I’ve been thinking about Andrew Sullivan’s description of the Gibson movie. It reminded me of something that has always bothered me about Christianity.

First of all, let me say that I’m not trying to offend anybody. I’m no Christian scholar; these are just some lay impressions that could well be mistaken.

It seems to me that the film is all about Jesus’ suffering (real or imagined). Many people have said that it helped them get deeply in touch with what their faith is all about. This strikes me as disturbing.

Christianity seems to glorify pain and suffering, and condemn human nature as evil. This seems like a screwed up basis for morality to me. I think we should value joy and success, not pain and suffering. We should recognize that people can be, and have been, vicious and cruel; but that’s the product of poor choices, not a fundamentally sinful nature. Many people make better choices independently of religious teaching. Yes we have villains, but we also have heroes. Lots of them. And we should be proud of our achievements, not ashamed of them; and particularly not ashamed of pride itself.

Christianity seems to teach people to identify with those who tormented Jesus. “We’re like that.” “We did that to him.” “He died for us, because we’re so unworthy.”

Well, I’m not like that. I wouldn’t have done that. And not because somebody is promising me eternal life. It’s because it makes sense to me to treat people better than that. I want to enjoy my life, and the fruits of positive relationships with other creative people. I don’t want to torment them. Hurting them doesn’t help me. I see value in them, and I don’t want to destroy value. Maybe
Christianity has more appeal to people who don’t think this way.

One other thing that bothers me is this obsession with how terribly Jesus suffered. Not only don’t I understand why that should affect how one relates to his teachings, but it doesn’t even seem coherent to me. If he suffered terribly, it must have been because he chose to. Surely somebody who can change water into wine could ease his own suffering, right? Even without miracles, didn’t he have a sufficiently exceptional mind to mitigate the effects of the torture? If he couldn’t, wouldn’t that make him less worthy of worship rather than more?

UPDATE: Here’s somebody with a similar problem with this story.


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