Christianity: the Revolution that Never Happened.

This is the revolution, intended, I think, as a revolution in Judaism, that didn’t happen. You’ve heard it before, this below, from Matthew:
Matthew 5 (King James Version)
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.


Here, Jesus refers to the Old Testament scripture, the traditional model for Hebrew law and punishment, and then issues the new Way, the revolution. He is making a case here, as in many other places, for a more forgiving and less vengeful God. More to the point for me, I think he made a case for a less vengeful and more forgiving Man.
(Jesus was surrounded by zealots, freedom fighters, or at least the leaders who talked them up, the hawks of his day, plus he was contested and marginalized by the orthodoxy, and the Herod clan. These conservatives had a good case against him, he was politically hamstrung by the occurence of his birth while his mother was still in “virgin” status, so Jesus was dealt the position of moderate, and moderator. The conservative, orthodox church leaders, if not the king, Herod, were to some degree aligned with the zealots against the Roman occupation, and so Jesus, pitted against them by his unauthorized birth, was also set up against the zealots, and so, found himself in the role of peacemaker.)
And so, this new, more civilized code of punishment.


I think Jesus announced a model of peacemaking with these great words, and set a new model for society in general.
It seems that the Christian concept of a more forgiving God caught on; God is now seen as gentler, and far more loving that the punishing, jealous God of the Old Testament.
But the more forgiving Mankind?
Punishment is still the rule of the land, all lands. In the Western world, we no longer take eyes, or teeth, true, that has improved – but we certainly haven’t made it all the way to ‘turning the other cheek also.’
Not even with our children!
Jesus’ time was a high water mark for civilization, one of the few times his message of peace and rejection of punishment could have had a chance in the long, rough history of the world, but old habits die hard. It’s still Old School, Old Testament, when push comes to shove.
It may have taken two thousand years to hear Jesus’ message, but we are arguably at another high point of civilization, and it’s one of those changes, like quitting any bad habit, it’s always going to be a good change to make. The message is, get hurt, model peace. Prioritize peace over ‘security.’ Security annihilates peace. Take some lumps. Show the bad guys what it looks like to NOT fight, show them what it’s like when someone DOESN’T hurt someone.
At least show your CHILDREN these things.
Turn the other cheek.
Viva la Revolution!

He who is without Sin May Punish.

Punishment only counts as punishment when done by an authorized person. As it may apply to Christianity, who are the authorized persons? The purest version of the answer, of course, is God (Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord). Jesus, when placed in the position of judge, seemed to think no sinner qualified.

From the Gospel of John (King James Version):

8 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Interesting to note, Jesus also chooses not to condemn the woman, whether from his divinity and mercy or from his humanity and that he perhaps also counted himself among the sinners, I can’t say. It is clear, though, that he was saying that no sinner should be condemning anyone, even when the crime is proven – they said she was caught in the very act – and even when the punishment is traditional and acceptable to the society. It is clearly the condition of authority he finds lacking here, and lacking in everyone. He tells the woman the lesson, ‘sin no more,’ and that is the end of it.
All men are sinners, and so Jesus appears to find no adequate authority for the definition of punishment, therefore the teachings of Jesus show that only God can punish, and so when people try, it can only be abuse.

Original Sin

Mass-murderers like Charlie Manson and Andreas Brevik (spelling?) seem to think everyone is a psycho like them. They have it in common that all they thought they needed to do to start a race/faith war was to kill a few people, a few tens of people, and the war would be on, that all the average guy needs is for someone to start the killing and we’d all jump in and go on a mass mass-murder spree, a national, even global, bench-clearing brawl. They think everyone is like them, or at least that we all secretly want to be.
A core belief in people’s intrinsic violence, intrinsic evil, that’s what that is. Or to put it in other words, they hold with the doctrine of Original Sin.
Which is, of course, is a strong predictor for the nearly universal belief in the social tool known as punishment.
(This is what makes Charlie so captivating when he talks. He seems to know this, that he and we are not that far apart.)
It’s no secret that the religious, at least the Christian religious make no bones about this, that Original Sin is a tenet, they think it’s true, hence the need for God. And they mostly all follow the extrapolated idea from it, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” But what of the disavowed, the atheists, the lapsed? Also true, for the most part. We can deny the church, we can deny the bible, but it is foolish to deny that the bible is the basis of our entire culture here west of Afghanistan and east of Hawaii, (possibly excluding much of Africa) for the last 2,000 years. You atheists, you church-bashers, know this: use the rod, and you propagate the very thing you hope to extinguish!
This is a key part of the interaction between religion and our faith in punishment as a social tool. When everyone is punished, when we are all raised with punishments that begin long before we have any understanding of the world, then a vengeful god makes sense, the idea of a punishment awaiting us at the end of a mis-lived life seems, reasonable. It has precedent, at least in our minds. Of course, this idea is normally expressed the other way ’round, that God and his punishments are the model for our lives, as written into many faiths’ texts. I don’t hope to change any minds among the religious followers, but the atheist reader will have to admit that the actual function is arranged in the natural timeline of a human life: parents first, God second.
It seems that there is no getting around our cultural heritage, certainly not if we still cling to the most important and influential beliefs of that legacy while only disavowing ourselves of the less reality-based and purely theoretical ones.
Alice Miller:
“Wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honour one’s parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for the respect of a child.”