Sometime ago, I was accused of hating Jesus.
Now there are many things I hate: toothache, toy dogs, roaches, maggots, poverty, ignorance, censorship, rape, Muntinlupa City, the CBCP, bratty kids, Uwe Boll movies. The list goes on. But among the people and places and things that I don’t hate is Jesus.
Signs and wonders never cease, right?
If Jesus was a real person who lived around 2,000 years ago in Roman-occupied Palestine (historical evidence is sketchy outside the New Testament), then I think he was a pretty swell guy. He walked all over the place with his bros, befriended common folk, lived frugally, and told people simple stories to teach them his philosophy of love and compassion. He sat down to eat with outcasts and he liked kids. He was a progressive rabbi who interpreted Jewish scripture so that it made sense to the masses. One thing he tried to remind people is that the ancient laws were created to make a better world for the Jews, and not the other way around. He gave us the Golden Rule. How can you not like someone who spreads positive vibes like that? Sure he had his bad days (like chasing merchants out of the Temple) and weird teachings (like saying you’re already committing adultery if you look at a woman with sexual desire in your heart), but even Ghandi was weird sometimes. Or have we forgotten about his habit of sleeping with naked women so he can struggle with and overcome his human appetites on a nightly basis? So, yeah. All things considered, Jesus was cool. I dig him.
The problem is Saul, later called Paul of Tarsus. This dude was bad news. Here was a guy who made a career out of persecuting Jesus’ followers after their rabbi was executed. One day, he claimed he saw the ghost of Jesus on the desert and he was struck blind, only regaining his sight when he got to Damascus. After that, he said he became a follower of Jesus. I know how fishy that sounds. As fishy as Joseph Smith, Jr. saying he found in his backyard some ancient Jewish artifacts engraved with crazy-ass shit that eventually became the Book of Mormon. As fishy as L. Ron Hubbard’s… holy crap, where do I even begin with that dude? You get the point.
But what was Paul’s motive? Why switch sides? The answer becomes obvious when you consider how he rose through the ranks of the early Christians and became its most influential leader. He was so influential, in fact, that half of the New Testament is his letters to the various Christian communities. These epistles are instructions on what to officially believe, how to organize the church hierarchy, so on, so forth. Jesus sold his message to his fellow Jews. Paul wanted a larger target market. When you consider how much Paul moved the Christian movement away from the simplicity of Jesus’ vision, you’ll realize that Paul wasn’t aiming to Christianize Rome. He was aiming to Romanize Christians.
To quote Ghandi: I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.