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By Carl S ~

Ask any believer, "What exactly do you mean by the word Christian?" You are likely to get as various answers as there are repliers, often disagreeing with each other. And maybe this is because everybody you ask assumes the answer is obvious, as in the popular vernacular of "you know what I mean?" However, as my sixth grade teacher said, if you can't explain it in your own words, you really don’t understand it. So, what really defines "Christian" and "Christianity?"

To begin with, we have to, for the moment, leave "Jesus" out of it. For one thing, scholars themselves cannot agree as to whether "he" really existed. It isn't necessary for there to be a real Jesus in order to have Christianity. The religion is not usually practiced with the personally-binding imitating of Jesus, but as the imitation of Christ as defined by Paul of Tarsus. I'll use the Epistle to the Romans as a prime example of Paul's creativity and the reasons why we speak of Christianity and not Jesusism or Disciples of Jesus.

Why is this so? Because the definition of "Christ," as all the other basic doctrines of the religion, originated in and issued from the mind of Paul. When clergy and believers speak in detail about their beliefs, they are unthinkingly quoting the beliefs of St. Paul. Original sin? Redemption? Faith as the most important thing in life? Condemnation of the Jewish people for rejecting Christ? Those dearly and sincerely held beliefs are all in his rambling epistles.

He knows not the Jesus of the gospels, written after his epistles, of the Jesus who was reviled by his enemies as a "drunkard," who thought it appropriate to have expensive perfume poured on his feet, and who wore a very expensive robe and dined with the wealthy Nicodemus. No. Paul created the long-suffering "Christ" in his own imagination, making "Christ's" death the only redeeming feature of his life. And as the persuasive salesman he was, Paul sold his Christ-Product. And Christianity's spokesmen are still selling Paul's product.

A Christian is one who buys, on faith, Paul's product, and keeps sticking with it, like a very bad choice or unfulfilling marriage, because the more the believer and others invest in the product, the more “worthwhile and necessary" it must be, and besides, without it, what is left but alienation from the faith-tribe, hopelessness, no after-death rewards, and despair? He really does a thorough brainwashing, don’t you think?

Paul's epistles aren't unique, though. They naturally flow from the attitudes of O.T. writers who spewed hatred and condemnation on our common human nature. (Simply read Romans, Ch. L, vs. 18-22. Then try reading that same chapter, verses 28-32, and you'll find the source of so much Christian negativity about humanity.) Paul goes much further than the O.T. writers did, compiling even more things for us to feel guilty about. He adds eternal tortures if you do not believe what he preaches out of his head. It's no wonder so many believers get screwed up in their own heads, taking him seriously.

Romans Ch. 2, vs. 25-29 devotes a whole section to circumcision where he says that, "circumcision is a matter of the heart - it is spiritual and not literal." Ouch! And he goes on ranting against "both Jews and Greeks in Ch. 3, all the way from verse 9 to 19. And in Ch. 4 he goes back to circumcision. For a man obsessed with "purity, and cleansing" of body and mind, he is sure hung up on sensuality. (He also sees "sin" in semen; as if evil is inherited like chromosomes.)

Paul was oversexed and/or sexually frustrated, and, like his historical clerical counterparts, was therefore involved in sexually exploiting or denigrating women.Paul had another serious problem, reflected in his attitudes to women. Probably the only true representation of him is in a Roman mosaic which shows him as a short and very homely man. Maybe he was charismatic, but this little man's looks would hardly attract a normal woman. In this context, we might consider the observation of David M. Buss, professor of psychology, University of Texas: "Some spurned men become bitter and hostile toward women after repeated rejections. As Jim Morrison of The Doors once noted, ‘Women seem wicked when you're unwanted."'

A modern psychiatrist would say that Paul was oversexed and/or sexually frustrated, and, like his historical clerical counterparts, was therefore involved in sexually exploiting or denigrating women. Then he passes on his attitudes as attributable to his god's inspiring him. (And, the next time you jump into bed with your spouse, remind her or him that marriage, according to St. Paul, is "a reflection of Christ's love for his church." See how that works for you.)

Paul's "humble" and "servant" attestations mask his egotism, his constant insistence that his followers accept his personally "inspired" delusional beliefs. On a familiar note, he claims that his beliefs are given to him by God himself. In this, he is no different from hundreds of other "prophets" throughout the centuries. What makes him persuasive, then? Eternal life? Yeah, that's what he's selling. Can you name anyone who is a non-believer in eternal life, attending church services? Can't you substitute the words alcohol or cocaine for "spirit" when reading his epistles, and reach the same conclusion that "spiritual” means nothing more than an emotional mind-altered response to words?

Okay, I've gone on enough. You get the picture. I don't want to be like St. Paul, a quotable feel-good spokesman for some, a blasphemer to Jews and Moslems, and a bore for the rest of us. (In fact, his faith-rants remind me a lot of Hitler's.)

When we talk about "Christianity," we ought to ask ourselves why people are reading the New Testament, period. After all, those writings were meant to be read exclusively at the time they were written, by those to whom the end of the world was coming "soon;" even in their lifetimes. This St. Paul himself preached. This explains why there are so many contradictions in gospel texts: the writers figured no reader would have the time to spend noticing them. Not only that, but the very last book, "Revelations," describes in great detail just how the world would end. Since the world is still here, the whole purpose for the N.T. is irrelevant.

Wouldn't you say that Christians don't know what "Christianity" means?