Was There A Real Jesus? And If So, What Did He Really Say?

Due to the number of questions I’ve received about Jesus, I think a podcast devoted to him is in order.

People addressing this material, from whatever angle, tend to have fiercely held opinions, cherry-picking facts around them. That makes these discussions very difficult, and I’ll do my best to avoid that trap. This is a fascinating subject, and removing dogmatic opinions is what opens it to us.

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The Religion of Jesus PART 7: His Key Characteristics

Taken together, we see a picture of Jesus involving certain key characteristics: Jesus kept himself remarkably separated from the mayhem and issues of his day. Never does he get political or seek political solutions.

Continuing from Part 6.

Taken together, we see a picture of Jesus involving certain key characteristics:

  • Jesus kept himself remarkably separated from the mayhem and issues of his day. Never does he get political or seek political solutions.

  • He was deeply devoted to his friends and tended to their practical needs. He makes sure they get enough rest, for example.

  • Jesus protected his privacy, to the point of living outside Roman control (only Judea was under direct Roman control during this time), hiding, and sneaking in and out of places. He was careful to stay “under the radar.”

  • He often preferred to be alone, surrounded by the natural world. He clearly found it best to seek the most complete individualism – being the only person – when praying and/or communing with himself((We see something very similar in the passages where he tells people not to pray in public, but rather to shut themselves in their closets and pray. (Matthew 6.) )).

  • Jesus sought people out to help them, going to the places where they chose to be. He didn’t command that they chase after him. They went to synagogues to find spiritual meaning, and so he met them there. They went to work camps to get income and/or food for their families, and so he met them there.

  • He continually told people good things – the amazing opportunity that stood in front of them – and did not go on about how bad the world was and how everyone but him was wrong. When he says “good news” (aka, “gospel”) the words he used truly meant “good news.” And he really meant it. He was happy about this news and intended for his listeners to be happy about it as well.

  • A fundamental component of Jesus’ character (and of his beliefs) was compassion. “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest,” was no aberration. His feelings for others were deep and frequently overflowing. His level of compassion may have been the most unique of his characteristics.

The Inner Workings Of Jesus

The points noted above, and the last point especially, give us a good understanding of who Jesus was on the inside.

Those of us who have been moved by the gospels were not moved by doctrinal arguments, by promises of miraculous power, or by words of consolation: We wanted to embrace Jesus himself. It was the essence of this pure, kind, brave, and wise being that we responded to with love and admiration.

Jesus was an open doorway to the pure, the good and the elevated. And not an ‘elevated’ that requires strain, fear, threats or self-disgust of any kind. Never, in any of our records did Jesus tell someone to “obey.” Nor did he praise “obedience.” His mind – his inner workings – simply didn’t operate that way. Nor did Jesus ever say “thou shalt not,” or anything like it, save in the compendium of sayings in Matthew 5 (and even this is a bit of a stretch), which is in the vein of “You’ve heard it said, but I say.”

So, inside Jesus’ mind, laws, rules and forcing one’s self to do the right thing, were non-players. He focused on what he was (and by extension what others were and were capable of being), not forcing himself to obey. In other words, he followed his own, internal standards, and intended that we should learn to do the same.

However much it clashes with the doctrines of the churches, this is how Jesus operated. It’s up to us to decide which we prefer.

I’ll close here with a passage from my newsletter issue on The Lost Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. (FMP #44.) This is how I imagine Jesus would describe his philosophy in our modern era. And it reflects the mentality noted above.

Being by nature self-referential, you judge yourself every time you act. Treating others as you wish to be treated, you define yourself as a benefit in the world. Treating others in ways you wouldn’t like, you define yourself as a hazard. There is no escape from this arrangement, though men attempt it by ceding their will to others, as when following rules.

Obedience to a rule, however, displaces self-reference, which is what produces all the joy, goodness, and creativity in the world. However much you lay your will at the feet of a rule, you rob yourself and others of that much happiness. Obeying the rule, you place your will in the service of an inferior morality and contribute to the darkening of mankind.

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The Religion of Jesus Part 6: The Religion Jesus Practiced

As noted earlier, it is by looking at what Jesus did without being prodded that we can learn about his personal beliefs. And so, following are the things Jesus initiated – things he did solely because he wanted to. This is the full list from the Mark gospel:

Continuing from Part 5.

As noted earlier, it is by looking at what Jesus did without being prodded that we can learn about his personal beliefs. And so, following are the things Jesus initiated – things he did solely because he wanted to. This is the full list from the Mark gospel((In order, verses 1:14, 1:21, 1:29, 1:35, 1:38, 2:1, 2:15, 3:1, 3:12, 3:19, 4:1, 4:35, 5:43, 6:1, 6:2, 6:6, 6:7, 6:31, 6:46, 7:24, 7:31, 8:10, 8:26, 9:2, 9:9, 9:30, 10:1, 11:1, 11:11, 11:15, 14:22, 14:32, 16:12, 16:14.)):

Told people good news.

Went to synagogue and taught.

Went to his friend’s house.

Went to a lonely place before dawn and prayed.

Went to the next town, telling people the good news.

Returned home.

Held a dinner in his house with a wide variety of guests, some not particularly respectable.

Went to synagogue.

Took his friends/students to the sea.

Told two men who had been healed not to tell others.

Returned home.

Went back to the sea and taught there.

Left the crowd and took a boat to the other side of the sea.

Advised a person who was healed not to tell others about it.

Went back home and took his friends/students with him.

Went to synagogue and taught.

Went from village to village teaching.

Sent his friends/students to teach in villages.

Took his friends/students to a lonely place to rest.

Hiked up a mountain to pray.

Went to foreign cities to hide.

Returned home.

Ran away from a crowd.

Advised a person who was healed not to go back to the village, but rather to go home.

Took his closest friends up to a mountain.

Told his friends not to talk about what they’d seen.

Sneaked back home.

Sent two of his students to make arrangements.

Visited the temple in Jerusalem.

Chased buyers and sellers from the temple.

Blessed food at the passover meal.

Withdrew from his friends to pray.

Joined two friends for a walk through the country.

Visited his friends.

The word for village on this list is significant. It referred to very small places where laborers would sleep, like small labor camps. In these cases – these very many cases, including an unknown number of villages/work camps((The village as a place of temporary residence seems to be borne out by Mark 8:22-26. In this passage Jesus is traveling to Bethsaida, and as he approaches a blind man is brought to him. After the man is healed, Jesus tells him not to go back to the village, but rather to go home. The village then, was not his home. In this case it was almost certainly a fishing camp, as is indicated by the meaning of Bethsaida in Hebrew (“house of fishing,” or “hunting”), and by archaeological finds there of fishing paraphernalia. Note also that Jesus frequented a quiet spot just outside of Bethsaida, as per Mark 6:45 and Luke 9:10.)) – Jesus is specifically presenting himself to laboring people. In fact he sought them out.

Jesus was trying to plant seeds quietly. He wanted to reach people where they were, and he assiduously avoided fame. The reason, almost certainly, is that a great number of people would believe in him precisely because he was famous. He held that to be a poisoned kind of belief.

We live in a world held back by status and all that flows from it. Jesus clearly avoided that. He taught in workers’ camps as much as he taught anywhere, and almost certainly more. Moreover, he didn’t go about looking for people to heal. Rather, he healed mainly by accident((See Mark 5:25-34, among many others.)). 

Before we sum this up, it’s also important to note that the gospels mention six separate incidents when Jesus “had compassion” or was “moved with compassion,” plus two more where he wept over tragedies. That’s quite a few, but still more striking is this comparison: In the rest of the New Testament, we never find these things said of anyone else.

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The Religion of Jesus PART 5: The Advanced Man, continued

However Jesus ended up in 1st century Galilee (virgin birth or otherwise), he finds himself among people less developed than himself. He seems to know he has a limited time and needs to change these people from the inside – to clean the inside of the cup – so they can improve the broader world once he’s gone.

Continuing from Part 4.

However Jesus ended up in 1st century Galilee (virgin birth or otherwise), he finds himself among people less developed than himself. He seems to know he has a limited time and needs to change these people from the inside – to clean the inside of the cup – so they can improve the broader world once he’s gone. He knows that scripture fights and doctrinal strivings don’t work (if they did we’d all be magnificent by now), but he has to do something. What?

When confronting closely-held doctrines – pre-set opinions of whatever sort – we’re dealing with what an important psychologist named Boris Sidis called “a disaggregation of consciousness.” We might, in more descriptive terms call it a place where there’s a gash or a gap in our minds. Behind such a gap, a doctrine is disconnected from the reasoned analysis. And from that position, it reflexively protects itself, robotically and amorally. (I think we’ve all noticed such processes in ourselves.)

In such a condition arguing doctrine is futile. What is required is a path around the gash. If we can find alternate paths from one side of the gap to the other, it will be traversed. This is done with analogies and metaphors… with parables. Rather than attacking the gap, parables – image-based more than word-based – create parallel paths around it.

I’m convinced this is why Jesus insisted on speaking to people in parables, rather than making direct arguments. The people who weren’t able to take his discourses without reflexive opposition could and would respond to parables, which would communicate the concepts without hanging people up in word fights.

The choice to teach only in parables, then, sprung from some fairly advanced psychology. And it obviously worked.

Similarly, we see that his listeners became acutely aware that he spoke with authority, “and not as the scribes.” This can easily be seen from the advanced man perspective. He didn’t have to project or claim or imagine. He simply knew.

Consider the scenario of an electrician from today going back in time five hundred years. He or she could walk into Cambridge University and start explaining the operation of lightning, the laws underlying it, the applications of this to creating machines, artificial lighting and much more. This person wouldn’t be speculating, or even come off with “TV preacher confidence.” He or she would simply know, and wouldn’t cling to anything else. They’d seen it. They had done it themselves. They knew.

That was how Jesus came off to the people of his time. He didn’t need certifications or signs. He just said what he knew to be so.

We see this prominently in the fact that Jesus didn’t bother to quote scriptures. In the whole of the gospel of Mark, for example, Jesus quotes scriptures a total of seven times; eight if you include the “haven’t you read what David did?” passage. And all of those quotations were forced upon him. That is, he used scripture only in response to challenges, because (as we may presume with some confidence) these were the things the people questioning him took as proof.

At the same time, Jesus refers to nature or commonplace events at least eleven times.

The other gospels differ a bit, but not terribly much. Jesus simply did not rely upon scriptures to teach. He used them when he was pushed into it because that’s what the people on the other side of the arguments saw as proof. (And often as “You’ve heard it said, but I say…”((And note that by doing this, he is overriding the law of Moses. We can describe this as “extending the commandments,” if we wish, but he was clearly changing them… thus changing the scriptures.)))

Compare that to modern religion, or even to the writings of Paul, who quotes scriptures well over fifty times in just his letter to the Romans.

Related to this is the fact that Jesus cared very little for what people said, and far more for what they did. He wanted people who were actually better; people with improved inner lives. The emblematic statement of this is from Matthew:

Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Jesus clearly wanted people to focus on what he taught them, and not on who he was. Again: “Why do you call me Lord, but don’t do the things I say?”

People majoring on “calling him Lord properly” – making theirs a religion about Jesus – was clearly not what he wanted. And the sermon on the mount finishes with his parable of the house built on rock and the house built on sand to communicate precisely this point: To talk about Jesus is nothing, to do what he said – to practice his religion – is everything.

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The Religion of Jesus PART 4: So, What Did He Believe?

So, now we come now to the question of what Jesus himself believed. What was his religion? Or, more properly stated, what were the convictions that Jesus put into action?

Continuing from Part 3.

So, now we come now to the question of what Jesus himself believed. What was his religion? Or, more properly stated, what were the convictions that Jesus put into action? 

In Discourse #4 we explained why we will be sorting the record of Jesus words with three preferences:

  • We will prefer Mark where possible, being the first gospel written, and the gospel that Matthew and Luke copied.

  • We will consider the town-to-town teachings as especially authentic and well-remembered, mainly because they were repeated so often.

  • We will especially accept the parables, since each has an inherent unity (errantly translating a word here and there doesn’t change the point of the story), and since Jesus relied so heavily upon them.

This gives us a solid core of teachings to look at… a set of passages that are sufficient by themselves to establish what Jesus actually believed.

A further distinction showing what Jesus actually believed concerns what he chose to say and do, and which actions and responses were thrust upon him. I think this is a very important distinction. Any reader of the gospels has noticed the many times when people ran up to Jesus and thrust questions and challenges at him. Granted, there are lessons to be gleaned from some of these cases, but we learn far more about Jesus from the things he chose to do. Answering challenges were not part of his spiritual practice, they were impositions.

If, then, we pull away the actions that were thrust upon Jesus, we gain a much better look at his personal practices… the things he chose to do when nothing was pressing in upon him.

The Advanced Man

The picture we get of Jesus in the gospels is that of a very advanced man… a man deeply out of place on planet Earth at 30 AD. At first that may not sound like a terribly untraditional position (“the son of God” would necessarily be “highly advanced”) but the picture we get is less of a “divine being” and more of a “future man with a time machine.”

I’m not saying Jesus had a time machine hidden behind Mary and Joseph’s house, of course. But I do think this is an instructive model, and one that fits quite well.

Bear in mind, please, that Jesus did not go about telling people he was a divine being (no one in the Mark gospel seems to conceive of him that way), and that the earliest Christian theology… the earliest Christology… was that he became the son of God at his resurrection((See Romans 1:3-4, Acts 2:36 and Acts 13:32-33.)).

Then we see that even his hand-chosen students were unable to understand him. Here are four examples, among others((Mk. 4:13, 7:18, 8:17, John 16:12.)):

Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

Then are you also without understanding?

Do you not yet perceive or understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? How is it that you do not understand?

I have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.

Beyond this, we see the disciples jumping wildly to conclusions, as if emotionally overcome by this man… erupting into some variant of the nervous smile. This is obvious in the transfiguration story (Peter was far out of his depth to suggest anything, and clearly spoke in some type of nervous response), as well as in the sequence of Mark 8 and Matthew 16, where Jesus warns them to “Beware of the leaven of the pharisees and of Herod.” Upon hearing this, the disciples chatter amongst themselves that maybe Jesus meant something about eating their bread. Jesus must then bring them back to reason, making them understand that he was talking about the teachings of the pharisees and Herod((And as with his parables, which will be discussed immediately, Jesus doesn’t give them the conclusion. Rather, he leads them to it and allows them to make the final connections themselves.)).

The advanced nature of Jesus is also to be seen in his use of parables. Jesus evaded doctrine, seemingly wherever possible. And I think the reason is obvious enough: Doctrine is “argument fodder,” and seldom adds any real substance to anyone.

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The Religion of Jesus PART 3: Are People Ready for This?

The separation between the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus is not only huge, but has continued over many centuries. And that means that there are reasons for this separation.

Continuing from Part 2.

The separation between the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus is not only huge, but has continued over many centuries. And that means that there are reasons for this separation.

As we’ll note momentarily, Jesus was a terribly advanced person, and other people simply weren’t ready to act as he acted. It has been easier to follow a religion about Jesus than it has been to follow Jesus directly. More than that, those who start by following Jesus directly are usually pulled into a religion about Jesus quickly enough.

I’m not saying these things have been done with malice in the majority of cases, because I don’t believe they have. But they have happened all the same.

So, are people now ready to move from a religion merely about Jesus, to the religion that he practiced? Are they able to do that? Because if they aren’t able, bringing up such a thing, publicly, would be an act of cruelty. It would be like ripping off their coat in a blizzard and giving them nothing to replace it.

I, however, believe that average humans… average Christians… are more than able to rise to this choice. I think that humanity is far better than most of us presume it to be. I quote this passage from G.K. Chesterton’s The Defendant often, because I think it is a beautiful expression of a true and important concept:

Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelly, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.

I believe, based upon a continuing stream of evidence, that humanity at present is far better than advertised. More than that, I believe we are capable of become far better than we are now. Bad news sells papers and keeps tyrannies in power, but news that reflected reality would leave us believing in our virtues and capacities.

What comes of this remains to be seen, of course. My job is to put it into the world and to support it as well as I can. It is up to the people who read and hear these concepts to do something about them. I have no group for anyone to join. Those who agree will have to forge their own paths, as they should. Following the great leader is an evasion of responsibility and effort. It bears the seed of a return to servitude.

The Way of Transformation

The wonderful thing about the religion of Jesus it that it’s far more transformative than the religion about Jesus. That statement is based as much on my experience as it is on anything else, and so you’ll have to make up your own mind, but if you examine it honestly I’m confident you’ll come to the same conclusion over time.

Jesus didn’t care at all about rituals, symbols and traditions. But he always cared about good seeds being planted in people. He cared about those seeds growing until they bore good fruit. And, very importantly, he wanted these things to be done naturally and organically (“first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear”), not by obedience to external standards. As Ernest Renan noted so well, “Never has anyone been less a priest than Jesus, never a greater enemy of forms.”

Jesus did not want mankind’s obedience a higher being. He didn’t want them to bow down and grovel. He didn’t want them to force themselves to conform. Rather, he wanted them to become better in actual substance. All that matters to Jesus is the real, the essential. Everything hinges on actual substance, and on nothing else. What matters – the only thing that matters – is what you are and what you become.

In this you can see why the religion about Jesus seems easier: You can be sure of “salvation” based upon your standing with a human organization, by your participation in physical ceremonies, by saying some magic words. The way of Jesus, however, concerns what you are on the inside, and accepts no evasions.

Jesus is gentle, accepting and eager to help, of course – he says so clearly – but his only focal point is what we are on the inside.

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The Religion of Jesus PART 2: The Big Issue

I’ve already said “it would be hard to over-state this,” or words to that effect, several times in these discourses. Now I’’m going to say it again, because its importance in this case is truly immense. In fact, what I’m about to write is such a powerful concept that it might, merely by being mentioned often enough, change the beliefs of billions of people.

Continuing from the Part 1.

I’ve already said “it would be hard to over-state this,” or words to that effect, several times in these discourses. Now I’m going to say it again, because its importance in this case is truly immense. In fact, what I’m about to write is such a powerful concept that it might, merely by being mentioned often enough, change the beliefs of billions of people. And so, please consider this statement carefully:

Christianity has not been the religion of Jesus. It has been a religion about Jesus.

Time and money permitting, I might put that on billboards. I think it calls for it.

Consider the things Christians require as beliefs for church membership. Many of them are things that Jesus never said at all. For example, a belief in “the trinity” is required for membership in Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational and Assembly of God churches, among many, many others. Indeed, nearly every church requires a belief in the trinity.

Jesus, on the other hand, never used the word. Nor did he ever use the concept. (If you’re at all unsure about that, please look it up.) In this you can see the depth of the issue: More or less every Christian institution requires people to believe something that Jesus never endorsed at all. And yet, no one seems to bat an eye over it. The truth, you see, is that Christianity is primarily a religion about Jesus. (How it became this way will be something we address in another discourse.)

And then there is the likewise-mandatory belief in the virgin birth. And again, Jesus never mentioned it, or even hinted at it. In fact, he specifically undercut the idea that his mother was a terribly special person. Again, this belief is about Jesus, not of Jesus.

Likewise the concept of original sin; most churches major on it, but Jesus never said such a thing.

The conclusion here is inescapable: Jesus didn’t consider the doctrines of the trinity, virgin birth and original sin to be of any importance. If he believed them at all, he didn’t think they were important enough to teach. And yet, the Christian churches are devoted to these things, down to their cores.

This distinction between what Jesus believed and what Christianity believes is so immense that many people, if confronted with it, will feel driven to eliminate the concept, no matter how much many excuses and how much “blanking out” may be required.

Others, however, will reluctantly accept reality. And because of them, Christianity will change, and the greater portion of the world with it.

This concept is only threatening, of course, if our allegiances are divided between Jesus and religious organizations. If we prefer Jesus, the creeds have to be pulled apart. If we prefer the churches, we must discount Jesus, as indeed has been done, consciously or otherwise.

Christianity has contained some thoughts from Jesus, of course, but they’ve been continuously surrounded by beliefs about Jesus that guided men and women away from the way Jesus lived. (Which we might also call the religion he practiced.) That has been a problem, and one that will have to be dealt with if Christianity is to endure.

I am confident that Jesus would care far less about what we think about his divinity than doing the things he taught and practiced. In fact, we have a beautiful statement of that concept in two of our gospels. Here is Luke’s version:

Why do you call me Lord, but don’t do the things I say?

However we turn that statement, it clearly places doing as more important to Jesus than what we believe about him and say about him. As we might say, talk is cheap, doing is precious. 

And while writing these discourses I stumbled upon another distinction: I found myself feeling a need to write “believe him” rather than “believe in him.” I quickly realized it was the same issue. Do we believe (and thus do) the things Jesus said? Or do we merely believe in Jesus… that he is “the son of God,” “born of a virgin,” or whatever? This difference is the same as “do we do what he said, or merely call him Lord?” And according to Jesus, everything turns upon this difference.

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Religion of Jesus PART 1: Introduction

I’ve recently completed a book I never particularly expected to write. It covers subjects we’ve touched upon in some of the columns, but my guess was that the book would wait for quite some time. It’s called Discourses on Judaism, Jesus & Christianity, and it rather forced its way out of me, regardless of what I had in mind. (Writing can be a very odd exercise at times.)

And so I’d like to run through one of the more important chapters in our public articles. The full book (106 pages) is available on Kindle for those who want it.

In this first installment we’ll include the table of contents and the preface. After that we’ll go through Discourse 6, one section at a time. I think you’ll find this interesting and probably surprising.

Contents

Preface                                 

Discourse One                     The Progress of Judaism  

Discourse Two                      Whose Religion?                            

Discourse Three                  The Judeo-Christian Principles

Discourse Four                    What Really Did Jesus Teach?

Discourse Five                    The Sayings of Jesus

Discourse Six                      The Religion of Jesus

Discourse Seven                 How The Way Became Christianity

Discourse Eight                   The Kingdom of God          

Discourse Nine                    The Son of Man                  

Discourse Ten                     The Crisis of Christianity               

Discourse Eleven                The Progress of Judaism, Part Two

Coda                                     Yeah, We’re Better

Preface

I expect my books to move from one subject to the next smoothly. And so when I decided to write this one, I presumed that my collection of “terribly important but almost entirely overlooked” concepts would form themselves into some kind of logical and naturally-flowing unit.

The book, however, wouldn’t come together that way. And so, after some struggle, I decided to let it be what it naturally was, a collection of generally- but not directly-related thoughts.

Soon after that I finally understood the importance of specifically not turning these discourses into a single unit.

Nearly every set of religious or spiritual ideas is quickly turned into a full-spectrum answer to all of humanity’s deep questions: Where did we come from? What will happen to the world? What will happen to me once I die? And so on. Anyone who puts forth new religious ideas faces tremendous pressures to answer all the questions and to extend their findings into a complete set of answers and/or a complete ruleset for living. Yielding to that pressure, however, is a grave error.

So, not only am I not attempting an answer to every question, I’m advising you that we’re in no position to do such a thing. I think we humans carry immense potential; in time we will become wonderfully advanced creatures. At present, however, we have a long way to go. I think all healthy humans carry the potential to be stunning creatures and to understand just about anything that can be understood in this universe. But we’re not there yet, and we probably won’t be for a while. Ultimate rulesets and fixed determinations are not for us.

All that said, I would very much like for this set of discourses to turn our eyes toward better vistas, and I thank you for taking the time to read and absorb it.

Paul Rosenberg
June, 2019

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A New Day, a New Chance to Be Wonderful

NewDay

Most people fail to appreciate the fresh opportunity that each day brings them. Their programming requires them to snort derisively at concepts like the one above. After all, the systems of this world are built upon the assumption that mankind is weak, stupid, and generally inadequate to a moral existence. As a result, most people have become addicted to bad news.

Nonetheless every day is a fresh start, a situation created by nature itself. So, please consider this:

What if, just once, you got out of bed and imagined that you were a fresh being in the universe? And more than that, a good, creative, potent being.

What if you imagined yourself free of obligations and intimidations, charting a fresh course? What if you looked at your life as if it were beginning anew?

Is it an intolerable thought that you should put aside your well-groomed fears, wake up to a blank slate, and hold that position for just one day? And if we can’t allow ourselves this one productive entertainment, what has happened to us?

You Don’t Actually Suck

Our opinions of ourselves are usually out of touch with reality. To prove that, you need only to slow down, clear your mind, and fill in a few blanks:

  • Can you remember a moment from your childhood when someone was notably kind or loving toward you? You have at least one, yes? So, in detail, what was it like and how did you feel?_______________________________________________

  • Can you remember a time you stood up for someone who was being unfairly insulted or abused? What exactly did you do, and how did it make you feel?_________________________________________________________

  • Can you remember a time when you did something because it was right, even though you knew you’d suffer for it? How did it feel to push through the fear and do it?_____________________________________________________

  • Have you ever done something out of nothing but simple, honest benevolence? How did that feel?_____________________________________________

Did you answer these questions? Did you relive the experiences a little?

You see, you don’t actually suck. You’ve merely been made to believe so… by people and systems who profited from your bad-news addiction.

What’s Life For?

You are alive, and this life you possess doesn’t have a preset direction; it’s you who choose where to direct it. Our lives have the meaning we give them, and we give them meaning through exercises of will.

You have immense capabilities, but only you can choose to use them. If you spend your entire life reacting to darkness and threat, you’ll never learn to be a potent being. Instead, you’ll stay in a tight little shell, talking about everything bad that happens in the world, seeking more and more bad news because it justifies your shell.

Does that sound like a good way to spend a life?

When? Ever?

So, when do we pull away from the carnival of bad news? When do we lift up our eyes and consider the radical possibility that we have good things in us too? When do we dare consider our virtues and abilities… and start using them as a first choice?

For most people the answer is “never.” Not once in a complete human lifetime. And that’s tragic. In fact, it’s premature death. Most people aren’t specifically choosing this of course – it’s a choice thrust upon them by authority – but it ends with them never living by their own light. Instead, they find a “doesn’t hurt too badly” groove and plod along until they tip into a grave.

But what if we picked a day and chose to live as if we were wonderful? If you’re so deeply terrified that that will lead to doom, make it your day off or a vacation day. Get up and spend that day as if you were a luminous being. Flatly pretend if you must, but do it for a day.

Is that really so evil a concept that you can’t consider it? Even a five-point Calvinist, committed to the “depravity of man,” has to admit that Jesus defended David for saying, “You are gods.” Is that not enough to justify a one-day experiment? And if not, doesn’t that void the gospel of John?

So, when is it that we choose to wake up and be wonderful, just for one day?

Pick One

Every tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to be wonderful. So pick a day and wake up to a blank slate.

Turn away from the knee-jerk objections that ram their way into your mind; they can have the other 364 days.

Try being wonderful. You might like it. Pull out your calendar, pick a month and day, circle it, and then do it.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

What Jesus Didn’t Say

WhatJesus

Most of the things people associate with Jesus are things he never said. I’ll provide a few dozen examples below, but first please understand that I’m not doing this to tear anything down. Rather, I’d like to open a path away from obsolete and moribund beliefs. To do that, I’m drawing a hard line between Jesus and the apostles.

I’d very much like people to differentiate between what Jesus taught and what others taught about him. This is, however, a difficult thought, standing against centuries of assumptions to the contrary. So much so that when I first grasped this concept back in 1976, I was unable to deal with it and it slid off to the side.

I did not, however, forget it. And as I matured, this difficult thought remained with me and became clearer. I’m now convinced that it should circulate.

What Do We Call This?

So, what can we call a set of beliefs founded only upon the sayings of Jesus? I don’t know, but we can’t honestly call it “Christianity.” As you’ll see below, very many of Christianity’s core beliefs did not come from Jesus; they were added by others. However uncomfortable this may be, I really have no clearer way of expressing it, and I think its truth will become more obvious as we proceed.

But because this thought is so odd, those of you who come to agree with it (to whatever extent) will not have the comfort of a tag to place upon it; there is no category to roll it into. You’ll have to stand alone.

So, here’s my list. For convenience I’ve divided it into sections.

On the nature of God:

Jesus did not say:

God is a trinity.

God is three persons.

God is present everywhere.

On his own nature:

Jesus did not say:

I was born of a virgin.

I share the full nature of God.

I am God.

On the nature of humanity:

Jesus did not say:

Man was born into original sin.

Man is born corrupt.

Mankind is a fallen race.

On churches:

Jesus did not say:

          You should form churches.

          I will place you into congregations.

          You must obey your elders.

          Obey your leaders.

          Follow the scriptures.

          Study the scriptures.

          Study the prophecies.

          You must defend the gospel.

          You must prevent heresy.

          You should tithe.

On salvation:

Jesus did not say:

You must believe I was raised from the dead.

You must call me “Lord.”

You must surrender to me.

You must accept the Bible as truth.

You must believe and confess.

You must keep the sacraments.

You must die in a state of grace.

You must confess your sins.

On prayer:

Jesus did not say:

Pray to me.

Revere the cross.

Pray to saints.

Venerate icons.

Pray for your nation.

On Politics:

Jesus did not say:

Pray for your rulers.

Pray for your ruler to do the right thing.

Obey those above you.

Obey rulers.

Sacrifice yourself for your countrymen.

You should kill and die to preserve freedom.

You should form Christian nations.

“But if those things aren’t necessarily true, what is?”

What is or isn’t true is for you to decide. All I’m saying is that Jesus did not teach these things. And I strongly suggest that you mull that over for a while before jumping into another set of grand conclusions.

We should never have believed things because of what churches or church leaders say… not even the perfectly groomed and perfectly confident TV preachers. Nor should anyone have held such things to be true because their parents believed them. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa may have been beautiful souls, but they were subject to misunderstanding and error just like the rest of us. We must examine things independently.

My point is this: What Jesus actually taught is quite distinct from Christianity. And in my opinion, the mix of doctrines that constitutes contemporary Christianity is at a dead end. The ideas that come directly from Jesus, however, stand to liberate and elevate the world… once they’re freed from the chains of doctrine.

What to do about this is up to you.

* * * * *

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

Get it at Amazon ($18.95) or on Kindle: ($5.99)

TheBreakingDawn

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com