Monday, June 22, 2009


i started the last post with this statement -- 'i have long considered the conservative christian designation to be an oxymoron.' at that point i was distracted and wandered off down another path. let me return to that thought and explain why i consider conservative christian to be a contradiction in terms.

definitions of conservative contain phrases such as: resistant to change; cautious; a person who is reluctant to accept changes and new ideas; unimaginatively conventional; people who generally like to uphold current conditions and oppose changes.

resistance to change is inexorably linked the notion of conservatism, yet, to be genuinely christian without experiencing fundamental change is an impossibility. sadly, in the minds of many, the idea of change as a part of what it means to be christian is noticeably absent. popular culture seeks a christian faith that reinforces its image of itself.

one critique i would offer regarding the weakness of contemporary christian faith is that it has as its foundation the teaching of paul rather than the teaching of jesus. this is significant because paul was a pharisee, i.e., a member of the class that jesus criticized harshly. paul, as far as we know, never met jesus. his 'encounter with christ' was a vision [an hallucination] on his way to damascus.

this is important because many of the 'fundamental' doctrines of the 'christian' faith are based on the teaching of saul of tarsus [paul] rather than jesus of nazareth. the understanding of 'christ' in contemporary christianity is filtered through the lens of paul the pharisee.

jesus criticized the pharisees for their focus on ritual, tradition and outward appearance. jesus taught saying 'you have heard it said... but i say to you...' turning tradition on its head and encouraging independent thought. the teachings of jesus are focused on the deeper foundational message of the hebrew scriptures rather than the literal 'letter of the law.'

paul preached a universal application of pharisaism, not the teachings of jesus, becuase paul had no first hand exposure to jesus' teaching. granted, the teachings of jesus that are available to us at this point were not recorded by eyewitnesses as jesus spoke, nor are they eyewitness accounts, but there is a distinct voice or timbre to the teachings that does not resonate from the writing of paul.

paul, for example, condemns homosexuality and a variety of other 'sins' whereas jesus consistently demonstrated unconditional forgiveness. jesus lived as a model to his disciples whereas paul deified jesus to make following his example impossible. jesus' message was follow me, whereas paul taught follow the law and worship jesus.

jesus condensed the law into a single simple liberating teaching -- love the lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. his definition of neighbor was anything but conservative. 'the world is my neighbor' teaching of jesus is the very definition of liberal.

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