After decades of pondering, I have decided to classify myself as a “Jesuan”. (I would have preferred “Jesuit”, but apparently that has already been taken).
Why Jesuan, and not just Christian? Simply, because I believe there is a wealth of wisdom in the Gospels, if you just ignore the crap about gods and angels, heaven, hell and demons.
There is also a small problem of reality. For instance, I would claim my four greatest heroes from history to be: Jesus of Nazareth, Arthur of Camelot, Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, and Mahatma Gandhi. Sadly, I am only certain of the physical reality of one of them. This to my mind, in no way negates the value of the stories. True perfection after all can only exist in the imagination, so this seems a fitting place for legendary heroes. Even so, I would have to say I was deeply disappointed to read some of the words of the young Gandhi, regarding “coolies”, for instance.
Good stories are always embellished, inevitably. I choose to believe all the stories of our legendary heroes are based on exceptional individuals, who fully deserved to be remembered; perhaps even lied about.
If the stories of Jesus were the product of many minds, it just means there existed more than one good mind.
We are all prisoners of our preconceptions. When we are raised virtually from birth to accept things as being beyond question, the step from inside the box to outside, can be very big indeed.
The first step I would suggest is to adopt an objective, rather than subjective, stance; or, as Jesus put it, “Before you attempt to remove the splinter from your neighbour’s eye, first remove the plank from your own”.
In his recent book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins belabours the point that we (who were raised as Christians) don’t actually derive our sense of morality from the Bible; in fact, rather the opposite. We use our (innate?) sense of morality to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we should take literally, and which to treat as allegorical.
This is a can of worms indeed, as there are so many moral viewpoints. Even the Christian, or Catholic Church specifically, has taken some fairly shaky interpretations of the Word of their God. For instance, Jesus stated very plainly that it was impossible for a rich man to go to heaven, specifically: “I tell you again, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. (Matthew 20.24.)
This demonstrates very clearly that the words “rich Christian” must be oxymoronic, yet our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, claims to be a fervent Christian despite being a multimillionaire, and the Pope in Rome, the “first under God” lives amid splendour that can only be the envy of kings and potentates, and rules a corporate empire richer than many countries.
To avoid any accusations of exaggeration or taking words out of context, I think it appropriate to quote the entire passage:
19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
19:18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19:19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
19:20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
19:22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.