Saturday, June 17, 2006

The "God of War and Ignorance"

Ludicrous and absurd parodies of "Christianity" from history (forcing people by the sword into a river, and then, "baptizing" them) tell much of what is wrong with the whole "Christian" worldview today. Perhaps Jesus' fine emphasis on the Love and forgiveness of the One has been the insubstantial and invalid basis for the "Christian" rationalization and justification of moral and ethical horrors. How can people possibly be so blind as to say that george bush is a "Christian," after he has slaughtered his masses of enemies? (Is this yet again a confusion of God with the Yahweh-myth of the Hebrew Scriptures? I do not wish to sound like a scratched musicdisc, but it seems that this factor is again contributory to this,as to so many other atrocities and barbarities.)

Violence was a major part of the Great Corruption of Christianity that took place in the fourth century.

Little has changed, among the hyper-religious fanatics, since then. I cannot imagine any tale crazier (more psychotic) than the delusion that "God" is speaking to you, commanding you to kill your enemies. This perspective is not only nuts; it is quite inconceivable, quite impossible, within the context of the God of Jesus and the mystics. It must of necessity involve regression to the old god of early tribal history, the "god of war," in which all the ancients believed. It is startling and amazing that, in the twenty-first century, we must still insist on the non-existence of this fairy-tale illusion of a god. Yet that has been a core of much in nonreligious spiritual education.

That is one of the unique perspectives of Jesus. Unlike "Christians," he seemed actually eager to forgive people, and to "wipe clean" their slates. He was the embodiment of perfect "grace," in which God forgives and loves us because of Her/His goodness and Love, not because of anything that we do. what a lovely teaching is that "amazing grace."

I do not hold anything against the people of ancient times. It is the errors of the people that I stand against-- actions of brutality, injustice, and murder of the innocents.

The Jewish faith is a beautiful one, full of beauty and wisdom. I am open to its teachings as to every other faith. I have no objections to Judaism. It is only the ancient god-image to which I object as a spiritual person. For the "protojehovic" image of God was one of violence, immaturity, explosive temper, and a whole list of undesirable, even insane, qualities and behaviors. So, I am never anti-Semitic, but only anti-Yahwehist.

The Jewish faith is also organized that, like the Church, the Jewish faith expels "apostates"-- a Jewish and Muslim term for "heretics."

To indicate just how organized Judaism is, there are wide and massive collections of commentaries written by rabbis over the centuries that are regarded by some Jewish people as almost equal in authority with the Scriptures. In fact, there are two such collections, the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud. Besides these, there is another entire collection of texts called the Mishnah.

This is neither worse nor better than organized Christianity, but yes, point for point, organized Judaism is at least as "organized" as Catholicism.

But the Inquisition is a horror never replicated in the Jewish faith. Being organized, or even over-organized, does not in itself lead to horror. But when Love is "organized out" of the laws of God, the result is never very healthy. It leads away from personal peace, and can make an entire nation more warlike, often due to greed. A nation with Love as its core would, very possibly successfully, find viable alternatives to war. It would, in fact, go well out of its way to do so. And it would try dozens of times, with all its power, to avoid the massacre and slaughter of war. (Our nation, unhappily, is not this kind of nation.)

Jesus has not been accepted by our society. We have still the attitudes that some of his contemporaries had of him. It was Jesus himself who predicted that his disciples would be cast out of the synagogue (representing the traditional religion of the day), and that the traditionalist leaders would reject his followers. What few historical records we have imply that Christianity was, for a full century, regarded as a superstition by educated Jews.

To make matters worse, it centered upon a crucified thief and impostor. This man, regarded as foolish, not only claimed to be the "son of God," but actually said that he and God were one! (No one could ever validly make this claim about Yahweh.)

He said, “I and the father are one.”

Yahweh was always portrayed as so transcendental that he barely had anything at all to do with the average human being.

The correct response to Yahweh did not emphasize personal or intimate Love, but awe, respect, and the breath-taking grandeur of his magnificence. To claim, as a mystic would, to share a warm personal Love with the historical Yahweh would be out of the question, inconceivable-- and not even necessarily desirable.

The best evidence that Jesus upset the traditionalists is not only the Gospels, but the entire history of the Jewish-Christian relationship documented for the first century CE.

The evidence is strong that, for many centuries, expulsion has been practiced by organized Judaism. In very ancient times, one could be formally expelled from the "congregation of Israel" for even the most minor violations of the Law-- even technical violations of the Levitical law, such as mixing two kinds of cloth, eating non-kosher foods, or even forming close bonds of friendship with a non-Israeli. The criteria for formal expulsion have varied from time to time, but there is no doubt that this kind of expulsion from the synagogue is a very firm part of historical Jewish tradition. Marrying a non-Israeli, at one time, was a certain guarantee of formal exclusion. So was incest. "So were stealing, coveting, murder, and the other practices forbidden by the Ten Commandments.

What, after all, was the very worst "sin" that a devoted, loyal Israeli could possibly commit? It was to teach that Jehovah-Yahweh was not the totality of God, or even that this god was not the only and exclusively true god. Jesus did teach these things. So, it is only logical and reasonable that Jesus had been formally "cast out" of the formal congregation or community, as he predicted that his followers would also be.

The Scriptures said of his disciples, "The Jews had already agreed that, if anyone confessed him as Christ, they should get expelled from the synagogue." (Jn. 9:22) "They would not confess Him in order not to be expelled from the synagogue." (Jn. 12:42).

Although a wide variety of sins could lead to the alienating of any person from the formal community, among the very worst of all was "apostasy." This was the greatest of all sins, and it was very evident that Jesus had been "guilty" of this "sin." As an ancillary, and perhaps a necessary one, to religious purity and homogeneity, it was common for some Jewish leaders, usually ultraorthodox, to forbid the reading of spiritual works from other cultures and other times. this was, of course, based on fear and insecurity. Works of mysticism, including those of Hinduism and Buddhism, which questioned the transcendental Yahweh, were often prominent on informal lists of "forbidden" books.

This forbidden reading has at least as strong a foundation in Jewish history and practice (orthopraxy) as does the practice of formal expulsion. Only the leaders had the power formally to expel, so these expulsions were not matters of small splinter-groups or of only the Pharisees or the Sadducees.

The assimilationist Jews would probably not have been very upset at all by Jesus' unconventional teachings. Jesus' adversaries throughout the Christian Scriptures were the traditionalists, the "fundies" of Judaism, not the more cosmopolitan and relaxed Jews who leaned towards tolerance and elasticity of thought.

It was essentially Jesus' teaching of a mystical God in place of the transcendental Yahweh that upset the traditionalist fundies, who were very powerful in Jesus' day, and in that geographic region where Jesus taught.

The entire collection of texts-- the Torah (Penteteuch), the Talmuds, the other large collection of entire libraries of Jewish literature of the time, going back centuries, taught an anti-mystical perspective of Yahweh as transcendental. This was very basically antimystical. Mystical views were anti-Jewish in the orthodox sense. This is why the Kabbalists and other forms of mystical Judaism were never warmly embraced by orthodox Judaism.

Historically, those who found the Way were highlly suspect and regarded with suspicion and mistrust, by those who insisted on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

In his own day, Philo (50 BCE-20 CE) had to find the courage to step outside of the orthodox traditions, especially in his "radical" explanation of the Hebrew Scriptures as allegory. At a time when the fundy dogma insisted that they were "divinely inspired" history, it was antitraditional to suggest otherwise. And Philo, like all thinkers, was not without his opponents of the standard orthodox variety.

Something important was obviously dissonant between Jesus and the fundamentalist authorities. The Gospels make it clear that he was fully attacked not only for lese majeste by the Romans, but also for his heterodoxy by the fundamentalist leaders. If a person were crucified, it was a sign of the seriousness of his error. Regular everyday crooks were small-time, small potatoes, and were not crucified.

It took an extraordinary crime, and it is fairly clear that the religious fundies saw this as making an "example" of Jesus, so that his followers would take warning-- and, they hoped, keep quiet about his message and miraculous mystical God.

I have no quarrel with the large numbers and varieties of mystics that appeared among the Jews. Some of the most beautiful writings in mystical literature emanated from the pens of Kabbalists and pre-Kabbalist mystics of the Jewish traditions. In many communities, at many times, they were actively persecuted by the orthodox, even as gnostics were by orthodox Christians. And even when not actually hunted down, and legally prosecuted, they were often rejected by entire communities.

Orthodox and fundamentalist leaders, of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, became notorious for their hatred for all things mystical. In some communities, Jews, Christians, and Muslims were forbidden to welcome mystics into their homes, or to have dealings, or friendships, with mystics.

Formal excommunication, also called "shunning," was one of the most commonly used ways to get mystics to "repent of their nonsense," as one orthodox writer said. The famous mystic the Baal Shem Tov had many enemies among his native people, the Jewish community. So did his successor Dov Baer.

As in the Christian and Islamic tradition, in the Middle Ages, large piles of mystical books were burned at the urging of orthodox and fundamentalist Jewish leaders.
Jewish mystics were often forbidden even to enter a synagogue.

It is probable that some mystics were even killed, but usually, using disguised crimes of which the innocent were accused. In the Middle Ages, sophistication was lacking in every culture; and it was unsafe within any tradition-- Jewish, Christian, or Islamic-- to teach the heterodoxy of mysticism. Like the Catholic Church, the official and organized Jewish tradition said that you could approach Yahweh through only the graces of approved and formal leaders.

Organized Judaism made a mistake very similar to that made by the Catholic tradition.

I suspect that the word "ignored" [in the phrase, "Jesus ignored the sabbath"] might be in the eye of the beholder. But one of the major criticisms of Jesus was that he did ignore or neglect the Sabbath by not regarding it in its full nature. He even pointed out how, in history, people fed themselves when hungry on the Sabbath.

In not refraining from ordinary activity on the Sabbath, and then, in defending his non-observation, it can safely and accurately be said that he "ignored" it, for all practical purposes.

As a mystic, he regarded each and every day as "holy," and one of the lessons here was that a day was not made holy by the demands and commands of an arbitrary nature. This non-observance of the Sabbath was really disrespect for the fundamentalist and orthodox leaders. His attitude was very relaxed and laid back, and he did not try to force his disciples to regard the Sabbath as anything special. The fact that he succeeded is proved buy the historical fact that, later, Christian groups said that there was no need for any kind of Sabbath, and abandoned it altogether as a mere Jewish artifact.

Among first- and second-century Christian groups, who likely reflected the teachings of Jesus at least to some extent, the observation of the Sabbath was soon abandoned altogether. There was a fraction among some Christians who claimed that all Christians were bound by all the rules and laws of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were called "Judaizers," and saw, or tried to present, Christianity as a variant of Judaism. But Jesus had clearly come to start a new religion, and showed no interest in creating yet another form of neojudaic tradition.

So, in the early church, the Judaizers "lost the battle," and Christianity was recognized for what it was-- a new faith founded upon the claim to be children, not merely servants, of God. So, when the Christians threw out the festivals and observances of the traditional
Jewish calendar, the Sabbath exited from their own tradition.

That he had "fulfilled the Law" was one of Jesus' more radical and controversial claims. He had no interest in destroying laws that had actually helped people. But in his claim to "fulfill" the "law and the prophets," he implied, to his followers, and to some of his enemies, that the Law had served its purpose. So, as Christianity developed its boundaries and guiding principles, there were literally hundreds of laws, Levitical and otherwise, that were abandoned by the Christians.

These Christians felt that they were dropping these laws with the full blessing, and permission, of God the Father and the Christ. They saw them not as the immutable "laws of god," as the fundy and orthodox Jews were enforcing them, but as cultural and religious artifacts of a different faith.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the penalty for breaking some of them was death. These laws were regarded as optional for Christians, but mandatory for the fundamentalist and orthodox Jews. Christians recognized that they were not the laws of God, but only those of Yahweh.

If all these calendar-observations had been a part of the Christian Way, they would still be in use today. The abandonment of all these laws by the Christians made them seem unusual. That was considered sacrilegious and blasphemous. If it was "sin" to question these laws-- and it was-- debating them with the leaders of orthodox and fundamentalist Judaism, as Jesus did, was simply out of the question for a loyal Jewish person. It was, in effect, questioning, even criticizing, the god of Judaism to regard his word as anything but inerrant truth.

Judaism is one of the richest of all intellectual sacred traditions. But its many commentaries were not presented in the nature of skepticism or open debate.

Among the thousands of commentaries produced by the tradition of loyal and "faithful" Jewish writers, no orthodox document was ever written to question the "laws of Yahweh." In fact, most were written to defend those laws, to explain why they were necessary, or to praise their wisdom. When a critic, such as Spinoza, did question the traditions, orthodox and fundamentalist Jewish leaders did everything possible to denounce and disprove his ideas.

Similar fundies and orthodox leaders responded in a simlar way to the teachings of Jesus, especially the mystical ones. It is easy to confuse commentary with debate, but they are not the same thing, and do not reflect the same attitude.

The commentaries were usually careful to observe traditional Jewish laws. And those were many. If you compiled the laws that guided orthodox or fundamentalist Jewish traditions down through the ages, you could easily arrive at the modest sum of ten thousand. We all know what happens when you combine legalism with faith: You arrive at a huge codex of laws designed to cover any and every contingency. This is what happened among both the orthodox and fundamentalist Jews during their long history. They started with the foundation of the hundreds of laws given in the Hebrew Scriptures, and built and ramified each one of these laws into hundreds of others. In matters of law, ten thousand rules or regulations is not at all regarded as a large sum.

Christians recognized, very early in their history, that they had a new and different faith. They did not want to found it on these ancient laws. There is convincing evidence that many, if not most, of the earliest Christians honestly and sincerely tried to found their faith on the words and actions of Jesus. These were generally good people trying to do the right thing. They believed that Jesus was the perfect Logos, the incarnation of the Love of God. So, they genuinely tried to pattern their lives, thoughts, and behaviors on what they either thought or knew that Jesus wanted for their lives. They turned away from all other sources of guidance. While imperfect, it is unlikely that they missed the manifested intent of Jesus regarding major matters of belief and behavior.

The principle that expanded the new faith so enormously was that "God is Love."

With his limited and conditional chesed [long-suffering], reserved, at any rate, for the "chosen people," Yahweh never even approached this amazing expansion of the importance and cruciality/centrality of Love.

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