Saturday, August 23, 2014

God's QC 10.4: The Monster Gnash

Here I continue my thoughts on the disconnect between what the bible says about Jesus and what most people, superstitious or otherwise, tend to believe about him. In this video, I'll continue to explore the question whether Jesus can be considered a compassionate figure.

As I found while making my two previous videos, it is important to be clear which flavor of Jesus we're talking about. For this video, it won't matter whether Jesus is human or divine, and it won't matter whether he is real or fictional. What will matter is what he believes. Let's assume that he believes everything he says, including all the supernatural claims, except for one. We have to exclude his belief that some people will experience eternal punishment. To understand why we must do so, see my previous video.

The mental effort required for this exception is far less strenuous than that needed for most exceptions commonly made for Jesus. Matthew is the only evangelist who records Jesus using the phrase eternal punishment, and it occurs only once, in Chapter 25. We need only remove the word eternal from the chapter. Is the resulting Jesus a compassionate character? The answer lies in the remaining word: punishment. Or more specifically, Jesus' attitude toward punishment. Let's have a look.

According to Matthew, Jesus uses the phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth six times. This already sounds a little bit too enthusiastic for my tastes, but the real fun begins when we read Jesus' rather graphic descriptions of the unfair and wildly disproportionate punishments that will cause all this weeping and gnashing.
  • In Chapter 8, Jesus issues a warning to Jews in general—or to Christians, depending on your interpretation—that those who are unworthy to be subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • In Chapter 25, we hear a parable about a gangster with three servants. He assigns each servant the task of investing a portion of his estate for profit while he goes away on gangster business. One servant is paralyzed by fear of his master, and ends up doing nothing. When the gangster returns, he ignores the servant's fear and judges him to be wicked, lazy, worthless. The servant's punishment is again to be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
As an aside, note that the master's behavior is an excellent sketch of Yahweh's intentions toward us: we are brought into the world without our consent, required to perform beyond our abilities, and then punished for our failure. Go Yahweh.
  • In Chapter 22, Jesus tells the parable of a royal wedding banquet where a guest is found to be improperly dressed. That is his only sin, but this is Yahweh's party and it can cry if it wants to. For this fashion faux pas, the king's order is, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • In Chapter 24, we have another parable about a servant, this time left in charge of the household while the master is away. At least in this story, we can be outraged at the servant's behavior: among various abuses of the master's trust, the servant also begins to beat his fellow servants. But our outrage turns to incredulity at the master's choice of punishment: he will cut [the servant] to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be—well, you know the drill.
  • In Chapter 13 there are two mentions of weeping and gnashing. Jesus refers to the wicked and those who do evil. Given his fixation on sexual immorality, the wickedness and evil he speaks of must include lusting after women and other trivial, so-called sins. The punishment is to be thrown by angels into a blazing furnace.
Removing the eternal from eternal punishment gives us a Jesus that is better than the supernatural savior, but only in the sense that the scope of his sadism is finite. He doesn't believe in eternal punishment, but he clearly takes great pleasure in the idea of people being severely punished. If we're ever going to find a compassionate Jesus, we'll have to remove many more words from the Gospels.

That's 10.4. Thanks for watching.