Could you say more about how Christianity came to differ from the message of Jesus?
Jesus’ message of everyone and everything living from their natural Oneness with the One (God, the Divine) was quickly distorted. The Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written 30 – 70 years after his crucifixion. Much can happen in that time, along with what scholars believe are later additions to the text.
Generally speaking, any statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels that are exclusionary or that are judgemental in nature could not have come from him who taught only Oneness and love. Why would anyone want to exclude and judge? Three key things are important to consider here: male ego, power, and control. Along with good intentions from some well meaning people who did what they did out of love for God , male ego, power, and control are part of the energy driving the formation of a religion that came to be called Christianity.
Before I go further, it must be said that early on there were followers of Jesus who truly sought to live by his teachings. They were called “The Way”. It was truly a counter cultural community of people who shared what they had in common with one another, and sought to live in peace. They lived by non-violence and it developed that no followers of The Way could serve in the military. You can read about them in the book of Acts, chapter 4.
That said, the religion of Christianity developed into something quite different. How? One key moment was the “conversion” of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 AD. He and his army (as they were headed towards battle) reportedly saw a vision in the sky of a cross. Underneath it were Latin words which meant “In this sign conquer.” He had the cross emblazoned on their shields. Sense a disconnect from Jesus’ life and teachings of love your enemy and nonviolence?
Also around this time there was great division within the Empire. The rising Christian church was part of the problem. They argued with one another about what to believe about Jesus. Was Jesus really God? Was he God’s Son? Was he really human? Was he some kind of mixture of both? Did he really rise from the dead? Wait! Say what? Religous people separating themselves over beliefs and opinions? Go figure.
Anyway, at this time about 1/3 of the Empire was “Christian”, and Constantine had had enough. In the year 325 he ordered several hundred bishops of the Church to his summer palace, and told them you’re not leaving until you come up with a statement (creed) about the Christian faith that you can agree on. It took 3 months but they agreed on something that became known as the Nicene Creed. You can still hear the Nicene creed confessed today at a Christian worship service. However, the Apostle’s Creed (an earlier creed with roots in the second century) is confessed much more often. It’s shorter. We need to get the service done in an hour!
Here is what the Nicene Creed says is “right” to believe about Jesus:
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right had of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Here is what the shorter version of the Apostle’s Creed says about Jesus:
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell (to the dead). On the third days he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead”.
Two key points to be made here:
1. I don’t know. Possibly there was some sincerity in Constantine’s conversion. But scholars are skeptical because it’s pretty clear that for Constantine a primary motivation behind the forming of this central foundation of Christianity was power. Specifically the unification (and his own control) of the Roman Empire. So after 325 AD, what was once an alternative, counter-cultural, non-violent Way of life based on Jesus’ teachings, became a religion of Empire, power, and correct belief. It was probably inevitable that the male ego would quickly take over. I say male ego because women of course were left out of leadership.
2. The man made religion of Christianity (supposedly formed in his name) became all about Jesus, and Jesus wasn’t about himself at all. He was/is always about the One (God).
In Luke 18 someone says to Jesus, “Good teacher. What must I do to inherit eternal life.” And Jesus stops him right there and says to him, “why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” That’s one that’s rarely talked about in the church. Jesus also never said anything about worshiping him, but that’s what the Church does. He talked often of following him (as in living from the same energy within that he was living from), but never about worshiping him. He has no ego centric need to be worshiped.
It makes no sense that Jesus intended to start a new religion. Especially one all about him. He would never feed his ego like that. He had/has no need or desire to do so.
It makes no sense that he ever intended to start a Church, for that would mean even more separation. Then you have one tribe meeting in separation from another tribe with different beliefs. Each doing so because they think they are the ones who have it “right.” And when we’re caught up in being “right”, we’re up in our heads, and Jesus was always about the heart, and living from the heart.
As I wrote earlier, what Jesus was/is about is helping us see OUR OWN natural Oneness with the One, the Divinity of our own essence, and to live from that place within us and all around us.
You may notice that in these two creeds of the Church, Jesus was born, crucified, died, and rose. According to these creeds, Jesus came to be born, and then to hang around for 33 years until the main event, where he could live out the purpose of his life, which was death. Say what?
There is nothing about how he lived (loved) or his teachings, which were central to his life. Teachings in which he would say “You are the salt of the world” (Matthew 5:13). “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:14,15). In other words, I don’t have anything that you don’t have. I am just more aware of it than you are, and so I AM in the higher vibrations of love and peace. I live in a greater sense of Oneness with God and all things, and the same potential is there for you too!”
A tragic consequence of this lack of focus on his teachings in the creeds of the Church, is that the teachings of Jesus were never really made the primary focus of the Church. Instead, the Church took it’s cue from the Creeds, and it primarily became all about what to believe about Jesus. Why? It’s easier to say you believe the right things about Jesus and then go on your way. You don’t have to do the inner work of returning to and remembering your inner Truth. And live from there.
You are Love
I welcome your questions and comments!