Chapter five – Be aware
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. ~Thomas Jefferson
As religious people, it is assumed by the non-believing world, that we are all daft. We worship a God who cannot be seen, who we claim supports goodness, compassion and love, yet in two thousand years of history we have entirely failed to live up to those claims in our own behaviors. It must be frustrating for them, to hear us say one thing, yet live another. And when you toss in the various ideas that we presuppose about God and religion, heaven and hell, or good and evil, I really almost can’t blame them for feeling the way they do about us. I have found myself in that very place, wondering why our stories don’t mesh, or why it seems so hard to actually live the life that Jesus exemplified?
Let’s take for example that old Christian stand by, Satan. Interestingly enough Satan doesn't even appear in Jewish concept until after the Persian captivity. Well, at least not in a personified form, you see the Jewish concept was called “Shaytan” and what it actually meant was a challenger, or antagonist. It wasn't a personified concept like the Satan of modern times, no devil horns, no pitchfork, but instead it was an archetype used whenever anything got in the way of serving God. It was the Persians, specifically the Zoroastrians who lent the personified concept of Satan to the Jews. In Zoroastrian belief there were dual gods, Ahura Mazda, the “good” god, and Tiamat, the evil god. This dualism infiltrated the more holistic Judaism and ended up causing a personification of Satan. The problem is, this brings up some really problematic points for Christian theology. If God is truly all knowing, and all powerful, how can there be an equal antagonist in Satan? The Genesis story of Adam and Eve seems to imply that the “snake” is Satan, but then are we assuming that Satan could sneak past God and mess up the plan? If so we are giving Satan equal footing with God, which then makes the statement that God is not omnipotent. In Job, Satan comes before the throne of God and asks permission to torment poor Job, God grants permission but with stipulations, so in this story Satan is subservient and under the control of God. So which is it? These sort of questions are confusing to Christians, so it’s no wonder outsiders don’t get it.
We must use some awareness here, we must consider God from a logical standpoint. If God is who we say He is, then no one, not even Satan is His equal, so we must assume then that Satan either works for God, or doesn't exist at all. Do you see how that works, apply a bit of logic and we answer a big question in Christian theology. Lets consider the concept of Hell. In ancient Judaic belief there was no “place” called Hell, when people died they went to “Sheol” or “the grave” until they were eventually reunited with God. Our word for Hell comes from the Aramaic word “Gehenna” which was the name of the great burning trash pit that existed outside the city of Jerusalem. Jesus uses this word a few times when talking to folks about what happens if you lead a negative lifestyle. He wasn't talking about some supernatural place deep below the earth populated with demons; he was simply stating a fact. In that day and time, Jewish law stated that if you happened to be a criminal, or had no family, or where diseased and you died, your body would be thrown on the trash heap and burned with the rest of the garbage. Jesus was making a metaphorical statement about living a good life as opposed to a bad one. But modern Christianity has taken this concept of Hell and used it to scare people into seeking salvation and putting money into the tithe plate. A little logic and study can go a long way into understanding the metaphorical concepts put forth in the bible. If we as Christians remain confused about our own belief system we will never be able to unify ourselves into a loving church.
We base our behaviors on what we learn, and when those concepts don’t make sense, or don’t correlate with one another we have a very hard time truly trusting in them to guide us. As people attempting to grow in the spirit it is our responsibility to research and fully understand what it is we believe and pass on to others. The tactics of fear and deceit have been used by religion for thousands of years to keep the populace in a bully’s headlock. It’s a plan to keep people under control and to get them to do whatever it is the ruling religion would like them to do. It was this sort of heavy handed tactics that pointed Jesus to the cross.
Modern religion, particularly those that are fundamentalist in nature, cannot stand to be questioned, because they themselves know that the junk they are teaching doesn't make sense. It amazes me how many Christians don’t even know that Jesus’ real name, isn’t Jesus. The name of the man we call “Jesus” was Jeshua (Yeshua), which translates into “Joshua”, the name “Jesus” comes to us from the Greek to Latin translations that came long after “Jesus” had passed on. Its little things like that that compromise our believability and end up making it hard for Christians to be respected. I sat through years of college classes on theology and watched as this information was readily ignored by professors and students alike. The information that we pass on to those we come in contact with, and especially to those who are still young and impressionable needs to be correct and it needs to point in the direction of actually creating a want to live a lifestyle like Jesus. If we are going to build a future for the church we must become aware of what it is we truly believe, and we must become aware of whether or not it leads to a lifestyle in the example of Jesus. Otherwise how can we at all even call ourselves “Christian” if in fact we don’t even know what that means?
Take the time to think about your beliefs, and whether or not they really make sense. God has provided man with the ability to reason and understand our world in a logical fashion, it makes perfect sense to me that He would want us to use it. This “old system” of fear and deceit must be ended, and it must be ended soon or we Christians may not have enough integrity left for our beliefs to be taken seriously. Ask questions, lots of questions and don’t settle for tired old answers. Take an opportunity to learn some Greek or Hebrew, check out some books on the life of Jesus, or at least read your bible with a mind for it making some sense. Being aware of what it is we truly believe is not too much to ask, it is the very foundation of our lives, and thusly the most important thing you will pass on to your children, and they to theirs, and if it doesn't make sense, if it’s not reasonable, it will eventually die.