Christianity: You’re Doing It Wrong
For Darwin Day, I thought it would be fun to look at the evolution of Christianity. Not the entire 2000+ years, mind you but the origin of the ‘species,’ when Christianity crawled out from the River Jordan. The day Jesus was baptized.
Imagine for a moment a farmer in 1st century Palestine. Let’s call him Farmer Fred. Farmer Fred is lower class and illiterate. He travels to see John the Baptist preach and on that day he is introduced to a new traveling prophet who is preaching about the Kingdom of God. His name is Yeshua and he is from Nazareth.
He begins to travel with Yeshua. They do a lot of eating and drinking wine. They keep company with the unclean and hated people, like prostitutes and tax collectors.
Yeshua is charismatic and he talks about God as a loving and forgiving father (‘Abba’). He preaches that the Kingdom of God is coming and soon! By soon he means in Farmer Fred’s lifetime. Yeshua believes it will be in his own lifetime as well.
Compared to John the Baptist’s message Yeshua seems a bit more all-inclusive and lovey-dovey. Yeshua was saying that people like Farmer Fred would be worthy in this new Kingdom. This message is very appealing to the downtrodden.
As a Jewish man, Farmer Fred does his best to follow the Jewish law and be a righteous man. Fred is happy to see that Yeshua still thinks the Law was important but Yeshua reinterprets the Law so it isn’t as strict. The Law, as Yeshua says, was made for man, not the other way around. Yeshua wasn’t proclaiming that one should abolish the Law but he felt good deeds were more likely to let you enter the Kingdom of God. It was all about treating your neighbor with love.
Eventually, Farmer Fred became disenchanted with Yeshua. He went back home along with many other of Yeshua’s followers. Yeshua’s message, although popular for a very brief period, was no longer interesting to the masses. People got bored with Yeshua. A first century one-hit wonder prophet.
Then Fred hears that Yeshua did something crazy. He went into Jerusalem during Passover and caused a big stink. Farmer Fred assumes that this was Yeshua’s last attempt to get people to pay attention to his message, kinda like when a female celebrity gets out of a car with no panties and exposes herself to the public but on a donkey.
It was no surprise to Farmer Fred that Yeshua was arrested. Yeshua’s closest followers fled and hid while Yeshua was tried and crucified for being a messianic pretender. Yeshua’s body was dumped in a mass grave and he was never seen again.
Farmer Fred thinks to himself, ‘it’s just another day in Palestine.’
Yeshua or as he is more commonly known today, Jesus of Nazareth was not really a big deal. In fact no records of these events are recorded anywhere outside the bible until at least 100 years after his death.
The question I ask myself is what would Farmer Fred believe as the first Christian; as someone who actually hung out with Jesus?
- First, he wouldn’t call himself a Christian. Jesus did not think he was creating a new religion. He was Jewish. At best, he had a different interpretation of Judaism. But he certainly wasn’t starting a new religion.
- Fred wouldn’t think Jesus was divine or the Son of God. Jesus never claimed to be divine or the Son of God. Historically, all we can say is that he saw himself as a prophet. He didn’t even claim to be the messiah but that wouldn’t matter because…
- The Jewish people did not think the messiah was anything but human. He was anointed by God to lead the Jewish in a revolt against the nations that oppressed them but he wasn’t a god. The messiah was a warrior and a threat to the Roman Empire. He would help bring the new Kingdom of God to the people of Israel.
- Fred wouldn’t think Jesus was the “The Son of Man” which again was just a term for a human but not divine. Jesus did not claim to be the ‘Son of Man.’
- Fred wouldn’t think that the ‘Kingdom of God’ was heaven. It was an actual kingdom.
- If Fred ever thought Jesus was the messiah, which some of Jesus’ followers might have thought, he would have changed his mind once he found out Jesus was crucified. Nobody thought the messiah would be a suffering messiah.
- Fred would have never witnessed any miracles. Maybe an exorcism or a faith healing but we know how fake those are, don’t we? There is nothing historically to support Jesus’ miracles. Besides, everyone during those times was performing miracles. It was like Hogwarts in the first century seeing how much magic was going on back then.
- Fred could have been tempted to leave his family since, despite what some American’s preach today, Jesus did not preach family values. He was against the family.
- Eventually, when no Kingdom of God came, Farmer Fred would realize that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet — like everyone before and after him.
Basically the first followers of Jesus did not see him as divine or a Son of God. He was just like all the rest and not really that great. The Kingdom of God was a real kingdom in the story. It wasn’t a myth. And in order to have a kingdom you need a ruler. The Romans knew of this and saw anyone preaching or claiming to be a messiah as dangerous to the Roman Empire. It would be like someone threatening the United States Government today. But if Jesus didn’t claim to be the messiah, why did they kill him?
It is believed by many scholars that his followers could have been making that claim. It is also possible that Judas betrayed him by telling the authorities that Jesus was claiming to be the messiah and that is why he was arrested and killed.
One thing we know for sure is that what Christians today think is Christianity is so far removed from what any person walking along the side of Jesus would have thought he was preaching. In fact, Jesus wouldn’t even recognize today’s Christianity as what he himself was preaching.
Let me put it this way, if Jesus’ ministry was a Hollywood movie, it would have been a major box office flop. However, it would have picked up a cult following on DVD–with bonus footage; a director’s cut. Or shall we call it The Christ Edition.