Last night I watched a very young Louis Theroux traversing the wilds of Texas Christianity, venturing into churches where people spoke in tongues and the slick minister man made people fall over under the power of God.
I do not think that God is contained within church buildings, nor is her power contained within slick marketing men for the Lord. Christianity as it stands in that version is a creepy and manipulative practice. Unfortunately, it's the only one that non-Christians see in mass form. To lots of non-Christians, Benny Hinn IS Christianity.
The early Christian Gnostics did not believe in a literal Jesus. I must say, I'm quite partial to a literal Jesus but there is compelling evidence that if he existed, that his story has been tweaked and refined to make him into something he was not.
But like I've said before, if Jesus didn't exist, we would invent him. He is an archetype for something that we need. The same story that's been told before, in Mithras and Osiris and others I haven't even begun to explore yet.
The early Christian Gnostics believed that Jesus was representative of God - spirit - descending down into matter and dying, in a sense. Fragmenting into people, lying dormant within each of us, waiting to be reborn.
I quite love that idea. I know from my own personal experience that there has certainly been something going on, but it's been God rising up from within me rather than an outward sky daddy comin' on down to Susie as long as she claimed the blood of Christ and promised not to have sex with people who weren't her husband.
The kingdom of God is within you. God-birthing - the ultimate creative enterprise.
I dunno, there is still something compelling about Christianity for me. It's just that it's nothing like what so many of its adherents claim. It's like I'm trying to see through a window that's been smudged with centuries of grotty hands and snotty noses from without and which has funhouse mirrors within reflecting back at me the distorted version of what it's become in the hands of the powerful.
I was frustrated watching Mr Theroux* displaying yet another example of Christianity-Gone-Bung. I personally think Christianity went bung a couple of hundred years after it began and ever since it's been twisted into a tool for the powerful to exert over the majority and a convenient little hideyhole for pedophiles. Fear hell, fear your sinfulness, fear the wrath of God.
Which ironically leads people away from their own inner lives. In this version, whatever hells you've got going on on the inside stay unquenched and feared. Whatever sinfulness you have going on, whatever is eating you up and corroding you, you are not empowered to face it down squarely and be creative with it. Whatever wrath of God you might be experiencing is not a corrective device for the now, but simply a taste of things to come. Now, with its suffering and its mass evil is a hazy dream in comparison to the real wrath of God lying on the other side where you never know if you'll be the one being consigned to flames of eternal hell for not jumping through a bunch of doctrinal hoops.
That all just feels like bollocks to me. Like sows' ears made out of silk purses.
The early Christian Gnostics followed on from Plato in believing that hell or hades was the earth. It was the place where God was in the underworld, trapped inside matter, waiting to be freed.
Despite all of the rolling and roiling bullshit that is Christianity, there is something underneath it, something older and buried in the dirt, that compels me. Something entirely non-literal, mythological and archetypal. Something that makes sense and is very, very beautiful and so much more sophisticated and psychologically helpful and creatively satisfying than that crap. Perhaps it is God lying underneath the layers.
Whatever he/she/it is.
* Louis Theroux would be a most welcome addition to my hypothetical dinner party. A conversation oiler. Interesting in his own right, and yet one of those wonderful accepting people who others feel comfortable opening up to express themselves with. Regardless of his personal view of someone's stand, he is always respectful. It is perhaps the quality most sorely needed by us in our interactions with each other if we are going to move forward beyond our own little confined selves, defending our ramparts against the Evil Other. A world full of people fearing the Evil Other is a world full of, well, people behaving evilly themselves. The ultimate irony.