One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever heard came from that lover of peace and brotherhood, Gandhi, when he was asked what he thought about Christianity. His simple reply was, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
One of the two questions I always try to ask anyone that proclaims “I’m a Christian” are
1) I thought one tried to live a life that followed Christ’s teachings so shouldn’t that statement be “I follow what Christ taught” since there are hundreds and hundreds of self-described “Christian” religions that teach completely different things, many of which teach things in complete opposition to Christ’s words and
2) Do you really follow what Christ taught or do you distract yourself from that path by trying to justify his teachings of love and brotherhood with the lessons of hate and exclusion taught in books like Leviticus?
Those who know me and who have followed what I’ve written know that I have a lot of questions about the existence of a “god” and what form such a being might take. I can see that the universe might exist simply because it does and I am here to state that because it does exist. I can also sometimes believe that some form of ultimate being began what we call this universe and all the possible universes and dimensions that we cannot see and may never know, with certainty, exist except in mathematical formulas that depend on those unknowable (so far) dimensions and universes to exist in order to explain what we DO see as existing.
Understand? I don’t either. My brain flies in circles wondering which of those two possibilities are reality but, in my heart, the one certainty I have is that our tiny brains are undoubtedly completely unable to understand the magnitude or complexity of any god or even begin to explain its existence in the meager words we have at out disposal.
What I do know beyond any doubt is that any god worthy of my worship will only expect its creations to treat one another with absolute reverence and kindness, precisely how we would treat that god if it were to suddenly appear among us in physical form. So, if Jesus was, as Christians believe, the son of god, how did the vast majority of people treat him when he walked among us and who, exactly, were the direct cause of his murder? We only have to remember that he walked among the lepers and children and poor and sick and workers and prostitutes and helpless and commanded the wealthy to sell everything they had and help the poor if they ever wished to enter into the heaven that they believed in. So who murdered him? Who demanded that Christ be crucified? The wealthy, the Pharisees, the Republicans and Conservatives of that time.
So why don’t Christians see that and simply ignore anyone that tells them anything differently? Why don’t Christians simply seek out the words and teachings of the man they proclaim to be god’s son on earth?
In the beginning of America’s long history one man stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries in intelligence and his understanding of the world around him (and remains vastly more intelligent than any man or woman in public life today). That man was Thomas Jefferson. According to Wikipedia:
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). He was an influential Founding Father, and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy. Jefferson envisioned America as a great “Empire of Liberty” that would promote republicanism.
Just as an aside, I HIGHLY recommend that you visit the above link to “republicanism” cited above. Does anything there even faintly resemble anything that the so-called “Republicans” behave like or legislate when in power?
Getting back to Jefferson, in 1804 he decided that the bible was mostly a book of verbal history and fairy tales and laws meant to keep Bronze Age goat herders in line with the powerful elite’s wishes. He read the bible and saw that what Christ taught was seldom, if ever, what was being taught in the churches by the preachers who lived off the tithing of the sheep in the pews. He saw that what Christ actually taught was a very tiny part of that entire book and, in fact, contradicted most of what was being taught from the pulpits.
So, Jefferson got to work and decided to study the gospels, as they are called, to see if he could discern exactly what Christ taught without the distractions of the rest of that ancient text. He wanted those teachings to be immediately available to everyone who wanted to truly follow Jesus’ way and to be as easily understood as possible. The result of the effort has come to be known as “Jefferson’s Bible” and should, in my humble opinion, be the only book that anyone who wants to honestly call themselves a Christian would ever need. He took everything that related to Christ from the four main gospel books; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. From those found sources came “The Jefferson Bible”. His bible begins with the birth of Christ and ends with his crucifixion. Everything before and after is removed as unnecessary.
Personally, I love what Jesus taught (as I love what Buddha taught and the early Muhammad and Gandhi and all of the teachers of love and understanding and kindness) but have little use for the way that his life has been twisted by people with alternate and greedy motives over the centuries. I believe that Jesus was a magnificent teacher who spoke of the peaceful, loving manner in which we should all live and the brotherhood towards one another that we should all practice. If we simply followed those teachings in our everyday lives and demanded that our government officials also follow those simple lessons (sans the silly crosses and bibles that they thump as they take the money from the wealthy) then America could and would become the greatest nation that the world has ever known and the one that our Founders truly envisioned. You and I would be truly represented and only legislation that benefited human beings would be even considered.
Jefferson saw basically the same thing. If the majority of people were going to regard themselves as “Christians” then what, exactly, did Jesus teach them and COMMAND them to do every moment of their lives. The teachings are simple, of course, in that he demanded that the most defenseless among us be treated as we would treat him personally and that wealth was an evil to be avoided unless it was used to benefit all. Matter of fact, most everything Christ demanded of his followers was stated very, very clearly in his Sermon on the Mount. Pretty simple, huh?
Jefferson’s simple book contains just 69 chapters, each a moment from Christ’s life that was either a direct teaching or a parable that contains the wisdom that Christ wished his followers to think about and learn from. The book he created is simple enough for anyone that can ready English to understand and, during the next few years, he also created copies that contained the verses in Latin, Greek and French. Translating these simple words into any language would be a fairly simple exercise for anyone that understood one of the four languages Jefferson used.
If you would like a copy of his book, and I highly recommend one regardless of your religion since the teachings apply to us all, I bought my latest copy from Amazon and you can also just download it to a Kindle and most any reader out there.
If we, as a people, followed these simple teachings then 99% of the misery and violence and hate would disappear. Any teaching that resulted in that is a teaching worth looking into, even for an old agnostic/atheist like myself. If I can read what Jefferson found so important and learn from it then, obviously, so can you.