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I was a True Follower of Jesus

By Carl S ~

Go into a Christian church parking lot any Sunday during service. You're likely to see a few expensive cars there. (My wife informs me two males, who most likely chant, “in God we trust,” wear their guns to services.) Are expensive car and/or, gun owners true followers of Jesus? Do those married males look with lust at other women, even as they sing “I have decided to follow Jesus?” Ditto. Nope, the majority of believers are “following” the party line of their particular church, and if it doesn't fit them, they change churches. Each church leader has to not only attract new customers, but even more, hang on to the ones he or she has. Tread cautiously lest they walk away, seems to be the policy. Jesus of the gospels wasn't that way. Take it or leave it, he would say; toughen up, the way ahead is narrow and your life is cheap compared to your soul's future. If you own everything, it isn't worth it if you lose that soul.

So, just who is Jesus? Why, he's the man who walks on water, who can change that water into wine, and died for your transgressions against him, things you didn't suspect you were guilty of until you became old enough to be told you should feel guilty. Jesus is the smiling well-built man from the covers of romance novels, with his long, silky, shampooed hair and immaculate and expensive robe, which he washes in his blood to make it white again. He's every woman's gentleman, and every man's Pauline Christ. You see “him” in paintings and stained glass windows. Like “Elvis,” he's the image, not the reality. But that original image doesn't sell, and never was very appealing. Jesus has been made middle-class.

Now, the main objection non-Christians have with evangelicals, i.e., “followers of the gospels and epistles,” those fundamentalists, is that they don't practice what they preach. They think so, adamantly objecting to any suggestion otherwise. It's easy to ignore the fundamental things that apply to being a follower of Jesus. Take it from one who knows. As a teen, I joined a monastic community. Now, I'm not going to start analyzing the factors that came together to make that decision at this late stage in my life. What lay ahead was the road of hope, the challenge, the commitment, and the fact I didn't know what the hell I was getting into. Typical teen. And my enthusiasm was infectious for those already there.

Follow Jesus? Where's the list? Leave family behind. Check. Give up all my possessions. Check. Reject sex. Check. Don't make any plans for the future, God'll take care of you. Check. Be ready to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand, if you think owning them will deny you entrance to heaven. Next... Are you ready to die for Jesus? Check. Forgive or else your heavenly father won't forgive you. Hadn't entered my mind. Okay. Pray every day. Check. It's what monks do, duh! Fast and sacrifice, “take up your cross daily, and follow me.” All set. Oh, if I could have only looked behind me then, to see those millions of followers of Jesus! Where are they, even now?

To be honest, I went overboard in following Jesus. The Trappists didn't even talk to one another in those days; they used sign language. And no meat, fish, or eggs? I mean, that's tough. No TV, radio, pop music, mags or newspapers. If you're going to be “in the world, not of the world,” there's the place to be. Chastity? Now that's commitment. Aha, now you're really sincere, in close quarters with the Lord, especially chosen. Ya know what I mean? And since you're obedient to his will as spoken through his representatives on earth, you worries are over. What, me worry? Now that's security. That's peace surpassing understanding. His promises are forever for those who love him, right? If you fundamentally follow the teaching of Jesus/Paul, that's what's supposed to result.

If “Following Jesus” sounds like a cult, it's because it is.Somehow, that scenario didn't materialize. My experience of that particular road trip involving a relationship with Jesus-God slid off that straight and narrow and totaled out. And nobody blamed me for it. If I was a fundamentalist follower, there most likely would have been blame or shame in my resume, so maybe my judges either saw the inevitable, or knew damned well it demanded too much emotional involvement from any normal person to be humane. That last part might explain why nobody truly follows Jesus, or is expected to. It also explains why no clergyman quotes the demands of Jesus in re, following him. The Trappist order was “contemplative.” To give you one example of this, start to practice this habit: pick a bible text, “contemplate” it seriously by pondering what you read, consider the implications of what is claimed or said there. I did this, and that's why I'm not only an ex-Christian, but an atheist. Clergymen really want you avoid trying this. Christians aren't that serious.

The original monks were truer to being followers of the leader Jesus than anyone. Since we didn't talk in the monastery, someone would read “inspirational” books out loud during meals. Some were original histories of the monks of the desert. These are the men who abandoned the world, became hermits to fast and “pray without ceasing.“ They were there for cleansing their minds warring against their sensuality, to live in undistracted communion with Divine essence. If they felt they should castrate themselves to do so, they would. In our 20th century world, I'm sure none of us considered what the effects of such self-imposed solitary deprivations/exile/prayer-repetitions, would have on their mental state. According to the histories, they did experience apparitions. (One famous report is of an explosive all-night struggle between a devil and St. Anthony of the Desert, from which he emerged triumphant, of course. Was that “devil,” an apparition, or himself?)

Now the reason given for creating monasteries is this: If you're going to follow Jesus, you have to practice charity, and how can you do so as a hermit, with no one else around? This also had the practical benefit for the Christian church of herding men together to avail itself of free labor and obedient followers, who expect nothing more in payment than heavenly rewards. Why, they put not only their welfare, but their futures, into the hands of others standing in for their Jesus! (The serf system was adapted from the monastic hierarchy structure.) Monastic dogmas combine the asceticism of hermits with the exploitation of sincere human beings - modified, but still of use to control not only congregations, but individuals.

If “Following Jesus” sounds like a cult, it's because it is. Christians are cult members, in varying degrees. Are they hypocrites because they don't accept what he asks them to do seriously? No, they're realists. No one who isn't Christian should apologize for being a realist about the Christian cult, either.