Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus: Reasonable Conclusion or Religious Conviction?

Recently I read the book “Cold Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace.  The author is an experienced “cold case” criminologist, and applies techniques of his trade to assess and evaluate the accuracy and authenticity of the biblical claims of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Evidently, this book is a popular read among those who maintain that there is actual evidence to sustain the claim that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historic event.  Having given the book a serious read, I wish to offer my thoughts regarding.

I was for the most part impressed with his call to logic and appeal to reason as a means to conduct a homicide investigation. I love reason and logic, and as the author  worked in the profession of criminal investigation, then certainly a careful, disciplined, and systematic approach to every case he encountered must have been paramount in order for him to arrive at the truth as to “who dun it” (I simply LOVE “who dun its”; I am a sucker for a detective flick!!!)

That said, I was impressed with his use of logic relative to his profession as recorded in each respective example which opened every chapter. I did see the connection between logic and deductive reasoning as applied to any such circumstance involving witnesses, claims, and conclusions. His principles are logical and practical, and can be exercised efficiently in any situation which involves claims and necessary conclusions. Frankly, since I work in the automotive field myself, I likewise utilize these very principles on a daily basis as I attempt to interpret and evaluate a car owner’s claims about what his/her vehicle is doing relative to finding the cause for such claimed activity.

Now, I do take respectful issue with two particular lines of reason employed by the author relative to how he connects his numerous cold case murder scenes with an interpretation of New Testament writings:

1. The author builds a case on the concept of witnesses, yet among the New Testament writers, there are few who claim to be actual witnesses of any of the events which they recorded. It is of course true that the New Testament writers claim the validity of certain events, yet they do no claim to be witnesses of such. They merely claim the validity of such events.

I will elaborate more on this below, but for now I merely wish to assert my disapproval at building a case on the concept of witnesses where folk make very few such claims. It seems to me that the New Testament writers are for the most part merely “claimants” in that they make claims of the certainty of events, yet for the most part they are not “witnesses” for they did not witness such events (nor do they claim to have witnessed such events). This is particularly the case with reference to claims of the resurrection.

2. The author criticizes skeptics with reference to not allowing the possibility of supernatural explanations, yet I know full well that he would not for even a moment give the concept of a supernatural explanation serious consideration while attempting to solve a crime. And since he bases the very concept of the entire book on alleged similarities between solving cold case crimes and interpreting the New Testament writings, I find this particular element of his book somewhat inconsistent, to say the least.

Having so evaluated the book in general, I wish now to offer thoughts as to why I maintain that it is not reasonable to believe in the actual historic resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. More specifically, I maintain that there is not sufficient evidence with reference to the resurrection of Jesus to warrant the conclusion that he actually arose from the dead. In fact, to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead is to conclude the least likely possibility under the circumstances.

In so doing, it is not my intent to insult anyone’s intelligence or deny anyone’s right to private opinion.  I do however wish to assert my thoughts that a belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is by no means a reasonable conclusion based upon actual evidence.  Rather, I wish to suggest that belief in the actual resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is a religious conviction based upon gradual indoctrination, which is not to be confused with a reasonable conclusion based upon actual evidence.

That said, these are my thoughts as to whether it is reasonable to conclude that the supposed resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historic occurrence:

Firstly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead because there are no known statements made by actual witnesses that the alleged event actually took place.

Now, there are many statements made by claimants well after the alleged resurrection supposedly took place, but even these make no claim to be eyewitness accounts of the alleged event. There are furthermore many statements made by claimants as to there having been witnesses of the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But there are simply no known statements made by actual eyewitnesses of the alleged event itself.

Secondly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the claims themselves that the event actually took place and that there were witnesses of an allegedly resurrected Jesus are by no means contemporary to the supposed resurrection itself. In fact, the earliest known statements by claimants that such occurred are not made until at least 20 years after the event is supposed to have taken place, and even then, those claims are recorded by a man who never even knew Jesus at all. For the fact is that the earliest known references to the alleged resurrection of Jesus are the many references which are traditionally attributed to Paul, yet those claims themselves are no more contemporary to the supposed resurrection than 20 years afterwards.

Furthermore, the earliest known writings which describes the context itself of the trial, execution, burial, and sightings of an allegedly resurrected Jesus are no more contemporary to the supposed resurrection than some 40 years. Even then, the original writing of the earliest recorded descriptions; traditionally attributed to Mark, are by no means available to us today. In fact, the earliest known copy of that statement dates to some 80 years after the alleged event. Perhaps most disconcerting is that the earliest known complete gospel of Mark narrative dates to some 280 years after such narrative was originally written, which is over 300 years after the resurrection allegedly took place!

Frankly, not only is the case of “did Jesus actually rise from the dead” a cold case investigation, even the statements made by the claimants are “cold claims” in that the statements themselves are by no means contemporary to the alleged event itself. I daresay even the most experienced and the most capable of cold case criminologists would be hard pressed to definitively solve a case when there are no known statements made by actual eyewitnesses, and even the earliest statements made by claimants attempting to describe the alleged crime scene itself are not made until some 40 years later.

Thirdly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the statements made by the claimants are not consistent with each other. The accounts of the alleged resurrection differ as to several details, including what day he was executed, what time he died, what the final words of Jesus were before he died on the cross, who buried his body, how many women visited the tomb after the alleged resurrection, what the women saw when they visited the tomb, what the women did after visiting the tomb, the order of alleged appearances by Jesus after he supposedly rose from the dead, and even whether he ascended back to heaven within a day after he supposedly rose from the dead, or whether the ascension took place over a month later!!! And these are merely some of the contradictions of some of the claimants who assert that Jesus actually rose from the dead!!

Now, do these contradictions of the various statements of the various claimants discredit the claims themselves that Jesus actually rose from the dead?

In my opinion, these contradictions do not in and of themselves discredit the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. In fact, it seems unreasonable to presume that a number of different claimants of any alleged occurrence would actually recollect all events the same. Furthermore, since there is no way of knowing whether ANY of the claimants who assert that Jesus was resurrected from the dead actually saw or even knew him personally, it would seem unreasonable to expect these accounts to be consistent as to specific details. Frankly, the conflicts and inconsistencies as to specific details relative to their claims are only natural. But therein lies the issue: These accounts were ONLY NATURAL!

In other words, whereas the contradictions and inconsistencies as to certain details relative to the statements of the various claimants do not in and themselves discredit the claims, nonetheless such contradictions and inconsistencies do in fact discredit any claims that the claimants themselves were writing under the influence of divine inspiration. If further follows then that these contradictions and inconsistencies likewise discredit any claims as to the inerrancy of such claims themselves.

Such being the case, then these claimants are only human, and are therefore given to the natural tendencies and limitations of all such beings. Furthermore, the written claims themselves being the product of natural claimants as opposed to being the product of divine inspiration, then it subsequently follows that the claims themselves are open to inconsistencies and errors.

Such is only natural. For the claimants themselves are but natural humans, and their written claims are but natural human writings. That being the case, then it is only reasonable that their written claims should be evaluated naturally, and the process of assessing any conclusions from such should likewise be in accord with any other such natural conclusions. Which leads to my fourth and conclusive thought regarding whether to conclude that the alleged resurrection of Jesus actually took place or not.

Fourthly, and finally, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the claim itself is simply not credible.

When dealing with natural circumstances the very concept of supernatural involvement should logically be regarded as the least credible of all possibilities and consequently the last of all possible conclusions. So much so in fact that in any cold case crime investigation, supernatural involvement as to the actual cause would not even be given serious consideration. And with good reason. Regarding supernatural involvement in any situation as being the least credible and the last of all logical conclusions is simply reasonable and rational.

Frankly, supernatural claims require supernatural evidence in order to be given any serious consideration. In any natural situation.

In conclusion, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because:

1. There are no statements from eyewitness to confirm the claim.

2. There are only claims, and none of those are contemporary to the alleged event.

3. There are multiple contradictions and inconsistencies between the claimants.

4. The claim is not credible in and of itself.

That said, I maintain that belief in the resurrection as a matter of faith and religious conviction is certainly a prerogative open to anyone.  However, that right acknowledged in no way gives credibility to the claim that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.  In fact,  there is simply no evidence sufficient to warrant the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus was an actual historic event.

Thus I conclude and unequivocally maintain that  it is simply not reasonable or logical to conclude that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.

On Poverty and Social Obligations (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

Although I no longer regard the Bible as more than literature created in the human mind and crafted by human hands, I nonetheless do find this ancient material interesting, if not downright fascinating.  And more specifically, I find certain sections of the writings contained therein reasonable if not downright practical.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 is just such a very passage.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the human condition as it truly is.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the reality of poverty.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it offers a realistic and practical resolution to the realities of poverty.

The following is the text of Deuteronomy 15:7-11; which is very specific as to the obligations imposed by the Hebrew culture as to the real world issue of poverty.  (The text is copied and pasted from biblegateway.com.  The bold lettered emphasis is mine)

DEUTERONOMY 15:7-11:

7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

My comments:

1.  This passage addresses the realities of the human condition:  “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

2.  This passage addresses the fundamental problem with regards to how those with money all too oftentimes tend to relate to the poor.

  • Hesitantly

  • Begrudgingly

  • Resentfully

3.  This passage is clear as to the responsible party with regards to resolving the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those with the means to resolve the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those who had the money to give to the poor.

4.  This passage is clear as to the obligations of those with the means to assist the poor and with the money to give to the poor:

  • They were to give to the poor.  Period.

  • Even if the timing was such that the loaner would likely not receive back the full money, because of “the year of release” (cf Deut 15:1-2).

  • Those with the means were to give to the poor.  Period.

5.  This passage is clear as to the attitude with which those with the means were to assist the poor:

  • Freely

  • Willingly

I regard Deuteronomy 15:11 as a passage which addresses the realities of the human condition and the resolutions thereof in an unmistakably clear and concise social commandment:

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

Oh that humanity never had to suffer the condition of poverty; but so many do. (Deut 15:11)

Oh that humanity would periodically release the debt of the poor; with no conditions and no  strings attached; if only they would.  (Deut 15:1-2)

Oh that humanity would “open wide” their hand and their hearts to the poor and the needy… if only they could see it in their deepest sense of compassion to do so…..

Oh that humanity cared as much about the suffering of others in this world, in “the here and the now”; as they do about the fear of their own suffering in “the afterlife”……

“open wide thine hand unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land”…..

Plenty of opportunities out there to do so……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3KoJj4dz2I

Remembering Jimmy Porter

Jimmie Porter

What you are about to read is a brief story of a man whose life and influence upon those who knew him personally is beyond measure.  Jimmy Porter was not a celebrity, but in my opinion the memory of such a man should be celebrated and cherished for as long as those who knew him personally are still here to recollect his life and his deeds.

As you are about to read, the name “Jimmy Porter” lives on in my hometown of Carrollton, Texas in the way of a City Park and an annual Civic Award.  I applaud the leaders of Carrollton for continuing to honor him so.  At the same time, I acknowledge and admit that so much time has elapsed since his death (we lost Jimmy 30 years ago this coming December) that the number of those who knew the man, and I mean really KNEW the man is surely dwindling.

Which is one of the reasons I repost this article (which I have slightly modified this year) every February on my blog and on my Facebook page.  But it is more than that.  Much more than that. Unfortunately I don’t know that the words exist which can adequately express my deepest felt reasons for wanting people to read of the life of Jimmy Porter and to recollect his deeds. I guess it is simply this:

Jimmy Porter was one of the finest human beings that I personally have ever met.  He personified in “living color” (no pun intended) what it is be HUMAN.  To socialize, to relate to his fellow human being, to love, to care, to enjoy life even though he lived in poverty, to care, to care…. I mean to really, truly care about his fellow human being.

In my opinion, Jimmy Porter lived THE SPIRIT of humanity.

And so as I prepare to share again “The Story of Jimmy Porter”,  I simply want everyone to know as you read these words, that you are reading a brief description of a man who REALLY knew what life was truly about.  And lived it.

And so in honor of Black History Month, and in memory of an old friend; I once again share “The Story of Jimmy Porter”:

Approximately a mile South of the George Bush Tollway in Carrollton, Texas; immediately south of the railroad tracks as they cross Josey Lane, there is a City Park where young girls and boys play Little League Baseball and where families entertain their children on pleasant weekend afternoons.  This certain park has been a source of such leisure for over 40 years.

Near the Concession Stand, a plaque records a brief history of the establishment of the park and features an engraved image of its namesake. The bronze image has faded with time, in fact the smiling face is barely visible. Albeit the engraved image has faded, the image of Jimmy Porter is indelibly stamped within the memory of every person who grew up in Carrollton, Texas during the mid to latter 1900′s. When I stand before that fading bronze image of an elderly black man wearing a baseball cap, my mind drifts back to a time when there was no such place as the “Jimmy Porter Park”. I recollect a time when an elderly black man, wearing dirty blue jeans and a faded work shirt, soaked with sweat, would be seen walking down Perry Road carrying several wooden baseball bats upon his shoulder, headed in the direction of the baseball backstop of Carrollton Elementary. On his balding head was any one of several stained baseball caps, and attached to his bats were several old baseball gloves. At his side, he carried a bag of well worn but still useful baseballs.  His slow but steady gait was that of a man who was intent on a mission. For Jimmy Porter; whose daily duties when I knew him consisted of mowing lawns and doing general labor, everyday was a quest. For whenever this elderly black gentleman was seen walking with bats over shoulders in the direction of town; everyone knew that Jimmy Porter was ready…. for that next “pick up” baseball game….

It was the Summer of 1969.  Nixon was in the White House, the Soldiers were in Vietnam, the Hippies were at Woodstock, Neil Armstrong was on the moon, and Major League Baseball was celebrating its 100th birthday.  I recollect somewhat of those national events, but frankly I did not care.  I was a typical 8 year old who was just glad to be out of school for Summer Break!

It was the Summer of 1969 when I first met Jimmy Porter.  At that time, he was just the nice old black man who played ball with all we locals at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary.  Although he was not there every day, when he was there all the neighborhood kids would congregate like parishioners at church for our religious practice of  “pick up” baseball with this old black man who we simply called “Jimmy”.  (A few years later I learned that Jimmy operated somwhat of a “circuit” in order to accommodate us all.  Some days he was at the backstop of Central Elementary to play ball with the kids in south Carrollton and north Farmers Branch.  Other days he was at the backstop of Good Elementary to play ball with the children of North Carrollton.  And then there were the days that he was at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary, which was just down the street from where I lived).

Little did I realize at that time just how influential this man would prove to be in my life.  Nor could I even perceive of the influence that he would have on the lives of all the children of my hometown.  Most of all, I simply had no concept in the Summer of 1969 of the history of the nice old black man that we kids simply called “Jimmy”…..

Jimmy Porter came to Carrollton in the 1920′s after a brief career as a Negro League baseball player in St. Louis. Jimmy; who had been born in Tennessee in1900, arrived in town unemployed and uneducated. In consideration of the times; he seemed destined for a life of poverty and obscurity. Although Jimmy was poor;he was anything but obscure. Jimmy Porter would become the best known and most loved man in Carrollton, Texas! He lead parades; was the namesake of the aforementioned Jimmy Porter Park; appeared on television, and even received a house from local businessmen before his days were done! The account of the events which lead this young, unemployed black man to be honored as Carrollton’s most celebrated personality is the story of Jimmy Porter….

Shortly after his arrival in the 1920′s, Jimmy formed a black semipro baseball team known as The Carrollton Cats. He played for the Cats for several years, until they eventually disbanded. Yet he continued to promote the game he loved so dearly. In fact; eventually Jimmy helped to influence city leaders to found, and was himself a coach in the Carrollton Little League. Even after his “official” coaching days ended, he continued to teach children the game of baseball by way of informal“pick up” games. EVERYONE was welcome to play baseball with Jimmy Porter! Boys and girls of all ages would participate in the grand ole game under the supervision of this kindly old gentleman. The games were casual. Jimmy selected the teams; and he always made sure the youngest and the smallest got to bat first. He even provided the equipment. The wooden bats usually had nails driven through the barrel due to cracks; the baseballs were worn; and most his gloves were left-handed; but everyone was welcome to use his supplies. Jimmy usually did all the pitching; and he definitely did all the umping.  At the end of the game; every child left with a hug from the kindly old man.

Jimmy was a role model to the children who idolized him. He had a gift for making every child, regardless of skill or lack of athleticism, feel special. As time went by, the children who adored him grew to become the citizens of the city he had embraced so many years before. Every year; he rode in the front of the firetruck that lead the Opening Day ceremonies of the Carrollton Little League. He grinned and waved as he tossed candy to the children who ran down the street yelling his name. His attendance at any Little League game was an honor for the children, and obviously was a joy to the aging Jimmy. He was always allowed a select seat directly behind homeplate, and was well known during the games to verbally encourage each batter. Whenever a player got a hit; Jimmy would wave his cap and holler in approval. Just as he had done in his “pick up”games; Jimmy made each child feel like the star of the game.

In time, Jimmy became the most celebrated citizen in town. In 1973 Jimmy Porter Park was constructed and dedicated in his honor. The monument with his picture (now badly faded) was erected there in 1975. Furthermore, a beautiful oil painting of Jimmy was displayed in the Carrollton Community Center. In 1977; Jimmy, who had no children of his own, was awarded a lifetime membership by the Texas PTA. Furthermore, Jimmy appeared as a guest on the Today Show in 1982. As his health declined, several local citizens; many of whom had grown up playing baseball with Jimmy; had a one bedroom house built for the elderly Porter. Jimmy, who at one time had lived in an abandoned railroad car on the North edge of town, moved into his new home in 1983. He lived there for the brief duration of his life.

Jimmy Porter died on December 11, 1984. His modest gravestone features 2 baseball bats crossed at the barrel. Every year the city of Carrollton presents a citizen who excels in community service with The Jimmy Porter Award. Those who actually knew the man remember his passion for baseball and life; and his compassion for one and all. Such was the life of Jimmy Porter….

Jimmy Porter; b Sept 2, 1900 (Tennessee)

d Dec 11, 1984 (Texas)

(Note: I dont get back to Carrollton much these days. But when I do, I make the effort to visit the grave of my old friend. His final resting place is but a few steps from Perry Road, where I often saw him walking, bats over his shoulder, heading towards the backstop of the playground of Carrollton Elementary…. on a quest for that next “pick up” baseball game…  We miss you Jimmy.)

The Words of Jesus Regarding “The Judgment Day”

Interesting thing about Jesus’ version of “the judgment day”.

In Jesus’ version of “judgment day”, he does not tell those who were so poor that they need to be fed by others:

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”

Nor in Jesus’ version of “judgment day” does he tell those who are homeless:

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”

Nor in Jesus’ version of “judgement day” does he tell those who are sick and in need of someone else to provide for their healthcare:

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”

Nor even in Jesus’ version of “judgment day” does he tell those who are in prison:

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”

Interesting.

What is even more interesting is that Jesus DOES tell those who fail to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, provide healthcare for the ill, and even take care of those who are in prison:

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”, and then he simply sends them “away into everlasting punishment”.

Interesting.

Ah well, surely Jesus did not ACTUALLY mean what he said here… right?

I mean, surely Jesus is using figurative language here… right?

I mean come on man, surely Jesus is not SO CONCERNED about real life situations like the well being of the poor, the homeless, and the incarcerated that he would ACTUALLY make such scenarios a criteria for eternal judgment… would he?

Besides, everyone knows that people who are so poor that they cannot feed themselves or provide shelter for themselves are in that condition due to no one’s fault but their own… right?

So I am not ACTUALLY  accountable in Jesus’ eyes to ACTUALLY help those people… right?

And Healthcare is a privilege to be purchased and not an inherent human right to be provided for.. right?

And prison conditions, hey, that is not my concern.  Those people in prison gave up their rights when they committed crimes against society and humanity…right?

I mean surely Jesus is gonna take these types of factors into account on Judgment Day… right?

Besides, surely even if I do pass judgment on the poor as being lazy and therefore I do not believe in providing for their welfare; and I figure I have to work hard to pay for my house so why should anything just be given away to the homeless, and I figure that since I have to work hard to pay for my Healthcare then I therefore naturally oppose Universal Healthcare for all on principle; and I am not in the least concerned about prison conditions since those people are just getting what they deserve….

Surely I will not be accountable for such perspectives on Judgment Day.. right?

I mean, SURELY so long as I take my family to church every Sunday, and pray before every meal, and even stand and sing “God Bless America” at the same time everyone else does; then little things like turning my back on the poor, supporting denying Healthcare for all, and my opinions on prison conditions won’t be held against me by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… right??

….. right???

MATTHEW 25:31-46 (source: biblegateway.com, bold lettering mine. Dave)

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Not to worry people.  These are JUST Jesus words as to “THE  JUDGMENT DAY”.

Not to worry   …. right?

On God and The Human Condition

If a person requires the concept of a deity in order to be sensitive and caring, or kind and compassionate; then by all means such a person should serve their God by being sensitive and caring, kind and compassionate.

If on the other hand, a person’s concept of a deity encourages that person to be insensitive to the suffering of the poor, and indifferent to the circumstances which lead to such suffering, then it seems to me that such a person should review their concept of “God”.

Life is The Jericho Road

One of my favorite Parables attributed to Jesus is about a person who gets beat up, left for dead, ignored by religious leaders, and gets helped by another of conventional society’s misfits.

I love this Parable.

This Parable is not about God.

This Parable is not about Heaven or Hell.

This Parable is about life.

This Parable is about “the real world”.

This Parable is about “The Human Condition”:

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’[h] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”[i]

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[j] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

(Source:  biblegateway.com)

My thoughts:

Life is the Jericho Road:

This parable is often called “The Parable of The Good Samaritan”.  Note even the heading above as copied and pasted from Biblegateway.com.

But I maintain that this is actually “The Parable of Those Who Wish to Justify Themselves”.

The text itself is quite clear on the matter.  Jesus told this story in response to an individual who is attempting to justify himself in response to being told to love his neighbor as himself.

This is “The Parable of Those Who Wish to Justify Themselves”.

There are many people in life who “wish to justify themselves”.

Life is the Jericho Road:

There are people in life  who will beat you up and leave you for dead.

Thugs is what they are.

Life’s thugs.

Life’s thugs may not always actually hit you with their fists.  But they will sure enough kick your teeth in and leave you  helpless.

Life’s thugs do not always operate as “desperados”.

LIfe’s thugs may very well wear business suits.

Life’s thugs may be Wall Street investors or CEO’s.

Life’s thugs are those who ruthlessly take from others, and do not concern themselves with the well being of those who they plunder.

Life does have its thugs.

Life is the Jericho Road:

There are people in life who get beat up and left to their own resources.

These people are the victims of life.

These people may live on the streets just blocks from where you live.

These people may very well be checking out your groceries at your Corporate operated “Market”.

Or these people may be victims of War.

War which is ironically waged by a “Christian Nation”.

These people are victims of life.

Life is the Jericho Road:

There are people in life who are “comfortable”.

And like the Priest and the Levite on the Jericho road….  they choose to “pass by on the other” side when they encounter life’s victims.

Like the Priest and the Levite they have places to go and things to do.

Perhaps they must “pass by on the other side” in order to go to Worship Service.

Perhaps they must “pass by on the other side” in order to go to Men’s Prayer Breakfast..

Perhaps they must “pass by on the other side” in order to go to Ladie’s Bible Class.

Whatever the reason, there are many in life who are so comfortable with their lives that they have not the inclination to be bothered by the problems of the victims of life.

And so they choose to “pass by on the other side”.

Life is the Jericho Road:

There are some in life who actually have compassion.

There are some in life who may actually have sincere pity for the plight of others.

And these folk may very well be society’s misfits themselves.

They may be minorities.

They may be “illegals”.

They may be openly Gay.

They may be Atheists.

They may be worse yet:  Liberals.

Whatever they are, they certainly can be no lower on the scale of “conventional society” than was the Samaritan in the parable as told by Jesus.

The Samaritans were scum in the eyes of the Jewish society of Jesus’ day.

Kind of like minorities are all too oftentimes regarded in our society.

Kind of like “illegals” are all too oftentimes regarded in our society.

Kind of like Homosexuals are all too oftentimes regarded in our society.

Kind of like Atheists are all too oftentimes regarded in our society.

And kind of like Liberals are all too oftentimes regarded in our society.

Indeed there are Samaritans on life’s Jericho Road.

Good Samaritans.

Good people.

People who actually care.

For such is what set the Good Samaritan apart from the Priest and the Levite.

The Samaritan differed no more from the Priest and the Levite than minorities, “illegals”, the LGBT community, the Atheists, and the Liberals differ from conventional society today.

So what did set the Samaritan apart from his religious counterparts in “The Parable of Those Who Wish to Justify Themselves”?

He had compassion.

He had mercy.

He actually cared.

Jesus said it, not me:  “Go and do likewise.”

Life is the Jericho Road.

A Choice to Make

The distinction between me and the indifferent Universe in which I exist is quite simply this:

The Universe is indifferent to the suffering of others by its nature.  The Universe quite frankly has no choice in the matter, for the Universe by its nature, lacks the capacity to care about anyone or anything.

I, on the other hand, have a choice in the matter.

Hence, when I am indifferent to the suffering of others, my indifference and lack of sensitivity is a matter of personal choice.

The choice as to whether to care or not is mine to make.

If I am indifferent to the suffering of others, and insensitive to their plight, I have no one to blame but myself.

The Human Condition

The human condition seems to be an endless quest to seek an ever fleeting comfort.

The fact that our efforts are exerted in a realm of continuous resistance to our efforts to that end merely manifests the bizarre absurdity of the human condition.

And so we enjoy the favorable experiences of the human condition.

And so we endure the hard times.

And so we eventually die.

Thoughts on MLK’s Speech: “Beyond Vietnam”

What a wonderful experience I had yesterday day evening.

I had the most educational and revelational experience of listening to the original cut of Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

Mr King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech was delivered on April 4, 1967, exactly one year to the day before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Beyond Vietnam” is one of the most informative and sincerely delivered speeches I have ever heard dealing with the topic of American militarism and US imperialism.

“Beyond Vietnam” was met with harsh criticism by those “in high places”.  (Perhaps the good Reverend stepped on some toes?)

Listening to this powerful speech which called out the US not only for undue aggression but also for political agenda in waging misery on the peoples of societies who are helpless in the wake of our warmongering ways, I was reminded that not much has changed in the last 45 years.

I would that every school child were permitted the opportunity to listen to “Beyond Vietnam” at least once a year as a practical means of their educational experience.

I offer posthumous thanks to Martin Luther King for attempting to appeal to our humanity in an effort to enlighten us as to the evils of war, and to challenge us to rise above our “leaders” and be sincerely compassionate and caring people.