I realise I offended some Christians last week with my pledge and many people felt that I “crossed the line”. I don’t accept that and would argue that my target in such things are people who wallow in the politics of identity (on which long time readers will appreciate I am an equal opportunities offender) not Christianity itself.
In light of the fact that Richard Dawkins has today outed himself as a “cultural Christian” allow me to go one step further: I’m a political Christian. Or more precisely, I’m a Jesusite.
Speaking personally, I find the historical figure of Jesus compelling. He was a true radical and deserves to be recognised as such. My reading of the Gospels is that his mission was primarily political, not religious (although since even Mark was written at least 30 years after his death, things got given a religious twist later), and his main target was hypocrisy. You won’t hear a peep of criticism from me for his turfing the money changers out of the temple, which is ironic given the fact that most Christians seem to have far more trouble with his opposition to usury than I have.
The narrative I see in the Gospels is of a man who strongly opposed the pharisaism and exhorted as an alternative a way of life based on values and core principles rather than rules. His was a liberation theology. The problem was that after his death, others including Paul – a pharisee – turned his message into the founding stone of a religious cult and in turn reinstated the rotes of laws that Jesus spent his life attacking.
This is of course a massive oversimplification and ultimately little more than speculation. But it is this tension between the liberators and the legislators that been the source behind much of the struggles within the Christian church and Western society in general. I happen to think that secularists ought to reclaim Jesus the politician as one of their own. Much of my contempt for Christianity is directed at those who see it as little more than bells, smells and conspicuous piety, and this contempt is shared by many believers.
Complaining about Christianity being taken out of Christmas is a case in point. It is ultimately a pagan ritual and Christmas was an attempt to subvert this (although to what extent Christianity subverted paganism and paganism subverted Christianity is a moot point). There is very little to be proud of here, and all the foot stamping demanding that we remember Christianity at this time of year is frankly insulting. If the Church and the religious are so keen for us to remember Christianity at this time of year how about spending it talking about its message and reaching out to people from where they are are rather than denouncing us as all politically correct secular extremists? That is how Jesus would have dealt with the situation and I suspect he would have resented what has fast become an annual finger wagging ritual being done in his name at this time of year.
At the heart of this Graeco-Roman death and genitalia obsessed sun god cult there is a powerful message which has resonated almost in spite of the vessel that has carried it for 2000 years. All too often I get the sense that so-called Christians would be happy if we forgot this fact so long as we kept up the nativity plays.