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article imageFaux Christians: A Field Guide to Spotting Them

By John Rickman     May 11, 2007 in World
Chris•tian (krĭs'chən)
1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
2. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
3. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.
This seems like a fairly straightforward definition, doesn’t it? And yet for almost two thousand years people have been gleefully killing one another over precisely who can and who cannot call themselves a follower of the “Prince of Peace.” No other religion in history, not Buddhism, not Hinduism, nor Tao or the teachings of Confucius not even Islam has had such a bloody history, although in light of recent events Muslims are rapidly closing the gap. Even the concept of a “Holy War” can be traced to Christianity, which was over six hundred years old when Islam and jihad were born.
From the early days of the church, to the Crusades, where soldiers of Christ rode through the streets of Jerusalem in blood up to their horses knees and clasped blood stained hands in prayer in the very Church of the Holy Seplecur, to the Inquisitions in Europe and America, to the Witch Hunts and the wars of religion, the blood of Christ has been all but washed away in a sea of human misery caused by those who profess to be his followers.
Schism came early to Christianity and within the lifetime of the Apostles churches were wrangling with one another over who could and who could not be a member.
The first such wrangle that we know of centered over whether or not it was necessary for new converts to be circumcised. The Apostle James, Jesus’ own brother, and the other members of the Church of Jerusalem, men who had actually known Jesus, said that it was while the Apostle Paul, whose only experience of Jesus was a vision he claimed to have had on the road to Damascus, argued that it was not.
Prior to this encounter Paul, a devout Jew, had been chiefly noted for his relentless persecution of Christians but following his conversion he gained an equally formidable reputation for his dislike of heretics. An example of the level on which this important debate was conducted can be found in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:
O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?
Galatians 3:1-3
In the end it was not be force of argument, as brilliant as these may have been, nor by loving admonition that Paul won the day. A tireless proselytizer he won out over the friends and family of Jesus chiefly because he commanded the largest contingent of believers. And thus a president was established. Much like Napoleon Paul discovered that “God is on the side of the big battalions.”
No sooner had this controversy been quelled however then a fresh one broke out over what Paul called “false believers.” In Galatians 2:4 he complains of:
“False Christians were brought in. They slipped in as spies to learn about the freedom Christ Jesus gives us. They hoped to find a way to control us.”
So thoroughly did Paul win this fight that even who these so called “false Christians” were and what they believed has been lost to history. However the most interesting thing about this case is that to this day there are Biblical scholars and believing Christians who do not believe that Paul actually converted to Christianity at all and that he really simply kidnapped the religion he so hated and twisted it to his own ends in order to continue to persecute true Christians.
A close reading of scripture will certainly reveal that there is a major difference between the version of Christianity preached by Paul, and his followers, and that advocated by Jesus’ own brother James. Whereas Paul was chiefly concerned with the redemptive power of faith alone, James, who had grown up in the same house as Jesus, emphasized that faith without works was meaningless.
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn't cause you to do any good things.
James 2:14-17
What James, who knew Jesus personally recognized, that Paul, who had never met him was unable to figure out, was that the ministry of Jesus was primarily about love and social justice and not about looking out for number one.
What most Christians, who are not Bible scholars, do not know is that none of the Gospel writers ever in fact met Jesus and that, so far as we know, James is the only person who actually saw him to be included in the Bible.
Mark, the earliest of the Canonical Gospels, was written sometime between 68-73 CE, more than a generation after Jesus’ death while Matthew, the next in line, was written between 70-100 CE. Luke was written between 80-100 and John, the only non-Synoptic gospel was most likely written sometime between 90-110 CE.
Over two centuries of modern Biblical research has further revealed that all the so called “Synoptic” (meaning one eye) Gospels relied on outside sources of information to round out their stories. The general scholarly consensus is that each of the Synoptic authors had his own source of information and that they all also had access to a separate document which is now referred to as “Q” from the German word quella meaning source. Q was most likely simply a list of sayings with little or no context included and it was the work of the Synoptics to provide that context from their own sources—or imaginations.
There are modern Bibles available which print all the actual words of Jesus in red and all the filler material in black. If one wishes to discover what the ministry of Jesus was truly about, as opposed to what other people said it was about, then the best way to get to the truth would be to confine one’s study to the actual words of Jesus and ignore the filler, especially that provided by Paul.
When we do this we discover a message of social justice which emphases bonds of love that are suppose to unite us and the debts of conscience we owe to the unfortunate in the world, a message remarkably similar to the one we find it the writings of his brother James and having almost nothing to do with the preachings of Paul. A brief list of some of the high points of Jesus’ message would include such sayings as:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works"
Matt. 5:16
Which is remarkably similar to what his brother tells us:
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?
James 2:14
Of all the themes that Jesus preached the one he returned to over and over again was how little he cared for those who took an interest in their own welfare or who thought it noble to “take care of their own” and left the poor to shift for themselves.
"If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Matt. 19:21
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" Matt. 6:19-20
"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" Matt. 5:42
"Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.
Luke 12:33
"When thou makest a not thy friends, nor thy brethren…but….call the poor" Luke 14:12-13
Second only to this were his injunctions on mercy and love:
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father" Luke 6:36
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" Matt.19:17-19
"As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" Luke 6:31
"Love one another as I have loved you" John 15:12
"Do good to them which hate you" Luke 6:27-28
Any he had scant pertinence for those who would set themselves up as the judges of their fellow humans:
"Condemn not" Luke 6:37
“Judge not lest ye be judged!”
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”
John 8:7
So what have we learned about separating the goats from the sheep, or the true Christians from the Faux? The ministry of Jesus was about love and justice and not about judgment and self-aggrandizement, it was about humility and not about using the message of Jesus’ love as a way to feel superior to others because one has developed the conceit that they are “saved” and that that others are damned. Chances that if you think of yourself as saved then you are most certainly dammed for Jesus had no use for the arrogant and self-satisfied.
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matt. 11:29
To paraphrase the First Century Rabbi Hillel “That is the whole of the law. Everything else is mere commentary.
Go and sin no more.
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