Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Why the resurrection myth is a patriarchal cop-out

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There’s a well-worn joke about how Jesus could be Irish: 1. He lived at home until he was in his thirties. 2. His mother thought he was God. 3. He thought his mother was a virgin. It’s a universal joke in fact – many elements of it are transferable to other cultures. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and the whole Jesus legend being taken as historical fact; the memes that are used stating that he was a radical non-violent revolutionary and considering the myth, the man and how, in an age of rising white Christian supremacy (the irony being, of course, that even Christ himself was not a Christian) he is, some 2,000 years after his death, he is being used to justify oppression. If we look at the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – which are all interconnected, we can see that the deepest connection that they all have in their practical execution, is structural patriarchy. Not to condemn religions outright, as in my experience, as a religionist and non-religionist, patriarchy rather than religion, is the greatest issue facing the world today. And a big part of this issue, as a former Irish Catholic, is the issue of resurrection.

Let me clarify: it is not just the resurrection itself which is the issue. It is the concept of man dying for ‘all the sins of the world’. Now, while that was big of him, and, in a sense, a noble aim (if true), what it inherently implies is an abdication of responsibility on the part of some of the people(s) he was dying for, and too great an assumption of responsibility on the part of others. Having been brought up Catholic in Ireland, how it works in a practical sense is with the whole concept of confession.

‘Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s a week since my last confession. I really coveted and was jealous of my brother’s/sister’s bike etc’

‘Say three Hail Marys and one Holy Father I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit go and sin no more’.

‘Same time next week…’

Now, on the scale of innocence, what harm, might one say? Well, there’s a side concept of, rather than working through challenging emotions in a positive way, of guilt. Which,   from my observance, is a double-whammy when one is female. There’s a whole society  out there designed to make women feel guilty. Not married yet? What’s wrong with you? Can’t balance work, a family AND housework? What’s wrong with you? Not a perfect size 8/10/12 anymore and therefore not eye-candy for the male gaze? What’s wrong with you? ‘Became’ pregnant out of wedlock/raped/assaulted? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

There are so many contradictions within religions themselves, but the transference of blame onto the vulnerable seems particularly heinous in my view. The concept of someone dying for other people’s sins immediately infantilises everyone else, which is not a danger in and off itself, depending on how far it goes.  And therein lies the rub. I’ve had two situations in the past week happen to me personally which might demonstrate on a microcosmic level how insidious this abdication of responsibility is in an Abrahamic, patriarchal structure. One was when helping a relative to find work and suggesting that he might want to consider toning down his quasi-evangelical views, which have been problematic in other employments in the past. While he was wholly aware of this, he still managed to turn it into my problem: I was a ‘disappointment’ but he ‘forgave’ me. I naturally told him that I didn’t need to be patronised or forgiven for helping him find work and subsequently ended the conversation.

The second situation was while out at the theatre with a man who happened to have a spare ticket. Within 10 minutes he was telling me how unlucky he was in love, and how he always seemed to meet the ‘wrong ones’. Not to mention some other, more physical breaching of boundaries later, but I found it both sad and interesting that there was zero assumption of any kind of shared responsibility for the breakdown of his relationships. And to be fair, he was incredibly polite compared to other men I’ve heard talking about their female exes. ‘She was a psycho’; ‘a bitch’; ‘a slag’. Maybe there is no blame to apportion; however, it does seem to me to be a curiosity and major red-light if there is a pattern involved.

Again, on a microcosmic and personal level, this is relatively innocuous. What deeply concerns me now, however is that we seem to be in an age politically both of infantilism, misogyny aligned with complete abdication of responsibility. The trend is being set by the rise of the political man-baby, who whines and tweets like a bratty pre-schooler ‘IT’S NOT MY FAULT!’

In a so-called Christian country, based on the actual tangibilities of a single mother, a man who broke bread with thieves and lepers and prostitutes, we have the abdication of responsibility of the have-mores in Phariseean mode at the expense of the have-nots. The ridiculous concern about chocolate eggs over austerity cuts (And yes, the PM is a woman – out of some 29% in Parliament). We have a so-called Christian man in John Smith, who refuses to take responsibility for his abuse of young boys terrified by his messianic zeal. We have the all-too-familiar scenario in Ireland where the Church, while quietly paying hush money on the side, refuses to admit liability for widespread abuse of women and children. We have, in religious countries, scenarios where a woman can be raped brutally and the man get off virtually scot-free, as with Brock Turner; where a man can say ‘I fell and penetrated her by accident’ as Ehsan Abdulaziz claimed a little over a year ago; and yet, where women are prevented from having autonomy over their own bodies on religious grounds. Where are the men in this picture? No doubt in some confessional near you, being absolved of rapine and child abuse with a few Hail Marys’ and in the case of the clergy, a move to a new parish.

It is clear to me that religion has its limitations with regards to the development of emotional intelligence.  It has those limitations, in my observance, because of its close connections with, and reliance upon, the structure of patriarchy. It offers, at its best, a moral code and structure which helps some people to reconcile the very many challenges of living as a human being. This, I have no issue with. At its worst, however, it gives the adherent carte blanche to engage in acts of aggressive tribalism, and inhumane acts, be that the incarceration of women as slaves in the Magdalene laundries, racist attacks on people of different colour, gender, religion or sexual persuasion as with the worldwide rise of the KKK and the Knights Templar, the torture and imprisonment of gay men in Chechnya – the list could go on of the crimes perpetrated in the name of religion, washed clean by pious absolution and the transference of the sins of the world onto a single historical figure.

To me, religion is full of metaphors being treated as facts, and therein lies the problem. The very essence of the story of Christ is the acceptance of responsibility, towards ourselves and other people. The idea that one person can make a difference in the world and to those around them. I don’t believe the resurrection to be an actual one – it is the enlightenment that happens when one lives a life of accountability. We have little hard evidence of renewal after this life, but it is possible that we can renew ourselves and our world within this life, by being responsible for our own actions and emotions, good and bad, by being open and vulnerable in our interactions with others, by balancing all of the traits of yin and yang inherent but underused in most people and in our wider societies. After all, as the findings of Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson confirm, Jesus himself knew the importance of the Divine Feminine.

 

 

Cameron the “Christian”

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Today, theoretically is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. I say “theoretically” for a number of reasons. Firstly, Easter isn’t a “Christian” holiday per se; there is much argument about this, but according to a friend of mine, it is derived from “Hausos” which was an Indo-European (precursor of the Celts) holiday, which was then translated into “Auster” in Latin (a true “Roman Holiday?) and consequently into the Anglo-Saxon “Easter”.

Interesting, around this time, David Cameron sought to come out as being an “evangelical Christian”, and criticising those who did not share his beliefs. While the last census in 2011 showed that just over 59% of the population in the UK self-identify as being of a Christian faith, it did lead me, as a lapsed Catholic, to ask: What exactly does he mean?

My first reaction was that this was nothing other than pure political isolationism, i.e. if you are not a Christian, you are not in our gang (not that most people want to be in the Bullingdon Bullies gang, but that is a debate perhaps for another post). This isolates deliberately those of another religion i.e. Muslims (5%), Hindus (1.5%), Sikhs (.8%), Jews (.5%), Buddhists (.5%), and those who put down “other” (.4%). In total, this makes up 8.7% of the population. Relatively small fry in election terms. So while I think there was a slight Crusader-like zeal in the statement, it is clear that the full force of his opprobrium was reserved for those non-believer in any faith, who make up 31.9% of the population, and who, if Marx is to be believed about religion being the opium of the masses, are harder to control.

But it also calls into question the very nature of Christianity as well. As aforementioned, I am a very lapsed Irish Catholic. Lapsed for reasons that are obvious; and those that were cultural and therefore not so obvious. I remember hearing priests threatening eternal damnation on those who voted for divorce in the 1980s. I remember the state preventing a 14-year old travelling to England for an abortion (not that she should have had to travel), despite having been raped by a neighbour, because abortion was and is against the Church’s teachings. I’ve worked with people who were so traumatised by their experiences as novices in Ireland in the 1960s in the infamous Magdalen laundries that they left not only their vocation but the Church itself. While there is a special kind of misogyny inherent in Irish Catholicism, having dabbled with other world religions I have found it is manifested only a little less. So I am curious to know what David Cameron thought he would achieve by avowing evangelical Christianity.

Here’s what I think he thought would happen. He thought that by evoking the word “Christian” that it could expunge the deeds of the Coalition over the last four years, and conjure up an image of a moral person. What I would say to David Cameron is there is a difference between morality and piety. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, just because you were born in a stable, it doesn’t make you a horse. And essentially it was an attempt to challenge those naughty non-believers, who do make up a sizeable chunk of votes that the Tories could do with winning in 2015. I guess, in the land that was built on the laws of divide and conquer, you can’t blame him for having a go.

But getting back to the matter in hand: let’s test the theory of Cameron’s version of Christianity, and see if it holds water:

Would Christ have axed 576 Sure Start centres? I think he would not have. I know he said “Suffer the little children” – but he did then add “..to come unto me”.

Would Christ have directly targeted the disabled? He would have, but only to heal them; not to persecute them by cutting their benefits, and forcing them to prove their disabilities, which reportedly has been linked to suicides, that of Stephanie Bottrill, and an attempt by Lawrence Keane.

Again, on the subject of healing: would Christ have sought to privatise the NHS? I don’t think so; as far as is recorded, his healing services were free, gratis and for nothing. Lest we forget, we actually pay for the NHS through NI.

Would Christ have implemented policies that have forced nigh on 1 million people to be forced to go to food banks? I think, as is recorded in the Gospels, he would not have – in essence (remembering the tale of the loaves and fishes) he seemed to be a one-man food bank in himself.

And would Christ have been keen to influence bankers getting a 64% bonus increase within a year? Maybe it’s my selective memory, but I seem to remember Christ having a really big chip on his shoulder regarding bankers, to the extent of throwing them out of the temple and then splitting the temple in two with the force of his wrath?

My point here is: if you are going to buy into the myth, buy into the whole myth. I may be a lapsed Irish Catholic; but I have a lot of religious friends who take it as an affront to their beliefs that Cameron, with his lip service to Christ (touted as a radical non-violent revolutionary on a meme doing the rounds) but obvious worship of Mammon, aligns himself with Him. They do not recognise their beliefs in a man whose whole premiership thus far has been about pitting the powerful against the vulnerable, rich against not-so-rich and downright poor. Quibble with religion as you might (and I do), most people with and without faith would not want to see children go to school hungry, homelessness numbers rise, essential services be cut, and the rich profit from other people’s misery disproportionately. Evangelical Cameron may be: but his God is Greed.