“Are you smarter than Jesus?”
Every month or so someone from my Evangelical Christian past finds out that I am no longer a Christian and ‘reaches out to me’. Actually, it happened today.
Usually it is an out of the blue Facebook message. Most follow this format:
- It starts with a compliment. Usually something like “You have such a beautiful family, Chris.” (That is a nice start.)
- A recollection of my past as a passionate, outspoken, Evangelical Christian. “Chris, you really made a difference…”
- An expression of sadness. “That is why I am so sad to learn that you have fallen away from your belief in Jesus….”
- A simplistic speculation of cause, “Was I hurt by a women? Was I hurt by the church? Do I want to indulge in some long suppressed sin…Are you gay? Did you leave Jesus for a young, beautiful wife?
- An exhortation to return to Jesus. They often seem to believe that a few sentences from them will cause the scales to fall from my eyes and I will dissolve into heaving sobs of repentance and renewed love for Jesus.
Today I responded to one such friend’s speculations with the words of the prophet Jimmy Buffet, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame…but I know….it’s my own damn fault.”
Then I tell them that I started researching my doubts and I left my Christian faith because of the historical problems, the textual problems, the ethical problems, and the pagan depictions of God I discovered. When they then assume I am an atheist I refer them to my blog post, True Experiences False Beliefs.
At this point my Evangelical friend’s head is about to explode with outrage.
“Is your conscience more tender than Jesus’?”
Or this is a common one:
“You obviously never knew the Jesus I know!”
Or a version of today’s response:
“Are you smarter than Jesus?”
Well, in many ways I am smarter than Jesus. Jesus didn’t know Algebra or photosynthesis. Jesus didn’t know the world was round or that Alaska existed. Jesus didn’t know the Law of Gravity or Germ Theory. If you dropped me into Galilee in Jesus’ day I would instantly be The World’s Most Interesting Man. First of all at 5′ 11″ I would be the Shaquille O’Neil of the Roman Empire. The average height of ancient Romans was ranged from 5 feet to 5′ 4″. So that would be awesome. And then people would travel from around the world to hear me teach. I need to refresh my memory on how to make penicillin just in case this actually happens.
I also have unprecedented access to information that Jesus couldn’t have imagined. I just googled great ancient thinkers and spent about 10 minutes familiarizing myself with Epicureanism. I always thought it was synonymous with Hedonism. Not really. Epicurus thought, according to Wikipedia, “…that people were best able to pursue philosophy by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.” And some other interesting stuff I will look into later.
My point is that as brilliant as Jesus was he was still a man of his times. His teaching is worthy of consideration, study, and discussion. But we have learned a lot of stuff in the intervening centuries and it is completely appropriate to challenge his insights just as we do with Plato and Epicurus. And remember Jesus died in his early 30’s. How would his thinking have evolved in his 40’s, 50’s, and beyond? In my view it is an expression of respect to challenge and test Jesus’ teaching. That means I have taken them seriously. And if something is true it withstands examination.
So how do these Facebook Messenger communications with Evangelical friends end?
Too often like this one.
Let’s see…I believe we are on point 6 of the formula:
6. Express concern and outrage that not only am I going to hell but that I am actively seeking to send other people to hell. (They always seem to forget that they initiated the discussion.)
7. After a final 3 or 4 paragraph sarcastic diatribe they block me on Facebook.
8. (I had to add this the day after I wrote Step 7) They unblock you the next day to send a hate-filled message that you are Judas, an apologist for the anti-Christ, and that you were blocked because they don’t like looking at ‘roadkill’. Not even sure what that means.
The fear, the isolation, and the irrationality of Evangelical Christianity leads to hate sprinkled with Splenda and served with Shit-Eating Grins.