Before picking apart the entity we call Christianity, I need to establish who I believe Jesus was. There is no figure in the history of the West who’s more polarizing and less understood by both his adherents and those who disparage him. If you go to the New Age section of a bookstore, you’ll find books with farfetched ideas about Christ. For example, some have noticed parallels between Jesus’ and Buddha’s teachings, so they theorize about Jesus’ lost years, when he traveled to India to study Buddhism. Many will take what I have to say here as being much in the same vein. But my ideas here are not idiosyncratic. Others have said what I’m saying, but it gets drowned out in the fight between those who believe Jesus was the only son of God sent here to save mankind from their sins, and those who believe it’s all just a bunch of oppressive bullshit that’s not worth giving any thought to.

If you strip the mythology out of the Bible what you have left is the teachings of a sage—the same teachings as transmitted by Buddha, Lao Tzu, Dogen, Hui Neng, and others. A sage is someone who has attained enlightenment, and the sage’s teachings are instructions on how to liberate oneself from the ego. Although it persistently gets lost in the misrepresentations by followers who didn’t go all the way, that’s what religion is really about. Whenever something that calls itself religion dedicates itself to issues or rituals unrelated to enlightenment, it’s not real religion. So, again, if you strip away the mythology, Jesus is telling people to abandon the pursuit of success in this world, to give up your home, your old set of friends, the means of making a living, and to devote yourself instead to a life of focused inner search (the kingdom of heaven is within), total honesty, constant fairness in your dealings, fasting. You’re not supposed to try to satisfy your needs through your own efforts. Anything you actually need will be given to you without you going to look for it. It’s all very explicit, but it’s not taught by the churches because they got distracted by the mythology. It seems that the more people believe in the mythology, the less attention they pay to the teachings. Buddha and Christ walked the same path and taught the same things. They were both homeless wanderers who lived off the alms of others. Karma is the same thing as “as you sow so shall you reap.” Jesus didn’t have to go to India to learn about it. It’s a universal understanding inherent within all of us. Some people say, “But Buddhism is atheistic” (even many Buddhists say so), while Christ taught about God the Father. That’s a big misunderstanding, which I’ll take up in a future post.

7 Comments

  1. I so agree. I simply reject the mystical aspect of Jesus, and see him as a teacher, similar to Buddha and Ghandhi. Interested in hearing other views.

    1. Author

      I accept a mystical idea of Jesus, but I think we mean different things by that. I think Jesus was a great mystic, like Buddha—-a mystic being one who through a great effort sees to the core of existence. I think what you’re saying is that you reject what I’m calling the mythological idea of Jesus.

  2. Hi – I read some of the back and forth but the tone made my head hurt. Sorry if I repeat or miss something already covered. First I’d like to thank you for actually engaging in discussion. Whether or not you change your mind I appreciate you genuinely engaging discourse.

    What I think is missing from the little bit I’ve read on your perspective on Jesus (and possibly other enlightened teachers not part of the Word of God given to me to live my life by) is a God first point of view. It seems your view of a sage is a person that holds and freely gives the key to a perfect life, without ever considering the source or purpose of that perfection which may be intentionally outside of our view; or accounting for the fact that there is no alchemical moment in which a human passes from imperfection to perfection based on their own efforts and merit, like most universalists seem to believe but never achieve.

    While there are similarities between the teachings of Christ (or Yeshua in the eastern Aramaic of His teachings) and “enlightened” figures, the fundamental difference I see is that Christ shows us that these steps are acts of faith to humble ourselves before a loving God, and to abandon our predisposed ideas of what life should be, so that we do not rise up in our sinful human (i.e. not from God) ways and overshadow His perfect love; a love so perfect and powerful that upon asking for it we receive it, without God ever imposing His will on us directly. We may choose to walk in our own ways toward what we think is right, but all things being made good by Him in His sight, we do not get very far without looking back to Him even if we do not know that’s what we are doing. The role of much of universalist/eastern philosophy seems to be providing methodologies to do that while obscuring its source, keeping us alive but muting our hope, allowing us to slowly kill ourselves and the truth those ideas once held, before too much meaning was ascribed to them and the individuals that taught them. However that is not for me to say, as Christ Himself said that He has many other folds to enter to do His work, and I do pretend to know His definition of a fold and where He works.

    The works of fasting and self denial are good for attaining the Bread of the Lord where a simple reading of the Milk of the Word cannot impart the fullness and universality of its meaning. But to say that Christ as the one true Son of God must be folklore is to misunderstand His death and purpose, having been shown His own fate by the non-fleshly aspect of His being still in heaven, and proceeding toward that death not as an ill fated journey but as a planned and thought out progression to spread the love of God from a chosen few, that having received it forgot it’s roots in love and devotion and walked in their own ways, to the entire world.

    That all being said, Christ/Yeshua himself says He is the Lord of all people, and it is plain to see the similarities of universal love for His people in the Old Testament, them being the ones that abandon their love for themselves, others and the world for the love of God. So to the earlier point about other folds, it is not hard to imagine Him visiting others throughout the world who demonstrated varying levels of this devotion, and giving to them teachings through a person like in the Old Testament (Abraham, David, Solomon, et. al.). The major difference now being that these levels of sacrifice while edifying are simply steps along a much greater path to a love no proponent of enlightenment can dream of knowing. Jesus Himself tells us that He is He that is sent by He is – as being at once the creator and created – God in the flesh. He also tells us that it is not sacrifice He desires, but mercy. And that is what we are given when He goes up onto the cross, being created by Himself to teach us the truth of love while in this world, then being killed by His own creation for their own sin, and excepting that fate, rather than destroying them all as was within His power, to take that sin onto Himself and show us the depth of His love and the greatness of things to come; that no hardship in this life, no matter how unjust, could nullify the gifts for us in heaven if we only believe on Him and love Him with all of our hearts.

    Placing sacrifice and suffering as the beginning and end of God (Truth, Love, Life) is to cast Him as some sort of indifferent overseer instead of the perfect loving being. In His perfection all things have purpose and hope, even if it is outside of what we may think to hope for in this world, because this world is only his foot stool; a stepping stone toward eternal life rather than an eternal round robin of pain and suffering.

    Your trip into universalism is a familiar one to me, but is a temptation towards the illusion of control and understanding put there by our enemy and the enemy of life. I’m not sure if eastern religions ever really tackle this as a pure concept. For the most part evil always seems to be masked by some sort of ambiguous nature or balance, and while it’s not hard to imagine the purpose of resistance in the process of creation, purification and preparation for a higher plane, the eastern point of view always seems to focus on the implications for the now and finding balance. That is why the only real fruits of those teachings come from a state where the individual has lowered themselves below any level of temptation or influences from the enemy and it’s cohort, and incidentally below the level of any recognition of their own sinful nature – that they do not justify their own existence in and of themselves and that what is provided is out of Love – and away from any real spiritual progression.

    To think of life as one big river and waterfall smacks of the lake of fire, which is startlingly accurate, rather than a continuance of a divine creation process. If life is one big lake then what is all this for? Why not keep jumping back in the water to see what you’ll come out as on the other side? Deep down I don’t think you believe that, and it’s why you’ve sought out companionship and discourse. I also see the Lord in your life and appreciate the love you clearly have for His creation in the documentary.

    As far as hating women is concerned, He didn’t say that. He explained the natural distaste of our worldly lives and the goodness of that as a calling to better know Him. And He saw the sin of man that walked after His own fleshly desires and put their original source and satiators on trial in our hearts so that we would not build up works to someone that was meant as a helpful companion and not a worshipful leader. That is something we clearly fall short of in our lives. Much if not all “toxic masculinity” in western society comes out of chivalry or violent societies where procreation was a function of wealth. The need to harness the self to make it more appealing to women has changed now that states have monopolized force, but it’s still largely driven by the effort to appeal to a partner, whether she derives security from wealth or sensitivity. The latter being the latest attractive trait as wealth has been transferred into a more sterile and accessible world where females have greater access and thus freedom to choose partners based on their own fleshly desires themselves, much like a courtly medieval woman.

    Some might see that as a separate discussion but suffice it to say that when we shape our lives to be more attractive to someone other than God, it makes us less attractive to Him. If that doesn’t bother us, then He will let us carry on, but it may not bring us closer to Him.

    So please don’t dismiss Christ just because His words have been twisted by power mongers and followers of convenience (hypocrites), just like He said they would. His words are awesome and His spirit preserves their meaning to anyone that would read them with an open heart. Unlike eastern philosophy, God shows us that the true path is only opened once we believe in something without seeing – true denial of ego, rather than just the diminishing of it. Followers of Christ may carry that freedom in their hearts today, while eastern philosophy would ask you to wait for enlightenment. That sounds an awful lot like folklore to me.

    If you seek truth it will be given to you. And He is truly pouring out His Spirit. Thank you for reading. Much love.

    1. *do not pretend to know the definition of a fold

    2. Author

      To the author of this comment and to general readers: At the beginning of this comment is a reference to another string of comments, an exchange between me and someone else that, in the words of this commenter, made his head hurt. It made my head hurt as well, and I’ve decided it’s simply an argumentative distraction and have deleted it.

      I was raised in a non-religious household. One parent was officially agnostic, while the other was an atheist. A more accurate description of both would be simply “uninterested.” When I decided completely on my own at age 14 to become a Christian I did it without having much of an idea of what a Christian was. I hadn’t received any religious indoctrination. I had a general idea of it meaning that you be good and believe in Jesus. That was about it. So I was greatly alarmed when I started reading the Bible. Having been raised without any bias with regard to what a Christian is, it was very clear to me that the philosophy was radical and completely at odds with the American way of life. I couldn’t understand how everybody had missed it. It was clear and uncompromising. Jesus taught that you abandon your property and means of support and live solely by what is given to you in the moment. You will receive what you need, but nothing more. One’s focus is to be on the spiritual search, which is within. “The kingdom of heaven is within.” It was too much for a 14-year-old boy to deal with, and I started looking for a way out. From then until age 21 I consistently told myself I wasn’t interested in religion. I just wanted to know what was really true. But by insisting on following what was really true I ultimately landed on the street without a home, without property, without a means of making a living, existing on alms provided by the world. I didn’t come at it through a Christian portal. It was actually through Taoism. I discovered later that Buddhism taught exactly the same path. There are other paths besides that of “the homeless wanderer” but they all require a radical change that separates you from the world—or the worldly. I don’t think anybody can understand what Jesus taught, or Buddha taught, or Lao Tze taught unless they abandon mammon. I didn’t do it willingly. I was dragged kicking and screaming. But I did learn a lot. You can’t get it from books. You need a direct experience of it to get the true flavor of the teachings. Then you see the universality.

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