June 15, 2011

Christianity Part II: Paul

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Have you seen the South Park episode about Joseph Smith? Above is a relevant three minute clip.

Back to "our" Bible, New Testament: Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, and was resurrected. Four different accounts, called Gospels, have been deemed reliable sources over the centuries. There is debate about the identities of the Gospel authors, but they appear to be based on firsthand accounts and generally corroborate each other. The four Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Book of Luke is usually attributed to an historian called Luke the Evangelist. He is also assumed to have written the next book in the New Testament, called Acts of the Apostles (normally referred to as "Acts.")

In Acts 9 Luke introduces this new character named Paul. Paul was a persecutor of the early Christian church. Paul never met Jesus when he was alive, but for whatever reason he just really hated Christians. Then one day, on his way to the city of Damascus to kill some Christians, he had an encounter with God and was converted to Christianity. His companions may have heard a sound or seen a light of some kind (accounts vary) but we only have Paul's account of what God supposedly said to him (thus the comparison to Joseph Smith).

So God talked to him and told him to stop being such a dick, and suddenly Paul is the star of the New Testament. He authored 13 of the 27 texts that made it into the New Testament. Paul's writings are mostly letters (or "epistles") to the churches he founded and to his assistants.

Granted, Paul was imprisoned and persecuted for his work in the early Christian church. Just because he was persecuted doesn't mean he was right, or sane. The argument for Christianity often hinges on whether Jesus Christ was a Liar, Lunatic, or Lord (who He claimed to be). Nobody seems to question that we're making a huge leap from whether or not Jesus was the Son of God to whether or not Paul was a legitimate representative of Jesus Christ.

There's a wonderful quote often attributed to Ghandi (but it probably wasn't him):
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
So true. Why do I suppose that is? PAUL.

Paul Had Some Lofty Opinions of Himself

His letters all start with pretty much the same introduction:

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God..."
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope..."
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus..."
"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior..." (ooh, that's a good one!)
"Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus..."
Here's an especially disturbing one:
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 5: 1-5 (emphasis mine)
Okay, so Paul was Paul's biggest promoter, I suppose. And we're just gonna take his word for it, huh?

Paul Was a Separatist

Jesus was notorious for hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and whatnot. It was sort of his "thing." Befriending and converting those whom society looked down upon. So where does Paul get off:

"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame." -1 Corinthians 15: 33,34
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." -2 Corinthians 6: 14-16
"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." -2 Timothy 2:16
"Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ." -Philippians 3: 17,18
Paul Was a Fear Monger (and a little obsessed with sexual immorality.)

The truly scary thing about these quotes is that Paul is claiming to know the will of God. You can argue that I'm taking things out of context and not showing an understanding of the times in which Paul was living, but the fact remains Paul makes some HARSH and SPECIFIC declarations about what God's gonna do to these people if they don't listen to him. Again, what are his qualifications? Oh yeah (see video clip above).

"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." -1 Corinthians 6: 18-20
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." -Ephesians 5: 3-5
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." -Colossians 3:5,6
"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before." -1 Thessalonians 4: 3-6
"All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." -2 Thessalonians 1: 5-10
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." -2 Timothy 3: 1-5
Oh, and by the way -

Paul Was a Misogynist

Christians are often so quick to judge Islam for the requirements it places on women. This is the New Testament, people. These aren't some obscure laws from Genesis, these are all Paul.

"I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." -1 Timothy 2: 9-15
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." -Ephesians 5: 22-24
"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." -1 Corinthians 14: 34,35
"A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." -1 Corinthians 7: 39,40
"A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." -1 Corinthians 11: 7-9
"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." -Titus 2: 3-5
"As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan." -1 Timothy 5: 11-15

My opinion? If Paul was speaking for Jesus Christ then so is Fred Phelps, and we're all in a lot of trouble. I think Paul singlehandedly undid much of what Christ tried to teach. Sure, Paul had some nice stuff to say ("Love is patient, love is kind...") but much of that nonsense that drives Christians apart from the rest of us came from Paul. The negativity, the judgment, and the separatism? Paul.

So what was the real message of Jesus (according to me)? Stay tuned.

-Kim     NEXT Check Out: A Tale of Two Christs

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