This weekend I went through the rather lengthy process of moving out of the sweatbox that I’ve been calling an apartment for the last two years – a sad moment in my life despite the many frustrations I had harbored for the place during my stay there. Sitting alone in my room, desconstructing my Ikea furniture one screw at a time, sweat coming out of pores that I had scarcely been aware even existed, I cut my finger. Now normally when I cut my finger, I usually just follow it with the usual exclamation of pain and then continue on doing what I was doing. This time though -sweating from the many curious places on my body, tired from the obscene lack of sleep that I had barely enjoyed the night before, hungry from having to rush out the door at seven in the morning – I yelled the words, “Jesus Christ!” followed by an ashamedly long string of obscenities (admittedly it did make me feel better about the whole situation). Letting out a heaving sigh as I felt all my frustration bubble to the surface, I sat down on my Parmesean-cheese-smelling couch (no one really knows why it smells like that) and took a small, rather cheesy breather. Maybe it was the intoxicating cheese fumes emanating from the couch, but at that moment a few thoughts occurred to me.
I found my thoughts drifting towards the deity whose name I had just taken in vain, and I began to wonder what Jesus was like when (if?) he was alive. Jesus was a carpenter, was he not? And I’m sure he didn’t have ready access to handy dandy pre-made gloves from the Home Depot just off of Route 1. And I’m equally sure he got his fair share of splinters and cuts and scrapes in his time, and I’m sure there was more than one moment in his life in which he was sweating out of pores he scarcely knew existed. And I’m also sure that he got pissed at those times – for those of you who would argue that Jesus would never get pissed, I’m going to presume that you’ve never had a heavy piece of timber fall onto your toes while you’re tired and sweaty. It’s annoying. Really, it is. I can hardly imagine that getting pissed at a splinter lodged under your thumb nail or a stubbed toe would in anyway decrease the value of one’s good deeds, let alone the good deeds of the purported savior of mankind, Jesus Christ. People get frustrated. It happens.
I don’t really know if Jesus Christ existed. I mean really, do you? But whether or not he existed is beside the point. Jesus, as a religious icon, is a well known symbol of compassion and sacrifice. And let’s not get Jesus and Christianity confused: you could believe that Christianity is just a vehicle for war, terror, and homophobia, yet one could not deny that Jesus Christ is meant to be a symbol of peace and love of man. Some people get confused about what “peace” and “love of man” really mean, hence the war, terror, and homophobia.
I have a funny idea. Let’s not make Jesus divine anymore. Why? Because divinity is an excuse for men to justify their actions: they claim that their actions are in line with the will of some greater unseen and unknown power, and that therefore they are in the moral right. Basically they’re just bullshitting. I don’t really understand how one could go out and murder people and displace whole families from their homes all the while bearing a symbol of peace and love. It literally doesn’t make any sense, and if you think it does, you’re an idiot. I’m sorry, but you are. Sinners must be punished for their actions; of course retribution must be had against those who defy the principles of peace and love. But do you really know what a sin is? Do you even know what good really is? Who the hell are you to even make that call? It’s so easy to load the notions of “good” and “evil” with one’s own conceptions that the line between the two become almost entirely incomprehensible in a broad sense – what is evil for one is good for another, and vice versa.We’ve taken “good” and “evil” and placed it completely out of our reach in the hands of some unseen and unknown power, and it is here that everything goes all wrong. This sort of thing is not only lazy, but defeats the entire purpose of the conceptions of “good” and “evil.” Rather than take responsibility for our own actions and find punishment and reward from within, we look out and blame something that’s not even there for our behaviors.
A: “Why didn’t you kill that man?”
B: “Because God would punish me.”
Am I the only one who sees that something is fundamentally wrong here? Does anyone else even comprehend how lazy a statement that is? “Let’s not sin because we’ll get punished!” Whoever says this is a friggin’ coward, first of all, and it is only out of cowardice that they are good, not out of genuine goodness. Or does anyone get the vicious circularity of a statement like, “Let’s not sin because it’s bad!” But where does the conception of “bad” come from in the first place, if not from one’s own head? Divinity just gives us an excuse to blame something that’s absent for what we should blame ourselves for. It gives us an excuse to manipulate and twist “good” and “evil” into conceptions of our own design and thereby justify just about any behavior, and we do so in complete arrogance: only an arrogant man claims to know the will and face of God.
Let’s place morality and good and evil back into the hands of man, because it is only in our hands that those things have any meaning in the first place. What does God need with your goodness? It’s other men who need your goodness. It’s for the sake of others that we act kindly, not for the sake of God, and definitely not for the sake of ourselves. Being kind is a lot of hard work and requires a lot of sacrifice. It requires one to give up one’s own selfish desires in exchange for the well being of others. All humans are animals: we have desires and needs that need to be satisfied to make us happy. Yet we are supposed to be more than animals; we’re supposed to be men. Men are beyond nature itself because we are able to see worlds that are beyond the natural world. But if we cannot see past our own nature, our own, selfish and animalistc nature, then can we really yet call ourselves men?
Jesus was a man. Jesus was a human who cursed when he stubbed his toe, who wanted more than he needed, who desired things that were not his: he was just as flawed as us. Yet despite these flaws, despite all the roiling human turmoil that plagued him as much as it plagues us, he was a good man. He lived compassionately and kindly, and took responsibility not only for himself, but for others. That was his sacrifice. It was not because of his divinity that he was compassionate and kind, but because of his compassion and kindness that he was considered divine. True kindness doesn’t come from God, it comes from the strength of one’s own will, from an inner desire to care for other men and to treat them fairly. Jesus, at least to me, is a symbol of that. He is not merely a symbol of peace, love, and compassion, but of peace, love, and compassion in the face of our own selfish humanity.