Monday, January 10, 2011

Jesus an idol?

Jesus’ real significance was concealed by the halo put around the man. The god in our liturgy and popular piety started emitting a bad smell for me early in my life. Worshipful language by Jesus-freaks turned me off. 

What a different figure I found when I read the scriptures with new eyes! A person so refreshing, so human, so real—a feisty, earthy, gutsy, and passionate man! He uses spit and dirt to heal, weeps openly, raises havoc, makes merry, and gets angry. He calls people names, loves it when a woman fusses over him, and uses shocking language to thrust home his points.
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).
Jesus did not act like a “good Christian”—always nice, always accommodating, always smoothing things over. I like the real Jesus a lot better than the image coming out of evangelical fervor.

Present-day worshippers would shun the man who actually walked the paths of Palestine 2000 years ago. The real Jesus of Nazareth railed against privilege and honor; “lord” and “king” do not fit this revolutionary critic of status-seeking.

When I broke free of the stuffed-shirt Jesus, I found a spiritual rebel in the synoptic gospels who could be sharp, blunt, combative, and even caustic. He does not think, talk, or act like a guy trying to fit social expectations. With pluck and spunk he defies them, displaying uncommon freedom from the opinions of others. He hangs around with scum. Nice people are appalled.
Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Lk 7:34)!

I believe the historical Jesus taught and modeled spiritual goals taught by all spiritual masters. The Nazarene did not think he was God. Scholars agree that he didn’t say the words put into his mouth by evangelists of the Fourth Gospel. Jesus didn’t give himself an exalted title when he called himself the son of humans. “Son of man” was foolishly and mistakenly given ponderous significance by generations after Jesus who did not understand his Palestinian culture.




One way the man in history shatters popular images of Jesus is in his relationships with women, the most shocking with Mary Magdalene. I hope you can study this information about the Beloved Disciple without the prejudice I had in my first response to it. Whatever the historical details of Jesus’ conversations with women, it is unlikely that an evangelist would have invented the stunning reversal of patriarchal and hierarchical norms we see in the gospels. 


Jesus an idol?   January 10, 2011

“Father” is a mythic image, not a fact.
Since I wrote this, I keep coming back to it, realizing that most Christians—let’s face it, most Christian leaders—actually don’t know this. Those who do are prevented by Church authority from educating congregations to the realization that religious stories—yes, our Christian stories too—are myths, not facts.

The thing is, we need the poetry of myth. Imagine trying to inspire a religious gathering with the message that “Father and Son” are mythic images, not facts. Such factual language doesn’t scour. We need the poetic images, but a plethora of disparate ones. Balance Father with Mother, He with She, Judge with She-bear, Rock with Spring, Warrior with Midwife, lord with woman giving birth. All these images of our Source/Creator inhabit the Bible (See Women and the Word by Sandra Schneiders, IHM, STD and Goddess in the Bible.

These disparate images are mutually disruptive, that is, they prevent a certain image or type of image from monopolizing and conditioning minds, from creating an idol. An idol is what we now have in our Christian churches.

Ouch! You don’t want to hear that. You think idols are only what non-Christians worship? Consider this:
The First Commandment prohibits idolatry or worship of an idol, which is any object other than the Transcendent Source we call “God.” What do Christians worship but a certain monochromatic male figure? This male idol, this external deity, this GREAT GUY IN THE SKY, dominates the minds of Christians because liturgies repeat “Father” and “Lord” as if these were the official names of the Source we call “God.” Nothing can so effectively disrupt the domination of this image as feminine figures—Mother, She, woman giving birth, and so on—images not used in our liturgies.

But they could be. It would be easy to intone, “Our Mother/ Father . . . ,” and the congregation would naturally continue with the prayer. In this way pastors could educate Christians about the transcendent nature of what we call God without explaining the abstract concept of transcendence and idols. And pastors should stop repeating the words that perpetuate idolatry—“Father,” “ Lord,” “He/Him/His.”

Karen Tate’s thoughtful explication of Jesus in the context of Goddess spirituality (in the previous post) provides a good alternative to the monochromatic male images that have become idols.

There’s another benefit from introducing Her to God-talk. Religious intellectuals today are challenged by the new atheists, a virulent brand of atheists aggressively proselytizing for their unique brand of faith—hatred of religion. Some atheists, not all, deny the existence of spiritual reality altogether. But when I study their writings—Christopher Hitchens, for instance—I detect a love of spiritual matters, and I see that literal belief fires their animosity to religion, in addition to Christian hypocrisy and . . . . . . oh, we’re all familiar with the sins of religion that so inflame atheists.

If religious leaders want to challenge atheist materialists, I suggest they try adding the Divine Feminine to their poetic imagery. The sophistication of that would astonish atheists who disdain religious ignorance. Including the GREAT SHE in liturgies would signal understanding of our own Christian mythology.

1 comment:

Karen Tate said...

Jeanette,
Thank you for again advocating for adding The Great She to our religious myths. Let's face it, who can really swallow creation without both genders taking part in the process? Who can really swallow the "male birth myth" - it just turns Nature and what's natural on it's head and when you can open your mind to that, you see it for what it is - patriarchal male dogma trying to overturn the natural order of things for power and control of man over woman.

Can you imagine how our world would have been different if our myths reflected the value of man, woman and the family? There would be a totally different human psyche. The Bible gives men license to demean women. Perhaps had that male dogma not taken hold, if we still saw ourselves as sacred, our bodies as sacred and inter-connected as we once did, we might not see domestic violence, female genital mutilation, denigration of the female, the disempowerment of women in so many forms, bride burning, infanticide of girl babies. Patriarchal religions whose myths set men above women for power and control have a lot to be accountable for and they should start fessing up NOW.