The Relationship Between Jesus Christ and Quetzalcoatl
I should not need to confess to you that I have something of a history of engaging with Christian apologists and making them (as well as my readers, most likely) feel uncomfortable. I haven’t done this for a while for several reasons: I don’t want to be confused with a simple troll, I don’t want to be cruel, and I don’t think it really does any good. As I grow older I want to live my theology rather than write or argue about it; the Furious Buddha is seeking the life of a monk. I examine my own thoughts carefully and parse what I share in writing with more consideration than I ever used to; I am trying to say more with less. Still, as I toil in the obscure fields of the Clown Factory I hear the voices of our self appointed lamas and leaders bicker forth and froth and fret and it makes me think and in my silent labors I write sermons that no one will hear.
Once, long ago, we had an argument about cultural relativism and I was outraged by your liberal position not so much by how you presented it but by how it undermined my assumptions and preconceptions. I much better understand and appreciate the pragmatic as well as philosophical ideas that make cultural relativism an excellent lens now, but I still can’t help but make certain value judgments; human sacrifice is bad, for example. Not only is it repellent from the standpoint of any conventional morality, it is counterproductive for any culture to pointlessly murder itself; cultures that practice death-worship do not thrive for long. So, while I admit that I don’t have a purely relativistic objectivity, I do try to avoid unfair judgments. I have never really critiqued Mormonism for the same reason I don’t critique Islam or Zoroastrianism; I am not an adherent of these creeds and even if I am familiar with them and interested in their histories it is not really my place to pen screeds either vilifying or apologizing for them. I have been tough on Christians because I am one; although I embrace Buddhist philosophies and teachings I am culturally Christian and my formative spiritual experiences were drenched in both Catholic and Protestant settings. I have direct first hand experience of Christianity in that I have faith in Jesus Christ; Buddha speaks to me because he and Jesus are essentially saying the same thing, just in a different time and place to different people.
Perhaps it is because of my reconciliation of Buddhism and Christianity that makes the relationship between Islam and Mormonism so clear to me. I know that you understand that I mean no slur by this connection although members of both faiths may be horrified; let me explain my thought to you. I know that you are learned and far more well read on these subjects than I am and I am certain that the sort of connection I am describing here has been described before, but I will explain my layman’s thought here to you now. Religion is as old as human culture; it truly is the only thing that separates us from the beasts, for it is the only thing that tells us that we are separate. The oldest gods were nature and the ancestors until the God-kings erected pyramids to themselves across the globe; I agree with Julian Jaynes that this stage of human cultural development was pre-consciousness as we understand it today, and that it is not until after some kind of tremendous event that triggered a whole new perspective within the human mind that people started to think of themselves as individuals and God as the Infinite the way we do today. In the aftermath of this event the great ancient religions become established, collecting various writings and teachings into a practice and a cultural identity; for example, Judaism and Hinduism. Hinduism is a wide variety of practices and beliefs spread across an enormous span of space and time; it is possible that some of the verses in the Vedas are 11,000 years old. Judaism emerged from a nomadic people seeking a home and wasn’t even codified until it’s people were in captivity in Babylon. Judaism has remained a vital religion and culture despite lacking a nation for much of it’s existence. Buddha was born a Hindu. Jesus was born a Jew. Neither wrote anything that survived but rather their students recorded and transmitted their teachings, which were generally ironic parables that contained paradoxes that defied simple understanding or direct interpretation. Aside from their spiritual messages, they both taught the world the importance of individual conscience and the power of one to change the world, and in this respect the primary difference between them and Socrates is that nobody started a religion around him.
Mohammad and Joseph Smith were both perfectly ordinary middle aged men who encountered angels who then dictated very specific books to them. They assumed leadership of their religions from the very beginning, engaged in violence, and were regarded by their followers as holy men regardless of any behavior to the contrary. I have read both the Koran and Book of Mormon and can say without reservation that I am not convinced of the claims by either author of their divine narration (although the Koran has some truly inspired verses, to be sure); nor do I think that the Gospels need a sequel. Obviously, I think that Muslims and Mormons are entitled to their beliefs; simply because I consider and reject something doesn’t mean the thing I’ve rejected is wrong. Nor do I believe that the Divine is only to be found in the Gospels. And of course the contributions of Muslims and Mormons to human culture are tremendous; the poet Rumi. Algebra, Donny and Marie, just to name a few.
Even as some on the right wing are still trying to whisper that President Obama is a Muslim (I am reminded of the old SNL sketch where the guy would constantly mutter subliminal messages) a Mormon is poised to be the GOP nominee for President of the United States of America. Islam has been a religion for fifteen hundred years, the LDS has been here for fifteen decades. The tremendous irony of this is kind of staggering, really. Do you begin to see my dilemma, Brother Kenny? This is a barrel that is a target rich environment for Sarcasticus. No, really. Because, if Mormons really want to go mainstream and produce a leader for us all, then it behooves us to take a closer look at the people who will have their finger on the button. But am I engaging in the sort of religious bigotry I decry?
I think I’m being consistent. I know that I was tremendously annoyed with Christians who kept insisting that Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was an exact portrayal of the Gospels when in fact it was drenched in medieval Catholic mythology (for example, all the stuff with Veronica’s Veil) and was in fact a portrayal of a Medieval Passion Play which is distinctly different from the Passion of the Gospels. I am generally annoyed with fellow Christians for multitudes of things, usually their poor reading skills are top of the list, but I remember this caviling trifle really stuck in my craw. But I digress.
My question is that if Mormons want to be considered regular old Christians does that mean I get to take the kid gloves off? What if taking the kid gloves off means saying they’re not actually Christians (at least by the standard by which Christians count themselves)? That would mean that I would put them back into the category where it’s really not fair to take the kid gloves off. It’s kind of a paradox. But all I know is that I’ve been looking through their Apologetic, and there is some choice material in there; I mean, when you’ve got pages like ‘Jesus Christ/Relationship to Quetzalcoatl‘, you know you’ve hit Comedy Gold.