Tuesday, November 8, 2016
The Failure of Institutional Remedies: The Philosophy of Jesus Christ
"I'm from the government and I'm here to help." This phrase has been described by many as, "the scariest nine words in the English language." Who can argue, given the government's penchant for bungling, corruption, expense, unreliability, ad infinitum. The real issue isn't that government is bad per se, it is just that institutions in general have proven to be the most inefficient and least desirable method of getting things done. It has always been so, yet that hasn't prevented us from depending more and more on institutions to govern our everyday lives. The reasons are fairly simple and here are the two most important significant.
First: institutions must ensure their own existence to perform the task for which they are designed. For example, let's imagine that we were to start an institution to aid blind people- if the institution were to cease to exist, we could no longer help the blind. Therefore, the primary purpose for which the institution is intended is supplanted by the institution's need to exist...the original purpose is relegated to secondary status.
Second: every institution, movement, or organization is eventually usurped by its very worst element. One need only look at what has happened to our government over the last 250 or so years. What began as a beautifully conceived experiment in democracy has degenerated into a cesspool of corruption, on both sides of the aisle. I don't think we need to go further with this, the evidence is overwhelming and it is not limited to the public sector. This has been going on as long as there have been institutions. Jesus understood this better than anyone.
We look at Jesus in the context of having been a religious figure. But, I would argue that he was not... if anything, He was an anti-religious figure. Let me make it clear, I'm not an atheist- I believe in God, Jesus is my Lord and Savior- I am a Christian. Having said that, I look at the teachings of Jesus as a spiritual guide for the individual, not as a religious text. God created man. Man created religion and with it, religious institutions. Institutions that share all of the fallibilities of all institutions. In the Gospels, I have not found any passage in which Jesus instructs his disciples to "go out and start a religion...and by the way, name it after me." The closest I can find is when he says of Peter, "upon this rock I build my Church." This was the beginning of Christ's ministry. A church is not a religion. It is a group of people bound by a common belief.
When Jesus came and began his ministry, the religion in His region was Judaism. One issue that necessitated God assuming flesh and intervening was that Judaism had come to emulate the political structure of the Roman state. Instead of tending the spiritual needs of the flock, it had become a hierarchal system of oppression. The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes had become virtually omnipotent in religious matters, as well as corrupt. We all remember the story of Jesus and the moneychangers from Sunday school. This was Jesus rejection of religious institutionalism.
I read where Jesus was supposed to have been similar to Libertarians. This is not true. Jesus encouraged His followers to be good citizens. "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is god's." Jesus teachings are completely apolitical, except for the previous passage. Jesus' message can be summarized by the Golden Rule, "Do unto others..." and "Love thy neighbor..." In other words, if your neighbor needs help, help him as an individual, not by contributing to some institution in hope that they will render aid. Christianity did not begin as a religious institution, but a small number of autonomous churches bound by the teachings of Jesus. It wasn't until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD that a common doctrine was established. In fact until then there was a good deal of disagreement about many issues that faced the nascent Christian movement. It would be difficult indeed to presage what Christianity would evolve into.
Having read the Gospels numerous times as a religious text, it was not until I read them as a work of philosophy that I came to understand the message that Jesus was imparting. Philosophy, and it's by-product, ideology is the engine that drives societies. I look at the Gospels as a guidebook for living in the community of man. I know that this will undoubtedly make some people upset but, in my opinion, religion has done more harm than good...in fact I believe that religion is the worst thing that has ever happened to God. It is the unthinking adherence to religious ideals that causes problems. Blind obedience to principles created by men, rather than the teachings of the Son of God, is what leads people astray. Look at radical Islam. Those people believe that they are going God's work. So do the members of Westboro Baptist Church. They are pawns of institutions similar to Republicans and Democrats who believe that the leaders of those institutions have their wellbeing in mind.
Jesus knew all of this. When he said, "the only way to the Father is through me," he meant that blind adherence to institutional dogma will not get you into Heaven. It is a personal relationship with Christ and adherence to His principles that will get you there. The gospels are full of anti-institutional teachings. When Jesus says, "I knew ye not, " to people who claim to have performed miracles in His name, he meant that these so-called preachers did their deeds for selfish reasons or as part of some institutional paradigm. Well, that's my two-cents worth. I encourage everyone to reread the gospels...with an open mind this time. Not as a member of one church or another, but look for Jesus message to YOU, as an individual. Try it as a philosophical work instead of a religious text...it was written for you. Jesus wants YOU to be saved and no institution will get you there.