Archive for March, 2020

You are as you do.

I’ve been watching BoJack Horseman lately.  (Great show.)  Recently, a quote from Diane Nguyen struck a chord with me: “I don’t think I believe in ‘deep down’.  I think all you are, are the things you do.”  (The exact quote may be slightly different.)  It dawned on me that this quote encapsulates everything that is wrong with Far-Right Christianity as practiced in the world today.

Here’s the thing.  Many Far-Right Christian devotees (let’s call them, arbitrarily, “Trumpers”) claim to believe in Jesus.  That wrap themselves in self-righteous armor of their own device, and act as if a simple declaration of belief makes them immune to criticism.  “God this, Jesus that, blah blah blah, therefore I’m right and you’re wrong.”  No religion is immune from this sort of one-upmanship, but Trumpers have honed this sort of argument to a very fine point.  And therein lies a festering immorality.

They claim to believe in Jesus.  But do they agree with him?

I can’t read minds (not yet, anyway).  So the only way I can verify their “belief in Jesus” is to see how they act.  And I don’t think there can be any doubt among rational people that Trumpers don’t act like they believe in Jesus.

If you say you believe in Jesus but don’t act like it, do you really believe in Jesus?

Do you?

Image result for corrected jesus painting

Now you might think I’ve fallen into a version of the no true Scotsman fallacy.  “Real Christians would behave in this way, not that way…”  Actually, no.  I am using a radical definition of what it means to be a Christian.  And that radical definition is this:

A Christian is someone who emulates Jesus.

That’s it.  Notice that there’s no mention of belief, or of worship.  By my definition an atheist who leads a humble, caring, loving, honest life is more of a Christian than someone who “believes” in Jesus and pays lip service to the worshiping of a deity, while at the same time lying, cheating, and stealing their way through life.  As Diane Nguyen would say, “you are the things you do”.

Maybe it’s a language problem that is the root of all this confusion.  I’m not sure about other languages, but in English “to believe in” and “to believe” are two very different verbs.  The first means “to have faith in the existence of” something or to “trust in the value of” something.  In both cases, saying that you “believe in Jesus” isn’t really a high bar.  You’re just saying you think Jesus was a good guy, or maybe even that he was divine.  Why should that be a barometer for how moral you are as a person?  The idea is laughable.  In contrast, “to believe” means to have confidence in an assertion (if you’re brave, consider my essay on belief here).  So in the starkest terms:

To believe in Jesus is to think that he existed, or exists, or is a god.

To believe Jesus is to think his words and teachings were (are) true.

Which of these sounds like a better recipe for moral living?  Which of these is more likely to produce good, moral human beings?  Which sounds more Christian?  I bet you know my answers to these questions.

I guess the problem that Christianity has had, of late, is that the first kind of belief is easier to do, so people gravitate to that (people are, if nothing else, lazy).  Want to go to heaven?  Just believe in Jesus.  No need to do the hard work of actually acting like Jesus, trying to be a decent person, turning the other cheek, administering to the needy, forgiving others.  Fuck no!  Do what you like—and at the end of the day, just believe in Jesus, and poof, just like Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time, you go to heaven!  Yay!  Belief in Jesus is like a get-out-of-jail-free card, a kind of cosmic scratch-off that promises eternal life rather than $50 at the Stop-and-Go.  No wonder it’s popular.  They’re lovin’ those scratch-offs in the deep South…

Image result for scratch off

Where does this mentality spring from?  Mostly, from the Bible (a book worshiped more fervently than Jesus himself).  Consider:

John 3:16     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]

Sigh.  There’s the get-out-of-jail-free card, right there!  No need to do the hard work!  The Bible tells me so.  And yet…

What if we tweaked the Bible?  It was written by flawed humans, after all.  It’s rife with contradictions.  (Here’re a few juicy ones.)  Let’s make one little correction and save the world:

John 3:16     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [Emphasis added]

There.  Fixed it.

I don’t care if you believe in Jesus.  More importantly, do you believe him?  Are you willing to do the hard work?  Are you willing to follow the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount?  What’s more important to you, going to heaven with all the other in people, or being a decent fucking human being?

Do you believe Jesus?  Then prove it.

Act like it.

O, oracle, tell me: how much has this believe in/believe business contributed to shitty behavior through the ages?  How often have people just done whatever they wanted, secure in their sinecure, acting immorally or at least amorally, not worrying at all because hey, they have a scratch-off to heaven in hand?

As Judas says in Jesus Christ Superstar, the in people, the Trumpers, have too much heaven on their minds.

And don’t even get me started on the whole concept of blanket forgiveness…the whole idea that someone else’s suffering can somehow wipe your slate clean.  (That is a topic for another day…maybe even a book, perhaps?)  Suffice to say, why should a Trumper even worry about doing good, when the sin(s) will be forgiven?  What’s the incentive?  If Jesus died for my sins, why do I need to be good at all?

Of course, the Trumpers don’t have a monopoly on this kind of thinking.  The Catholics have confession, which acts as a sort of spiritual toilet paper, after which your sins are wiped clean, like shit from between your ass cheeks.  But the Trumpers—a particularly noxious cult of Protestantism—go a little deeper, because in their liturgy one needn’t even confess.  Praise Jesus, just confess in your heart!  Get out of jail!  Scratch-off!  Why go through all the bother of talking about your failings to another human, who might be tempted to admonish you, or give you pesky unwanted advice?


So: do whatever you like!  Pay lip service to Jesus, it doesn’t matter, you can always confess later, even if it’s just confess to yourself!  Yay!  I mean, why do I even need to be good?  We’re all sinners, so fuck it.  I’ll just be bad.  Why not?  There’re no consequences.  Jesus was the good one.  Plus, he suffered for me.  That makes me happy.  I’ll go to heaven soon enough, yippee!


So where does that leave us?  What do I, personally believe?

I don’t believe in Jesus.  I don’t think he was a supernatural being.  But I consider myself Christian—precisely because I believe him, believe what he had to say.  For the most part.  No one’s perfect.

It’s not enough to have good in your heart.  You have to act like you have good in your heart.

You are as you do.

Image result for trump humping the american flag

I’ll end with this observation: Trump recently kissed and hugged the American flag.  This wasn’t a one-off—he’s done this kind of childish thing before.  Why childish?  Because, like most Trumpers, in his childish brain Trump takes this kissing and hugging as proof that he loves America.  This is telling.  You are as you do.  Trump dry humps what he loves.  But Trump doesn’t really love America.  His actions demonstrate a breathtaking disregard for America.  If that’s not obvious to you, then I’m surprised you’re still reading this essay.  I’m surprised you can read at all.

But anyway.

This is what I want to say: stop worshiping Jesus.  He’s not an idol.  He’s not a symbol.  He’s not a rock star.

He’s an example.

Stop worshiping Jesus.  Start following him, instead.


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