I admit I believe a lot of things. A lot of people invest a lot of themselves into holding to one outlook or another – something that, perhaps, gets them through the day. Who am I to say that one belief or another is more or less valid than any other?
Just don’t beat me with it.
I tend to do another thing – I filter out the downside and focus on the up, when it comes to beliefs. You might as well, with beliefs. They ought to be good for something.
We all sense the merging lately between the United States Government and the newer, conservative “Christian” theologies. I think it might be a little wrong to call them theologies, however. Selective and variable dogma might be a better description.
Selective and variable to suit an end goal desired by a given person or group – usually more for self-aggrandizement than spiritual growth. Or sometimes, just exerting mean power because they can. Perhaps it makes them feel better – more justified. I think you might need that when you base much of yourself on belief.
A couple days ago Donny asked me what I thought about the “The Secret Gospel of Mark”. I hadn’t heard of it before and put off looking into it until I had a little free time. Being a Mark, I was a little curious – for no sensible reason.
I looked into it, and have become somewhat fascinated.
We in the Western World, and the Middle Eastern, come pretty much from the Jewish faith at our origins. This just emphasizes the stupidity of our centuries old wars between the Middle Easter and West, too.
Christianity is a newcomer. It’s all lovey-dovey and touchy-feely. I like that, actually. A happy contrast to the cross and irritable God of the Old Testiment. Jesus was always talking about love and compassion, kissing his friends, foot massages – just altogether about making people feel good. About helping.
I like that. I’ll believe in that. It’s helped us accomplish great things. Unfortunately, as humans, many of us like to be big shots – and if we’re not, we’ll do a lot of things to try to become one – and if we can’t even do that, we’ll just act like we’re one in our own little realms.
It seems to me that Jesus would have thought this very silly. He wasn’t much for rules, laws and doing what other people thought he should. He didn’t mind being thought of as a freak. And he wasn’t one for respecting any church authority.
He knew what was good, and what was right. And he was all into making people feel better about themselves and each other. And don’t focus so much on your own stuff – glorifying it – glorify God instead. Trust that God has got the real and truthful picture, not your government, or religious leaders, or whatever else might be telling you something.
I like that. And at the time, it was tremendously powerful. It reshaped the power structures of the Western World from the foundations up.
These “conservative christians” today are basically pretty lost. They’re more interested in being told some thing, then parroting it back, and that’s that. The spirituality is all but gone. They’re nice because it’s a rule to be nice. They love because they are commanded to love. What kind of love is that? How does love by command really manifest itself?
They feel that they know what’s right. And with their growing influence in government, they’re not afraid to force their mostly arbitrary dogma onto others. They do not think, nor remember, that such things are what Jesus fought against the most. The have become the modern Pharisees, or even more accurately, Sadducees.
Adherence to silly old rules rather than truth, counting money in the churches, clinging to their own sense of self-worth or power over and above their own spirituality or the sprituality of others. Working doggedly and ruthlessly to squash and repress any who would question them.
All Christians know that these were the bad guys. These guys saw Jesus as a lunatic, and later, as a threat to their power.
All because he told people they didn’t need to look to those bad guys. All because he’d rather give even Judas a kiss than wave some stupid rule around and have someone put in jail.
These stories that have come to us through the many years all have filtered through the Catholic Church. Strangely, many modern “conservative Christians” insist on denying even this – as if they have somehow gained some greater place with God by reading modern English translations and listening to their trailer park preacher with the donation cup.
Oh, but he’s of humble origin, just like Jesus. Yes, dear, but he’s got that donation cup, doesn’t he? And why do you need to listen to someone about these things anyway? To save yourself the effort of reading? Or even moreso, the effort of examining yourself and your relation to others in the world, and the very existence in which you find yourself?
We have a lot of people like this, it seems, here in the United States. The politicians know this, and have strategically exploited it. They must maintain their power.
Which brings me back to Jesus – basically, Christianity. He’s it. Stories that have been handed down orally and written down in Greek. Collected by the Catholic Church. Many sources, many manuscripts. The Church decided which stories and writings represented Christianity and which did not. It’s actually a pretty cool idea, when you don’t have the actual Jesus guy around any more. You can create a Cannon of Thought to preserve his ideas – and, well, probably add a bit here and tuck a bit there to make it all be the way it really must have been, or the way that will sink in better to people.
Of course it’s all eternal and unchanging – it’s just that there was a whole lot that never made it past the editor’s desk, too.
So, back when they were sorting all of this out, a lot of strange things were happening. One of them were the Gnostics. The Gnostics (Gnosis in Greek means knowledge) were an offshoot of early Christianity that allowed in a lot of other writings, such as the Gospels of Thomas. These Gospels said some things that didn’t lend themselves easily to a central group controlling matters for people. This such as:
(3) Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.
(24) His disciples said: Teach us about the place where you are, for it is necessary for us to seek it. He said to them: He who has ears, let him hear! There is light within a man of light, and he lights the whole world. If he does not shine, there is darkness.
I really like this one:
(37) His disciples said: On what day will you be revealed to us, and on what day shall we see you? Jesus said: When you unclothe yourselves and are not ashamed, and take your garments and lay them beneath your feet like the little children (and) trample on them, then [you will see] the Son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.
And cryptically, but somehow nicely:
(70) Jesus said, “If you (plur.) produce what is in you, what you have will save you. If you do not have what is in you, what you do not have [will] kill you.”
(102) Jesus said: Woe to the Pharisees, for they are like a dog lying in the manger of the cattle; for he neither eats nor does he let the cattle eat.
And this one’s for the lesbians 😉 :
(114) Simon Peter said to them: Let Mariham go out from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So, anway, there are a lot of other writings. This is just a few little excerpts from one little thang.
But what Donny pointed out to me was most astonishing. It took touchy feely to a whole new level. I have to say, there is considerable skepticism about the authenticity of The Secret Gospel of Mark, but there is also considerable support for it. The text was discovered just last century in the library of the Mar Saba monastery very near Jerusalem. Apparently the Gospel of Mark as it has reached us has a few aukward breaks in it – almost like omissions. This text does not have those. But it reveals a very racey Jesus, one that truly does love his fellow man. Well, who knows – but I like the thought at least.
This part goes between Mark 10:34 and 10:35:
They came to Bethany. There was one woman there whose brother had died. She came and prostrated herself before Jesus and spoke to him. “Son of David, pity me!” But the disciples rebuked her. Jesus was angry and went with her into the garden where the tomb was. Immediately a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going up to it, Jesus rolled the stone away from the door of the tomb, and immediately went in where the young man was. Stretching out his hand, he lifted him up, taking hold his hand. And the youth, looking intently at him, loved him and started begging him to let him remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus gave him an order and, at evening, the young man came to him wearing nothing but a linen cloth. And he stayed with him for the night, because Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And then when he left he went back to the other side of the Jordan.
Then, to quote from a Gnostic website:
Then a second fragment of Secret Mark is given, this time to be inserted into Mark 10.46. This has long been recognized as a narrative snag in Mark’s Gospel, as it awkwardly reads, “Then they come to Jericho. As he was leaving Jericho with his disciples…” This strange construction is not present in Secret Mark, which reads:
Then he came into Jericho. And the sister of the young man whom Jesus loved was there with his mother and Salome, but Jesus would not receive them.
Many people do so long for rigid and defined order. I just don’t think it’s there. At least, I hope it’s not. I like a little flexibility and freedom. It’s why I don’t wear underwear.
People want to think we have the whole story. But we never do. Not in science, not in history, and not even when getting to know another human being. This is why deception is so terrible. Not only deceiving others, but mostly when deceiving ourselves.
I don’t know about this Secret Gospel of Mark – whether it’s true, partially true, or utterly false. But I do know that if I were to meet Jesus today, I think we might have a pretty good conversation, and I’d at least come away from it with a nice kiss.