Omar & Felix,
If Christ was an "apocalyptic prophet with a message of division, exclusion" and the spirit of his message must always be "put into context", then the claim that his message is a universal one is patently false. He was just a middle eastern Jewish guy who lived a long time ago. Advertisers use things people think are nice and good as powerful associative tools. Associate sex and youth with some product - sell that product. Associate Jesus with some religion - sell that religion (let alone associating some religion with some modern nation state). But Jesus and Christianity don't mix so easily. The whole spirit and direction of his message is completely against the grain of the tradition he was a part of. Of course he utilized many aspects of the cultural narrative of the time. That's how you gain a voice. Was Jesus's death the blood sacrifice that would put an end to the need for any other blood sacrifices? Did Jesus himself actually believe, in any way, shape or form, that blood sacrifice has anything at all to do with spirituality? Could we trust his words if he said he did?
Hebrews 9 wrote:23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
It's a clever narrative invention, and it was apparently a powerful one. But a narrative invention isn't enough - the spiritual practitioner must free himself or herself from the bonds of external tradition, and not resist the Holy Spirit. The point is to not cling to the past, to not cling to "context". "Heaven", of course could refer to the realm of purity; of open universality, as opposed to "division", "exclusion", "context". Christ presented an open, universal message. That message can be dragged through the mud, but it remains pure and inviolable. Yes, Christ presented a nearly impossible challenge to the world. We can live pure and fearless lives, or we can narrow our world according to our fears. Failure to read between the lines and grasp the essence of Christ's message is a reflection of our fears. We don't think we can do what he said we should do, so we pretend he didn't really
say what, deep down, we know
We know the spirit of Christ's message, but we're afraid of that message so we bog it down in "context" and academic interpretation.
Christ didn't come to bring peace, as Omar points out. But what is the nature of this "sword" he wields? Did he claim that people "deserve to die"? No, he claimed that family and friends would reject his followers for their beliefs.
Was Christ's message truly universal? The entire world can be converted to Christianity, but that doesn't mean the message is universal. I do think Christ's message is universal, but to make such a claim I think you have to discern what his message "really is", as opposed to finding historically and politically situated quotes and working like hell to coordinate it with all other statements and have it all magically mesh in the end into a single cohesive story. But it never does - religious narrative always relies on constant invention and reinvention. Is the essence of Christ's message about blood sacrifice? Is it about heterosexuality? Is it about "fulfilling the old testament"? Is it about fig trees and doves? Or is it about love
Mark 2 wrote:The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.