Orville Taylor | Easter, but where are the Christians?
This could be another column about the pastors who violate little girls, or priests who fondle little boys, but no, it is about the day-to-day believers who pick daily verses and call themselves Christians, although they really are, at best, Paulines, followers of Paul.
Every year, we go through this again: getting very emotional over the image of this European-looking man being nailed up on a plus sign. Then the so-called believers crawl from out of their daily patterns of bad-mindedness and hypocrisy and behave holier than the rest of the world. It is amazing how simple this entire Jesus saga is and how clear and basic his teachings are. Yet I cannot think of 50 Christians I know personally, although we purportedly have the largest number of churches.
First of all, it bowls me over that most people who are long-term Christians have never read the Bible. For example, how can a Christian medical doctor, who has been 'saved' for more than 20 years, say that she has never read the entire Bible? However, she has covered thousands of pages of medical books and journal articles whose contents have no use to her after she dies. And when a sanctified attorney, in practice for five years, but a Christian for 15, can cite case after case and knows the common law, but is deficient in the supreme law, how can he really talk about Christianity?
Every academic who is a Christian makes it his point of duty to read the literature that guides his findings. Scrupulously, he checks whether the data are from reputable sources and, importantly, almost never cites a source that is out of context. Moreover, when reviewing any essay or publication, he also makes an effort to at least place it in its appropriate setting. Indeed, if one uses an extraneous or anachronistic passage to illustrate a point in a section of the text, where it is inapplicable, ONE is penalised or discredited. If it is in the humanities, when he quotes from a character in a novel, poem, or prose, he tries to understand the audience that the writer is addressing and also the setting.
Yet, hardly any Christian intellectual even understands the history of the Bible, who wrote what and when, and to whom the various books and letters are applicable. As far as the average churchgoer believes, nothing in the Bible is erroneous. So, blindly we make the robotic statement that the Bible is the 'Word or God' and even believe that men were sitting in some room with God dictating to them and them writing verbatim like a faithful secretary. Well, it might be surprising to learn, but there is nothing in the Bible that says that the Bible is the dictated Word of God. Indeed, nothing from Genesis to Revelation says that what is written there is flawless and error free.
So, I don't even know why Christians think that they must burden themselves into thinking that anything in the book is absolutely accurate. In fact, in the long history of the book, it involves the dictation of the Ten Commandments to Moses (perhaps the only such case in the Bible where it is the actual words of God) around 1400 BC to when Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, decided which 27 books comprised the New Testament in 315 AD, to the 1455 AD Gutenberg Bible, all before the King James Version was authorised in 1611. Few even know that the Church in 1885 removed the 14 books, from the KJV. These books called the Apocrypha, almost got me kicked out of St George's College because of the mischievous mispronunciation of the word.
Anyway, many church people read their faithful 'Psalm a day', purportedly justified by Colossians 3:16, in which Paul, NOT Jesus, advises, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." But if one reads all the Psalms, it would be obvious that not everything there is relevant to Christians.
If Christians focused more on what Jesus himself was reported as saying, then much of the fluff, with the wrapping of heads, discordant and off-key singing, deprivation of neighbours' sleep with their unconscionable night noises would bring more souls to Christ. Jesus kept it simple and gave a basic set of guidelines, which are very difficult to follow. Yet, if followed, make a whole lot of sense. And for the record, one does not have to be an alleluia-screaming, 'shalamala' tongue-speaking evangelist to be Christian, meaning Christlike. Even if one is not a believer in His divinity but only in His teachings, it makes a world of difference.
You see, the two least controversial passages in the Bible are unambiguous. In Matthew 22:39, the little man who rode a donkey into the temple kicked over the money stalls, 'bun out' the established religious leaders, and filled the water jars with wine at the wedding when the liquor Ran out, said, "'Love your neighbour as yourself." He then reinforces it in Matthew 25:40: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Nonetheless, the same Christians who forget that Jesus' death was a perfect lesson in forgiveness of one's enemies, even as they were killing Him, is the core of the Lord's Prayer, "as we forgive those who trespass against us ... ".
I make no pretence about being a clergyman or even a Christian myself; however, I am sure I understand that God now holds man to a higher standard for forgiveness than he sets for himself. A jealous and selfish God, He will only forgive you if you repent. Which is why in the Old Testament, for God's 'Chosen People' - not Christians - the laws about Sabbath, stoning adulterers, and killing disrespectful children, homosexuals, and idolaters all apply. And that is why David could write all those unchristian verses about destroying enemies as in Psalm 109.
So learn this: You can pray till Kingdom come and sing irrelevant hymns until you are blue, if you bad-mind your fellow and even keep 'malice', you might as well pray to the Devil.
- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.