that this message, that was intended to be heard by all of mankind, actually was?

There was a lot more to the world than this


And an even darker question arrises concerning Jesus; if God sees and knows all, then surely it can see into the future, and if it could see into the future, then it would know that the belief in the divinity of Jesus would become a huge dividing line between its worshippers.  That there would be Christians who believed that Jesus was the messiah and Jews who believed that the messiah was still on the way.  This  dividing line would become so  sharp and bitter that it would lead to centuries of hatred and bigotry that persist to this day, from the torture carried out by the Inquisition to the bitter pogroms imposed in many countries, culminating in the Nazi concentration camps. Surely, when God decided to send down Jesus it must have known that this would be the result, and yet it still chose to.  Why? Wasn't there an easier way for God to forgive our sins, a way that would not have resulted in so much suffering and death?
To question the actions and motivations of God is seen as blasphemous by some religious people and unfathomable by others, but what I think they're really afraid of is that Christianity, like all myths, loses the strength of its arguments when logical thought and common sense questions are asked about it.  It's easier  to nip such questions in the bud then try to answer them, because for religion, ignorance is truly bliss.