Thursday, December 07, 2006
By Richard E. Noble
One aspect of “Jesus” that has always fascinated me is how mankind turned Jesus, the prophet of peace and love, into a military general who would return at the end of the world with a vengeful sword in his hand.
For decades and centuries after the death of Jesus, followers of this prophet of peace were practitioners of non-violence. If they were struck on the right cheek, even by an enemy, they would turn the left cheek also. This presented the Romans with almost as much fun as Adolf Hitler and his Nazis had with his Jews. And yet by the year 300 or so, Christians formed a significant part of the army of Constantine. How did this happen? Somehow the interpretation of the life and teaching of Jesus had changed.
As far as I can see, two major theological transformations took place. The first was that Jesus’ death on the cross was interpreted not as a political act of passive resistance by a brave and courageous prophet to the cause or principle of non-violence, but as a pre-ordained, mystical sacrifice, performed by Jesus through a divine collaboration with or within the spirit of “Godness” for the salvation of mankind. The death of Jesus would be interpreted as a sacrifice to heavenly justice to be offered to God for the sins of mankind and in particular to re-open the gates of heaven closed to mankind due to the disobedience of their Biblical parents, Adam and Eve.
Non-believers have never accepted this divinely, mystical view. Non-believers claim, for example, that the death of Jesus could no more atone for the sin of Adam or the sins of mankind in general, than a loving mother or grandmother could substitute herself in a gas chamber or electric chair in the place of her convicted, guilty son.
In other words, even if Jesus wished to sacrifice himself on behalf of sinners, even human standards of justice and fair play could not accept his offer. If man is guilty, he alone must suffer the consequences for his sins. No other man or even Son of God can “justifiably” take up this burden.
Saint Augustine did not put the sword into the hand of Jesus, “the warrior”, but he thought up the rationale for its justification.
Jesus, it is true, would not defend himself even against an enemy, Augustine admitted, BUT certainly he would not stand idly by, a witness to injustice. Jesus would, undoubtedly, come to the defense of an abused, and even defend such, against an abuser, or offender. So, even though, Jesus would allow himself to be crowned with thorns, whipped, tortured and then crucified, without lifting a “divine” finger in his own defense, he might very well be willing to bust somebody’s head open with a baseball bat if they unjustly attacked an undeserving child, for example. And thusly the Christian was redeemed from his pacifism.
Others also ask why Jesus, the savior God-man and lover of humankind, did not step in and defend the future lives of his apostles against their unjust torture and abuse; or his people, the Jews, from the Romans; or babies from disease; or mankind from death? It has been suggested that it was easier to open the gates of a fictitious heaven for eternity than cure mankind of even one real disease in the present. As Wimpy was prone to say; “I’ll gladly pay you for two hamburgers tomorrow, in exchange for one hamburger today.”
The non-believer, for centuries has also had a problem with this notion of a son being held guilty for the sins of his father. In other words, even human justice, as inferior to Divine justice as it must be, could not imprison the child of a thief as atonement for the crimes of his father. So then how can God justifiably hold the sons and daughters and future descendants of Adam and Eve responsible for the mis-deeds of their Biblical ancestors? And so then, where is the justification for atonement or redemption in the first place? The only injustice here, being the cruel and unusual punishment of God against the innocent children of Adam and Eve. Even humans have a higher standard of justice than this.
They ask how the Creator of sin, Himself, is relinquished from any responsibility in this Biblical scenario. Does God not also possess “free will”? Is He not the culprit who decided to create evil and consequently precipitate this whole horrible chain of events? And how could a loving father allow his son to be tortured to death if it were within His power to do otherwise?
This whole story is a simple case of abuse. Should not the Authority of True Justice arrest this God of Christianity and imprison Him for all time for his crimes against his own child? In addition should He, the God of Creation, not be charged also, with crimes against humanity? God could, of course, plead insanity which may be His best defense.