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Gentle Jesus, meek and mild?

May 15, 2011

I got an email today from an acquaintance who made the claim, “Obviously, the Son of God would never give any sort of offense.”

Since she’s LDS, I’ll assume the son of god she’s referring to is not Krishna, Osiris, Horus, or another son of a god, but Jesus. Now, I have no reason to knock Jesus. He was probably a nice guy. But if she can’t think of any offensive comments of Jesus, then probably neither can most of my readers, who at this point are LDS Facebook friends. This post if for you.

Non-Christians—not Jesus-haters, mind you, just people who don’t approach the New Testament with the presuppositions that 1) they need a savior, or 2) Jesus is their savior—can easily find a number of offensive comments by Jesus. If you’re Christian, just imagine that Mohammed said any of the following in the Koran, and you may be less ready to make excuses for these…

OFFENSIVE TEACHINGS OF JESUS

On scapgoating
Matthew 26:28: “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Christopher Hitchens makes the point that this is the most immoral doctrine in all of Christianity:

“Is it moral to believe that your sins, yours and mine, can be forgiven by another person? Is it ethical to believe that? I would submit that the doctrine of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice is utterly immoral. The name for that in primitive Middle Eastern society was scapegoating. You pile all the sins of the tribe on the goat, you drive the goat into the desert to die of thirst and hunger, and you think you’ve taken away the sins of the tribe. The doctrine of the atonement abolishes the concept of personal responsibility on which all ethics and all morality must depend.”

On family:
Luke 14:26: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Sorry, but there’s no way I’m going to love a 2,000-year-old Palestinian messiah figure more than my own family.

John 2:4: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”

Rude.

Luke 12:52: “For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.”

Matt. 10:35: “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

One of Jesus’ prophesies that has unfortunately come true.

On slavery: Jesus acknowledges slavery but does not denounce it.

Matt. 10:24: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”

Matt. 20:26-28: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

On honesty:
In John 7:2-14, Jesus is intentionally deceitful.

On self-mutilation: Jesus encourages self-mutilation.
Matt. 18:8: “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.”

Matt. 5:29-30: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Mark 9:45: “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:”

On saying “you fool”
Jesus says that anyone who says “Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22), but then in Matt. 7:26 he says that “every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man.” So Jesus may be in hell.

On world peace
Matt. 10:34: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

Luke 12:49: “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?”

If you’re LDS, you’re likely making excuses right now, such as the Bible is correct only insofar as it was translated correctly, or that the people who misunderstand these verses are spiritually blind, or that the wicked take the truth to be hard. And again, I’m not a Jesus hater (neither am I wicked, by the way). My point is only that if you don’t begin with the conclusion that Jesus was perfect, then Jesus said plenty that offends our moral instincts.

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5 Comments
  1. Carrie permalink

    I’m kind of torn. I acutally never liked how Jesus was made to look so passive. The pictures of Jesus by Greg Olsen (with pastel colors and smiling faces) don’t depict a Jesus that would turn over the tables outside the temple, or the Jesus that would destroy whole Nephite cities and have the inhabitants burn or drown in the ocean. One second he could be a gentle giant and the next killing people? That sounds kind of crazy.

    I think the real story is that he was a Roman agitator and thus why he was killed. He probably wasn’t the “peace and love” hippie people have made him out to be.

    Either way I always had trouble accepting him as a Savior, especially since I was to pray to God the Father and not him. I was supposed to have a relationship with a being I couldn’t even pray to. Weird. I always had trouble with the Garden of Gesemane also. He bled from every pore and yet didn’t die (but could die later on the cross)? I also had a discussion once with a friend. “How can Jesus know what it feels like to be a woman. He isn’t one. How could he know what it’s like to be me?”. My friend assured me “He knows! He knows!” How? How can you know how someone feels in a situation if you haven’t experienced that yourself. And if Jesus does know, why aren’t I praying to him instead of God the Father who is kickin’ it in heaven with his polygamous wives? (which is a whole other issue 😦

  2. Jonathan permalink

    Understand that every comment from my angle is a comment from an admirer. However, if I disagree, I certainly will let you know. Simply put, this post is largely written without serious research. Yes, Jesus is often portrayed incorrectly. But these verse could be easily extracted from a single website critical of Christian teachings. I understand that when one writes a blog or a newspaper column, space is quite limited. However, poor research is poor research, and it reflects in this post. With just a little digging, one would understand that certain sayings have cultural, situational, or simply literary context that give them a different meaning than portrayed here. If you wanted to point out how offensive Jesus can be (and believe me, he offended many, else he would not have been crucified), you might have turned to verses condemning men who lived their religion as literally as can be as hypocrites. Jesus was not always gentle. He was certainly not politically correct. But these verses do not truly substantiate your argument.

    • NoriMori permalink

      How does Jesus not having a problem with slavery not substantiate his argument? What “cultural” or “situational” context could possibly give that a different meaning? At best, these “cultural” and “situational” contexts you speak of merely EXPLAIN why Jesus held certain attitudes — it doesn’t change the meaning of his words in the slightest, and it doesn’t make the words and actions quoted here less reprehensible. He also said that we should stone teenagers who swear at their parents (I’m amazed that wasn’t quoted in this blog posting). What “cultural” or “situational” context would magically make that an okay thing to say? I would really like to know.

  3. Jonathan permalink

    This is where I fear discussion breaks down and simply putting someone on the defensive takes over. I will probably reply to this one time only, and no matter how good or poor any rebuttals are, I will not likely continue with the discussion (unless I’ve seriously misrepresented my opinion, in which case I will clarify).

    On the doctrine of atonement, while some churches completely remove responsibility from one’s sins, the LDS church does not. The Church teaches that every sin is beyond our capacity to make right. We may apologize and correct the situation, but God remains offended. While Godo expects us to take as much responsibility as we possibly can, the Savior bears what responsibility we cannot. In other words, we cover the mortal aspect of our justification with God, and Christ covers the eternal. Is it fair? No. That’s the point. It’s merciful.

    The commandment to hate one’s family is clearly not a literal statement, both in context of the statement, and other commandments made in scripture. Simply put, man will let us down, even our family. If we put following them, trusting them, and loving them above our Savior, then our priorities are wrong. You may see him as merely a 2,000 year-old Palestinian figure, and such a figure would be hard to love. However, the being I love is far more than that.

    On respecting women, firstly, saying “woman” as he did in that statement was actually a term of endearment in such times. Let me refer you here:
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%202:4&version=NIV#fen-NIV-26100a
    Secondly, if you look in a more modern translation, it’s apparent that his statement is not intended to be rude, but perhaps merely mildly reproving.

    On family turning against each other, people will always disagree over ideology, whether religious or not. People argue. People fight. A world without religion will still be equally contentious. People would simply fight over other ideological differences. Jesus here is merely pointing out that believing in him will still bring out this baser instinct of humanity.

    On slavery, the word used in those verses is servant, not slave (even in more modern translations. Servants are still around, as it is a respectable position that can make good money. Similarly, Jesus clearly taught that women were of high stature, as opposed to Jewish teachings. Simultaneously, however, he did not intend to overthrow Jewish culture, but rather teach a better way.

    Finally, when you bring up stoning teenagers, let’s first point out that that was Old Testament, not New, if we’re referring to the mortal Jesus, that doesn’t work. However, assuming Jesus and Jehovah are the same, we could delve into a far deeper discussion about culture and reason for many of the strict commandments given in the Old Testament. For now, let us say that we cannot judge people of a time and place by the same morals that we hold. Morals are largely subjective, especially when you remove God from the picture (If you want to carry on a discussion along those lines, I might be inclined to agree). God gave the people the law they were prepared to live, not necessarily the law he truly wanted them to live.
    On honesty, Jesus was not deceitful. He clearly did not leave immediately for Jerusalem. If you mean that he was deceitful in that he didn’t immediately say who he was as he preached in the temple, that is not necessarily deceitful. It seems to me he is merely being prudent.

    On self-mutilation, this one seemed to me to be most ignorant. Was Jesus truly saying to cut off a hand? There are few clearer scriptural metaphors than this. He is saying that it is better to eliminate a relationship that prevents you from returning to God rather than encouraging the removal of limbs. However, I imagine that one could smugly reply, “So Jesus is asking you to ostracize your friends. That doesn’t sound very ‘Christian.'” Well, I almost don’t even feel like addressing this further. Nevertheless, I will pre-empt the reply by stating that there are positive relationships that can be maintained despite differing points of view (such as the relationship between the myself and the OP). But if you believe that destructive relationships should end, then you concur with Christ’s statements here.

    On calling others a fool, I rolled my eyes at this one as well. First, calling someone a fool does not guarantee hellfire, but merely the “danger” of hellfire. Second, those who don’t listen are “likened” (compared to, but not equated with), a “fool-ISH” man (not necessarily a flat out fool, but one who takes part in unwise actions). And that’s simply touching on semantics. In a deeper sense, Christ is telling us not to judge others, as we ourselves are not fit to judge. He, on the other hand, IS our judge. So while he never actually calls someone a fool in the scriptures, he would be perfectly justifiable in doing so.

    On world peace, Christ is not endorsing war, but merely pointing out that wars will be fought on account of people believing in him. AHA! See? Christians account for violence in the world. My anti-religious stance is justified. Well, this prophesy is also brought to bear in the persecution of Christians, but on the other hand, I’m sure Christ is quite aware of how supposed Christians would misuse his name to justify their violent acts. He knows that humanity is wicked, and this is merely an acknowledgment of that fact.

    Let’s see, I am LDS. Did I appeal to the Bible being translated incorrectly? Nope. Did I accuse anyone of spiritual blindness? Nay. Am I claiming that the wicked take to truth to be hard? Uh-uh. All it took was a simple clarificaiton of what was almost always clearly intended.

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