Was Jesus successful in his mission?
I struggled for a few years within Christianity to focus on compassion and tolerance. Even as a fundamentalist Christian, I did not support the religious right and campaigned for Christians to focus on what I considered to be the basic teachings of Christ. I was against intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, discrimination and using religion as a political weapon. I came up with a version of Christianity that fit within the scope of what I believed to be the the essence of Christianity – to love God and to love others.
Of course, I do not believe I was the first to try to reform my faith. There are many Christians who have walked this path over the centuries and many who still do so today (this is my shout out to liberal Christians). In fact, the very birth of Christianity centered around the very concept.
I believe that if Jesus really lived 2000 years ago, he and his followers set out to reform the religion of the day. They had their “religious right” groups who perverted what they viewed as the central message of their God. I know it’s near to impossible to determine what Jesus actually said and did since much of the narrative in the gospels came from the creative minds of the authors. However, personally I believe the passages where he defied the religion of the day were probably the most accurate. I say this because the authors tried to fit that message back into the framework of the Old Testament and would have not included a defiance of their foundations if there was not some reason to do so.
So here’s a possible scenario of what occurred 2000 years ago:
- Jesus and his companions set out to reform the religion of their day to be a kinder, gentler version.
- After their leader was killed, a cult was formed primarily made of this group of Jewish rebels.
- Paul took this basic message, added in his philosophical flair, embellished the reason for the death of Christ and took it to the non-Jews. In the process he wrote a few letters to his followers.
- Mark & possibly others took Paul’s letters, combined them with the legends of Jesus and created an account of the life of Christ adding in stories like the virgin birth, the teachings of hell, and the miracles he performed (many of these concepts were alien to the writings of Paul).
- Additional letters were written by early Christians using the names of Paul, the disciples, and others for credibility. These writings along with the previous mentioned ones now form the New Testament.
Why do I believe that Jesus failed in his mission? Well, because his followers tried to cast him as the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, they simply recreated the very structure of the religion that he was trying to discard. They created a new set of rules and mysticism that were only a slight upgrade to what already existed in the culture.
Jesus supposedly said and did many things that would have caused him to be stoned (actually, it’s more likely that he was stoned to death than crucified as Paul, a Roman citizen, claimed).
Jesus defied the Sabbath. He contradicted the law of Moses:
You have heard that the law of Moses says, “If someone injures your eye, injure theirs in return. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock theirs out in return.” But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too.
He more or less said that the religious teachers of the day were evil.
The teachers of religious law crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden. They enjoy the attention.
A good summary for the message of Jesus can be found in this statement:
They need to learn the meaning of this Scripture, “I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.”
However, Christianity validated the need for Abahamic sacrifices. In fact, ironically they made Jesus’ death the ultimate sacrifice. They created their own set of “impossible religious demands” for people to live by. In essence, everything Jesus tried to change was reverted back to the original form using his name.
Many ex-fundamentalist Christians are now picking up his mission and calling for people to live outside of the confines of the religions of today. It’s about mercy. It’s about compassion. It’s about making a positive impact on our world. Not about impossible religious demands or sacrifices. Can we succeed where Jesus failed?
- The de-Convert