“Thousand Flower Jesus” contemporary figurative painting
Jesus Versus the Fundamentalists
Psychologists sometimes use inkblots to tell what’s really on a person’s mind. They squirt ink on a piece of paper, fold it in half, then unfold the paper to reveal a pattern that could look like anything in the same way a cloud can look like anything. They show a series of these prints to the patient and ask them to say the first word that pops into their mind. The psychologist writes down the patient’s responses and looks for a pattern in the words to see if they suggest a problem like anxiety or guilt or depression. For example, if a patient said words like chainsaw, knife, blood, etc, it might be safe to assume that they were still traumatized by something like a recent car wreck. This test is called a Rorschach inkblot test.
The Bible contains such a vast amount of stories and themes that it serves as a type of Rorschach test for what’s in a person’s heart.
For some Christian Fundamentalists, the main purpose of Christ is that of the resurrected God who will come back at the end of the Apocalypse and punish the wicked in accordance with the fire-and-brimstone prophesies of the Book of Revelations. For these Christians, the emphasis of the Bible is about the grand sweep of history and the collapse of the world due to sin. For them, Christ’s life and teachings were just a short period in a much larger Bible, just four books out of a total of 66.
These four books are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and they contain Christ’s actual words and teachings. There are commandments such as “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” And “If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And that sort of thing.
For some Christian Fundamentalists, the most important thing about these words is that they seem to prove the moral superiority of the Christian faith and its right to replace all other cultures. Besides, a Fundamentalist can always find something else in the Bible to contradict these inconvenient commandments if they get in the way of their political agenda. In fact, there’s a whole lot in the Bible about killing people because they disagree with what you think God is telling you to do, so there’s plenty of material to justify whatever type of behavior you decide to pursue.
The Fundamentalists don’t really seem to accept the fact that Christ associated with whores and lepers and sinners. That doesn’t fit in with the Fundamentalist agenda of “taking this country back.” They prefer the “eye-for-an-eye” stuff and burning the harlots and witches and all that sort of stuff. At best, Christ’s value seems to be that of a torture victim, and the blasphemous non-Christians are responsible for the lion’s share of His suffering. Thus the Fundamentalist is justified in despising anyone who disagrees with basic “Christian” tenets and lives a life of sin.
If God wanted us to interpret scripture literally for political purposes, why did Jesus prefer to speak in symbolic stories called parables? This is not a mere coincidence. A major theme of Christ’s life and teachings was His opposition to the fundamentalists of His day, a group known as the Pharisees. Christ said that the Pharisees were following God in name only even though they followed the scriptures to the letter. Christ urged His followers not to pray in public like the Pharisees because this was vulgar and proud and hollow. Instead, Christ urged His followers to pray in secret and to pray with humility. Christ never prayed for the defeat of his enemies or for the victory of any chosen nation.
The Bible contains every theme and tone imaginable, and God is often indistinguishable from the tribal gods of primitive societies, at least in terms of vengefulness or hostility toward the human race. For an unquestioning believer, the miracle of the Bible may be that every word of it is the exact word of God as He meant it to be, but an even greater miracle could be described like this: In spite of being the product of history, error, politics and every other flaw of human nature, the Bible still manages to contain the word of God if we only have the humility to see it.