Growing up Non-Christian in a predominantly Christian country does things to you — especially when you realize that you know more about Christianity than most Christians — if only because you bothered to actually READ the texts the religion says it’s based on.
You start to develop a sore neck cos your head’s always tilted on one side (as if you were a dog asking a question). And you start to realize that, when it comes to their own faith, most Christians don’t know what they’re talking about and would be hard-pressed to have any sort of in-depth discussion about the particularities of their faith.
This is a triumph of the Institution — The Church — over its core message/messager — “Do Unto Others”/Jesus. And that’s not only fitting — but inevitable.
Jesus did not invent Christianity. If you were to dig him up today (sorry, he did not rise from the dead), and ask him his take on ‘Christianity’ — the faith supposedly named for him — he’d stare at you like you had three heads, two of which are on upside down. Cos Jesus never HEARD of Christianity.
Historical Jesus — if such a person ever existed — was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew. He never for a moment in his life ever thought of himself as anything other than a Jew. He preached to Jews exclusively — a message not about a new, non-Jewish institution that he wanted to see formed and founded, but about how to make his own ‘Mother Religion’ — Judaism — better.
His own words — his core philosophy — are so simple, so elegant, so UNIVERSALLY TRUE that anyone can do them. And their message is so UNIVERSAL that it’s transcended time like very few other messages: “Do Unto Others”. Actually? A fairly ‘Jewish’ message. But who’s counting?
Jesus never intended (or wanted — based on his words) a Church to be built around him.
Good thing (if you’re Christian) that there was Paul — the former Saul of Tarsus — converted on the Road to Damascus to… what exactly? I don’t think even HE knew. But once that idea — whatever it was — was inside his noggin, Paul refused to let the thing go.
Aside from the gospel writers (who can’t agree on a whole lot of actual ‘details’ about the life of the man they claimed to love like no other), most of the rest of the New Testament is Paul — his letters to far flung congregations, his instructions & and his formative notions of how to make Jesus’ message play outside of Judea.
But Jesus’ message stopped being Paul’s point early on. Paul took over not only the messaging but the message. If Paul never exists, there IS NO Christianity — because there would have been no one to imagine it, describe it & its aims, and then cajole goyim (strangers — non-Jews) — into following its newly minted tenets.
Paul became so convinced that HE was the right guy to ‘preach’ the message that he even went up against Jesus’ own family for control of Jesus’ message. And PAUL — who didn’t know Jesus, never spoke to him, heard his voice, broke bread with him — won the argument — at least in the historical sense. Here we are.
If I’m Paul — and I had the luxury of perspective — I’d be thrilled that my idea of how to make Jesus’ Idea better spread exactly the way I said it would. But I’d be a little angry, too — cos who really thinks about Paul any more? A few Catholics? Meh.
If I’m Paul I’m pissed as hell. In some small way the religion itself SHOULD have Paul’s name on it. If there were any sort of Justice in the Universe, we wouldn’t have called it Christianity in the first place.
The religion would always have been called ‘Paulism’.