Building a Better Bloke

The three Ps

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam de Brito on October 28, 2009

Last week Timothy J Graham gave us his breakdown on the basics of Christianity – dogma and ceremony aside. This week he expands on the final point of his post – the three Ps – and why he reckons Jesus banged on about them so much.

Possessions
At the heart of the gospel is the message that the antidote to confusion and paralysis is always a return to simplicity; returning to a life free from the complexities that naturally arise from having money and possessions.

One thing was clear from Jesus’ teachings: money and the gospel don’t mix. This issue is probably the biggest on Jesus’ agenda, and yet modern Christians seem to have not only missed it, but gone in the opposite direction …

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

I think of the priceless art, jewels and artifacts stored up in the Vatican, even just the luxury cars parked outside the church each Saturday around 6pm, and I wonder how things could have gone so wrong?

Prestige

If Jesus had access to the language of modern psychology, his teachings about the ego-self, or false self, would have been much clearer and unavoidable.

And there seems to be so much ego in churches these days.

I often see people with t-shirts that read, “Jesus, please save me from your followers”.

I can’t help but laugh when I think back to the confident, almost arrogant, young Christians in universities, going around trying to recruit people to their particular brand of Jesus.

Where simplicity is an antidote to confusion, it seems humility and compassion are the antidotes to arrogance.

Unfortunately much of Christianity now seems to be self-congratulative societies who forever circle the wagons around their own saved identity and their own self-serving God.

Surely Jesus came for more than that.

Power

Jesus saw the institutionalised misuse of power in his own religion, Judaism.

Instead of attacking it or speaking out against it, he largely ignored it and just went off to do what he saw was a better way of living. He sought to break down power imbalances.

For Jesus, the best criticism of the bad was the practice of the better. Or Ghandi’s creed, “Be the change you want to see in the world” (although even this is misused in popular culture).

Instead of grand temples, he chose people’s simple homes. There were no popes, bishops, priests and so forth.

In place of ornate robes, Jesus instructed his followers to dress simply and commonly (I think of the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors in their perfect black suits).

At every level of his ministry, Jesus tried to eliminate false power.

How much has modern Christianity followed Jesus in this?

I will end by adding a few personal notes.

Take what you like from the ideas in this and the previous article. Share them if you feel they are worthwhile and discard them if you don’t agree.

We all seem to have an in-built shock-proof shit detector for bad religion, so just keep it turned on and tuned up.

I am not a practicing Christian, though I was brought up in a very Catholic family. I am a very spiritual person, and I read widely, but I couldn’t say I belong to any particular faith or religion.

Maybe one day I will return to Catholicism, or perhaps Buddhism. Maybe I’ll get hit by a car next week (though I hope not).

Good luck on your own journey.

When alchemy didn’t work out, Timothy J Graham went to university and studied Social Work, which is the dark art of transmuting suffering into happiness. He is also a writer, a musician and a sucker for stout ales. He mostly lives in Brisbane.

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15 Responses

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  1. Adam said, on October 28, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Yours have been the two best threads on here I think. Thanks.

    Has everybody read those stories in the paper where one Christian church/denomination/person/group is howling about being unfairly discriminated against, or that Christianity is not as powerful and respected as it was? I wonder how they could have missed the part where Jesus told his followers that they were blessed when they were persecuted, and to love and forgive those who sought to do them wrong (though I think that out of being thrown to lions and having to tolerate the Mardis Gras, only one of them can even really be called persecution, and it’s the one that doesn’t involve feather boas).

  2. Ash Simmonds said, on October 28, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    “…even just the luxury cars parked outside the church each Saturday…”

    WWJD – What Would Jesus Drive? Lamborghini Diablo? Hehe…

  3. sceptic said, on October 29, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Great couple of posts. really thought provoking.

    Speaking of the “confident, almost arrogant, young Christians in universities” – why do these types of Christians always have to be so happy? Don’t get me wrong here, obviously happiness is something to be strived for, but for these people their happiness seems so contrived. Just because you’re a devout Christian doesn’t mean that the bad things which befall everyone else will be spared of you. Obviously a deep belief will help people through these bad times, but to me this falsely put on constant happiness indicates a shallowness of faith.

    Or perhaps I am missing something here…

    • thomas said, on October 29, 2009 at 1:07 pm

      The happiness is not contrived. Thats what happens when you get born again. its not that bad stuff doesn’t happen, its that there is a assurance that it will work out and God will lead your steps. Its not shallow, its just knowing you have a helper on your side. If they’re arrogant it has more to do with youth unfortunately, even young Christians learn humility and wisdom with the passing of time.

  4. sceptic said, on October 29, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    But surely the belief that “it will work out” has to be misplaced.
    Otherwise, the natural corollary to that belief is that when bad things happen and don’t work out, it is because God has forsaken those people because they haven’t been “born again”.

    I surely hope that the Christian God that I believe in doesn’t operate that way.

    It is similar to the line of reasoning you get from some of the more New Age churches that you shouldn’t feel guilty about having money as this is a blessing from God, provided you use it the right way (i.e. donate to the church). Again, the natural corollary to this position is that God is punishing poor people – something which can’t be reconciled with the God I want to believe in.

  5. thewise said, on October 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    On power it’s interesting to see the spat between the Catholic and Anglican churches happening at the moment. In order to woo highly conservative Anglicans the Catholic church is letting them keep all their rituals and practices (things it’s frequently manages to preach against) as long as there are no women or gay priests.

    Why let hypocrisy stand in the way of pulling one over an old rival?

  6. the thinker said, on October 30, 2009 at 8:10 am

    thewise,

    Actually the main spat is going on within the Anglican church rather than between the Anglican and Catholic Churches. Anglican Church seems to be three groups with different views which is bringing it to an internal breaking point.

    1)High Anglican or Anglo-Catholics – against women priests and openly gay bishops on grounds of tradition and scripture (bible)
    2)Liberals – OK with woman priests and openly gay bishops
    3)Evangelicals – against women priests and openly gay bishops on biblical grounds

    The Anglo Catholics approached the Catholic Church looking for a ‘life raft’ and it has proposed the new structure similar to structures it uses in the Eastern Catholic traditions e.g. Maronite where Catholic Church allows priests to marry. There are even married Catholic priests within the Maronite rite in Australia today.

    The signal that the Catholic Church has sent is that it doesn’t believe it can attain full unity with all 3 groups within the Anglican Church in the near future. The evangelical arm of the Anglican Church would be staunchly opposed to re-unification with the Catholic Church despite commonality in being against women priests and gay bishops.

    The Catholic Church actually has a history of letting cultures maintain their own local customs (rituals and practices) e.g. just go to South America and you see the fusion of local rituals and practices within the Catholicism practiced there.

  7. Jim said, on October 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Tim, Thanks for the thought provoking posts. It’s really interesting to hear people’s opinions on the issues you’ve raised because Australians generally, and blokes specifically, find it difficult to talk about spiritual matters seriously. Tom Frame’s recent book ‘Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia’ goes into the traditional Australian antipathy towards religion and he makes the following intersting observation:

    “Apart from agitated, sometimes aggressive bloggers, most Australians seem to take a very casual and carefree attitude to religion. They are neither disinterested nor indifferent. When religion curtails their lifestyle or makes demands that exceed what is deemed reasonable, or when they require religious rites of passage or borrow religious ideas to regulate civil life, Australians can become very interested in religion. But the ever-increasing majority who describe themselves as ‘not religious’ without every saying what they mean by the phrase are still grateful that religion is available if ever they want it and thankful to the extent that what is on offer fulfils their social needs. Anzac Day commemorations are a good example of religion’s social utility.”

    I guess this is reflecting the fact that there is still a widespread belief in ‘God’ – it’s just we’re not quite sure about who he really is and what that means for us. I guess the key is to keep having these conversations and asking questions.

  8. nerdy girl said, on October 31, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Nerdy girl is lagging behind again. Initially I was gearing myself up to contribute to the topic of pre-marital sexual – eye twitch- reLaytions…but that was several blog topics back. May put my thoughts on it here anyway (later)

    I disagree that the HEART of the gospel are these things. They are certainly things that Jesus taught on, as reflections of someone who has surrendered his life to God. The heart of the Gospel in my opinion is the sinfulness of man, his separation from God because of this, and the redemption of mankind through Christ. You had brought up in the other post about the divisions in the Christian Church. There are different denominations, but the same foundational belief. One thing that all “Christians” adhere to is the divinity of Christ, our sinfulness, and our redemption by the blood of Christ on the Cross, that allows us to have a living breathing, relationship with God… and this is accomplished through reading His Word – He speaks through it. Odd I know. It’s like a woman trying to explain the pain of labour. Can’t be done… someone has to experience it to know it… and people can experience it if they only ask God to reveal Himself when you read the bible. He will do it.

    You lumped another religion in with Christianity, that is not. Just because a religious body ie; the Jehovah Witness, have chosen the biblical God or “Johovah” to base their beliefs on, they do not believe in the “heart” of the gospel message of Christ, (That we are sinful, and our redemption comes through the blood of Christ, nothing of our own accomplishments.) Their “good news” is that they can live on a perfect earth, and this is accomplished by “works” (the list of rules such as # of witnessing/door knocking hours – not celebrating holidays-birthdays-memorising Witness literature etc.) If you can jump through all these hoops you will achieve your ticket to living on a perfect earth. Mormonism, is also works orientated, and have their own New-New Testament that was written by Joseph Smith. This new new Testament (the Mormon Bible) contradicts the Gospel. Neither here nor there… it’s just something to be aware of. Always check the foundational doctrine. Just because their is a cross or a bible does not mean they are adherents to the Gospel of Christ.

    For the smarties: Christianity is the only religion where one can not earn salvation or will ever attain Godhood, Perfection, or Enlightenment (new age) by their own works, independence, power etc. This is the “original” sin outlined in Genesis. The serpent said, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” You can be like God… if you do this and that… knock on 50 doors, give out pamphlets, be sinless.. and can I even put in, only drive beaters, wear thrift store clothing, etc…. (that’s works too!) Many of God’s chosen were very wealthy and lived in opulence. And many of the direct instructions from God, were rich, gold laden creations – like the Arc of the Covenant. He created beauty and artistic skill! (Just like He created sex to enjoy!) I think the warning of riches was one of, you can not serve money and God. Which is more important. Money and wealth? or God’s reign in your life. What are you worshiping? What’s your idol? What’s your confidence? The faithfulness and provisions of God, or are you trusting in your own abilities and wealth?

    Religion and the religious in the eyes of people is about being “good”. We can’t be “good” or “perfect” because we are sinful. We are filthy. Period. Sometimes I think people use “fallen” self-professing Christians as an excuse not to consider their own accountability. It’s always easier to point fingers, that to examine oneself.

    The whole thing about being Christ like (good) is if we ask Christ into our heart, and let Him call the shots. His spirit/desires then live through us. If we allow Him too, that is. Continuing in sinful acts intentionally interferes with this, and makes us cold to the Holy Spirits promptings of obedience and submission to God.

    It’s an abstract concept, but is something presented throughout the Word. Revelation 3:20 ” Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and him with me.” (in the Jewish culture eating a meal together was an intimate act of fellowship. Last supper etc.)

    How does Jesus enter in… that is the Holy Spirit (trinity) the Spiritual personhood of Jesus. John 16:7 (Jesus telling his disciples he is going away.) “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (ie:the Holy Spirit) will not come to you.” and John 17:23 “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (“I in them” – asking Jesus into your heart, Jesus being present in you.) Ask Him in! See what happens!

    It’s a gradual process of growth. Don’t be too hard on professing Christians. They are just as sinful, fragile and mistake prone as everyone else. They are just forgiven and thankfully get clean slates every time they lay their failures at the cross… and continue on.

    I can write on the sanctity of the marriage -eye twitch- bed too… unless I have overstayed my welcome? Nerdy Girl – can’t help but having verbal diarreah on the topic she loves.

  9. nerdy girl said, on October 31, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Seeing my post in print…. sorry. Very very long. I got carried away. (weak smile)

  10. the thinker said, on October 31, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Nerdy girl,

    Great post.

    “Sometimes I think people use “fallen” self-professing Christians as an excuse not to consider their own accountability.” This is so true.

    Last night a male guy who has been living with his girlfriend for a number of years was calling a Hillsong girl who sometimes goes out for one-night stands a hypocrite.

    I attempted to explain that under the Christian world view this girl is NOT necessarily a hypocrite. She may be. She may not be.

    If she acknowledged that she was a sinner, was making a sincere effort to change her ways, praying for assistance to help change her ways BUT struggling with a lifestyle pattern she would not qualify as a Christian hypocrite.

    The male guy who himself is not living by a Christian standard (and knows this) possibly wanted her to be a hypocrite as an excuse not to consider his own accountability.

  11. Tim said, on November 1, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Are we loving each other?

  12. Jim said, on November 1, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I guess if we want to take thinking about Jesus seriously, we need to come to terms with who he is, (as much as we are able) from his perspective. The easy thing to do is cherry-pick those bits of the New Testament that you like and build your own version of Jesus that fits what you want. I think that will rob him of just how genuinely confronting he really is.

    We can go into the historical reliability of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life elsewhere, but for the sake of argument, take it as a given that they gospels contain a fairly accurate record of what Jesus said and did. If that is the case Jesus, while undoubtedly a good teacher, is much more than just that – and claimed time and again to be God himself. CS Lewis (of Narnia fame) articulated well the options available to us when we consider the Jesus of the gospels. He wrote:

    “…people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God’. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to”.

    Lunatic, Liar or Lord?

  13. the thinker said, on November 1, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Jim,

    Great post.

    As western society has continued to degenerate morally many people have abandoned formal religion for agnosticism or New Age beliefs. Some (although fewer than you might think) have professed atheism.

    Many of those who have chosen agnosticism or new age have attempted to recreate Jesus ‘in their own likeness.’ Remember, in the genesis story originally man was made in God’s likeness.

    Here are some examples:

    e.g. Jesus was full of love so how can it be wrong for me to sleep with my boyfriend if I really love him?

    Jesus was full of love and would understand if I had an abortion rather than bringing a child into the world which I couldn’t properly love.

    Jesus was against the pharisees and called them hypocrites so I am justified in calling clergy in the Church hypocrites.

    Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, Ghandi ARE ALL great leaders who we can learn from.

    Different religions are all just ‘different paths up the same mountain’ so we should all just co-exist and give up on this whole conversion thing.

    All that miracle stuff recorded in Jesus time was just made up by the apostles as part of a conspiracy anyway.

    If you really read the gospels without READING IN what you want it to say, it is difficult to reconcile it with this re-created version of Jesus. Western society is simply re-writing history to make itself feel good while in the midst of moral decline. Jack Nicholson may have been right when he said “You can’t handle the truth.”

  14. nerdy girl said, on November 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Anyone up for some comic relief? I have “A Guide for Those Contemplating Marriage – This Man and This Woman” – Frederick Brink 1948

    “…Or, perhaps the date of the wedding had to be set at a time when the bride was physically encumbered, so that she would prefer to delay the first experience of being one flesh until the encumbrance was past..”

    From this day forward I will never again say “I am on the rag.” Instead, I will be experiencing a “physical encumbrance.”


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