Selling the illusionary Jesus by Ron Cole
Published here with permission from Ron Cole:
Illusion... the action of deceiving. The state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled... an instance of such deception. Illusion is the perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual truth. Illusions are patterns capable of reversible perspective.
Chris Hedges in his book Empire of Illusion says this. " The flight to Illusion sweeps away the core values of an open society. It erodes the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgement and common sense tell you something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to grasp historical facts, to advocate for change, to acknowledge there are other views, different ways, and structures of being that are morally and socially acceptable. A populace deprived of the ability to separate lies from the truth, that has become hostage to the fictional semblance of reality put forth by pseudo-events, is no longer capable of sustaining a free society." ( pg 52 ).
And a bit further he talks about institutional hierarchies developing a highly specialized vocabulary. Chris Hedges remarks, " They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers, and rigid structures designed to produce such answers.This vocabulary is the sign of the " specialist " and, of course, the elitist, thwarts universal understanding, It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions. It destroys the search for common good. It dices disciplines, faculty, students and finally experts into tiny, specialized fragments. It allows students and faculty to retreat into these self-imposed fiefdoms and neglect the most pressing moral, political and cultural questions. Those who critique the system itself...are marginalized and shut out of the mainstream debate. They refuses to question a self-justifying system." ( pg 90 ) ( emphasis mine )
Chris Hedges in his book is critiquing secular institutions and the illusions they create which like osmosis slowly cross the barrier in the collective mind of humanity where it becomes the perceived reality...the truth. I don't think Chris Hedges would find issue if I steered his musings into the religion of " Christianity " which in my mind if we follow Hedges line of thinking...is an Illusion.
To quote Chris Hedges again:
" A populace deprived of the ability to separate lies from the truth, that has become hostage to the fictional semblance of reality put forth by pseudo-events, is no longer capable of sustaining a free society."
Christianity has become hostage to the illusion it created. It has lost the ability to separate lies from the truth...or where there was mystery it made illusion. It created a pseudo-event, an illusion in which to formulate rigid structures to produce narrow answers. A hierarchy that lives in self-imposed " retreat " neglecting the most pressing and urgent questions of our day...socially, economically, environmentally, culturally, militarily, globally, politically...and morally.
Much like in Jesus day, people were being held hostage to a religion of rigid structure that produced narrow answers. It was the religious elite, the moral authority policing the uninitiated creating barriers on every corner of life between everyday folk and God. I mean at this point God hadn't talked to anyone for some 400 years, and yet the religious elite still promote the illusion around the pseudo-event that keeps the structure standing and making them a living. It took Jesus to tear a hole in temple curtain saying, " yoo hoo! nothing behind the curtain...God's not here."
I just want to say...I am passionate about Jesus. I believe he was the God-man. I believe on the cross something so profound, so absolutely mind blowing, earth shattering, life changing...with the redemptive power and imagination that brought creation into being was there. It was an atomic explosion of cosmic proportion and we are still feeling the effects of its fall out today. But...do I have to believe the way you do, or to the pseudo-event that the religious elite enforce and protect?
I just think the Illusion of Jesus christianity has created is perhaps more about the structure, it's narrow answers, it's moral authority as religious police than it is about Jesus and what he passionately lived and died for.
In the gospels, Jesus says, " if you've seen me...you've seen the Father." Again, " I only do and say what the Father does." Moses tucked into the cleft of a rock might have caught a passing glimpse of God as he passed. But, we, humanity has seen God in the flesh...he actually moved into the neighborhood for a while.
So I mean what's going on, is there the crazy, bi-polar, Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde, bad cop good cop...God as the crazy old man that one day decided to have a child and become a loving parent. I mean if the " God " is unchanging as we project him to be...he's all loving, or hell-bent on revenge. He can't be both.
Is the God of the Old Testament consumed with fueling a human BBQ pit called " Hell?" And heavily invested in retirement real estate, like in my mother in-laws home town, called " Paradise Lodge."
If you look close enough in the old book you'll see a strand and you'll pinch it between your fingers and pull. Keep pulling, it's long really long, and you'll find it entwines itself in the whole story. It is also wraps itself in Jesus, it makes up the very robe that Jesus clothes himself in. Take a close look at these words...
"The Lord is exalted", proclaims Isaiah. " He dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness." ( 33:5 )
" I am the Lord " announces Jeremiah in the name of God. " I act with steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight." ( 9:24 )
Again Isaiah, " Is such the fast I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and lie is a sack cloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this fast that I choose; to break the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? ( 58:5-7 )
From Micah, " He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ( 6:6-8 )
Lastly from Amos, " I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ( 5:21-24 )
Am I missing something? It appears God is very passionate about justice and righteousness. The illusion christianity has created is that about God as a Judge, laws must be enforced, and sentences against the guilty must be carried out...life sentences, solitary confinement and torture. It makes God so angry that you have to kill something, burn it to create a smoke screen to hide yourself from him...you had to keep feeding his wrath just to keep him happy. The idea of righteousness was the constant battle of keeping your clothes stainless, perfectly white...cleanliness is next to Godliness.
But if we look at that strand again we see the truth, God's justice is about the restoration of justice. It's as Isaiah sees it...It's about breaking the bonds of injustice in the world around us, its about the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless, the poor...its about all humanity. And righteousness is about like living, or lets go with what Micah says...and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
You could almost say this is what the fullness of humanity was meant to be.
And then Jesus the God-man moves into our neighborhood, into the midst of humanity. The illusion christianity paints is, again it's all about morality, he's here to clean house...it's about believing, narrowed down to 2 choices...heaven, and hell.
But the reality, the truth is, Jesus starts telling these wild scandalous redemptive parables, mysteries to capture the imagination of humanity...to God's justice. It was not just loving your friends, it was about loving people you can't stand, people you hate...your enemies. It was not just making sure your rights were protected...it was about becoming a voice for the widow, the orphan, the most marginalized people around you. It was about forgiveness, seventy times seventy...it was scandalous. It was about setting the captives free. It was universal health insurance where as humanity we tried to heal everyone...not the ones who could afford to pay. It was the miracle of feeding the masses...to the point of sharing your last scrap of food knowing you'd go hungry. There was no in crowd; Jesus knocked down all fences, barriers and borders...as humanity we were one, and we were in this all together. And no one had ownership of God...it didn't matter where you worshipped...it was about doing it in a profound sense of truth. And well, right living, righteousness came down to...loving, God with all your heart, mind and soul...and loving your neighbor as yourself, almost echoing Micah's words.
God's Justice and Righteousness are about one thing, the very thing that cries of Jesus passion through out the gospels...that is the Kingdom.
The illusion of Christianity is to make Jesus' life about heaven and hell. The reality is Jesus was consumed with the Kingdom...he lived in the profound mystery of it's redemptive reality constantly. If Jesus came to show us abundant life...living in the profound mystery of his parables, and acting them out as part of everyday life...this was what being human was about.
The pseudo-event is what christianity has created in the midst of the murder of Jesus...rather than sacrifice it as a cold calculated killing that is reflected in a parable Jesus told in Matthew 29...
Could it be much like the parable where after the vineyard owners have killed all the messengers…the master finally sends his own son.
We hear the story of a ( creator ) owner of a vineyard ( all creation ) who handed it over to tenants ( humanity ) and departed for a far country. When the time arrived for it to bear fruits ( the fullness of the Kingdom ), he sent his servants ( prophets ) to check on them, but the tenants ( humanity, the empire, religion ) beat some and killed others. Finally, the owner ( God ) sent his son ( Jesus ), saying, “Surely they will reverence my son.” But this was not the case. They laid hold of him, cast him out, and killed him.
Could it be God, sends his son as humanity's last chance. At the game of life, God throws in all his chips to send his Son to finally reveal, and show humanity to live out the fullness of humanity in the Kingdom of God ? We see this all through the parables in the gospels. Jesus passion is his Fathers passion...the voice of the prophets passion...the Kingdom of God.
Could it be the same principalities and powers of darkness that have always roamed the earth, corrupted the empire of the day to inflict injustice, oppression...a life void of the abundant and just life that comes from being plugged into God ? Could it be the empire deceived by the principalities and powers of darkness accused Jesus...and murdered Jesus ?
Could it be not so much a sacrifice for sin...but a horrid murder by the principalities and powers of darkness ?
Could it be on the cross, the principalities and powers of darkness were high-fiving each other that they had finally defeated the Kingdom of God. That now they would control the mind and imagination of humanity...this would be the new world order ?
Could it be Miraculously, God smashed his fist on the " reset " button of evolving creation and said " Hell No!" and in the pursuing after shocks the stone rolled away...and God resurrected Jesus and the Kingdom. The principalities and powers of darkness were finally conquered ?
So, I think belief for me, moves me into the profound mystery of the cross, that Jesus did conquer death and evil ( the principalities and powers of darkness ) , and by faith, I move into the resurrection, I move into the radical scandalous life and teaching of Jesus found in the gospels. Through the spirit of God, that profound mystery is embedded in my DNA. It is no longer I that lives, but Jesus with in me.
Here plugged into this new life, the new creation, the kingdom of God...he calls me, and humanity to be collaborators with him building his Kingdom now...and at the same time pointing to when the fullness of his Kingdom will come into being.
It's almost as if it is that answering of those profound words in Jesus prayer, " Father, may your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven." It is the profound redemptive mystery of God and humanity emerging into one.
The Illusion of Christianity's Jesus is sacrificing belief for heaven or Hell...the real Jesus is about living into the reality of the Kingdom.
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