22 October 2005

The evolution of Christianity

This has been running around my head for a while. I'm sure other people have already realized this, but it's my first shot.

It's occurring to me that on of the most important things that ever happened in the evolution of Christianity was the letter of Romans and maybe just the strong influence of Paul, period. I've been saying to folks how odd I find it that you could ostensibly get rid of the first-hand accounts of Jesus's teaching and still have a very functional Christian religion. In fact, I doubt anything would change. This has been striking me as terribly odd especially as I read the words of Jesus which seem much more mystic than the hard line, clear theology of Paul. It seems that through this letter, Christianity was not only made accessible to Roman culture, but became marked by the same thought-processes as the Romans. Christianity became a Western religion rather than a queer off-shoot of Judaism that no one was really clear about.

This bothers me more than it probably should. I've been wondering what would have happened if the message of Jesus had moved East instead of West and what would have happened if a bulk of the Pauline writing was replaced by a similar figure from, say, a Buddhist heritage. I guess this couldn't work in that Paul's understanding of Jewish thought helped him make links between messianic writing and Jesus. Still though.

We like Paul so much because his writing is relatively clear compared to Jesus who, if you read without the aid of the back half of the New Testament, is really bizarre, unclear, and mysterious. It's so much easier to show someone the "Roman Road", the typical blueprint for "sharing" the gospel than to say, Read what Jesus says and do what he says. Because what will you get from Jesus. Love God, love others, love the poor, and follow me. We can't very well tell people to do that. What kind of faith statement does that produce anyway. I don't want to be critical of Paul just yet and am holding my tongue from saying that Romans is the worst thing that could have happened to the teaching of Jesus. But I'm beginning to get more frustrated with the hierarchy of Paul over Jesus.

Yoko and I watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (the old one) tonight and the shit that comes out of Wonka's mouth is just fabulous.