The Life of Jesus vs. the Popular Legacy of Jesus

I write this post not to express any theological perspective, but simply a political and historical one about how the message of Jesus has been corrupted by conservative Christians in the United States. I am not writing to debate whether Jesus was the Son of God, a prophet, the messiah, a miracle worker, or anything of the sort, but I just want to point out what he was and stood for in comparison to what he has been made to stand for today.

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians mourn the crucifixion of their spiritual leader, Jesus Christ. On Sunday, Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Most Christians, at least in the United States, celebrate a very different Jesus than the one who lived a couple thousand years ago. If Jesus returned to Earth, as many Christians believe he will, the shock and disgust that he would have towards the majority of those who consider themselves his most devote followers.

Regardless of one’s personal religious beliefs, as long as you believe Jesus existed (I am somewhat surprised by how many people doubt his existence, which to me makes little sense — more evidence points towards his existence than his nonexistence, and what would the point of making him up be? But I digress…), it is difficult to deny the radical beliefs of Jesus. Living under the mighty Roman empire, one of the most powerful empires in world history, Jesus saw how the Romans exploited the poor for their own wealth and manipulated religion to subdue the people and maintain the status quo. Jesus had no intention of creating his own religion; he simply wanted to use religion as a political vehicle to rebel against the Roman Empire. Jesus knew that humans were not meant to be pitted against each other, but to cooperate and help each other; he knew that religion was a way to reach people and to motivate them, and a just religion had no place for the injustices in the Roman Empire. So Jesus rebelled: he told other oppressed people that the meek shall inherit the earth, and he condemned those who profited off the labor of others and those who persecuted others. Indeed, Jesus was a revolutionary and radical figure of his time, and he pursued a liberal agenda that promoted equality and justice in the face of classical imperialism and oppression.

The crime that Jesus committed– “The Cleansing of the Temple” — that led to his crucifixion was that he overthrew tables of money at a temple in Jerusalem to protest Roman and Jewish rulers who were charging the people during their worship of God. In current studies of Christianity, this fact seems practically forgotten. Religious leaders constantly tell Christians that “Jesus died for us” while simultaneously ignoring the supposed crime that he committed that led to his execution. If “Jesus died for us,” he sacrificed his life to protest the ruling class’s exploitation of those who less fortunate. The Cleansing of the Temple is a clear act of political subversion and rebelling against the oppressive status quo.

How have we gone from the point where the subversive political activist Jesus who preached equality and stood up for the poor has been transformed into a vengeful Jesus that rejects any social change and seeks to limit the rights of some? Those in the United States who claim to best represent Jesus ignore his most essential beliefs while emphasizing viewpoints that Jesus never mentioned. While many Christians believe the most important issues in the United States are abortion and homosexuality, Jesus never said or did anything that suggested these issues were important to him. In addition, many conservatives believe that free market capitalism is essential to Judeo Christian ethos (one example here), but to scourge the bible to find particular passages to stress a certain ideology ignores all of the passages that contradict that ideology and the passages that argue for something that is completely absurd in contemporary society. If Christians want to follow Jesus’s message, they would not follow a free market capitalist ideology that promotes greed and consumption, and they would leave it up to Jesus to decide whether homosexuals are sinners. It is not up to Christians to judge who Jesus would resent, especially considering everything that Jesus said leads one to believe that Jesus would dislike those who are judging and oppressing rather than those who are striving for equality and justice.

Whether one believes in Christianity or not, this Easter let us remember what Jesus truly taught. He died as a result of his fight against exploitation and injustice. Those who use his name to promote exploitation and injustice are the ones who would be judged so harshly by Jesus, just as he criticized the Roman rulers who oppressed the laboring class that he defended. Instead of relying on a corrupted and manipulated theology to enforce an oppressive ideology, pay attention to what the historical Jesus truly said and did and then ask if would approve of how American Christians are using his message.

One comment on “The Life of Jesus vs. the Popular Legacy of Jesus

  1. Heidi says:

    What’s up. So I’m already sighing at the thought of responding simply because I’m not an argumentative person, and this may be perceived as argumentative. (Not the case or goal) I also loathe writing of this nature. The ONLY reason I’m responding is because I respect Jesus and want to add to what you’ve said. You pointed out facts which, I too, believe are more central to Who He is than most observe. But there are a few things that I’ve realized make Him even more 3 dimensional. Pause for a moment and think abut how old you are. Now, think about your date of birth. We’re you born in 1976? 1958? ….ok, what’s the significance of that date? Well, whatever the year is… It is defined by Jesus. Seriously. How wild is it that TIME is defined by Him? Who was He, what did He do, that so impressed everyone of His time that they decided to drop their former measurement of time and decide time would be REdefined on account of the life of a guy named Jesus. How big of a life do you have to live to get that kind of recognition? What do you have to do to be acknowledged in such a way as to move people to reframe time. Years. Our calendar. Ok that’s thought #1. Thought #2 is.. The last couple of verses in the book of Mark in The Bible drive me crazy. After telling the events He observed alongside Jesus, he wraps with saying “These are some of the miracles He performed, but I suppose if every one was recorded, the world is not big enough to contain all of those books.” ???!!!!!!????!!!????!!! That drives me crazy! There are 4 tiny books by 4 disciples who each give their personal renditions of the same miracles. And that’s it! That’s ALL we have of what He did! My point; He did more than take a political stand. He did more than prove to be a radical who opposed practices of both church and government. SOMEthing happened back then. Something more than what Scriptures tell us. If He was performing miracles in the mass number of which Mark speaks, than Jewish priests were most definitely petrified of Him, as He posed threat to their influence, power, and positions. The Roman government, according to scripture, didn’t find fault with him or see why the Jewish leaders were making such a big deal about Him. But, after His crucifixion, apparently they saw something about Him that persuaded them, as well, to redefine time. They were a powerful empire. What ability or power would a few followers of Jesus have to make the Romans go along with a “minor” time change. The Bible says repeatedly that He was motivated out of compassion. The Christians who are annoying are passionate, but not COMpassionate. I think this is where Christians fall apart in their faith and look like fools. Being a Christian, I hate it. Being associated with such simple b.s. is embarrassing. It renders those of us who believe Jesus to be more than an effective political activist into a position of defense. We have to prove we aren’t just another hypocritical Chrisitian. It sucks. Theres a scripture where Jesus basically says that if you can’t truly walk the walk and represent Him well, then don’t utter His name. The ridiculous Chrisitans have to drive Him all the more crazy. At any rate, I
    I wanted to side with you on that which I’ve mentioned, and I wanted to pose the thought to you that there is still more to Him beyond His radical stands. I think if I develop that statement any further it will begin to sound preachy. So I won’t. I’ll just say that as someone who thinks and analyzes and questions and is real.. I simply tossed a request to Jesus to show me Who He really was/is. I obviously had to take a leap of faith to even pose the question. What has followed has been interesting. Finally, please take it personally that I responded to you. I’ve only responded to one other blog in my life. Most bloggers aren’t listening, just venting/writing/a combo of the two. You seem open minded, so I decided to respond. Take care, Heidi Btw.. I’m typing on my phone and unable to scroll up and delete/edit this monster… So let it be noted that I can spell but an unable to review this now novel

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