Thursday, July 26, 2007

How did George Bush steal my Jesus?

It sounds strange to say it this way, but if Al Gore had won Bush v. Gore, I would probably still be a believer. Maybe not a Catholic, me n' the pope were not exactly seeing eye to eye by then--a little dust up over an annulment and the rules for baptizing babies with or without said annulment-- but I think I'd still be somewhere in the Christian community.

And I was still a Christian through the first term of the Bush Administration. But on November 3, 2004 I sat at my computer, cried, and read through the election stories and kept coming across 'values voters'.

The idea that the only moral vote was one for George Bush was absolutely confounding to me. I had to find my bible and read the New Testament to find these mysterious passages that rang the clarion of God's anger against homosexuals and unwanted pregnancies.

There was a slight problem: I couldn't find my bible. I had the Catholic issue, given to me by my aunt twenty years before as a confirmation gift. We moved the year before the election and most of my books were still in boxes in the basement. (Still are, actually). I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a new bible and what a trip that was. How could it be that I couldn't find a bible that resembled my old confirmation bible? What were these bibles that used hip, updated text? Who was TNIV? How can anyone believe the infallibility of the bible when there are so many bibles to choose from? I eeny-meeny-miny-moed a selection and went home determined to actually read it.

Being raised a Catholic means never having to read the bible. You get the relevant parts read to you in three year cycles. The rest, meh. What I read in Today's New International Version of the bible was a little surprising. I found myself disagreeing with Jesus on a few points.

This began my search for information on how maybe we've misinterpreted Jesus. I read Elaine Pagels, books about the gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene. I devoured books on the gnostics. I read A. N. Wilson's book about the apostle Paul.

All my studying led to one very clear conclusion: I had stopped believing in Jesus.

I sometimes envy people for whom religion is not important. My husband is that way. I have dragged him to all manner of different churches and different denominations trying to find our fit. He never complained about going, and didn't really care what denomination we were visiting which week. I think he's happier now that I have no demands on his Sunday morning time. He uses it to fly fish. I can't sit on a fence. If I'm going to have faith then I'm going to have it, understand it, participate in it. Once I climbed over the fence from the land of superstition and became an immigrant to the land of reason it was impossible to go back.

I mentioned that George Bush stole my Jesus on the comments of an atheist website. Someone replied that no one can steal what you don't want. It's true, my faith was always one of more questions than answers. The president didn't really steal my religion. It was more like he helped me clean out my closets.


Dr. Zaius said...

Even George Bush cannot destroy the philosophy of the New Testament. Religion does a pretty good job of stepping on it's true meaning, though.

I said it before, but this is still my opinion on the subject:

"Philosophy is the only thing that will save mankind. That, and birth control.

I think that if Jesus was alive today, he would preach tolerance. And I think that he would have a big heart about it, he would probably even want us to be tolerant of the Christians."

FranIAm said...

Jess, this was really something to read. You know who I am and what I believe in... despite the dissonance.

I figure someone like me has to stay at the table and agitate on Jesus' behalf.

You are a seeker so I only wish you to find your way, whatever that may be. You seem pretty well on your way from my viewpoint!

Somehow I think your writing here is part of what your church is. And you don't have to wait for Sundays.

It makes my head and my heart hurt over the annulment, baptism etc. That sucks and I totally get it. Only a fluke kept me from the annulment sitchy... who knows where that would have led me?

Anyway no one can steal what in Judaism is called your "neshama" or your soul. So George Bush can steal all the Jesus' in the world, but Jess' neshama, that is another story indeed. Yours is intact and quite well lit sister!

Boxer rebel said...

Jess, I have two comments. Actually the Hebrew word for soul or actually life force is nephesh, but neshama can work I guess. Also, your post indicates your lack of belief in Jesus, what about other religions such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or even Islam all of which do not focus on Jesus or even talk about him at all. So have you lost your faith in Jesus or God? Just a question.

Suzy said...

Hi, Jess. I might have told you this already, pardon if I have. I was raised an atheist and came to Quakerism 17 years ago. I always have trouble with the Jesus & God stuff, but this summer I have become very interested in theology,particularly the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus. And as far as I can tell, the teachings of Jesus boil down to treating people kindly and sharing what you have with the poor. Everything else is someone else's interpretation, somehow twisted to justify greed, usury, selfishness, etc. etc.

I was discussing this in passing this morning with my neighbor, who graduated from seminary and she agreed that there are very few Biblical passages which are verifiably the words of Jesus and yes, they basically say "give away your money." Pretty radical, actually. If he came around today preaching that, most people would want to crucify him all over again.

Anyway I mentioned wanting to read the Bible, and she said, "Which one?" "Jeez, I don't know ..." "Well," she said. "I have 12 different ones; come over sometime and I'll give you a tour, and then you can decide."

Anonymous said...

Jess - I am not a believer and never really was. I respect your approach to the word of J.C. though. If only more people were willing to research and discover on their own, religion might not carry the taint of blind faith that it does for many of us who are subjected to the "because it says so in my Bible" argument.

Like you, I'm curious - whose bible?

Jess Wundrun said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Dr. Zaius So true! I found that a major part of Jesus' message which had been lost on me earlier was 'Don't be a hypocrite'.

franiam A priest who is still a very good friend of our family helped through the annulment process, etc. My problem with the catholic church was the endless bureaucracy at the upper levels. In my case, I was not allowed to have my children baptised because I hadn't had my first marriage annulled when I remarried. My second marriage was done by an Anglican minister in Jamaica. My brother's son was born out of wedlock, and though my brother hadn't gotten his first marriage annulled, because he hadn't remarried he could have his child baptized. Whaaa?

Unlike alot of people I meet on atheist websites I have no personal animosity toward the catholic church. I'm fond of it in the way my mother is fond of Santa Claus. She doesn't believe in him but she loves to collect Santa memorabilia. That sort of explains my Saint-A-Day interest. I have a collection of old Catholic prayer books and some of those crucifixes that people used to keep in their homes that contained the necessary accroutements for last rites.

My parents are extremely devout catholics. My dad says the rosary every night before bed and I love it when he lets me know that I am included in his prayers. I have seen their faith provide incredible comfort to them through bad times. I'd like to have their faith, but again I've taken a step too far.

boxerThere's alot of historical research and recently a lawsuit in Italy contending that Yehoshuah the carpenter didn't exist. If he did, then I certainly don't believe he was more than a man. All religions boil down to the golden rule, the rules beyond that are like enforcing someone's situational ethics on the wrong situation. I like the golden rule plus the atheist's rule which is kind of like 'what happens on earth stays on earth' or your punishment or reward for your behavior is right here in front of you-make the best of it.

I believe there is an order to the Universe and you may call that God. So I believe in god but that god is not something you can pray to, anymore than you can pray to gravity, the revolutions of the planets or the jet stream.

suzyI spent a little time at the Unitarian Church (motto:bring your own belief) which has the bonus of being in a Frank Lloyd Wright building. I also considered the Quakers but where I am now is truly the most comfortable for me. I love your outlook!

dcupthe circular reasoning for fundamentalists is a killer!