Making dogmas out of human precepts without enough basis

Facts, research and the work of past scholars, all in context, are necessary for a healthy debate.

As a practicing Catholic and full-time sinner, I get angry when pieces such as “As atrocities go, ‘The Passion’ was rather tame,” by Mike Jones and “Christ suffered through ‘perfected pain,’ ” by Erik Tisthammer are written. It’s not because I think these authors know it all or are trying to gather new converts into certain factions of society, be it Christianity, atheism or whatever. I get angry because their opinions are not researched, thus, incomplete. Opinion cannot stand alone. Facts, research and the work of past scholars, all in context, are necessary.

Opinions also deceive when their creators are simply playing roles – in this case, Jones as the humanist intellectual and Tisthammer as the infallible Christian. I am not playing any role here except truth seeker; let me set some facts straight.

I begin with Jones’ article, arguing that Jesus’ physical death does not merit him the title “savior of the world” because it was not gruesome enough. He brings up, as a point of reference, Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ.” First, to watch the film and compare it with what actually happened some 2,000 years ago to the real Jesus (and such a Jesus did in fact exist, as Roman historian Tacitus proves in written records) and then to make a value judgment about the Christian religion as a result of it, is ludicrous. Gibson’s film is art; can we not distinguish between art and reality, individual and institution?

Second, to claim believers cannot distinguish “reality from fantasy” is to ignore the fact that we all, believers or not, live in our own constructed fantasy; that our experience of our world is conditioned by everyone else’s experience of theirs, individually and socially. Third, to compare Jesus’ story with those of Osiris, Baal or even Hercules is completely unfounded, as all these stories have clearly differentiated forms, styles and content in context.

Jones goes on to claim God is sadistic for making his “subjects” suffer, thus, affirming that an all-loving God is not real (I use God generically here, not only confined to the Christian religion). Certainly Jones cannot be saying the 95 percent of the world that believes in some supernatural creator – and has believed consistently throughout history – is suffering from some form of mass delusion. I return now to the claim that Jesus’ “category” of physical pain was not gruesome enough to merit him the title “savior,” a claim demonstrating total misunderstanding of his torture and death. Tisthammer’s piece shows this misunderstanding even more clearly.

Tisthammer, the self-proclaimed expert, stated the only worthy pain Jesus suffered was physical. Sure, that is half of the crucifixion story, appealing to the blood-lusting Gibson gene. And it’s interesting if you enjoy outright gore.

But the more painful part of Jesus’ death, as agreed by every scholar who has studied Christianity from Paul to Jerome to Aquinas, was his humiliation. First, Jesus chose to die, even in the face of innocence and even with many opportunities to go free. Second, if you accept the hypostatic union or the basis for Christianity claiming that Jesus was fully man and fully God, Jesus chose to die as man, not God. Paul writes, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God … taking the form of a servant … and he became obedient unto death, even death of the cross,” (Phil 2:6-8). In metaphorical effect, we humans mocked, tortured and killed God. That, it is agreed, was Jesus’ main pain.

Tisthammer missed this aspect completely in his article, giving his readers a false impression of what really matters to most believers that celebrate Jesus’ death. All we need to know is that it hurt for Jesus and that he died. Where the nails were put, how long he hung, where they speared him and so on are all relatively unimportant.

The matter in which Tisthammer wrote his article – that he had the “infallible” truth simply because he is Christian – is indicative of many Christians’ attitudes in our society today, especially in our government. It’s important to keep in mind that all churches on Earth are human-populated institutions, inevitably imperfect. The worst thing we can do is to judge anyone else’s well-thought out religious beliefs as totally right or wrong, because, collectively, what do we really know? What can we really prove? Believe what you believe and be happy for it.

I admit, I could very easily be wrong too, but at least I’ve tried to use the work of many years past to back up any opinions I expound. I stand firmly on the shoulders of other women and men. As a Catholic, I am told that is how I am supposed to argue for truth. Let me end with the answer to both Jones’ and Tisthammer’s question of why Jesus really did suffer for the world and with a Bible quote that is not completely out of context: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8).

John Schmid is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]