'I love and revere the person of Jesus Christ — and, if there can exist a non-theistic meaning to the word ‘divine’, I consider him divine...Jesus tells us, every one, to cast off fear and superstition, to turn away from wealth and status and authority; to turn away from rule-based theology, and the High Priests and the Pharisees; to turn away from human mediation; to lift up our heads to the stars; and to be unafraid...I tell you how we know that about 2,000 years ago a man called Jesus of Nazareth did exist, did attract disciples, did inspire devotion, and did teach much of what we read in the Gospels today. We know it because if Jesus had not existed, the Catholic Church would not have invented him. The Jesus who takes shape in the New Testament is sharply different from the Christ it would have suited the Church to invent.'Here is an excerpt from an article written by Matthew Parris.
Parris is an atheist.
While Parris' article speaks specifically against the Catholic Church, it is an article that should make any Christian squirm. It is an article that should make the Church hang their heads because of what we have made Jesus out to be. It is an article that speaks more truth than many sermons I have heard, and the truth sets us free.
I don't agree with every word. Of course I don't. But that which I do agree with, the majority, I say Amen to.
What have we done to Jesus?
Whatever denomination or movement, we have all made Jesus safe and easy. We have constructed so much ceremony and baggage that we have lost sight of this radical, uncomfortable giver of life. All the stuff that we think is important is challenged by Jesus.
Here is the article. Read and be challenged, whatever your tradition is.
'Can Catholicism save Christian England?
No, says Matthew Parris. Jesus of Nazareth would be appalled by the Catholic Church
Lurching drunkenly away from the table at a dinner party, Dylan Thomas once explained his departure. ‘Something’s boring me,’ he said, ‘and I think it’s me.’ I am an irreconcilable atheist who’s beginning to bore himself, banging on all the time about it. Plainly there’s no God; but there we are, life goes on and it isn’t — for us atheists — the most important thing in the world. So, with your permission, I’m not going to play the hired atheist for the purposes of this debate.
Instead I’d like to mount my case from inside the Christian tradition and, make no mistake, whatever faiths or faithlessness individual citizens may profess, this country — its culture, its jurisprudence, its vast, submerged moral landscape — is firmly and powerfully within the Christian tradition. I love the Christian tradition. It made me. It absorbs me and I’ve studied it and thought about it all my life. I love and revere the person of Jesus Christ — and, if there can exist a non-theistic meaning to the word ‘divine’, I consider him divine.
That he was under one immense and central misapprehension — that he was the Son of God — cannot, for me, disable the transfiguring energy — and stinging severity — of Jesus’s teachings: about love; about human charity; about equality; and about the primacy of each individual’s personal response to the universe.
Jesus tells us, every one, to cast off fear and superstition, to turn away from wealth and status and authority; to turn away from rule-based theology, and the High Priests and the Pharisees; to turn away from human mediation; to lift up our heads to the stars; and to be unafraid.The Roman Catholic Church tells us to bow our heads, to take orders, to follow form, and to be afraid. Rome stands between the individual and the light, blocking the light.
I tell you how we know that about 2,000 years ago a man called Jesus of Nazareth did exist, did attract disciples, did inspire devotion, and did teach much of what we read in the Gospels today. We know it because if Jesus had not existed, the Catholic Church would not have invented him. The Jesus who takes shape in the New Testament is sharply different from the Christ it would have suited the Church to invent.
Jesus of Nazareth is a colossal embarrassment to the Catholic Church. To all the pomp and circumstance, to the chanting and ring-kissing, to the rosary beads, and indulgences, and prayer by rote, to the caskets and relics and the reverencing of inanimate objects, the idolatry and the mumbo-jumbo, Jesus of Nazareth represents a permanent reproach.
There he stands, in all his simplicity: a man contemptuous of finery and wealth, scornful of hierarchy, and utterly careless of bricks, stones, mortar and stained glass; a man whose attitude towards silver and gold — towards display of every sort — it is impossible to mistake. There he stands: a man who never uttered a recorded word about sex, about contraception, about abortion, about homosexuality — or indeed about family at all: never a word, except to say that he had come to tear families apart.
There he stands, this Jesus of Nazareth, a man whose attire nobody even noticed, who never spoke a word, so far as we know, about religious art, religious music, religious architecture or religious form; and whose only, single reference to beauty is to the beauty of a lily.
There he stands, this man whose innocent remark about breaking bread in remembrance of him has been twisted almost beyond what meaning will bear into a holy ritual whose licensed enactment has been made to underwrite the entire currency of priestly authority... a man whose call for repentance has been leveraged likewise into a ceremony of confession and system of tariffs that hands — to a clergy Jesus never meant to found — a stick with which to beat a laity Jesus never meant to see separated in that way.
There he stands, a man with whose words and thoughts and reproaches it would be impossible to acquaint ourselves without at once suspecting that he would have hated ritual, hated set canticles and set responses, hated hats and robes and finery, palaces and Popemobiles. A man who didn’t just ignore the authorising and certifying of religious truth, didn’t just ignore the man-made hierarchies of spiritual authority of his own day, but set his face against career structures in things spiritual... and who would today not just be bemused by popes and cardinals, bishops and archbishops, forms of petition and forms of address, but would rail against them with the fine anger he showed the money-changers in the temple.
There he stands, his whole life, his whole experience, his whole attitude a permanent reproach to everything the Roman Catholic Church has spun around itself, gathered unto itself, and invented for itself over 2,000 years. Can anyone — anyone — believe the Vatican and all its works were what Jesus of Nazareth saw himself as coming to Earth to achieve? In the words of T.S. Eliot, ‘that is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.’
Faced with this impossible man, this undismissibly real man, the Church for centuries — until they could no longer do so — tried to keep the record of his life, the Gospels, from the laity. Unable to invent, or reinvent, Jesus, they invented a divine human being as close to being Jesus’s equal as the rules of blasphemy would bear: the Virgin Mary, a real individual about whom very few facts were known and about whom we can learn little from the Gospels.
The Roman Catholic Church has clothed Mary — for she is its own creature and almost mythical — in the powers and authority its priesthood needs for the sanctification of its own powers and authority. The Church has commanded the laity to approach the Almighty through the mediation of its own constructed figure.
Nothing — nothing — in the Gospels so much as suggests, let alone authorises this. And so this real man has been cunningly, persistently, quietly nudged away from the centre to the margins of the frame; and at the centre is placed a mythical Mother of Jesus, and the cruel and frightening image of the twisted body on the Cross.
Two symbols. And the keeper and interpreter and gateway to the symbols, the Roman Catholic Church. This is not just other than Jesus intended, it is in direct conflict with what Jesus intended. I said at the outset that Christ was not the man these Christians would have invented. Now I shall add that the Roman Catholic Church is not the church that Christ would have wanted to invent. Who really believes that, confronted with what it has become, he could do anything but echo T.S. Eliot?
The Catholic Church, in an age when it is on the defensive, now whimpers for tolerance: a tolerance it never extended to dissent or question when it had the power to crush them. Keep it where it is: on the defensive, on the run, and banished from the corridors of secular power. That, at least, is the plea of this Protestant atheist, a plea made not in defiance of Jesus Christ, but in his defence.'
Matthew Parris is a columnist for the Times.