“The Family is an American documentary web television miniseries that premiered on Netflix on August 9, 2019. The series examines a conservative Christian group—known as the Family or the Fellowship—its history, and investigates its influence on American politics.” – Wikipedia
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that an “invisible friend” is entirely the domain of childhood. Childishness perhaps, but not limited to childhood.
The basis for believing that Jesus is REAL comes from believing that the Bible is the REAL, inerrant and the impeccable source from which the only words of Jesus can be found.
The fact is that the Old Testament in the Christian bible is an appropriation of Jewish scripture. However, it was not the Jews who declared their scripture to be an inerrant and impeccable source from which the only words God ever spoke to man can be found. Christians did that – primarily from inside the Roman environment of absolute and unquestioned authority where the Emperor was considered divine and had the power to approve or destroy whatever was spoken or written including who spoke it and who wrote it.
The Jews have considered their scriptures permanently up for discussion and interpretation, then and now. There was no sense that the words of scripture have one true and inflexible meaning. Fundamentalist Christians did that primarily in the early years of the 20th century.
For fundamentalists like The Family as portrayed in Jeff Sharlett’s book and the Nextflix miniseries, Jesus’ words are to be taken literally and interpreted only by “the chosen.” The hierarchy within the “Chosen” cult has the final say on what their REAL Jesus really means when they quote the words that their supposedly REAL Jesus spoke over 2000 years ago.
These then are grown up children, pretending that they have a special relationship with a special invisible friend whose existence they can never prove.
It’s silliness being imposed on government and nations at the highest level silliness can reach. It should be taken seriously so long as there are many at the highest levels paying attention to folks like The Family who are whispering Jesus platitudes in their politically minded and opportunistic ears.
It is long past time that we as a society rejected silly literal-minded religious wishful thinking. It is long past time we forced the god-talkers off their pedestals and exposed the snake oil for what it really is. Schemes of dominionism be damned.
Love in many forms is where it’s at.
“Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?”
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it :
You must love your neighbor as yourself
“On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.”
Many an argument between one who believes the Bible to be inerrant, absolute and literally true and one who disagrees runs aground when those of the absolutist view “prove” inerrancy by quoting what the book says about itself.
It has been my view that the Bible is but one among those books that contain inspired writings of the strictly personal kind. As Joseph Smith declared his Book of Mormon to be a Word of God , he – like many charismatic religious persuaders – implied an untruth; that what they themselves have published is the literal words of God.
The same could be said of all the spiritual writings presented. whether fundamentalist, mystical or supposed new age writings.
In this I’d like to quote another book, Reading the Bible for the First Time, by the late Dr. Marcus J. Borg, Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University:
“The sacramental function of scripture leads to a final point about the relationship between God and the Bible: the Bible as the ‘Word of God.’ …speaking of the Bible as ‘the Word of God’ has often led Christians to see the Bible as coming from God.
… It is important to emphasize that the Christian tradition throughout its history has spoken of the Bible as the Word of God (capital W and singular), not as the words of God. If it had used the latter phrase, then one might reasonably claim that believing the words of the Bible to be God’s words is intrinsic to being Christian.
But the use of a capital W and the singular suggests a different meaning. Namely, ‘Word’ is being used in a metaphorical and nonliteral sense. As with metaphors generally, this one resonates with more than one nuance of meaning.
A word is a means of communication, involving both speaking and hearing. A word is a means of disclosure; we disclose or reveal ourselves through words. Words bridge the distance between ourselves and others: we commune and become intimate through words.
To call the Bible the Word of God is to see it in all of these ways, and no doubt more. The Bible is a means of divine self-disclosure. The traditional theological phrase for this is ‘the Bible as the revelation of God.’
In the Bible, as the foundation of the Christian cultural-linguistic world, Christians find the disclosure of God – not because the Bible is the words of God but because the Bible contains the primary stories and traditions that disclose the character and will of God.
… calling the Bible the Word of God refers not to its origin but to its status and function.”
Hindsight reveals to us that left with only the Law and/or the Bible, human propensity for trusting the tangible over exercising faith and mystic thinking reduced the Bible effectively from being the Word of God to a confusing collection of words of God. And these words included the horrors of persecution and war.
In that aftermath we have come to see God Himself shackled by words, limited by literal word meanings, conceptually denigrated by the limits of language. This not only in the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries, but clear back in the meridian of time into which Jesus was born.
Literalists limit the image of the abode of God as a future abstract kingdom that includes punishment.
Literalists envision unrelenting suffering that will only be eventually ended by a scorekeeping God who knows when the uttermost farthing has been paid.
Such is all believers like The Family have to offer. It’s an insult to who and what God’s reality reality may be. As human beings we are not in need of invisible supernatural friends. Nor do we need religious fanatics telling God what to do and us how to behave.
It’s an insult to humanity to insist that amid all that abundance there is only a bowl of bitter gruel upon which has been divinely inscribed:
“The Inerrant and Absolute Word of God. This is all you may consume.”
So much of what is preached and publicized on behalf of Christian churches today consists of encouraging and sustaining not much more than pure moralizing as the basis of Christian theology.
In fact, one might hear the proposal that morality is theology another untruth. Focusing on morality – telling people how to behave – impacts public or private thinking only as it relates to control of behavior.
Preaching morality rather than the virtues of goodness – particularly the common good we all ought to be seeking – seems merely to give us mostly sermons and exhortations that limit themselves to issues defined entirely by judgmental thinking.
Humans also have repeatedly demonstrated how judgmental thinking drags the positive and negative aspects of human behavior into morally gray areas where actions seem more governed out of a concern for reward or punishment.
Judgmental thinking have at its core the idea of some kind of chosen-ness. It allows the chosen to make acceptable moral behavior that is only consistent with their literal imaginations. Judgmental thinking drives a comparative that pretends to justify one person’s superiority over another.
Reward and punishment involves the use of fear, shame and guilt which – if ever used successfully – almost always results in the right things being done for the wrong reasons. Punishment in that regard is related entirely to the use of deterrence to coerce obedience.
Could we not say that this sort of spiritual construct only works in a religious sense if God is likewise viewed as judgmental and punitive; a divine being who responds to human behavior in a manner that creates deterrence and control?
Whether spiritual or civic, such control is nothing more than legalistic religious thinking and assumption – both pointing at spiritual and civic governance by the rigid letter of the religious law. Under such a system, sin will inevitably be portrayed in the context of an offended God; becoming greatly exaggerated and elevated into the realm of criminal activity.
Subjugation to the letter of religious law is precisely the deadly environment into which Jesus was born and ministered. To deal with a fixation on controlled behavior, Jesus demonstrated a Christ Path as a divine alternative for a society totally immersed in literal and letter-of-the-law thinking.
In the 21st Century it seems that the Bible as many view it is not much more than an instrument of control; a tool and a means by which conservative manipulation of the status quo is now more important than the spread of the philosophy of the Sermon on the Mount, The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.
The more influential among religious authorities now seem to primarily subjugate the simple philosophies of Jesus’ parables. We seem to be caught in the 19th century with a monarchical vision of God that capitalizes on a wrathful Cyrus or Nebuchadneezer. Have many of our influential Christian celebrities then blended that God-of-wrath image with that of imperial power and imagery of the Caesars and Roman civil administration?
Has not the kingdom of today’s literalist scriptoral authorities come to resemble almost entirely the negative aspects of Judaism into which Jesus was born 2000 years ago?