To the Christian churches of America, I do not recognize the legitimacy of your denominations, but I like your Christ. A man who was raised in one of the most heavily indoctrinated and legally binding cultures ever to exist. What you eat and how you killed it, when you work, when you rest, how you dress, even edits to anatomy, at an early enough age so as to not make edits to memory as well. The laws of the land literally carved into stone. But a legal system changes good into obedient. Bad becomes the measurement of consequences. And without someone chasing around popping hands when they reach for an extra cookie, there won’t be one.
The world could not care less if you eat an extra cookie. Extra cookies are not always healthy. Over time, poor health and a sugary expectation of appetite form their own form of punishment. Eventually murder stops happening because the very action creates a blueprint for how to handle the culprit. There is no thief who does not safeguard against being robbed. They know what they did was wrong. How it invites every other member of their society to take advantage over their loose views of property ownership. I can not imagine the desperation in the thief’s prayer that what all they stole will stay stolen. Paying for things with that currency is the most surefire manner of having a bunch of stuff you will never get to own. No one wants that. They just believe they can get away with it. And that if they get away with it, no harm was done.
That is where legalism gets us.
Moral outsourcing and apologetic justice.
But Christ bypassed all that. Boulders etched in reminders of common decency. A millennia since spent inventing punishments and consequences and new paddles to slap tears onto blank faces. Christ said love your neighbors as you love yourself. But love is a many misused word in our time. So, because I am the unabashedly heretical, blasphemous, sacrilegious for the sake of curiosity sort, I’m going to edit that sentiment. Consider your neighbors as you consider yourself.
Maybe we all fall short of love. But consideration, we might still be capable of. Can we write all the laws needed to govern cookie access? Do we teach mantras like one per person? Do we say, well if you want more, you need to participate, lace up those apron strings and learn to bake. This is what legalism does to us. This is the pillar old Judaism was scratched into. And these are the conditions of the culture Christ woke up within and declared himself the embodiment of. And he said that if you consider your neighbor as you consider yourself, you will take two cookies off the counter. You will have had to morally process that your desire, will more often than not, be present in your neighbor. Good desires. Bad desires. Why do we waste time delegating these subjectivities. It isn’t cost effective, and it cripples moral thinking.
I was raised in a legalistic society. In a lawbound church organization. Educated in a rule-based bureaucratic government-funded form of daycare. And yet this name, this man, the rugged moral individualism toting philosopher, found me here. Were you not listening? Or do you just not actually believe? He didn’t want faith to be a reaction. For all beliefs to be attributed to obedience. And we went ahead and shaped everything in his name exactly the opposite.
I say this all the time, sometimes humorously, this time not so much. Poor Jesus. I feel so sorry for that man. He had thirty three years to describe denominational church structures and candle lighting and the what color stole against what color robe. He didn’t. He said love your neighbors as you love yourself. And love God above all else. I guess for modern people though love is more of a pastime. A romantic holiday, or shape of candy, or cut flowers or glassy looking stones. So I’m going to put my soul on the line and really edit the phrasing of one of my favorite philosophers.
Consider your neighbors, same as you would consider yourselves. And consider your source above all else. Consider all things.
Jesus was literate, bright, capable of writing on paper as well as carving stone. The fact that he didn’t take time to do more of it is a great sign. There is no more potent scripture that came before or afterward, than all the words Christ did not take time to write.