Fighting Jesus

May 31, 2017 § 1 Comment

Jesus, the Christ, and I—Part 5

In 1979, a “chance” encounter with a story in the New York Times brought me into contact with the traditional Mohawk community in upstate New York, which has not only retained their traditional spirit-ways but also included at the time the most sophisticated political philosophers in the indigenous world. Thus began a years-long and intense period of study of First Nation history, culture, and spirituality—and with it the traditional indigenous critique of Christianity and Christian Europe.

At the same time, I was immersing myself in radical feminist thought, especially radical feminist spirituality and theology. Mary Daly’s Beyond God the Father had an especially powerful influence on me.

I became rather rabidly anti-Christian. I now had two new frameworks in which to articulate feelings I’d had for a long time. The roots, no doubt, lie in my conflict with my evangelical father. But the long history of violence and oppression by the imperial church in all its forms gave me reason and argument. The seemingly ceaseless religious wars, the witch burnings, the genocide of indigenous peoples, the hunting of heretics, the sanction of human slavery, the institutional corruption and wealth, the ideological contradictions and hypocrisy, Paul’s corruption of Jesus’ gospel into a Greco-Roman mystery religion, all in the name of Jesus—I got angry and stayed angry for a long time.

I couldn’t help but hold Jesus Christ accountable. If he existed; if Jesus Christ really was a sentient spiritual entity who was shepherd to his flock, who answered prayers, who paid attention to history or even played a part in its unfolding, who had a “plan” for the salvation of the world—who was a god not only in history but of history—then where was he when all this evil was taking place in his name? I had no use for a god who was awol from his own religious domain, especially when the church claimed paradoxically that he was uniquely involved in history.

By then, I had separated Jesus from the Christ in some ways. The Jesus I found in the Bible was okay. The christ as a spirit of divine manifestation, as an avatar of some kind, made sense to me, but had no direct connection to the Jesus of scripture. Jesus Christ, the god that Paul had invented and bequeathed to history, was incomprehensibly selective in his attention to individuals and altogether negligent in his attention to the world he had created—if he existed at all.

And that was just the distant, negligent, unreliable son. The father seemed in some ways a jealous, vengeful, and bloodthirsty monster, if you took the biblical accounts seriously. And I did.

When I finally found Quakers, I expressed this hostility. I harassed the Christians in my meeting for their Christian and biblical vocal ministry. I kept my meeting from teaching my kids the Bible. I was at war with Jesus, or at least with the religion he had allowed to grow to such demonic power in his name.

It would be a few years before he found me again and took me back. Well, that’s one way to put it. I’m still not sure whether he is a he there who could do such a thing as come to find me, and I’m not sure whether I’m “back”. I still don’t think of myself as a Christian. What I do know is that a powerful opening with the Christ at the center healed me of my anger and turned me one hundred and eighty degrees.

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§ One Response to Fighting Jesus

  • seekerquaker says:

    My relationship with my father was quite different than apparently yours was. My father was a Friends pastor who was often described as “evangelical” because he strongly advocated a life based on the Gospels. However, he also lived and taught that God was Love and that the Gospel of Matthew far outweighed much of the “Old Testament.” We were taught to respect and “love” the “Samaritans” in our lives. Our experience with Quakerism and Christianity were simultaneous with the journals of George Fox and John Woolman and the prophets and “myths” of much of the Old Testament. He was the model I followedd when I found my way into “unprogrammed Friends.”

    However, I did go through a period when I saw what “fundamentalist Christian extremists” where “doing” to the term Christian, and I essentially rejected the term for myself. Gradually I came to realize that it was important to maintain the testimony of my father and came to call myself “christian” but would usually follow up any statement along those lines with a description that “upset” some “Christians,” but (pardon the current reference) nevertheless I have persisted to not allow others to define “what I knew experimentally.”

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