The Relationship Between Jesus Christ and Quetzalcoatl

Brother Kenny,

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.




7 Responses to “The Relationship Between Jesus Christ and Quetzalcoatl”

  1. I’m honoured that you would address a theological treatise to me. It will take me a while to respond; but be assured that I will. Right now though, I gotta get Junior off to school. So more later.

  2. My response is becoming as long as your post. Here is part one.

    Ok. I think I have your point. You want me to give you permission to make fun of another religion. Why you need my permission I don’t know. I am also not in any position to give it. You say that I am more educated and well read on this subject. I have always questioned that. But, disclaimers aside here’s my $.02.

    I have long said that Mormons are not Christians. They just aren’t. They are as far from being Christians as 3 is from 2. Close, but stuff has been added. I don’t mean it as a value judgment. I’m not saying their theology has no merit. (Although, one could argue that point; I think it is possible to make an argument that in many ways Mormonism is a Scientology-like group that has simply stood the test of time. On the other hand, it is possible to argue that they are simply the next evolutionary step for Christianity; the rest of us just aren’t there yet.) In fact, while I disagree with much of their teaching (homosexuality is first in my mind) much of their worship appeals to me. (The music, the importance of ritual etc.) But, at the end of the day, none of this really matters. I am not a Mormon, I am a Christian and more specifically a United Methodist. Live and let live etc.

    However, the candidacy of Mitt Romney changes things. If he had chosen to make religion a political issue I would expect and encourage you to unleash Sarcasticus. But he has carefully and wisely said that religion is a private matter and should not be a consideration. Now, how his religion leads him to decisions and positions on issues is what is important. In short, his being a Mormon (and wearing special underpants) has little to do with why I won’t vote for him. His position on Homosexuality and reproductive choice, among others, is why I won’t vote for him.

    As for your discussion on “Cultural Relativism,” I’m not at all sure of what you speak. I dislike buzzwords, they make a lot of noise and say very little. I vaguely remember a discussion we had a hundred years ago, probably during the reign of “the previous administration” as Mrs. Kenny calls it. I believe we were discussing Hinduism, more specifically the Hare Krsna movement and I was arguing that any and all religions are a product of their culture and are thus valid paths toward Godhead (or whatever one wants to call it.) As is true of most of my positions, I have mellowed somewhat and am becoming less of an absolutist on some things. I would no longer say any and all. In short, I understand that there are religious “snake oil salesmen” out there. Again, Scientology comes to mind. It is my opinion that L. Ron Hubbard was more interested in selling books than they are leading adherents to The Truth. I believe it could be argued that Joseph Smith did the same. (I apologize for the non-committal nature of my language. The simple fact is that I don’t have an educated opinion on either of these groups. I also have no interest in learning more. To make completely declarative statements would be irresponsible.) So, I amend my statement and say that it is difficult to judge what a valid path toward God is unless one has done some studying and thinking. So I am not sure how that fits in with your question, but I felt I needed to address it.

  3. Part 2.

    Now, a few stray thoughts.
    On reading the Koran: I was told by an Islamic scholar (A Christian minister who taught Graduate level comparative religion courses, advised PhD candidates and specialized in Islam) that he is frequently asked what translation of the Koran is a good one to read. His stock answer is that reading the Koran cover to cover is as unhelpful and misleading as reading the Bible the same way. One does not read Holy Texts. On comes to an understanding of them and of what makes them Holy. To do so, one must study and be in conversation and community with those who are adherents to the principles of the book. Simply reading ANY Holy book is a quick route to taking it as literal truth. One must only turn on the news and see what is happening in the Middle East or listen to the ranting of Rick Santorum to see what danger literalism causes.

    Don’t get me started on “The Passion of the Christ” I didn’t see it. I had no interest in it. I think the only thing one needs to know about it is that it didn’t show the Ressurection! How can it be about “Christ” if there is no Resurrection? It should’ve been called “A guy gets crucified” GAAH!

    So, on to my answer about “taking off the kid gloves:” only you can answer that. Really. You have to decide what the point of this blog is. I do think that simply going after a religion isn’t appropriate. unless you have, what is in the legal world called, “standing.” You’ve gotta have a stake. As a theologian, I have standing to talk about how wrong someone like Santorum is. Now, there are rules and I have to fight fair, but I can go after him. As a critic (in the classic sense, not the pejorative) of society, so do you. But what is your standing for going after Mormonism? Mitt Romney’s candidacy might give you that standing. Only you can decide for sure. But you are correct that it is a target rich environment. I think many folks would be really surprised if they learned what Mormonism really is, how it got started and what Mormons believe. I think we are already beginning to see the reaction to Santorum. As his poll numbers have increased, we have learned much more about how extreme he really is. He may win a few more Primaries, but I doubt he’ll be the nominee. If he is, Obama will certainly be a two term President. I’m not sure I can say the same about Romney. He has not wrapped himself in the cloak of Mormonism like Santorum has done with Biblical Literalism. So, for Santorum, open fire, to mix a metaphor. For Romney, he’s been a bit smarter, but I still think it is fair game to say –Hey, he’s a member of this group, this is what they believe. A wise woman once said, “Show me who you go with, I’ll show you who you are!” 😉

  4. Kenny, you never disappoint me. For God’s sake, you quoted Gramma Delgado’s favorite line. It’s not so much that I want your permission but rather exactly what you gave me, which are your thoughts on the subject; you are a member of a very small group of people whose opinions are extremely significant and whose dialogue is of immense value. It’s not so much that I’m looking for cover but that I’m genuinely puzzled and need my brain trust.
    I have to cut this short. More later.

  5. Well thanks. I try to pay attention. I await further conversation.

  6. I suppose I feel conflicted because I am disgusted by the ridiculous slanders about Obama’s religion and don’t want to engage in anything resembling that sort of nonsense; also, you are absolutely right about Santorum, but I kind of want him to be the GOP nominee because that would be totally awesome to the max. Of course, it would also make Obama’s track record of running against easily defeated opponents eerily complete.
    But I digress.
    I agree with you completely on Romney; he lost my vote on his policies alone. He seems the embodiment of every clueless corporate upper management headcheese fatboss that I’ve ever met. He is as much a member of the Optimates as Bush, and we don’t need any more of that, thank you very much. Still, since he actually would be the first non-Christian POTUS I agree that it would be healthy to have a national conversation about what the Church of LDS really is.
    But you are right that if I want to write about theology in politics there are much better targets available even if they aren’t as easy as these. As always, thank you for the Mind Meld,
    (I appreciate a good grokking)

  7. Okay, so I will step into the fray: I find it abhorrent that Mormons presume to be so enlightened as to baptize by proxy. Really? I mean seriously? My comments will not presume to be intellectual, only gut-reactionary. That another religion imposes itself upon a much older religion (namely, Judaism) by nominating followers of said religion to be “saved” simply wreaks of an ingrained superiority complex.

    As to Romney–I don’t dislike him because he is a Mormon. I dislike him because he is wishy-washy, uber-rich and out of touch, and his policies directly conflict with my own political beliefs. I do, however, find it really, really interesting that those same Americans who decry Obama because he is a Muslim (audible snort) have not openly disavowed the white-bread Mormon, as both religions are now in keeping with our supposed Christian nation.

    And just as an aside, how cool is it to have a twin brother named Xolotl?

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