Which Message Brings Comfort, Relief, and Peace?

Yesterday, at my brother-in-law John’s military burial ceremony, the U.S. Navy Officer in charge eloquently reminded us of how John had placed himself in harm’s way for us (Master of Arms on several of our ships and Navy bases and finally Chief Master of our Navy Base in Panama). I can still hear the perfectly played “taps” echoing across the cemetery. I will not forget the meticulous removal and folding of the U.S. flag that had draped the casket, and then its presentation to John’s survivors as a thankful memorial of John’s service to his country and given to them on behalf of the President of the United States. It was a solemn occasion and I was glad to have been present.

Of course, the opportunity was not missed by John’s very orthodox pastor to rattle off many sayings from the self-proclaimed Apostle Paul’s letters as well. I was not surprised about that and had anticipated as much. The first of Paul’s sayings was a reference to John’s now restful “sleeping” (the Ancient Greek idea of Hades for those among the dead). Then came references based on Paul’s alleged visionary experience of the transformed body of his risen “Christ,” raised from “sleep” and reclothed in a glorious spiritual body. These, of course, were then applied to John as well, to be experienced by him after his “sleep,” and, unfortunately, were meant to be of great comfort to John’s surviving family and friends. Perhaps they somehow were to most. But not to others, such as myself, who have questioned the validity of those words when compared to the message of the historical Jesus. Further study of history reveals the common thinking of the times when they were written, making those words of Paul totally inadequate and completely lacking in comfort.

The next day, I felt compelled to offer an alternative message of REAL comfort to the family. Unfortunately, it is not possible to reach all the friends of the family with this message. Obviously, I was not asked to present this message by the family, so I suppose it may be considered as an intrusion by some during this delicate time. However, my own recent and close encounter with death by a severe staph infection, which left me feeling more ill than I have ever been in my lifetime, had also caused me to focus on my personal discovery of the comforting message of the historical Jesus, an alternative message which I think is worth sharing no matter the timing. It is too important and comforting not to share. But first some vital historical background.

Paul’s Christianity was basically Greek mythology (Zeus and Apollonius) on steroids. Paul transformed the original Jerusalem church’s teachings of Jesus’ brother James and the other chosen Jewish Apostles who were concentrating on trying to make the OT Torah fit in with Jesus’ liberating message of “the kingdom” being already present and at work on earth. But Paul transformed their teachings into his own new cosmic apocalyptic vision, which he claimed he had received secretly in Arabia from “Christ” himself and which totally redefined Judaism’s “messiah, kingdom of God, Israel, and Torah” concepts. Paul’s new mystic religion, proclaimed among the Gentiles, included such teachings as resurrection, baptism, and the Eucharist (reflecting the Greek religious tradition of Osiris), and became the primary influence for the “gospel” writers’ accounts that were written one and two generations after Paul’s letters to his Gentile Christians that were written between 50 to 60 A.D.

The Romans considered most of these teachings as superstitious and persecuted early Christians for practicing them. But by the beginning of the 2nd century, Paul’s “new cosmic gospel” to the Gentiles began to dominate over the message of the historical Jesus still followed by some Jews. And still later, through the official theological Council’s editing of the NT, and their acceptance of Paul’s “gospel” of the atonement through Christ’s innocent bloody payment, together with accepting his other visionary claims of a mystical resurrection and the sacred meanings behind his baptism and Eucharist practices, these official church sanctions finally and effectively all but eroded away the historical Jesus’ message of the Father’s merciful, unconditional and accepting presence within us here and now. (Again, it was Jesus’ message that the Jerusalem church under the leadership of Jesus’ brother James had been trying to keep alive prior to Jerusalem’s destruction and their demise under the Roman’s mighty force of arms.) But Paul’s vision of his new “Torah of Christ” finally took hold and gained momentum with the proclamations of Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. After that, the sword prevailed in the name of the cross, and the inhabitants of Asia Minor, Europe and North Africa lived in fear of that sword if they would ever dare choose to believe or teach otherwise, such as continuing to profess the older teachings of Judaism or perhaps still preferring to follow the more hopeful message of the historical Jesus instead. A few of the latter followers escaped the tyrannical demands of Athanasius (the Bishop of Alexandria and author of a famous Christian Creed), by moving into seclusion far south in Egypt and taking their copies of several different banned collections of Jesus’ sayings with them. This alone should tell us something about the tyrannical nature of the churches and governments that were led by Paul’s apocalyptic mystic “gospel.” It was as if they already had the permission of their sky-god to begin purging the land of unbelievers, even prior to the predicted coming of the end-time judgment.

However, there still exists an alternative message of the OT pre-captivity Prophets and the message of the historical Jesus, both being essentially the same. It is a message hidden among all the weeds of the official Bible – Unconditional love, forgiveness, acceptance, revealed by a mirrored presence of the Creator/Father within humanity, a presence that from the beginning has been creating liberty and the freedom to forward that same tension-relieving humane message to eventually change the behavior of all humanity. It is meant to comfort the Father’s human family, even strangers and enemies, right here and right now. Such was the message of the Father’s justice. It was what life was all about for the historical Jesus! (Jesus was ridiculed for practicing an amazing table fellowship with everyone, especially the non-religious folks.)

That same message of the ever-present merciful kingdom found among loving humans was preserved in the Jesus’ sayings collections written in Aramaic, banned by the official church, but hidden in clay jars in caves far south in Egypt and finally discovered in 1945. The collections mention nothing of the historical Jesus’ birth, life, death, or resurrection, but only recorded his sayings as they were remembered and passed on from generation to generation during the first and second century. (I keep referring to the “historical” Jesus in order to contrast him with the “Christ” of Paul and the NT gospel writers who adopted Paul’s “Christ” into their narratives.) The Father’s unconditional loving message and presence makes life better for all around. His loving justice confronts the “original sin” idea and the need for salvation through a perfect sacrificial payment as being nothing but myths conjured up by apocalyptic payback mindsets. “Mercy without sacrifice” was the call of the Prophets and the historical Jesus. Period. (Sadly, both the Prophets and Jesus were also either killed or brought to civil authorities for punishment by controlling religious leaders with apocalyptic payback justice mindsets.)

The Father’s eternal patience with our prodigal behavior is indeed astounding, and it is downright offensive and scandalous to the payback justice mindset of the most religious among us!

But equally astounding is the undeniable fact that the comforting message of the Father’s unconditional love creates a relief from a building tension within humanity, like letting the air out of a balloon that is about to burst with worry and fear for its future. Now THAT is the Father’s restorative justice at work! Humanity’s future is undoubtedly secure because of this ever-present unconditional justice! Let THAT be our comforting thought during troubling times, like the death of a family member or a friend for example! The consciousness of this message is as comforting and as certain as our also knowing that the Father’s eternal presence within us will NEVER leave us or forsake us, even during the death of our bodies. And that tells us that we will most assuredly live on, beyond our death, and NOT having to “sleep” in some trumped up Hades waiting to be called out on a a final day of judgment, but rather continue after death with an immediate conscious existence with the Father and all his beloved children who have passed through death before us.

Take in this relieving and comforting news! Thirst for it and thank the Father for it each and every day. It will eventually bring peace on earth, something which no other message has been able to do. It will give you strength to overcome all your obstacles and all your worries and fears. It will permit you to forgive and love yourself and then forward that forgiveness and love to others around you, even to strangers and to your enemies. It mirrors the Father’s own justice among us, a liberating message indeed.

Although many theologians have speculated about the details of another existence following death, those details remain unknown to us, probably because they would be too difficult for us to understand anyhow. Those who have returned from a genuine near death experience report precisely the same observation and call the experience indescribable in any human language. So we will let the thought of such eternal matters of the Father go without any further comment, because we have so very much more to do and enjoy right here and right now.

In summary, forget about an apocalyptic second coming of Paul’s “Christ” together with his Greek-like claim that those who are “asleep” in his “Christ” will rise from the dead with their newly transformed spiritual bodies, and especially forget about an end-time judgment day with an everlasting hellfire created for enemies and for unbelievers who did not accept the salvation proclamation of religion! (Little wonder why Christians have used the sword and other horrible methods to kill their unbelieving neighbors! They have merely imitating what their apocalyptic sky-god plans to do.) Just like all apocalyptic predictions that have a 100% fail rate, they just ain’t gunna happen! They are all myths coming from an apocalyptic payback justice mindset. There is simply no need for them to happen either, because those who have died have already slipped safely into another astounding and surprising existence with a loving Father who never left them. Besides all of that, our Father of unconditional love would never even dream of such apocalyptic nonsense that Paul writes about, much less participate in a horrendous end-time judgment apocalypse.

Celebrate the good memories of John’s life. Celebrate his laughter and the generous goodness that non-family friends remember him for. Celebrate your lives too, here and now. Celebrate the REAL good news from the Father of unconditional loving acceptance. Celebrate that news with everyone, here and now. Celebrate it by being a mirror of its loving kindness to everyone around you, here and now. And finally, celebrate “skidding into death sideways – Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body used up, totally worn out, and screaming “WOO-HOO, what a ride!”

My love to all of you,
Henry Hasse – January 5, 2013

Note: Several of the historical references made here can be attributed to the meticulous scholarship of James Tabor, PhD at the University of North Carolina.

Published in: on January 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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