Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Jesus and the Cult of Personality

A lot of people worship Jesus but don't agree with what he taught.

I mentioned before how I found a wallet lying in the middle of the road. Someone put it on the roof of their car and had driven off (never put anything on the roof of your car - particularly infants in car seats!) We were on our way to a picnic, and when I got there, I took the time to go through the wallet and find a phone number for the owner and then contacted him.  Fortunately, he left a business card in his wallet.  He found us and I gave the wallet back to him and he offered me money as a reward, which I declined.  "I would hope someone would do the same thing for me!" I said.

Did I do this as a "Good Christian?" Perhaps. But lately, what people are calling a "Good Christian" leaves me to think that Christianity is in real trouble.  Did I do it because of The Golden Rule?  You know, "Do unto others as you would want done to you?"  This "rule" really gets at some of the fundamentals of Christianity - or at least at the original teachings of Jesus.

But you need not be a Christian or religious at all to have such values. You can figure out, by thought experiment, that the world is a better place if everyone was kind and decent to each other.  Sure, there are laws to enforce such things, but what makes society tick is what people do when no one is looking. And I am sure that there would be many a person calling themselves "Christian" today who would have taken the cash out of that wallet and tossed the rest aside - after all, didn't God place this largess in their path?  The owner was probably a sinner or an atheist - prosperity theology, folks!

If everyone was honest and decent and returned lost property, the world would be a more relaxing place, right?  In Japan they actually do this - I've seen it!  You drop a coin on the ground and people, particularly children, will alert you to that fact.  You drop your wallet, no one will touch it, but rather call the police and wait for them to arrive.  Of course, they still have organized crime in Japan - everything is organized there.

But yea, the world is a better place when people return their grocery carts to the corral, particularly on a windy day.  I know this after paying $250 for "paintless dent repair" on one of our old convertibles. If everybody - or at least most people - do the right thing, society can flourish.

If you think about it, society already works this way.  So much of our commerce and daily living is based on trust alone.  You go to a restaurant and order food, they trust you will pay for it at the end of the meal.  Granted, a few people don't, but the vast majority play by the rules.  There are people who throw trash out of their car windows, to be sure - but far more who pick up litter and dispose of it properly.  And yea, maybe you lock your doors when you leave the house, but let's face it, if someone really wanted to break in, all they have to do is smash a window.  Having bars on your windows isn't the answer and it is also unsafe!

As I said, it seems today's new crop of "Christians" are anything but. They do not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but rather view him as a cult leader - a celebrity influencer whose brand they follow and whose "teachings" are a series of strict rules to be followed, as taught by their evangelical pastor.  They "read" the Bible, but only the Old Testament, which is a lot of "Thou Shall Not..." rules that are part of Judaism.  Others follow Muhammad, who has even more draconian rules to follow. All of them hate each otheer's guts for following the wrong religion or even the wrong branch of it.

Speaking of which, I guess we know now how World War III starts - a war between Pakistan (Sunni) and Iran (Shi'ite) both of which have nuclear arms.  As I noted before, the number one killer of Muslims in the world are fellow Muslims.  Of course, the West has long exploited this rift and reaped the spoils as a result.  We are more than willing to sell both sides weapons, provided we keep the balance of power nearly even.  See, e.g., the Iran-Iraq war.

But getting back to Jesus, many so-called "Christians" today seem him as a brand identity rather than a philosophical following.  There are many branches of Christianity, just as there are different flavors of Judaism or Islam or any other religion.  Some are so far removed from Christianity as to be obscene - think of Jonestown for example - mass suicide is not in line with the teachings of Christ.  "Religions" like that are rightfully called cults - where the followers worship the charismatic leader who often implies or states he is endorsed by God, or is in fact, the new Jesus.  Think, Moonies.

But a lot more of so-called "mainstream" versions of Christianity are going down the same path.  Many old-line religions are being divided over doctrine, with some calling for "the good old days" of the Old Testament, while others take a more liberal view.  The Lutheran church, for example, has been divided into different synonds, one conservative, one liberal.  Methodists are splitting over issues like the ordination of women.  And Catholics - who hold the first franchise on Christianity are divided as well, with some conservatives crying, "Not My Pope!" in response to proposed changed in church policies.

It is a stage set for a battle royale.  And many people today are turning away from religion entirely, seeing how "belief" is being used to encourage young people to strap on suicide vests or gun down their neighbors or set fire to a mosque or temple. And each religion, in turn, claims to be persecuted and oppressed by the other.  It would seem that belief is the cause of the world's problems, and not the solution.

Fewer people are religious today, but the few that are, are far more strident about it.  It is akin to (and overlapping with) gun ownership.  Fewer people (as a percentage of the population) own firearms today, but the few that do, own a helluva lot more of them.  It seems that these fringe groups are going to further and further extremes, convinced that playing nice no longer is an option.  It is a powder keg ready to explode, quite frankly.

The "do unto others..." bit has been thrown out of the window in favor of "I've got mine, Jack, because Jesus likes me best!"   They root for Jesus like he is the Buffalo Bills or Taylor Swift.  The original message of tolerance and acceptance is lost along the way.  These folks believe in an angry Jesus who is going to come back and smite their perceived "enemies" - whoever they are this week.

So what's the point?  Perhaps there is none and it is already too late for our civilization, where increasingly belief is supplanting logic, particularly belief systems which are twisted and tortured versions of old-time religions.  People are angry today, it seems, over trivial things, goaded on by social media, which is mostly AI-bots run by foreign influencers.

Maybe it will all work out and people will come to their senses.  But sadly, it seems the opposite is true - with people retreating into their belief systems and then boarding up the doors and windows, doubling-down on a flat earth or whatever.

Seems some people just want the world to end, so they don't have to pay back their student loans or make their monster truck payments.

How sad.