Bad Things Happen When Messengers Screw Up The Message — “Do Unto Others”, For Instance…

Here’s the question I can’t get out of my head: why are Christians so bad at practicing Christianity? Why do they seem so utterly incapable of “doing unto others” — a teaching so exquisitely simple, graceful and flat out do-able that even a humble atheist can pull it off with ease? Why can’t they? Here’s a clue — you know the game “Telephone”? A group of people — the more, the better — try to transmit a message from one person to the next. The fun is how mangled the message gets from first person to last. “Pineapple on pizza is an abomination” turns into “Aunt Minnie says you’re mutant”. People mis-hear stuff. They’re drunk and having fun. And, of course, some people are just assholes. They’ll deliberately screw with the message because, down deep, it was always about them anyway.

I spend a lot of time here on this blog critiquing not so much Christianity as Christians and what Christians did to Christianity. I want to understand how Christianity arose out of Judaism and broke free as a thing unto itself. That’s the most painful irony of all where Christianity and Jews are concerned: Christianity’s core message is entirely Jewish: “make the world a better place for having been in it” aka “do unto others”. And yet, the messengers of this magnificent teaching have turned it on its head. Worse — the messengers have made the message about themselves.

Jesus was pretty clear where his thinking about religious institutions and corruption were concerned. He saw no need for an earthly priest overseeing an earthly Temple. A believer’s relationship with Yahweh could be — and should be — entirely personal: no need for intermediaries. Jesus wouldn’t then go and invent a church to spread that message (“you don’t need a church”). That’s where the Apostle Paul comes in. Take Paul out of the equation and Christianity never gets invented.

I don’t know why we even call Christianity “Christianity” when, really, it’s about Paul. We should call it “Paulism” except the Catholic order of Paulists (their patron saint is Paul of Thebes the First Hermit) have already expropriated that brand. Paul never met Jesus. Never heard him speak. Everything Paul knew about Jesus was entirely second hand. Thus the game of “Telephone” was already up and running. We don’t know how the messaging changed from Jesus to “Listener One” and if “Listener One” spoke what he/she heard Jesus say accurately when they transmitted Jesus’s message. If there were more listeners between “Listener One” and Paul? See the problem?

I’m not calling Paul an asshole. He’s a genius. But he’s like the asshole in a game of “Telephone” — deliberately altering the original message to suit his own purposes. Paul had an idea in his head — that sprang not from Jesus but from his idea of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t traveling with Paul on the Road To Damascus except as a passenger in Paul’s mind. The converted are especially committed to their new faith — witness Paul. And Paul was determined to bear witness to what he now believed about Jesus.

Like Jesus, Paul was a Jew by birth. They both knew all the same background mythology because they both knew the same texts. They both knew what a messiah was and what had been prophesied about a messiah hundreds and hundreds of years before. Quick reminder: a prophecy is just a guess based on the information at hand and the desires of the heart. It’s no more real or reliable than a racetrack bet. Sure, sure — there’s a good shot of reality in there: there are horses! Jockeys! The race track itself! But favorites lose races every day. An informed guess is still just a guess.

Another reminder — the men who wrote the texts of the Pentateuch (betcha most every last one was a man) were operating from a very limited knowledge base. They had no idea other continents even existed on the planet. They had no idea that our planet was part of a much larger solar system and galaxy and universe. They had no idea that germs and viruses and pathogens existed — and were killing them every day. They knew bupkis (that is the technical term — look it up)! They honestly didn’t know where the world came from or how it all operated. Their deity Yahweh (that’s “God’s” name — “god” is actually is job title) emerged from a world filled with gods. From a polytheistic point of view (from the Roman’s point of view in fact), Hebrews and Christians were atheists who denied the existence of THE gods. Their gods.

Amazing how relative atheism can be if you think about it…

Paul embraced an idea of Jesus and tried to preach it to the Jews (including Jesus’s own family) who roundly rejected it. Paul’s version of Jesus was not the Jesus they personally knew: you know — JESUS. What Paul said Jesus said, they rejected. Had Paul respected Jesus’s original message, he might have stopped there. But Paul wasn’t preaching Jesus’s message, he was preaching his own — and his was, in a way, “better”. Well, it was “new and improved”, let’s say. “Doing unto others” is nice. Beating death is way, way better.

Paul’s genius was turning “Do unto others” into “Believe my version of Jesus and you, too, can live ‘forever’.” Eternal life is Christianity’s main sales hook. What does every human fear most? Dying! Hey, what if someone invented a religion where — if you followed along the way they told you to — you could, in a way, live forever in a place called “Heaven” where you and your loved ones can be together forever in a state of bliss. While gods had existed before, none of them had offered humans anything nearly as valuable — and godlike — as this.

And all you had to do was “believe”.

That the world remains in Paul’s thrall — that a whole Catholic church (then a bunch of Protestant ones) could arise from Paul’s repurposing of Jesus — is a testament to the universality of the human dread of death — of not being here.

“Do unto others” and “Defeat death” have zero to do with each other. Paul’s church, for all it preached “do unto others”, never actually practiced it — as an institution. Oh, yeah — newly minted Christians could be quite good at “doing unto each other”. But the institution they created around them all — it was dedicated to selling that other idea. And that other idea relied explicitly on faith and the faithful. It sure didn’t help matters — or deepen the nascent church’s dedication to Jesus’s message — when Paul imagined the idea of Miles Christianus, the Christian Soldier, “doing unto others” on horseback, the “armor of Christ” protecting them as they delivered “the good news” with the tip of a spear.

“Do unto others” morphed into “Do what we say — or else”. THAT became the Catholic church’s mantra. It justified Crusades and Inquisitions and Pogroms and all sorts of mayhem that did the opposite of Jesus’s teaching. Imagine what Jesus — born, lived and died a Jew — would say when he learned how HE was used to justify murdering so many fellow Jews. Think he’ll sit back, nodding in satisfaction at how well Christians were “doing unto others” like he taught them to?

The problem isn’t Jesus. Never was. The problem is Paul — the messenger — and how he changed the message. And then Paul’s church asserted itself as the only “official” followers of Jesus and the only body authorized to speak on Jesus’s behalf — and therefore on God’s behalf. Quick reminder — the people who run the Mormon Church think the people who run the Catholic Church are frauds. And vice versa. From a neutral point of view, who’s to say who the fraud is.

Jesus is but a mascot in both worldviews. He’s “Jesus McDo-Unto-others”. People walk in the door because of him. But the “Happy meal” the church is selling is a completely different product entirely.

The church’s real message — the one Jesus saw through and hated — is corrupt. Like the corrupt Temple authorities Jesus railed against, modern Christians (as opposed to followers of Jesus) are being seduced by corrupt churches interested much more in their own success as institutions over anything touch feely — you know, “Christian” — they might impart. Churches — the physical buildings — cost money to build and maintain. The financial obligation alone can and has put churches literally out of business. That they have a BUSINESS to be put out of — that’s where the corruption begins.

The messenger has fully co-opted the message.

“Do unto others” now services “We gotta pay the rent”. Whatever brings believers in the door, puts them in pews and gets them tithing — that’s any church institution’s bottom line: survival. As churches have proved for almost two thousand years now, their survival always comes at everyone else’s expense.

Dear Christians: Why Do You Make It So Hard To Live Side-By-Side With You?

Some of my best friends are Christian. For real. Correction — some of my best friends are Followers Of Jesus (FOJ). In my experience — as a total outsider — those two things (being Christian and being FOJ) are not the same. While all FOJ are Christian, not all Christians are FOJ. Maybe that’s the problem! If every Christian was FOJ, America would be a very different country from the one it is now, dominated as it is by people who call themselves “Christians”. FOJ would make America a country where people actually “did unto others”. It definitely wouldn’t be a country where some people believe their racism and bigotry are “sanctified” — giving them all the justification they need (inside their heads) to regard all the other citizens (who aren’t like them) as if they were cockroaches. In my experience, Christians do do that. FOJ do not. There is a difference.

These Christians might thank Jesus for Donald Trump, but I’d bet the ranch Jesus would not feel as “passionate” about Trump as they do. I bet Jesus would look at the people who believe they’re his biggest fans with palpable horror — mostly because they’re coming for him. Because of who he is…

Let’s be quite real and quite clear here — and, growing up Jewish in America (and in the world), I can attest to this fact because I have lived it: when most Christians learn that you’re Jewish (or “identify you” thus), a little light goes on in their eyes. It’s subtle, but clear. “So, you’re Jewish, are you…?” It means “You’re different. Not like us”. If the next thought isn’t “You killed Jesus” or some variation on that theme, you’re talking to an alien. Regardless of how any Christian might presently feel about Jews and their Jewish friends (if they have any), they grow up being fed a steady diet of mythology whose core message is “the Jews killed Jesus”.

Yeah, that’s Christianity’s core message. It’s the ace that’s always in their pocket. When you really want to get folks together, you don’t shout “Let’s all go do unto those Jews the way we’d have them do unto us!”, you shout “Pogrom!” or “Jews poisoned the well!” or “Jews own all the banks and newspapers!” or “Jews will not replace us!”.

Jew-hating is part of some peoples’ Christian experience. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Crickets.

In theory, Christianity’s big selling point is “believe in Jesus the way we say you should and you, too, can live forever!”. That, my opinion, is genius. Judaism imagined a deity intensely focused on humanity (in a world where all the other deities didn’t). Paul improved upon that idea by giving Jesus super powers. This deity (deities, really) wanted to fix humans for once and for all, granting them eternal life even — totally defeating death, the scariest thing in any human being’s life. But first, Jesus has to die in order to initiate the whole process. In order for anyone to be “born again”, Jesus has to die.

But that’s not how the story’s messaging works. Whereas the logic says Jesus dying is essential, the messaging insists it’s the worst thing that could possibly have happened. Make up your minds! Or am I thinking of this the wrong way? I suppose “the Jews killed Jesus” will get a crowd going a lot quicker than “Pull up a chair — at some point, you’ll beat death!”

Judging by history, putting your faith in eternal life pales in comparison to feeding your bloodlust. I bet that’s why The Crusades were invented! You get the promise of eternal life and bloodlust for one fabulous, low price. For the record: Jesus didn’t militarize Christianity (he never even knew Christianity existed and would probably be shocked by what it’s done in his name — especially to Jews). Paul though did introduce this military metaphor. In his letters, he describes a “Christian soldier” (miles Christianus) “spreading the good news”. One’s Christian faith is a weapon to be used on infidels. And Jews.

As I’ve written here before — I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, really, was a millennium of Jew hatred all rolled up into one mechanized death machine. Think about what the Nazis called it — their “Final Solution”. Solution to what?

Do ya suppose when all those Nazi soldiers — Christians to a man! — looked at the Jews they were guarding, did they ever think to themselves “Boy, these poor Jews!” Of course they didn’t. The first step in genocide is you stop thinking of the people you want to commit genocide on as “people”. You see them as something less — cockroaches is good. Killing cockroaches is easy. They’re cockroaches. It makes killing people easier if you don’t see them as people.

The same dynamic applies to giving people rights or allowing them to live in peace. Why, the racist thinks, would we ever give cockroaches rights — or allow cockroaches to live in peace? Here’s the problem, my Christian friends (and, I do aspire to make you my friends — that’s my threat): are you even capable of NOT thinking of us as cockroaches? If you can’t stop yourself from thinking of us that way, you definitely won’t be able to hide it. And if we can see it in you, that that hatred IS you.

Here’s something everyone needs to understand: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The racist does not get to say if he’s racist or not. His perspective sucks. Unless he’s proudly racist (quite possible!), he won’t want anyone knowing or even thinking he’s racist. More and more, it’s bad for business. But, keeping hate in your heart is hard when what you really want to do is share it with the world — and other haters. American racists were getting bored apparently with keeping all their hate on the down low.

In this country, Christians have done some terrible things in the name of their faith. They treated the Native Americans as inferiors (not very Jesus-like). Held up their Bibles as justification for slavery. With their Christian faith fully displayed — and sometimes blended right into the horror — Christians lynched innocent Black people.

Their hateful, racist organizations were deeply connected TO their religious institutions.

That same religious fervor stormed the Congress on January 6…

And those with religious fervor burning in their heads, weren’t just doing it for country, they were doing it for God, too. Aside from them? I don’t know anyone else whose God behaves, lives and thinks like their God does. I think their God needs therapy and medication.

Look, I know what it’s like to be so screwed up you think neither therapy nor medication can help. You’re wrong. And the religion you’ve turned to will not bring salvation. It has no idea how to.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to suggest here — how to help you overcome this. And you absolutely do need to overcome this.

Maybe — it’s just a thought coming from an infidel — start with “Doing unto others”. Look, I’ve seen what following Jesus has done for my friends’ lives. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” — most do, in fact. The first thing you must do though — it’s imperative: nothing can proceed without it. Try to freeze how you look at other people in your mind’s eyes. Take it away from your face and analyze it.

See how your eyes look out at the world? Do you see now how others see you seeing them? Like a cockroach? Put yourself in OUR shoes now — as the object of your disrespect and worse. As the “cockroach”.

If empathizing won’t do it for you, maybe this will. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth”. He also said that what anyone does to the least of us, they do to Jesus himself. Jesus stands with us — with the cockroaches. Because in Jesus’s eyes, no one’s a cockroach. And we won’t seem anywhere near as “meek” when we finally DO “inherit the earth”.

Trust me, you won’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT bit of history.