Either Jesus was wrong–or we are

bad-mathFor years, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that I became a sinner the moment I took my first breath. That’s what I was told. Everyone around me believed it. As far as I was concerned, it was so—until I began to notice that something didn’t add up:

Jesus didn’t simply die; he was sadistically tortured to death. According to the scriptures, he was made to suffer for something others did, just as I was destined to be punished because of something Adam and Eve did. It made me think.

Is God unfair?

If asked if God is unfair, our natural response is, “Of course not!” But do we really believe that?

Yes or no: Is it fair to blame, harm or kill an innocent person for something someone else did? If not, we actually believe that God is unfair.

If we worship someone who treats others unfairly, what does that say about us? To be consistent, if we believe that satanically torturing an innocent man to death is the divine way to solve a problem, then we also must believe that society should jail or execute innocent people for crimes committed by their relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Do we?

No. We live in an if “you do the crime, you do the time” society. Why? It’s only fair.

The truth is, we don’t believe in harming or punishing innocent people, and we don’t know any sane person who does. Yet we love it when God does it.

Would Love do that?

Like most Christians, I was repeatedly told that Jesus’s suffering was an act of godly love. Further, I should be grateful that God loved me so much that He would have Jesus brutally tortured instead of me. And if I didn’t believe that Jesus was tortured, I would be.

I had to wonder: Is it an act of love to torture someone to death? Whether it was for their mistake or someone else’s, is that what Love does?

Furthermore, what kind of person is grateful that an innocent man was executed for a crime he committed? Was I that kind of person? I surely hoped not.

Jesus viewed God differently than we do

The way Jesus viewed God completely contradicts the way the crucifixion story portrays God. Jesus’s view of God is the polar opposite of ours:

Through his Parable of the Prodigal Son, retold in Luke 15, Jesus revealed what kind of father he believed God to be. He related the story of an impatient, greedy son who wanted his inheritance from his father—immediately, thank you very much. Despite the disrespectful “I wish you were dead” implications of his younger son’s demand, the free-willing father bestowed him the inheritance.

How to become a prodigal in a few easy steps

The self-indulgent son and his party pals squandered every cent of the inheritance, quickly transforming this son of wealth into a pauper. He became a laborer on, of all things, a pig farm. He’d hit rock bottom. To this famished heir, even pig feed looked like a banquet.

What next? After treating his father as if he were dead, going back home was out of the question. It was doubtful that he’d ever be forgiven.

But, weighing his options—pig slop or groveling at his father’s feet—he wearily returned home, bracing himself for the verbal or severe physical beating he deserved. He’d be lucky if his father didn’t turn him away or have him stoned to death, as was the custom in those days—and remains so in cultures that are wed to the dictates of their ancient holy books. It is human nature to be vindictive.

We view God as humanly vindictive

What would the next scene look like, if we were writing the story of the Lost Son? How would the father in our story react to seeing the wayward son who had wished him dead and had wasted everything?

My guess is that our scene would start with an angry, judgmental rant, complete with expletives and name-calling. If he allowed his son to live, the father would probably punish him so harshly that he’d wish he had been stoned to death.

In our story, he probably would never regain his position as a beloved son. He had traded that for debauchery.

Jesus viewed God as divinely forgiving

Father greets prodigal sonHow did the father react in Jesus’s story? He spotted his prodigal son from a distance and ran to greet him with open arms. He clothed him in fine garments and ordered a feast, much to the dismay of his older and much more respectful son.

The father in Jesus’s story was unconditionally forgiving, unconditionally loving and totally merciful. Why? That is the way Jesus viewed God.

It was a perception that defied religious teachings and disturbed the religious order. They felt that chaos would erupt if people were not controlled by the threat of extremely harsh or deadly punishment. (We see how well that has worked.)

What if every child was told the same thing when they reached an age of comprehension: “Sweetheart, we live in a what-goes-around-comes-around world. Whatever you do here will be done to you. It’s called karma. It keeps everything in balance. Keep that in mind every waking minute of every day. Let that be your guiding light.”

If we believed that, like the father in Jesus’s parable, God gave all souls the free will to choose our consequences, this world probably would be less chaotic and more heavenly. We would always be thinking that if we steal, cheat, deceive, rape or murder, at some point in our eternal lives the same thing will happen to us. Consequently, we would never do anything that we would not want done to us.

Instead, we worship the ancient human view of God as a controlling, judgmental, vindictive villain, an enforcer, and alas, a sadist who unfairly murders His innocent child.

I have only one thing to say about that: Either Jesus was wrong—or we are.

A Bag Lady’s Holy Week

Bag LadyRarely do I want to be that one, the bag lady. But for the next few weeks, I’ll be happily living out of suitcases. The first stop on my journey is the Balcony of Life, where I will stay until Easter is good and over. 

In years past, I’ve tried to tough it out and remain on Earth’s stage during Holy Week’s incessant demonization of the Divine, even though the bludgeoning of God’s holiness annoys me to no end.

As Einstein said, “Doing the same thing, and expecting a different result, is insanity.” So this year, I’m changing course: Rather than take myself there, I’m bringing myself here—to the Balcony. Memo to Self: Install an escalator! There’s no graceful way to lug all this stuff up these stairs.

Hmmm, even from the lower balcony, I can see what a blessing the soul we knew as Trayvon Martin has been for race relations in America. He has both awakened us to our tendency to label, judge and respond to another member of the human family based on superficial characteristics such as skin color and attire. He also has stirred our conflicted sense of justice.

As a species, we are still evolving, still trying to resolve our love-hate relationship with violence and vengeance. Sometimes brutalizing an innocent member of our human family is unacceptable to us. More frequently—in fact, daily—brutality is absolutely OK with us.

Why is the murder of one innocent child of God reviled and the brutal murder of another revered?

Trayvon’s murder falls under the unacceptable category. Hundreds of thousands of citizens in this mostly Christian nation have taken to the streets in outrage over the inhumanity of vigilante George Zimmerman and the insensitivity of the non-vigilant Sanford, Florida Police Department. We clearly revile injustice and violence—except when we’re giddy and grateful for it.

During this, the holiest week on the Christian calendar, we will attend vigils, wear hoodies to church, and post cathartic sentiments on social media in protest of the death of this innocent child and its subsequent cover-up. Then we will get down on our knees and thank God for sending another innocent young man to be slowly and sadistically tortured to death so that the guilty could be forgiven.

Let me play that back for you: According to ancient reports, God was so vehemently opposed to forgiveness that “He” stooped to the barbaric and distinctly human practice of sacrificing a live and innocent being before “He” would forgive the guilty. Yes, it’s the same God that wants mere mortals to forgive 70 times 7.

No one’s protesting the inhumanity, injustice or hypocrisy of this alleged act of God. No one’s demanding evidence that Love would do anything inhumane, unjust or hypocritical. No, instead we’re jumping for joy that we are washed in the blood of Jesus. Isn’t that part of a satanic ritual? Where does the Divine fit in that?

Can we legitimately scream for justice in Trayvon’s murder, when we’re not demanding the same for Jesus’s insanely brutal death? Can we credibly call for Zimmerman to be arrested and tried, but continue to give the Roman soldiers a get-out-of-jail-free card?

All of us carry baggage in our heads. Some of it is information and beliefs that harm us or others. We drag it from place to place and it blurs our ability to see Truth. Perhaps it’s time to let some of it go—starting with all illogical thoughts that demonize God.

From where this bag lady is sitting, if I am grateful for anything this Holy Week, it’s that God really is Love, and that Love forgives absolutely and unconditionally—no matter how much or how long we’ve repeated tales that The Divine does anything demonic.

Forgiveness is Only a Math Problem

Pop quiz: What’s 70 times 7?

No, it’s not 490! It’s the number of times we’re supposed to forgive those who offend us. Oddly enough, more than two thousand years after a profound and rather revolutionary Jewish rabbi taught this lesson, most of us—even those who profess belief in this man’s teachings—still can’t do the math.

Should we blame the teacher? I don’t think so. He delivered his lesson quite clearly and simply. I’m more inclined to believe that the problem lies in the text. It is more than a little confusing, as evidenced by the findings of a recent Gallup poll.

Researchers found that 49% of Americans believe the Bible, the text from which our views of forgiveness are founded, is the inspired word of God. But these same people don’t think it should be taken literally. Clearly, someone’s confused.

Man swears on Bible

The truth and nothing but the truth, so help me...

When did we stop taking Truth at its word? And, I’m sorry, if God inspired texts that can’t be taken literally, what was the point of the divine inspiration? Heck, mere mortals could have simply made up some stuff.

Actually, 17% of the poll respondents think the text was totally man-made, a collection of legends and fables. My guess is that the latter were merely brave enough to say what the 49% were thinking. If we do the math, 66% of us have discovered that the Bible contains information that is untrue, conflicting or incorrectly recorded.

The implications are tremendous. When overlook obvious errors in the text and call it the Word of God, what are we saying about the credibility and trustworthiness of that Word?

Some scholars take this very seriously. For the last 53 years, for example, Orthodox Jewish researchers at a Jerusalem university have been poring over ancient manuscripts, separating the wheat from the chaff. They’re trying to strip the Hebrew Bible down to its oldest and most authentic text. So far, they’ve unearthed evidence that people have been toying with the Bible for centuries. According to a report on this pivotal research called The Bible Project, scholars have concluded that

“This text at the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was somewhat fluid for long periods of its history, and that its transmission through the ages was messier and more human than most of us imagine.”

That explains why it took more than five decades for the team to complete a mere three books of the Bible. And we think we’re reading The Word of God.

The messy and human transmission (and let’s not forget tampering) is precisely why I think we can’t wrap our heads or arms around the famous rabbi’s lessons on forgiveness. The tampered text, in not so subtle ways, actually teaches us to be unforgiving.

Noah's Ark cartoon

©2010-2011 ~tawfi2 (Mohammed tawfik on deviantart.com)

As kids, we learn that God does not forgive

One of the earliest stories in the Bible is of the Great Flood. For centuries this alleged genocide has been romanticized, most recently in whimsical children’s books. At a very early age, we learned about forgiveness from this story: The Almighty God, Who could do anything “He” desired, preferred to sadistically “destroy everything living thing” [Genesis 7:4] rather than wave the wand of forgiveness over the humans in “His” creation. Not sure what the animals and plants did to deserve this fate.

Of course, our parents and religious teachers didn’t highlight God’s lack of forgiveness; but it is the unmistakable raison d’être in this ghastly story. Instead, we were served a sugar-coated version of the tale, complete with beautiful cartoons depicting the smiling faces of wild but happy animals patiently prancing onto the ark in a polite queue or peeping out of portholes as if they were on a Mediterranean cruise. 

Wait a minute! Portholes? According to the story, God ordered Noah to put only one window in that massive vessel—and, excuse me, it wasn’t in the cargo hold. But happy faces are great subterfuge to keep us from realizing that they were about to suffer a punishment worst than death. What child wouldn’t be horrified by the image of carnivores and herbivores crammed into the same dark space? It was nothing less than a Happy Meal for the predators whose prey had no chance of escaping. If kids could figure that out, certainly God could.

And can we talk about poor Noah and his fam? Those poor folks were not only forced to live with the aroma of wild animals and fecal matter; they also suffered the trauma of smelling the stench and, if they could get to that one window, seeing thousands of bloated bodies—infants, children, adults, the disabled and elderly—floating around them for weeks or as much as a year, depending upon how long it took the water to recede, which depended upon which verse of Genesis you read. If their preservative-free, unrefrigerated food supply could last that long, who in the world could eat under those conditions?

Common sense questions are rarely asked by Believers because thinking and questioning are truly the enemies of “blind faith.” In fact, they are considered heretical. (If you think I’m being sacrilegious, simply pick up the copy of whatever version of the Bible you have right now and tell me how many times the facts change in the Flood story, from verse to verse.) So just in case God really is a genocidal maniac rather than the unconditionally forgiving father of prodigal children, we’ve decided to believe some or all of these stories, even the second major lesson in forgiveness, which is even scarier.

Another Lesson: Forgiveness Requires Suffering

This one’s probably going to make some Christians uncomfortable. The most unforgiving (as in not Christlike) among them might even throw rotting tomatoes into the balcony, dramatically proving my point: Forgiveness is an elementary math problem that we haven’t been able to learn, despite having a Master Teacher. But if we’re ever going to solve this math problem, someone’s got to speak truth to those who would try to control our thoughts and beliefs through fear. Needless to say, the Loud Mouth got the assignment.

Like the Great Flood story, we’ve sugar-coated Jesus’s brutal murder by claiming that he died for us. In this story, as we’ve created it, God’s shows “His” love, mercy and forgiveness in a most peculiar way: God loved “His” bad kids so much that, in the barbaric tradition of those who wrote the story, “He” gave Jesus as a live sacrifice, sending “His” only innocent child to be slowly tortured to death.

We refuse to see that this story, which claims that the only condition under which God would forgive the guilty is by inhumanely brutalizing the innocent, portrays God as satanic. Worse, we promote the idea that if we believe that God placed Jesus in the hands of the sadistic Roman soldiers, “He” will  forgive our sins. The cartoon below graphically demonstrates how this principle works.

Murderer meets Victim in HeavenWrong Lessons, Well Learned

And that, Boys and Girls, is why we need a refresher course in multiplication. It’s almost impossible to learn to forgive 70 times 7, as Jesus taught, when we’ve been told for thousands of years that 1) Forgiveness is not really divine and 2) If the Divine forgives at all, there are strings attached. And oh, by the way, sometimes those strings have human blood on them.

Refresher Course is Open if You Are

It’s never too late to learn elementary math, as many have discovered in the transformative Drama Queen Workshops, where we free ourselves from the drama of Earth’s myths—beliefs that portray us as separate us from each other and from the Divine. Let me share the truths that seem to speed the path toward knowing Self, trusting God, and attracting a steady flow of Divine Guidance:

  1. Life is always fair.
  2. God is never far.
  3. Death is not “The End.”
  4. Absolutely nothing is unforgivable.

Spirit presented them to me as the Drama Queen Workshop Principles. The fourth principle is the most transformative for every Soul. Forgiveness will absolutely change your eternal life, release you from the chains of anger and resentment that have bound you to your offenders since The Beginning. Do we really want to spend time with those who have hurt, disrespected or abused us? The only way to release them is to forgive them.

Forgiveness comes so naturally when we understand the other three DQW principles. When we realize that we are eternal souls that embody the Divine Spark of Love that we call God, Allah or other revered names, it’s easy. When we understand that in a what-goes-around-comes-around world, Life is always fair, it just happens. When we know that we will receive what we give, at the most perfect time in our eternal life, because death of the mortal body is not the end of us as immortal souls, we don’t hold onto thoughts, anger  or resentment about what the other person did to us. We know we won’t be held accountable for the way they treated us, only how we treated them, no matter how they treated us. We release ourselves and move on.

We’ve ignored what Jesus reportedly said in most of the New Testament in favor of scriptures portraying Godliness as unforgiving and mortally vindictive. Let’s not turn a blind eye toward “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” [Luke 6:37], “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers” [Matthew 6:12] or the unconditionally forgiving father in “Prodigal Son” parable [Luke 15:11-32]. Forgiveness appears as a recurring theme. It is the good news. God is Love is the good news. Love forgives unconditionally: Good news.

Despite these scriptures’ message that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, we believe we’re doing our offenders a favor. We act as if we are giving them a gift they don’t deserve when, in fact, we are only hurting ourselves. We deny ourselves forgiveness when we withhold it. If we want to our sins to be forgiven, we must forgive others for theirs—as many times as necessary, as many times as we’d want to be forgiven. Yes, even 70 times 7, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend remaining in the proximity of a such a repeat offender.

Hope is alive! Just as we learned when we were agonizing over our multiplication tables, practice makes perfect. Lessons are always easier to learn when they’re fun, so I invite you to download a supply of Forgiveness Coupons from the DQW home page. Make a game of forgiving unconditionally. See for yourself that forgiveness really is divine. And discover, while you’re at it, that you are, too.

I love you!