Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Saved by Jesus 101

"Only the educated are free."
   -- Epictetus

The piece below is simply a high-school course I've designed to ensure our Nation's leaders and their supporters will no longer be able to use the word "Jesus" and what they consider a national -- maybe even nationalistic -- religion (i.e., Christianity) to block change and progress, to fatten already obese corporations, to deceive and plunder the least of these and trash a planet they claim to believe was created by the Judaeo-Christian notion of God.

Especially the "Jesus" part is just bugging the shit out of me. They have to stop tossing his name around like a slobbery dog-chewed Frisbee they found stuck on the roof of an abandoned duplex. 

I have read and thought about Jesus' teachings ever since I left the church, and I assure you he is not that guy the "religious right" pummels us with. They get away with this travesty because their constituency, "Christians" as a whole, I'm sad to say, don't know much about Jesus or the bible in general, so they believe whatever suits them and whatever people in suits tell them.
Christian vote getter

It's okay: They're not perfect, just forgiven. I'm neither. But I'm informed and I have an attitude, and I really will be damned if I don't do my part to save my fellow Americans from ever electing another person to any office because s/he claims to be a Christian, claims to know the teachings of Jesus, and claims to know the intentions of the Creator of the Universe.

So here is a course guaranteed to protect the next generation of Americans from falling for the God-Is-a-Republican card and all this God-Bless-America nonsense and from electing and defending "evangelical" sexual predators. 

This course will be required of all students, whether they come from Christian families or not, and will continue to be required until we rid ourselves of this pack of Neo-Pseudo-Pharisees whose words and deeds have sullied the core values of Jesus far more than Robert Ingersoll, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins combined. 

Here's the job description for teachers interested in teaching the course and a bare-bones syllabus for the first week:

Faculty Position Opening: Informed Christianity

This is a required two-year course (junior and senior years). In order to prevent proselytizing and humbuggery, candidates must be either agnostics or atheists. Agnostics must provide evidence that they do not know if there is a God; atheists must provide proof there isn't one; consideration will be given, however, to atheists who pass a polygraph test, re: "Do you believe there is a God?"

Candidates must be qualified, on the graduate level, in the following disciplines: Christian theology, history of Judaism, geology, Christian fundamentalism in the 1920s, anthropology, paleontology, etymology of "evangelism," mythological language and literature, and Middle Eastern history and languages. 

Week 1:

Monday: Foundation Information: For example, "Christ" wasn't Joseph's last name, so it wasn't Jesus's either. Nor was "H" Jesus's middle initial. Discuss.

Tuesday: Carefully analyze sources and authorship of each major book in the bible, in both "Old" and "New" Testaments, including a history and analysis of surviving original manuscripts. Why, for example, is Moses credited with writing books that contain material he would have known nothing about? How did David find time to write all those psalms, and how did Solomon manage to get Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Solomon all published while having a thousand wives and concubines hanging around his house?

Survey the changing meaning of "authorship" from 1500 B.C.E. to the present.

Scrupulously, fastidiously, and punctiliously survey the Christian bible's canonization process: How did certain books became considered the "word of God" while other similar works did not? Who decided and in what context and circumstances? And do these issues affect their respective credibility?

For example, why is the Book of Jude near the end of the bible? Is it for the sake of perceived chronology, dubious at best, or to its troubling content (i.e., Jude's tendency to "make it bad," "be afraid," "carry the world upon [his] shoulders," and "let me down" -- or was that from "Hey Jude"?) or because it was only grudgingly included in the canon due to doctrinal concerns?

Out of all first-century gospels, for example, how were the four we have now superior to the others? How was the order of the biblical books determined? Why, for example, does Matthew's gospel precede Mark's, when it's obvious the latter was composed first?

Why and when did Christians change the Hebrew scripture's organization while turning it into "the Old Testament"? When did "Old Testament" replace the collection's original title "All the People and Events that Led up to and Predicted Christianity"? At what time did Christians begin to marginalize and/or dismiss the entire "Old Testament" as having been erased by the teachings and deeds of Jesus?

Thoroughly study Mosaic Law and its relationship to the core teachings of Jesus, and its focus on justice for the needy. Required reading for this unit: Marilynne Robinson's essay "The Fate of Ideas: Moses."
How forensic scientists believe Jesus would've actually looked.
Good luck getting on a plane, Jesus!

Research the decision to close the biblical canon, and when and why that decision was made, and by whom. Why not accept additional manuscripts for, say, 125 more years? Or 126? Or not close it at all. What would keep Julian of Norwich, William Blake and Simone Weil from canonization? Certainly not a lack of eloquence, devotion, wisdom and profundity.

Wednesday: Thoroughly analyze the four currently canonized gospels' discrepancies and  explanations (and excuses) for their occasional outright contradictions. Do the gospels agree, for example, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and if so do they mean the one in Judea or Galilee?  Or was he more likely born in Nazareth? Are the references to his birthplace symbolic or merely an effort to be geographically accurate for the benefit of future Christian tour buses? 

Did Mark omit the Nativity narrative from his gospel because he knew Luke could do it more poetically in his? Or did Mark not know about it? Or was the story beside the point given Mark's particular focus group? 

And is there really a Good Friday, or is some other day Good, and if so, why? And why not?

Jurassic Jesus
Carefully analyze shifts in the respective gospels' style, tone, rhetorical methodology and emphasis in subject-matter, and explore what those shifts suggest about textual layering, redaction and tampering between the death of Jesus in roughly 30 C.E. and the composition of the gospels beginning somewhere between 20 and 40 years later, continuing with John's gospel circa 100 C.E, then to intentional, accidental, incidental and substantive tweaking during the translation process up till, say, last night. .

Did monk scribes, for example, working under the stress of fasting and celibacy, ever emend the texts to express their own frustrations and resentment toward "playas" or to pitch their personal interpretation of Jesus' teachings? 

Engage in intensive immersion study of ancient Hebrew (including the Aramaic dialect) and Greek (including the Koine dialect), and the Latin of the first century C.E. By the end of Wednesday's class, students should be able to recite the Nicene Creed in each of these languages-dialects.

Closely examine the "Virgin and the Whore" motif as engendered by the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, with emphasis on the source of the latter's alleged prostitution and the subsequent fascination with her alleged raunchiness-turned-righteousness as she became one of Jesus' more faithful and courageous friends, possibly culminating in her becoming the first nun, i.e., the bride of Christ.

Near the end of Wednesday's class, we'll consider the notion that the Magdalene myth may serve as a foil to the Virgin Mary tradition, i.e., her ability to remain biologically intact while being impregnated by the Creator of the Universe, leading to her eventual Assumption, as well as to the more general assumption that sex -- even between a man and a woman -- was the original enjoyable sin allegorized by the serpent and the fruit, back in the day, very early in the "Old Testament." 

This unit should culminate with a review of other heroes and gods who were the offspring of deity-human commingling, with special emphasis on William Butler Yeats's "Leda and the Swan" as it compares to Luke's version of Mary's conception and to the anonymous medieval's poet rendering of that phenomenon in "I Sing of a Maiden."

Thursday, first 25 minutes: Have students work in groups on "Proportion in the Bible," for example, comparing the number of biblical sentences pertaining to sexuality as opposed to the number pleading for justice in God's domain (or "kingdom," for those who think chiefly in terms of royalty).

This activity would also include a sub-unit on the etymology of the Greek words "arsenokoitai" and "malakos," and a sub-sub-unit focused on the historical and sociological context of every reference to "homosexuality" in both the "Old" and New Testaments. Did the majority of these admonitions target the abuse of power, i.e., child abuse (forced pederasty, for ex.), rape, child prostitution, etc., or did they uniformly define same-sex relationships as mortal sins and abominations before God?

While still in their respective groups, students will perform a thorough, perhaps even computerized quantification of Jesus' references to homosexuality in an effort to clearly define his position on it. 

Also, as a sort of pedagogical aside, students will research sociological studies comparing the rippling damage caused by adultery, compared to that of two humans of the same sex having a loving relationship that might well include intercourse unmotivated by a desire to propagate the species.

Thursday, last 25 minutes: Provide a thorough and extended lecture on literary forms such as myths, parables, fables, allegories, aphorisms, proverbs, epistles, hyperboles, paradoxes, reversals, irony, riddles, syllogisms, and apocalyptic narratives as these forms are used in the bible, and esp. in the sayings of Jesus. 

This lecture should empower students to fully grasp the nature of these genres and sub-genres, recognize the literary conventions at work, then ponder possible meanings without the deleterious distraction of literalism.

Students will then take on the Herculean task of analyzing how the protean nature of purpose and emphasis of texts shifts from after the perceived original audience, i.e., the one who hears the message at the time of its composition, dies off and is replaced by later generations who read iffy translations, then filter, and thus further alter, the literature (and therefore the message, should there be one) through a modern and drastically different set of post-pastoralism values.

(We now know, for example, that the character Moses actually received the 10 commandments from the Cloud, but a pastoral scribe or bard would have lacked the tools to convey that.)

Near the end of Thursday's class, students will survey natural laws as they relate to, for example, the story of the Flood, Joshua stopping the movement of the sun, Jesus walking on water, and Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt, and then review the major teachings of Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. 

Friday: "BYO Bread and Wine Day" as students' celebrate the knowledge that, even after one week, never again will they waste time poring over spiritual texts in search of science or history, nor will they dilute the power and beauty of said spiritual texts by wildly and dangerously miscalculating the intent of their authors, nor will they ever allow a politician to use boogeyman comic-book theology to shame, control and fleece the flock s/he has been elected to lead.

See a future post for the second week's syllabus.


  1. My favorite televangelist was always 'Robert Tilton' who demanded that people sent him a thousand dollar 'vow of faith'. He frequently spoke in tongues, and looked like The Riddle in Batman........Fabulous entertainment. Unfortunately, with a country so filled with broken, lonely people, he became fabulously well to do.

  2. You're right--I like this! I'm also impresed by the erudition behind it. You've been busy since walking away from the church! Barbara