Every Christmas, every Easter agenda driven zealots masquerading as historians or theologians appear on the scene to lecture us on the real story of Christianity. It’s easy to understand the motivation of historians. The professional journals in history have long ceased to be anything other than paeans to Marxism and the analyses of the inconsequential based on the bizarre and counterfactual notion that history can only be viewed from the viewpoint of the downtrodden, marginalized, and dispossessed. If you don’t make extraordinary claims that can cut through the banalities and drivel you’re never going to get tenure. If those claims are calculated to ridicule people of faith, well, your future employment is assured.
With increasing regularity, theologians have appeared in this crowd. These I have a harder time understanding. I mean I can understand and empathize why a member of the clergy could lose faith…I mean when you see the assclownage that takes place on a daily basis it could easily make a saint begin to have doubts. What I don’t understand is why members of the clergy who have tossed aside their personal faith seem to insist on taking as many innocent bystanders to Hell with them as possible. One of the forerunners of this was Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong. Some 20 years ago he said that Christianity must be reformed to be relevant to the modern era. Here were his priniciples:
- Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
- Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
- The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
- The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
- The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
- The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
- Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
- The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
- There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
- Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
- The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
- All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.
Coming at a time before the Episcopalians had abandoned parishes and reorganized as covens, this was revolutionary stuff.
Now it is not revolutionary but standard fare at liberal “seminaries” and where people like Spong were rightly rejected as hypocrites and heretics by normal people, now his doctrine is being pushed out as normal by pop theologians. One of those is New York’s Union Theological Seminary and its president Serene Jones.
The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof interviewed Jones on the occasion of Easter this year. It was shameful. Not by Kristof, who has never really exhibited any sense of shame (I’ve dealt with Kristof professionally and watched him pass off a lie to his readers that had been thoroughly debunked during his own fact checking), nor by Jones, but by the New York Times which has often admitted that it doesn’t understand people of faith and needs to try harder to do so and to be respectful.
KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.
JONES When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.
For me it’s impossible to tell the story of Easter without also telling the story of the cross. The crucifixion is a first-century lynching. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our world today.
What does Saint Mark actually tell us?
When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’
That, at least to the casual reader, seems to be a resurrection story. Jones, as this shows, is more than willing to blatantly lie to make her point. This from Twitter today:
Jesus was executed because he stood against imperial abuses; because he took action against Rome’s subjugation and brutal oppression of the Jewish people.
If we are to be faithful, we must act against US empire killing migrants at our border. https://t.co/bJmJbBzchO
— Serene Jones (@SereneJones) April 19, 2019
Yep. The reason that Pontius Pilate says “I find no guilt in him,” is because he stood against imperial abuses of the Jewish people.
KRISTOF But without a physical resurrection, isn’t there a risk that we are left with just the crucifixion?
JONES Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?
KRISTOF Isn’t a Christianity without a physical resurrection less powerful and awesome? When the message is about love, that’s less religion, more philosophy.
JONES For me, the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death. That’s a much more awesome claim than that they put Jesus in the tomb and three days later he wasn’t there. For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.
At this point, Jones stopped being anything vaguely resembling a Christian theologian and became a charlatan. The Risen Christ is the entire reason for Christianity. And if He wasn’t resurrected then, logically, love is not stronger than death. And yes, from the earliest days it has been acknowledged that were Christ not Risen then Christianity was a farce.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.
— streiff (@streiffredstate) April 21, 2019
And on to the rest:
KRISTOF What about other miracles of the New Testament? Say, the virgin birth?
JONES I find the virgin birth a bizarre claim…
KRISTOF Prayer is efficacious in the sense of making us feel better, but do you believe it is efficacious in curing cancer?
JONES I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother’s cancer but not cure the mother of your nonpraying neighbor. We can’t manipulate God like that.
KRISTOF What happens when we die?
JONES I don’t know! There may be something, there may be nothing. My faith is not tied to some divine promise about the afterlife. People who behave well in this life only to achieve an afterlife, that’s a faith driven by a selfish motive: “I’m going to be good so God would reward me with a stick of candy called heaven?” For me, living a life of love is driven by the simple fact that love is true. And I’m absolutely certain that when we die, there is not a group of designated bad people sent to burn in hell. That does not exist. [This is one helluva bet you’re making, Doc] But hell has a symbolic reality: When we reject love, we create hell, and hell is what we see around us in this world today in so many forms.
KRISTOF I’ve asked this of other interviewees in this religion series: For someone like myself who is drawn to Jesus’ teaching but doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection, what am I? Am I a Christian? [SPOILER ALERT: No, you aren’t.]
JONES Well, you sound an awful lot like me, and I’m a Christian minister.
Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.
Here, at least, she’s right. What is being born in a vicious and immoral neo-paganism where the very idea of God and of intrinsic human worth has been rejected in favor of whatever stimulates our genitalia and gives us pleasure but hides behind the facade of “social justice” because that lets its practitioners not only pat themselves on the back but condemn others. Jones has no more claim to being a Christian minister than my dog Toph for if she were a Christian she’d at least have some inchoate concerns about her role in not only leading people away from their salvation but in training a cadre of heretics who are specifically charged with destroying the faith of the congregations stupid or desperate enough to let them in. A wise person would at least hold to Pascal’s Bargain, but someone so corrupted by grift and greed and hubris as Jones isn’t capable of that introspection.