From John Ray's shorter notes
May 25, 2022
Jesus of Nazareth and White Evangelical Fragility
There is an article below by an atheist who is very hostile to evangelical Christianity. The points he makes are actually a fairly common critique of such faith. In essence, he is noting that Christians often don't act in a Christian way. They do not actually follow the teachings of Christ. They are too stern, too strict, too intolerant.
And there is no doubt some truth in that. Committed Christianity can be very demanding. And those demands upset our author. But I too am an atheist and I am not nearly as judgmental about evangelical Christianity as he is. Why?
I think there are two things missing in his story. He has no religious feelings and he is intolerant of human frailty.
He also does not understand the origin of Western Christianity as we have it today. Protestant Christianity arose in Germany through the efforts of Martin Luther and his King, Frederick the Wise of Saxony. There had been many other uprisings against Roman Catholicism in Europe before that, and from Giordano Bruno to John Hus to Savonarola, those rebellions resulted in the death of the rebels and no change to the dominance of the church.
So why did the rebellion of the Saxons led by Martin Luther succeed where others had not? It was because it took place in Germany. Germans were different. They were a warrior race and were, as such, fiercely self-confident and independent. Bowing down to priests was not congenial to them. So when the oppportunity arose, they eventually rejected Catholicism in favour of attitudes which were more congenial to them.
They embraced beliefs that centred around the sort of independent individuals that they personally were. The Germanic spirit of independence emerged in a form of Christianity that suited Northern Germans, a form that put power and responsibility for salvation right back on to the individual, with no intervening priest needed.
Luther was a learned Augustinian priest so he was able to find ample scriptural justification for the new faith. Ultimately, however, Protestantism was as much German as Biblical. Protestantism is a German faith
The Saxons in Germany today. For some history of the Saxons see here
And one might note that the other great Germanic country -- aside from Germany itself -- England -- was not so different. In England, Wycliffe was saying the same sort of things that Luther was saying long before Luther said them. And Wycliffe too had the protective support of the King and his court. Wycliffe was over a century before Luther in fact. Luther wrote his "Ninety-five Theses" in 1517 whereas Wycliffe was officially condemned in 1377 by Pope Gregory XI.
The difference with Wycliffe was that he tried to reform the church rather than replace it. He actually died while saying a mass. So Wycliffe might at first glance be seen as another failed rebel. He was not. What he did was set alight a fire in the minds of Englishmen that eventually consumed the church even more comprehensively than Lutheranism did.
He had awakened the old rebellious spirit of the Saxons and that spirit was the principal support for the actions of King Henry VIII. When Henry dispossessed the priests and rejected the Papacy, the people loved him for it. They supported their King, not their priests. Wycliffe had lit a slow-burning fuse that eventually gave rise to an explosion. And that fuse kept burning for so long because it was founded on a Saxon independence of mind among the people. Wycliffe died in 1384, Henry became king in 1509.
I have in a much abbreviated way raised above a large number of issues about Germans and the Germanic people, and I understand that some of my readers may have energetic criticisms of what I have said. So it may be of interest that I cover those issues elsewhere at much greater length.
So my point in all this so far is that looking to the Bible to understand Protestant Christianity is to miss half the story. To an extent what people of German and English ancestry do today reflects German values, not the attitudes of Jesus of Nazareth. If Protestants are demanding and unforgiving of others, they are so because of the Germanic faith that their ancestors devised and which still sounds right to them, the descendants. Their ancestry lives on in them.
And at that point I think I might add a personal note. In my mid-teens, I was an active member of probably the most evangelical Protestant faith in the Western world today -- _ Jehovah's witnesses. And they are very strict and Puritanical Christians indeed. So was I oppressed by them? Maybe but, if so, I loved it. My time as an extreme evangelical is still a warm and pleasant memory to me. The religion suited me. It was in my ancestry. I was true to my Germanic ancestors. And the large number of people with similar ancestry in America today is a major explanation for the prominence of evangelical Christianity there.
It is obvious that there is no one-to-one correspondence between Germanic ancestry and evangelical Protestantism. After all, Germany is still half Catholic to this day. But, as any German will tell you, Germany is not monolithic. As a very rough generalization,the South is Catholic and the North is Protestant. Be that as it may, however, there are many influences bearing on faith or the lack of it but my submission is that ancestry is one of the more powerful influences on it
So our author below is in my submission unsympathetic to evangelical Protestantism because he does not have the requisite religious feelings for it. He does not have the old tough and fierce Germanic attitude of mind that would give him an instinctive understanding of it. And for all his praise of tolerance and kindness he is intolerant of the failings of ordinary Christians. As Christians sometimes say, "We are saved, not perfect"
If Jesus of Nazareth was an actual human who actually existed, this is, apparently, what that man looked like, according to an artist and an algorithm and actual, historical, data (as opposed to a story that white people tell each other).
I am an atheist. I do not believe in god, or the devil, or heaven, or hell. But I like and respect this guy. He was a rebel, he was an antiauthoritarian, he dedicated his life to helping the poor, the sick, the indigent, the people who were discarded and rejected by society. He hung out with sex workers and lepers, and gave comfort to the sick and suffering, and he loudly and relentlessly called out the hypocrisy of the church and its leaders. As I understand it, he was like, “Hey, you’re a sinner. That’s a bummer. Let me help you be a better person. No, I don’t expect anything from you for that. I just want to be as loving as I can be.” He was a really cool guy. He was also a revolutionary, a rebel, a profound threat to the people who were in power at the time.
This guy, in this picture, is not the Jesus I was introduced to in parochial school. The Jesus I was introduced to was soooooo white, like super super super white, and he was keeping an eye on you so he could snitch on you to his dad, who was SUPER PISSED AT EVERYTHING YOU DID all the time for some reason. The Jesus I knew was, like, maybe going to be okay with you, as long as you knew what a giant fuck up you were. And he was absolutely not accepting of anyone who didn’t do exactly what the authority figures at school told us we had to do. And Reagan was essentially his avatar sent to Earth. If we didn’t worship Reagan the same way we were supposed to worship white Jesus, we were going to have a REALLY bad time. Did I mention that I was, like, 8 when all of this was drilled into me?
I deeply resent American Christianity. It has brought nothing but pain into my life. I deeply resent and despise evangelical Christians who turned this guy in this picture, who was reportedly a cool, loving, gentle, dude, who was a legit rebel, into someone who hates all the same things they hate, and who LOVES authoritarians the same way they do. I despise the people who do all sorts of cruel, hurtful, hateful things in this guy’s name. And they are EVERYWHERE in America.
I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the world. What I do know is that, in America, this person has been perverted into a weapon, a cudgel, to be used against the same people the actual Jesus loved and stood up for. It’s disgusting.
And, look, if someone professes to follow the teachings of this dude, whose WHOLE FUCKING THING was “love everyone. Period. No exceptions”, and they don’t, like, do that? They are as bad as the money changers in the temple. I know that this dude loves them, because that’s his whole thing, but I suspect that, if this dude exists, he is disappointed and maybe a little embarrassed by them.
As an afterthought: I can’t stop thinking about how this dude was an immigrant, and poor. I keep thinking that, if he showed up in … let’s say Texas, today, how badly he would be treated by the very same people who use his name and pervert his teachings to exert control over the very same people Jesus spent his entire life looking after.
And, honestly, none of this would even matter if the American Christian extremists would keep their white Jesus out of our laws and government.
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