~~ Jesus: Gentle and Loving ~~
Most Christians portray Jesus from the New Testament as loving and peaceful. In fact, most Christians would hold Jesus Christ up as the ultimate model and innovator of love and peace. A very persuasive argument can be made that the teachings of Jesus were often beautifully moral; however Jesus was not as loving and peaceful as modern day Christians would like us to believe. For example, those who do not believe in Jesus' divinity will be "cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6 KJV) In Luke 19, Jesus is explicit in his parable about killing those who do not want to be ruled over by him. The Book of Revelation is anything but loving and peaceful. In Matthew 10:34-37, I fail to find the morality in Jesus telling his disciples that he did not come to bring peace, but rather a sword. He came to turn family members against each other (also mentioned in Luke 12:51-53). Anyone who dares to love their parents or children more than Jesus is not worthy of him. This is again drilled into us in Luke 14:26 when Jesus says "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." There is and always has been a religiously-twisted perception among Christians that it is of utmost importance to place Jesus before our own family. To be forced to love and yet fear a figure like Jesus Christ is the essence of sadomasochism. While compulsory love is not a virtue, none of this compares to the ultimate evil.
The concept of Hell, which is responsible for the wicked installation of fear into billions of children throughout history, is introduced to us by the gentle, peace-loving Jesus in the New Testament. Hell is never mentioned throughout the Old Testament. In fact, the afterlife is a topic that is barely broached in Judaism and a single, consensus view of the afterlife is unobtainable even today. The closest the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible comes is through the use of the word "sheol" which simply means "grave". In Judaism, everyone goes there when they die. Conversely, the afterlife has been expanded upon greatly in both Christianity and Islam. This begs the question of whether or not Hell was important enough for God to tell Moses about or whether Hell is even real to begin with. If it isn't real, the pain, suffering, and fear that this concept has inflicted upon billions of people are unforgiveable making this the single most immoral thing ever preached in the last two millennia. Is a reasonable person supposed to believe that God never felt Hell was an important enough concept to mention until the gentle Nazarene arrived on the scene?
Additionally, many of Jesus' teachings were not original concepts or even consistent. For example, the teachings about love and forgiveness could be found well before Jesus in Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Confucius, Plato, and the Jewish sage Hillel all preached the "golden rule" centuries before Jesus. The only difference between the previous "golden rules" and Jesus' version is semantic in nature. Jesus simply reworded it in a more positive manner which doesn't negate the fact that as a Jew, Jesus would have already been exposed to these concepts. In most cases, Jesus plagiarized existing concepts. Even though Christians regularly attribute the concepts of love and forgiveness to Jesus, neither of these concepts was unique or original. In fact, of the original concepts attributed to Jesus, many are downright immoral and detestable. Jesus, on more than one occasion, teaches and encourages the abandonment of family (Luke 14:26-27 and Matthew 19:29) and renounces his closest relatives (Matthew 12:46-50). Jesus tells his followers to "take no thought for the morrow" (Matthew 6:24-34) which I've always believed had both a benign message (don't let daily worries overwhelm you) mixed with more short-sighted, immoral messages (God will always provide tangible things and don't waste your time planning for the future as the end is very near). Christians believe that Christ was unique in that he fulfilled Jewish prophecy. It seems like a rather obvious question, but if Jews do not believe that Christ fulfilled their prophecies, why should anyone else? After all, these are their prophecies. The Jewish religious leaders at that time thought Jesus was a fraud and imposter. At no point did they believe Jesus to be the Messiah, and unlike the folks who eventually wrote the gospels many decades later, these leaders were much closer to being eyewitnesses to Jesus.
For a silly, yet morally-questionable example, a good chuckle can be found in the story of Jesus and the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22). It becomes apparent that Jesus was not as nice and benevolent as his followers might suggest when we read about him acting like an immature child who didn't get his way - juvenile actions hardly worthy of the distinctive title of Lord.
"Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered."
If Jesus was the ultimate model of love and peace, why not simply give the tree the ability to bear an abundance of fruit? Why was his first instinct something negative? It would have displayed to his followers a more moral example of his power by magically having it able to bear fruit. There are more examples like this throughout the New Testament where Jesus shows both tolerance and intolerance through his actions and teachings.
Jesus of the New Testament had many positive messages so it is not my intention to dismiss, disparage, or belittle the moral teachings themselves. I believe that many of the stories, when separated from their divine claims, can still find some relevance today. The problem lies with the very common perception of Jesus as a moral innovator and the ultimate teacher delivering the most perfect words of peace, love, compassion, and forgiveness. The inconvenient truth is that this perception isn't as true or rosy as Christians would have us believe. If Christianity, one of the world's most powerful and far-reaching religions, is truly a religion that preaches love, respect, forgiveness, and peace, one should be able to expect a commensurate influence on love, respect, forgiveness, and peace in our world. At a minimum, we should at least be able to expect a commensurate influence on peace among believers of Jesus and yet we don't see that. Christianity portrays itself as peaceful, yet the inconvenient truth is that after more than two thousand years, it has not lived up to that billing. For centuries, it was deemed not only appropriate but imperative that heretics be tortured and killed. St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and countless popes advocated this among many other contemptible acts. Christians today are certainly able to interpret the Bible and Jesus' message any way they deem appropriate, but it should not go unnoticed that their interpretation is often vastly different than those of the most influential and venerated patriarchs of their faith.