Ramblings on Jesus Being an Absolutist, and Alienation

At church last Sunday, the pastor was saying that Jesus did not water down his message to make people comfortable.  Jesus said that either you are with him, or you’re against him.  There is no “I suppose so” or middle ground.

I’ve found myself grumbling against the pastor’s message the past few weeks, on the walk home from church.  I find this prayer time to be more worthwhile when I can find some common ground with the message, or something with which I agree.  Is that watering down the message, or sitting on the fence?  Well, I’m in the part of the week when I don’t particularly care, to tell you the truth!

Was Jesus so absolutist?  I can agree with the pastor in the sense that I believe that Jesus had the integrity to be himself: Jesus did not water down who he was and what he stood for.  At the same time, I think that Jesus realizes that we are imperfect.  In Matthew 19:11-12, for instance, Jesus realized that not everyone could be a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven.  And Jesus’ disciples had their flaws.  In my opinion, Jesus does not disassociate himself from people just because they cannot live up to perfection.  I doubt that the pastor believes that: he talks about how God spared his life, even when he was not walking the straight and narrow.

I decided to look up the biblical passages in which Jesus says that those who are not for him are against him, to get the context of those passages.  The passages are Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23.  The contexts concern Jesus’ defeat of demonic forces through his exorcisms.  I read the passages in those contexts and I wonder: who wouldn’t want to be for that?  Who wouldn’t want to be on the side of good, of liberation?

My reservation about such passages concerns my reluctance to want to toe the evangelical line.  For example, I am enjoying reading the Bhagavad Gita right now.  Would God not want me to do that?  I do not want to return to a dry Christian fundamentalism, in which I have to limit myself to a certain perspective.  I do remember, however, that there are many Christians, including conservative Christians, who are educated about other religions.

During my prayer on the way home, I was thinking about the unfulfillment that I felt when I was a Christian fundamentalist.  I thought about my reading in the Bhagavad Gita, or, perhaps more accurately, Swami Prabhupada’s comments on it.  According to my reading of that, it is possible to go through the rituals of religion and to miss the point.  One can fast and deprive oneself and give away one’s material possessions, while still being attached to the material, and alienated from consciousness of the divine.  That reminds me of my fundamentalist days—-doing the right thing, yet somehow feeling alienated, or as if I was amiss in some way.  I am not sure what I would have done differently: perhaps not worry about it so much.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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