A little while ago, I vowed not to write any more religious-themed posts. But, when I made that vow, I still had a few religious posts left in my stack of posts that I had already written; and it seemed sad to let those finished posts remain unresurrected. So I had my attorney draw up an addendum as a sub vow to my main vow, which allows me to share my entire backlog of religious posts without needing a blood sacrifice to atone for the breach of covenant.
[All of the following text is from my reply to a comment that was originally posted on the now-defunct social network Fiendster.]
I love the topic of religion because I consider it a subsection of poetry, which is my truest love. To be clear, when I say poetry, I mean not only text but also song, film, dance, etc.—anything that can be generally called art. For me, poetry is the spark or the genius that we find in any creation.
I could talk about religion forever. When drunks convene to drink shot after shot, and one of them passes out—the one who remains says: “I drank this fellow under the table.” In the same way, I believe that I could theologize the Apostle Paul under the table.
Although I don’t take it literally when people speak of the transmigration of souls, I love to play with the thought of reincarnation. I find it enjoyable to think in those terms. So I’m fond of saying that I was Saint Paul in my past life; and now I am eager to correct my grave mistakes.
I love church, so long as church means solely people (as opposed to a set of doctrines and a subpar lecturer). A gathering of people for the purpose of honoring each other’s gifts of genius—that appeals to me greatly. I hope that the church will someday be totally secularized, because I’d dedicate my entire life to it; I feel that that’s what the pursuit of poetry is: an invisible, covert church devoid of a building, whose congregation is comprised of creative minds—the happy few, who span the ages and offset mortality with artistry.
On following Jesus
I think it’s a crucial fact to remember that Jesus of Nazareth wrote nothing: not a single word—he chose to keep his teaching strictly oral. After he died, other men composed textual advertisements for their churches which claimed to report what Jesus said and did: so we can only know Jesus at second-hand or worse (if at all).
Because of this, it’s hard to know what it means to “follow Jesus Christ.” For there are many different Jesuses, and the term Christ is a concept originating elsewhere than with the Nazarene. Again, from the man himself we have absolutely zero words. From the gospel writers we have our notion of Jesus as a healer & teacher. And from St. Paul we have the concept of Christ as The Sacrificial Savior Appeasing Our Wrathful God with His Innocent Blood. (Later, John of Patmos even gives this Christ a SWORD for a tongue [Revelation 1:16]—so, at this point, we’re dealing with quite a different model than the original wanderer.)
But if someone puts a gun to my head and says: “Disregard the vagueness of all these terms, and simply give your actual feelings on the matter,” I’ll say this: “I love Jesus and I hate Christ.”
So, rather than Christian, which refers to the Christ of St. Paul, we should have an alternate label: Jesus-ian, referring to the withdrawn Nazarene. But, I know, that term sounds ugly; so I’ll change it to Whitmanian; because Walt Whitman is far superior to Jesus (pick a Jesus, any Jesus; their teachings are all bested by ‘Song of Myself.’)
Whitman says: “He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.” And also: “I teach straying from me…”
Two types of Christian
The main variation among those who call themselves Christians, as far as I can tell, has to do with the great gulf fixed between Jesus and Paul. The Nazarene taught sublime compassion and eschewed both doctrine and evangelism; whereas the Apostle Paul was a brutal, impatient control-freak. He inflicted our planet with the sickness of religious missionaries.
Some self-styled Christians adhere to Jesus, and therefore they act with love: they refrain from judging others, and they practice forgiveness. Other self-styled Christians adhere to Paul, who ignored the teachings of Jesus and only found a use for the man’s death.
Jesus tried to free people from being imprisoned by the church of his day; but Paul invented theories about Jesus’s “sacrifice” in order to lure his bemused followers into yet another church-trap: thus, today we see the church acting with the same old judgmental vengeance that Jesus died fighting against.
If you were to memorize all of the sayings from each of the gospels, and then go from church to church speaking nothing but the words of Jesus, the Christian church would eventually kill you, too.
(No, I have to admit that the church, in its dotage, has improved. Modern churchmen wouldn’t murder Jesus if he returned—they’d simply ruin his life.)
Regarding the idea of “Jesus’s spirit entering into one’s heart,” I say that anytime you read the words of a poet sympathetically, the spirit of that poet infuses you. One becomes the poet as one reads the poet. That’s why, despite its obvious shortcomings, I still love reading poetry: it’s like nonphysical sex: it produces a new life; yet, instead of a separate individual, the being is an improved you who now has access to the poet’s spirit.
God as miser
To hang on a cross as a payment for humankind’s sin. I have one small thing to say about this. Why doesn’t the LORD God follow the teaching of Jesus and simply forgive humans instead of demanding blood sacrifice to cancel the “debt”? These ideas of wages and liability, buying and selling on account of sin—they appeal primarily to merchants. Paul’s God speaks like a shop owner. I never question why the Apostle’s version of Christianity thrives in Capitalism.
The truth about sin
And what is sin, anyway? I say that sin is life. When you move about in the world, you bump into things inadvertently. Life could be seen as coalesced matter in movement. Sin is movement, energy. To be sinless is to remain immobile. Only the dead are sinless. But the dead are busy decomposing, becoming assimilated into new forms: back into life: back into sin. So the dead are blessed.
Old and new
I readily join anyone in saying, “Out with the old and in with the new,” as long as we keep those key terms abstract. One gospel writer’s Jesus is on the same page with this, when he mentions the preposterousness of pouring new wine into old wineskins. And Whitman says, “All goes onward and outward.”
(Speaking of wineskins reminds me that the contemporaries of Jesus considered him a winebibber. [Matthew 11:19] —I just think that’s interesting.)
But some people say “I only read old books and watch old movies.” And others say “I only like the newest, latest technology, devices, shows, etc.” I wonder why we wouldn’t favor the things that have the finest aesthetic dignity, whether they are old OR new. I think it’s most excellent to save the best, the most poetic of all works from every generation—the works that possess the highest level of genius, the greatest divinity. Even if this is purely a subjective exploit, that doesn’t bother me at all—it’s one of the benefits of communication: there is a joy in persuading as well as in being persuaded.
And fighting is fun, as long as nobody gets hurt. (I wrote that jokingly; however, I do wish that mental warfare would come back in style and replace the outmoded craze of physical warfare.)