Tuesday, October 19, 2010

JTL Series: Revisiting Matthew, Chapters 9 - 12

Part 7 of my "Jesus the Letdown" series.

Chapter 9:
  • Verses 1 - 8: Jesus tells a paralytic that his sins are forgiven. I don't understand how this dispensation fits into Christian doctrine. Is it fair that Jesus forgave this man's sins but will still put millions of people, whose lives have been far worse than that of the paralytic, into eternal agony?
  • Verses 9 - 13: The Pharisees criticize Jesus for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus' response is, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Christian doctrine says that everyone is a sinner. Rather than advocating a more compassionate society in which everyone is treated well, he endorses social division and elitism. The word "snob" originally referred to poor people, who smugly believed that they were God's favorites and the rich would go to hell. Jesus caused this with his anti-social attitude.
  • Verses 14 - 17: Jesus makes a hypocritical speech about putting new wine into new wineskins rather than into old wineskins. Seems to me that putting new wine into an old wineskin is exactly what he was doing, claiming to have brought salvation but framing it in terms of that backward culture.
  • Verses 18 - 26: While Jesus is on his way to resurrect a dead girl, a woman comes up behind him to touch his cloak in order to be healed of some long-term malady. Jesus commends her for her "faith". Christians don't realize how weird this is, because they've been indoctrinated to believe that Jesus is good, and having faith in Jesus is commendable. But take a step back and imagine that you're there witnessing these events: you see a man, maybe a very charismatic man but obviously not a progressive thinker, going around capturing everyone's hearts. People are so impressed with him that they think that touching his clothes will cure their ills. Today, there are millions of people who believe something similar about modern televangelists; do you say that those people have great faith, or do you say that they're superstitious and gullible? Why give Jesus more credit than Benny Hinn?
  • Verses 27 - 31: Jesus restores sight to two blind men, but again, he's got some issue about secrecy; he warns them sternly not to tell anyone. Wait a second. You're blind in first-century Palestine, which means that you are utterly dependent on the rest of society for your well being. How would these men be able to prevent anyone from knowing that their sight had been restored, except by pretending that they were still blind? What kind of crazy healing is that?
  • Verses 32 - 34: Jesus casts out another demon. I've already harped on the demon thing long enough, but note the response of the Pharisees: "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons." Once again, if your mind has been poisoned by Christian culture, you will assume that the Pharisees were wrong to say this. But think about it: you believe that you live your life surrounded by demons, and no one knows what to do about them. You believe in the existence of witchcraft and sorcery, and you're terrified of them. Then a guy comes along stirring up trouble and interacting with demons. Of course the first thing you'll think is that they guy is a sorcerer of some kind. Of course the Pharisees thought that Jesus was colluding with Satan.
  • Verses 35 - 38: More preaching and healing. But get verse 36: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." If he were really God, I would have expected something like, "...because they were living their lives in squalor, fear, and ignorance, so he taught them about democracy and microbial pathogens and mental health." Who gives a shit if they're like sheep without a shepherd, when their lives are full of real suffering? I have real problems with Jesus' priorities.
In Chapter 10 Jesus sends his twelve disciples out to preach the gospel everywhere.
  • Verse 5: Jesus tells his disciples not to go among the Gentiles or into any town of the Samaritans. He is a racist.
  • Verse 14: He tells them to curse any home, or entire town, where they are not welcomed and heeded. But the disciples will perform the same sort of "miracles" that Jesus has been doing. If you were sick, and some itinerant magician touched you and said, "In the name of Mohammad, be healed!" and then you were suddenly well, would you convert to Islam? Why would you assume that someone with the ability to make you instantly well is the Supreme Being of the entire universe? The only people who would think such a thing are people living in an ancient, backward society.
  • Verse 22: "All men will hate you because of me..." Why? Why can't God come up with a plan that doesn't result in hatred and persecution? Is he really that weak?
  • Verse 28: "...be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Isn't this the same creature that claims to be full of infinite love and mercy? Why would it want us to be afraid of it?
  • Verse 29: Not a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of God. Christians are always banging on about how God doesn't want people to go to hell. I can't seem to reconcile these two claims. This is a god of suffering and misery, obviously, if all the suffering and misery that happens can't happen apart from its will.
  • Verses 32 - 42: Jesus really starts to become unhinged here, going on about eternal damnation for anyone who disowns him, tearing families apart for his cause, and reward, reward, reward. And verse 39 in particular: "...whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Are we sure that Jesus wasn't a Muslim? People criticize Islam over its philosophy of martyrdom leading to an eternal reward, but Jesus is making the same deal with his followers. The only difference between him and Mohammad is that Jesus mentions only a non-specific reward rather than 72 virgins.
Chapter 11 is hardly worth commenting on, except for verses 29 - 30: Jesus says that he is gentle, and his burden is light. Huh? How can anyone read the first 11 chapters of Matthew and conclude that Jesus is gentle? I conclude that he's a cruel bastard. His burden is light? Uhh, didn't he just finish saying that you're not allowed even to love your own children more than you love him? That's a terrible burden.

Chapter 12:
  • Verse 7: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Umm, how does that fit with 10:38, "...anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me"?
  • Verses 14 - 15: The Pharisees start looking for a way to kill Jesus, and Jesus withdraws from the place. Here is a guy running around performing miracles, but he doesn't have the power to prevent them from killing him, so he has to run away? Sounds like his miracles were a bit limited. Why couldn't he have softened the Pharisees' hearts? His dad hardened Pharaoh's heart back in Egypt. Is he unable to soften hearts?
  • Verse 18: "...he will proclaim justice to the nations." You mean like when he said that women have the same rights as men? When he said that slavery is reprehensible? When he said that torturing and killing people in his name is to be shunned? When he said that cutting off a little girls' clitoris is an abomination?
  • Verse 32: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (by which he meant himself, apparently) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." Similarly, Verse 37: "...by your words you will be condemned." Didn't he just say a few chapters back that God will forgive us in the same way that we forgive others? Haven't we had it hammered into our heads, via the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus is the Holy Spirit? How can you speak against Jesus but not speak against the Holy Spirit?
  • Verse 35: Jesus goes on about "the good man" and "the evil man". I have trouble expressing my full contempt for this appalling concept. It is childish. Only little kids see things in such black-and-white terms. Anyone with any kind of intellectual capacity can see that no person is all good or all bad.
  • Verses 38 - 39: The Pharisees ask Jesus for a miraculous sign, and Jesus gets a little testy. He says that they are wicked and adulterous for asking, and goes on to say that he won't give them any sign at all, except for the sign of Jonah, the Old Testament prophet who allegedly lived inside the stomach of a fish for three days. Hasn't Jesus been performing miracles all this time? Why is he suddenly acting like a jerk? And really, do you really believe that Jonah lived for three days inside a fish? Jesus did.
  • Verse 48: "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Sounds like there was some bad blood between Jesus and his family. Rather than being divine, he was more likely one of these people with a lot of charisma and ambition, who would run rough-shod over anyone who got in his way.

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