There’s an R.E.M. song I’ve always quite liked which opens with the lyric:
I can’t say that I love Jesus
That would be a hollow claim
He did make some observations
And I’m quoting them today
“Judge not lest ye be judged”
What a beautiful refrain
The studio audience disagrees
Have his lambs all gone astray?
I’ve kinda always liked this because it seems to be saying that even though the singer isn’t Christian, he quite respects the attitudes espoused by Jesus.
I’ve been thinking about this since listening to Richard Holloway interviewed by Richard Fidler recently. Fidler described Holloway (who is a former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh) as “believing in the teachings of Jesus, but [Holloway] is uncertain as regards Jesus’ divinity”. This caught my attention as I’ve been wondering for a while whether someone can be Christian – as in believing what Jesus said – without believing in the supernatural parts of the story – virgin birth, rising from the dead, the existence of a deity that gives a shit about mankind etc.
Tied in with this is the increased chatter in many channels from the mad fringe of the US ‘Christian’ sector – you know the ones, those who think events like Hurricane Sandy are God’s signal to the world he disapproves of gays, or candy, or black men in the White House or whatever they’re complaining about this week. The US Christians seem to be very much of the Baptist-like “God will smite you for all your evil blah blah blah” kind of Christians. But if one actually reads the Bible (as I’m sure they would tell sinners like me to do), the New Testament (which, after all, tells all about their guru and saviour, right?) isn’t about a smiting God filled with hatred and anger, but the complete opposite. And all the smiting and “God hates this” and “God hates that” nonsense is actually the Old Testament. In other words – the Jewish book. Not the Christian book at all.
So if one is a Christian, one follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, the carpenter and preacher from the outskirts of the Roman Empire, right?
Except he never spoke about abortion, or gay marriage (or gay anythings), or hating non-believers, or any such thing. He spoke of not judging others. He spoke of loving everyone and He spoke of caring for the poor and less fortunate.
Given that’s what he spoke about, it’s almost nauseating to watch the astounding hypocrisy of almost everyone in the American political class claiming to be Christian while seeming not to understand what their guru said.
But hey, maybe I just don’t get it?
[Kind of triggered as well by reading this post over at Reading Upside Down]