Continuing from Part 2.
The separation between the religion of Jesus and the religion about Jesus is not only huge, but has continued over many centuries. And that means that there are reasons for this separation.
As we’ll note momentarily, Jesus was a terribly advanced person, and other people simply weren’t ready to act as he acted. It has been easier to follow a religion about Jesus than it has been to follow Jesus directly. More than that, those who start by following Jesus directly are usually pulled into a religion about Jesus quickly enough.
I’m not saying these things have been done with malice in the majority of cases, because I don’t believe they have. But they have happened all the same.
So, are people now ready to move from a religion merely about Jesus, to the religion that he practiced? Are they able to do that? Because if they aren’t able, bringing up such a thing, publicly, would be an act of cruelty. It would be like ripping off their coat in a blizzard and giving them nothing to replace it.
I, however, believe that average humans… average Christians… are more than able to rise to this choice. I think that humanity is far better than most of us presume it to be. I quote this passage from G.K. Chesterton’s The Defendant often, because I think it is a beautiful expression of a true and important concept:
Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelly, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
I believe, based upon a continuing stream of evidence, that humanity at present is far better than advertised. More than that, I believe we are capable of become far better than we are now. Bad news sells papers and keeps tyrannies in power, but news that reflected reality would leave us believing in our virtues and capacities.
What comes of this remains to be seen, of course. My job is to put it into the world and to support it as well as I can. It is up to the people who read and hear these concepts to do something about them. I have no group for anyone to join. Those who agree will have to forge their own paths, as they should. Following the great leader is an evasion of responsibility and effort. It bears the seed of a return to servitude.
The Way of Transformation
The wonderful thing about the religion of Jesus it that it’s far more transformative than the religion about Jesus. That statement is based as much on my experience as it is on anything else, and so you’ll have to make up your own mind, but if you examine it honestly I’m confident you’ll come to the same conclusion over time.
Jesus didn’t care at all about rituals, symbols and traditions. But he always cared about good seeds being planted in people. He cared about those seeds growing until they bore good fruit. And, very importantly, he wanted these things to be done naturally and organically (“first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear”), not by obedience to external standards. As Ernest Renan noted so well, “Never has anyone been less a priest than Jesus, never a greater enemy of forms.”
Jesus did not want mankind’s obedience a higher being. He didn’t want them to bow down and grovel. He didn’t want them to force themselves to conform. Rather, he wanted them to become better in actual substance. All that matters to Jesus is the real, the essential. Everything hinges on actual substance, and on nothing else. What matters – the only thing that matters – is what you are and what you become.
In this you can see why the religion about Jesus seems easier: You can be sure of “salvation” based upon your standing with a human organization, by your participation in physical ceremonies, by saying some magic words. The way of Jesus, however, concerns what you are on the inside, and accepts no evasions.
Jesus is gentle, accepting and eager to help, of course – he says so clearly – but his only focal point is what we are on the inside.