Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jesus the War-God

Some time ago, I was speaking with a Christian over the merits of Christianity versus Islam. To be more specific, we were talking about the holy books of the two religions. He talked about how The Koran had various versus that called again and again for the killing of infidels, and he told me that I should "read it".

He has a good point, and I certainly have not read it in its entirety. I've read bits and pieces, and it's hard to deny that the calls for violence are there. I've also read enough to know that there's a bit more to it than that, but it's hardly enough for me to defend it, much less believe that this book was inspired by some sort of higher power.

I pointed out that The Bible has all sorts of violent passages as well. God gives the Jews instructions on how to carry out a proper genocide even. While one could argue that those passages are simply detailing history, and not asking for renewed attacks, it certainly isn't a far stretch to see how Christians over the centuries have used their holy book to justify all sorts of atrocities.

His response was that if you look solely at what Jesus said, it's a message of love and peace. I let him have that one, but I still think that doesn't really paint an entirely accurate picture. After all, Jesus says that he came "with the sword" - although as a teacher of English literature, it would be disingenuous of me to say that particular passage was a call to war. He was being metaphorical. Still, I don't think that 100% of what Jesus says in the Gospels is really good advice. I don't think it's right to consider lustful thoughts (in other words, basic biological impulses without which we would have been long since extinct) to be the same as adultery. I also don't think that one should completely abandon his or her family to become a follower of Christ. (I could look up and cite chapter and verse, but I hope that the folks who actually read this trust me enough to know that I'm not just making crap up when I say these sorts of things.)

Still, Jesus is a peaceful sort of a guy. Sure, if you ignore the rest of The Bible, Christianity certainly seems to be a mostly peace-driven religion. However, that's not all there is to The Bible. In fact, did you know that Jesus appears outside The Gospels? Indeed he does - and I'm not talking about Paul's vision on the road to Damascus. I'm talking about the Book of Revelation. (No, it's not "Revelations.")

Personally, it's probably one of my favorite books of The Bible for its visual imagery if nothing else. However, when Jesus makes his appearance, it's hardly the peace and love, groovy guy who gave the Sermon on the Mount. He comes in as an angry, vengeful, destructive God of War. His eyes glow with flame, a sword comes out of his mouth, and his clothes drip with blood. Kinda makes you want to go up and give him a hug, eh?

When I start my Bible unit with my seniors, I always play a little game with them where I give them a series of quotes, and they have to guess whether they come from The Bible, some other source (like the Koran) or if it's just a bunch of crap that I made up. Most of them do quite horribly, and many of them are shocked as to some of the crazy, violent passages that I take right from the Bible. (Don't panic, Christians - I end the lesson by explaining that I pulled all of those quotes completely out of context, and that they shouldn't question their faith based on a cheap stunt like that. I tell them that if they want to learn more about why The Bible says those sorts of things, they'll have to go look them up for themselves and/or ask a priest/pastor/etc.)

Sometimes, I have had collaborative classes where another teacher works in the room with me. They're usually quite shocked as well - I was even accused of making those quotes up. I gave over the chapter and verse. Kinda hard to get mad when somebody simply quotes what's actually there. (But again, I must emphasize that at the end the point is that they shouldn't just listen to people who pick and choose quotes to get them to think a certain way. If they're going to want to know what it really says, they're going to have to read it for themselves. In my class, all we cover is The Gospels and an overview of the most commonly used Biblical Allusions.)

Anyway, next time you think that Jesus is all about peace, dude, picture those flaming eyes and the sword shooting out of his mouth. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a God of War to me.


nonmagic said...

Maybe Jesus was high on hash on the HMS Beagle when he was mentioned in Revelation. sorry, I couldn't resist that one.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Jesus would never ride in such a ship of total blasphemy.