7. JESUS CHRIST!
Even some of Christianity’s harshest critics sometimes concede that Jesus Christ was a moral person whose behavior and teachings were compatible with modern morality. But is that really true? Did Jesus really say and do such wonderful things? Was he an example for everyone to follow? Do Christians even follow the teachings of Jesus?
In short, the answers are “no,” “sort of,” “no,” and “no.” Let’s examine the words of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible.
The Sermon on the Mount is the first lengthy set of commandments given by Jesus in Matthew, the first book of the New Testament (chapters 5-7). In it, Jesus lays out the following rules and aphorisms:
- The following groups are “blessed:” the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger or thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those about whom slander is spread in the name of Jesus (Matthew 5:3-12)
- Christians are the salt of the earth & the light of the world (5:13-16)
- Jesus’ intent is not to abolish or replace Old Testament law; anyone who fails to follow the law will be called “least” while those who teach the law will be called “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven; people who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (5:17-20)
- Jesus compares anger and insults with murder; he compares lustful thoughts with adultery; he delivers the famous “if your right hand displease thee, cut it off” analogy/commandment (5:21-30), which is repeated in Matthew 18:8-9, so he must have really meant it.
- Jesus says that women who get divorced are adulterers and men who marry divorced women are adulterers (5:31-32) — which means that they must all be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).
- Jesus admonishes people not to swear at all, either by God or anything on earth (5:33-37).
- The Son of God explicitly tells his followers not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek, and to give to whoever asks; to love all enemies and to pray for those who persecute you; and to be perfect (5:38-48).
- Christians are instructed only to pray in secret and not to pray in public at all (6:1-6).
- Further instructions for prayer: “Do not heap up empty phrases,” but instead use the Lord’s Prayer (6:7-15).
- Christians are also instructed to fast in secret (6:16-18).
- Jesus tells his followers not to “lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” meaning not to hoard money or possessions or any kind of wealth, because the treasures of heaven are more important; Jesus says that “no one can serve two masters … you cannot serve God and mammon (money)” (6:19-24).
- Christians should not be overly concerned with living long lives or worrying about what they eat and wear because God will provide for them (6:25-34).
- The famous “Judge not, lest ye be judged” commandment opens the seventh chapter of Matthew, along with other well-known commandments and aphorisms such as the one about removing the log from one’s own eye before concerning oneself with the speck in another’s, “do not throw your pearls before swine,” “ask, and it will be given to you,” the Golden Rule, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing false prophets, “you will know them by their fruits,” and the wise man who built his house upon a rock (7:1-27).
When examining these teachings, we find a number of interesting commandments which most Christians fail to follow, such as the instructions regarding money and material possessions (6:19-35), the concerns with hypocrisy (6:1-6, 7:1-5), the interpretation of divorce (5:31-32), the link between anger/insults and greater sin (5:21-22), and the admonitions against any kind of swearing (5:33-37). Admittedly, there are Christians sects (usually traditionalists like the Amish) who struggle to observe all of these commandments, but the vast majority of Christians choose to completely ignore these teachings of Christ.
This is a peculiar situation if you consider the fact that (1) Christ is the founder of their religion, (2) his commandments are supposed to be the major basis for their morals and ways of life, and (3) the Sermon on the Mount is considered to be one of Jesus’ more important lessons. Why do Christians ignore all this stuff? (See the previous section.)
A more important question is, are these teachings compatible with hc/punk? Not really. People in hc/punk should ask themselves: Do you swear? Do you think divorce is sometimes justified? Are you ever concerned about what you eat? Do you lay up treasures for yourself on earth (such as record and CD collections)? Are you ever angry or insulting? Do you follow Old Testament law? Do you ever resist evil?
If you answered “yes” to any of those, then you are explicitly disobeying Christ’s commandments. I’m guessing that most hc/punk kids will answer “yes” to most of those questions.
So much for the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s look at a few of Christ’s other teachings. I can’t examine all of them because of limited space, but I’ll try to address the ones that seem relevant to the purpose of this essay.
At one point, when Jesus is hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees get on his case about it. Jesus says that he “came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” using an analogy of a physician who visits the sick, not the healthy (Matthew 9:12-13). He repeats this point with the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). This is a sentiment that many people could agree with, yet mainstream Christianity spends most of its time condemning sinners and playing the holier-than-thou game.
Later, when instructing his disciples to go out into the world, Jesus adds these interesting words:
- “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
What Jesus is essentially saying is that if you do not abandon everything, including your family, and follow his commands, then you are not worthy. He reiterates this teaching in Matthew 16:24, when he again asks his followers to “take up [the] cross and follow me.” How many Christians prioritize Christianity in this manner? How many hc/punks?
In the great tradition of cops who run red lights and English teachers who can’t spell, Jesus exempts himself from Biblical law in Matthew 12:3-8. This should raise the hackles of any anti-authoritarian punk.
Jesus makes a mistake when he says that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds (Matthew 13:31-32). It isn’t.
Even though Jesus specifically endorsed the ancient Hebraic laws (Matthew 5:17-20), he contradicts himself by asking people to ignore the dietary restrictions (Matthew 15:16-20). Jesus says that what comes out of your mouth (presumably swearing and insults?) is worse than what goes in (i.e. non-kosher food).
Later on, Jesus stresses that people should follow the ancient Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:18-19) but he then goes on to say that even after you have obeyed those commandments you still have to “sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). So again, Jesus is saying that it’s not just enough to obey the ancient laws, you also have to give all that you have to the poor and “take up the cross” to follow Christ. In verses 23-24, Jesus then goes on to those famous words about the rich: “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus then cited the example of his disciples (who abandoned everything to follow Jesus) as one which other Christians should emulate (verses 27-29). Strangely, they do not.
We must ask ourselves: is it good to abandon our friends and families for the sake of religion? Is that something that hc/punk would endorse or support? Think about the many cults, Christian or otherwise, who demand that their followers turn their backs on everything. Observe that the mainstream Christians get all riled up about that, despite the fact that Jesus Christ explicitly commands his followers to do so! Would you consider this a good teaching of Jesus or not?
Jesus again contradicts himself in the story of the moneylenders in the temple. Even though he compared anger and insults to murder in Matthew 5:22, he drives out the moneylenders, overturns their tables and insults them by calling them “robbers” in Matthew 21:13. Then Jesus pitches a big hissy fit in verse 19 when he curses a fig tree because it has no fruit. The tree dies immediately. This seems to contradict both common sense and the spirit of hc/punk. Would you destroy an apple tree if it had no fruit for you?
I think I’ll stop here, having successfully proved my point that Jesus was not an example for all to follow. He constantly contradicted himself. He advocated death for people who get divorces. He asked that people turn their backs on their families and never confront evil. He warns us that anger is as sinful as murder, but attacks people in a temple and kills disobedient plants. All of this may be OK for fundamentalist Christians, but I think it’s more than obvious that such sentiments and commandments are not at all compatible with hc/punk.