I just finished a book by A.J. Jacobs entitled The Year of Living Biblically in which he sets out to spend an entire year living by the literal laws of the Bible. He finds out almost immediately that it’s an impossible task since the Bible contradicts itself in many places, and is just too massive to just jump into anyway. So, he immerses himself in manageable chunks, learning to live the Bible bits at a time.
It’s an excellent book and it documents his transformation from being purely secular and agnostic to something more—though not outright religious. To help keep the reader’s attention, he chronicles a few of the more interesting biblical laws that he follows, such as stoning adulterers, keeping the ends of his beard unshaved and wearing fringe at the ends of all of his garments. But the fun and whimsical don’t distract from a really well-written journey of the author as he struggles to find and understand God.
Jacobs comes from Jewish decent and though he tries to live the New Testament out in the final few chapters of his book, he definitely falls more in line with the teachings and traditions of his grandparent’s religion. That didn’t stop me from gleaning quite a bit from what he went through though and as I turned the last page after his own reflections, I immediately thought of another book I’d recently read.
In his book Slapstick, Kurt Vonnegut invents a religion he calls the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped. This religion is founded on the principle that the Second Coming has already started, but that upon coming back to the world, Jesus was kidnapped by nefarious forces. It is the most commonly practiced religion of the people in the apocalyptical world in which the book is set. The practitioners are easily noticed, because they continually turn their heads from side to side, searching for the kidnapped Christ.
While I’m pretty sure the Second Coming hasn’t occurred, the idea of the Kidnapped Jesus is one that really stuck with me. It really summed up how I feel about Christianity in general. I feel like a lot of high and mighty people, who live in glass houses have kidnapped Jesus and spend their time and energy bastardizing most of what he preached.
While they have the real Jesus, locked safely away somewhere, they substitute another Jesus who they use to fit their specific needs. The fake Jesus is very judgmental. He likes hypocrites a whole lot. He looks down on anyone who isn’t like his kidnappers. He considers himself and his kidnappers to be superior and he looks down on others. He is more concerned with fixing people who aren’t like he and his kidnappers than accepting them for who they are already.
Meanwhile, the Kidnapped Jesus is locked away in a room in some undisclosed location. All He ever really wanted was for us to love each other, accept each other, be kind to one and other and for us all to live in peace. He died so that we could all be free of sin, not so that we could use Him against each other.
The Kidnapped Jesus rolls his eyes when athletes point to Him after scoring touchdowns or hitting homeruns. He knows that isn’t about His glory but the athlete’s own. He cries when wars are fought in His name. He is despondent when His words are used as ammunition for people who are not accepting of others. He wanted His people to spread the good news, not to force it on others, but by loving them unconditionally, as He loves us, showing them that His truly is the truth, the way and the light.
He despised those who spawned hypocrisy in His Father’s name. The high and mighty of the world, those who worshipped money and fame and power were the ones He spoke out against. It was the poor and meek and to whom He promised the greatest rewards in Heaven.
It is possibly the greatest irony ever inspired by the Bible that modern day Christians, so high and mighty, so sure of right and wrong that they choose to judge instead of love, fail to see how similar they are to the very people of Biblical times that Jesus spoke out against.
I was raised Catholic and I still believe in all that I was taught. My faith in God is strong and unwavering. It’s my faith in people that is shattered. It is my faith in many—not all—who were taught the same things I was that troubles me. Sometimes, I think that maybe I read a different Bible; that I was taught a different religion than others who claim the same labels I always have, because I just don’t understand the things that they say and do.
So, I’ll borrow His words when I pray for those who have kidnapped Him: Forgive them, for they know not what they do. And I think that from now on, when anyone asks me what religion I practice, I’ll tell them that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped, a Christian who feels the Jesus that I know has been stolen from the world by those point to the sky after their own personal touchdowns. I don’t spend my time with my head on a swivel looking for Him though. He lives, as He always has, in my heart and in hearts of those who choose to love as He has loved us.
Jacobs concludes in his book that every and any person who looks to the Bible is in some way like a Cafeteria Christian, picking and choosing which parts of the Bible apply to them. If it weren’t so, no woman could ever speak in a church, no one could ever discuss the Tennessee Titans football team because merely saying the word Titan counts as idolatry. Sinners and blasphemers would be stoned on a daily basis. So, even the most hardcore Christians and Jews have to interpret and allow the words of the Bible or Torah to evolve along with us.
I agree with him. And that’s why religion is such a personal thing to me. I interpret what I learned when I was young and have learned as I’ve grown and apply it as best I can. I don’t expect others to see it exactly as I do and I’m put off by those who feel I should see it their way.
I just don’t see how the obsession with being right is, in any way, in accordance with the Bible and I’m appalled by the arrogance of those who think they have it all figured out. I wonder if most Christians are really the way they are portrayed, or if maybe they are just the squeaky wheel making noise, while the rest of us live our lives in much more Christian ways? I hope it’s the latter, but I’m not so sure.
I think that maybe Jesus has been kidnapped, in a figurative way and it’s a sad thing indeed. As Jacobs found out, it’s impossible to walk in the footsteps of our forbearers. We have to make the best of what we have, learning from the past and evolving to whatever comes next. It’s a personal journey, not one that’s meant to be taken en mass. Not that it’s wrong to celebrate what you believe with others—the opposite is actually true, just that it can’t be so sanctioned, so regimented and so predetermined, after all, our own free will is the bit of divine spark that was placed inside us all, and if we don’t exercise that gift and instead depend on the interpretations and the will of others, what greater sin could we commit?