Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before!
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle, see his banner go!
– Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), from “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (1865)
Christianity itself is the central obstacle to the advancement of Jesus in the modern world. Jesus is an extraordinary historical figure! His is the only documented instance where an aspect of the genuine Godhead lived among us as a human being in order to better understand what it is to experience human life so He could teach us more clearly how to use our lives to achieve greater spiritual growth. The more we learn about the life of Jesus, the more gigantic that life becomes! God chose to be born as a human being. God lived among people as one of us. There never has happened, before or since, an event so extraordinary, so flat-out cosmic.
Please pause now and really think about this. As you think, you will find that worlds of amazing and empowering information about what God really is, what you and I are, and the depth and height of God’s perfect love will dawn in you, and will uplift and delight you. We aren’t talking about just some religious ideas! Jesus is a genuine historical figure. There is in fact a Collective of Perfected Beings that continuously manifests what we perceive as reality. And Jesus is of the highest aspect of that Godhead. All of this is TRUE. God chose to be born on earth out of love for each of us individually. You can sit like the Buddha in lotus position and contemplate this simple set of facts, and your heart will swell with joy. The name of Jesus has been widely known for almost two thousand years, but it is only now that we understand enough of what actually is going on to be able to start to appreciate what a truly gigantic figure He is!
But even to this day, very few people have any awareness of the genuine Jesus. He is silenced and belittled by the very people who claim to most revere Him. The Christian religion doesn’t teach what Jesus taught, except in vague and general terms; but instead, it teaches a barbaric doctrine that is the opposite of what Jesus taught, and also the opposite of everything that we now know about the Godhead. That brutal doctrine is the reason why our churches are filled with instruments of torture, why so many Christians are afraid of death, and why the most devout Christians so often seem to be truly unpleasant people, insular and judgmental of others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Christian scholars refer to that despicable core Christian doctrine as “substitutionary atonement.” It is the primary teaching of the Christian religion, this notion that Jesus came to sacrifice Himself to God on a cross as a substitute for us, and His sacrifice means that if we are Christians we can escape God’s judgment and condemnation. Without the Lord’s sacrificial death, God would not forgive us even for Adam’s sin, and God certainly wouldn’t forgive us for our own sins. Incredibly, that barbaric set of beliefs is the core and heart of the religion that actually was named for Jesus! He told us two thousand years ago that the genuine God is perfect love, but even today the Christian God continues to demand that we claim participation in the torture and murder of God’s own Son or God will send us straight to hell. Please pause now and think about this. Was there ever a more petty, sadistic, and venal human-made idea than that? Was there ever any idea that more completely went against the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ than the notion that God needs to see Him murdered before God can forgive us for being human?
Christian theologians have tried in various ways to put lipstick on this pig of an idea. Some have turned the study of the Gospels into a mere technical study of their words, with little effort made to use those words to better understand the events of that truly remarkable life that God spent on earth. Others have celebrated the concept of substitutionary atonement as the culmination of Old Testament law, and challenged squeamish modern Christians to get past the off-putting ickiness of it and embrace it as God’s most powerful gift. But most Christians just try to accept it without having to think too much about it. Jesus is each Christian’s get-out-of-hell-free card. To question that is to risk damnation, so anyone who questions it must be cast away from Christian society and ignored.
I have heard from many hundreds of lapsed Christians over the past decade. Most of them were in their fifties or older, many had been lifelong members of one of the primary Christian denominations, and nearly all of them had fallen away from church attendance for one main reason. They no longer found the primary Christian teachings to be believable. That image of God as a loving Father Who nevertheless wants to watch His Son being tortured and murdered may have made sense to more primitive people. But it makes no sense whatsoever now.
And it is all bogus, anyway. It’s a set of entirely human-made notions, with no connection to the genuine Godhead. Christianity features the patriarchal and cranky human-made God of the Hebrew Old Testament, which bears not even a passing resemblance to our perfectly loving Godhead. And the Christian dogma of substitutionary atonement is solidly rooted in the basic Old Testament concept of providing sin offerings so the Hebrew God will forgive us for our shortcomings (see, e.g., Lev 4&5 and Num 6). We know where it comes from! And more to the point, we know that it is anathema to the glorious God on earth Who is Jesus the Christ. Let’s see how the basic Christian teachings that are attendant on substitutionary atonement directly contradict the words of Jesus. Christianity teaches that:
There is no justification whatsoever for any professed Christian to continue to believe that “Jesus died for our sins.” Or needed to. That may have made perfect sense to iron-age primitives who worshiped a human-made and human-shaped God, and it might have made at least a modicum of sense to Medieval monkish scholars who had no way to get better information. But now it makes no sense at all. Christians can justify substitutionary atonement only for the sake of Christianity’s longstanding tradition. And what would Jesus have to say about that?
“Why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? … You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (15:3, 7-9). Ouch.
You cannot objectively sit down and read the four canonical Gospels without realizing that Jesus was trying to wean us from outmoded religious ideas and help us to begin a new and more intimate relationship with Spirit. What else can He have meant when He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (MT 7:7-8). I think it even can be argued that He was trying to abolish the idea of religions as outmoded by His Gospel teachings, but we needn’t go that far to see that He was trying to do some religious housecleaning! And He plainly considered His Gospel teachings – the same teachings that Christians now largely ignore – to have been the heart and core of His mission on earth. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (JN 8:31-32). Doesn’t it strike you now that His saying He had come to give us the “truth” that will “set you free” is rather a curious thing, if Christianity is right, and all He really was about was redeeming us from God’s judgment?
The Gospel teachings of Jesus on love and forgiveness are not just the easy platitudes that Christianity has made them out to be. When He gave us those teachings, no one could have known that we come to earth to raise our consciousness vibrations away from fear and toward more perfect love, and that the Lord’s teachings are the most effective way to achieve the most rapid spiritual growth. But we know that now! And since we know that, we also now can see that the fear-based teachings of Christianity, based as they are in a false notion of God, have become the literal enemy of the genuinely saving work of Jesus as He teaches us ever more perfect love. Next week we will courageously consider the most fear-based Christian teaching of all….
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod;
We are not divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
– Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), from “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (1865)