My article of July 12, 2012 titled, Is a Neurotic Form of Christianity Destroying America?, received over a hundred responses. Many of these responses missed my qualification, “a neurotic form,” and thought I was generalizing about all Christianity and Christians.
Now I know there are people who claim that all Christianity, in fact all forms of religion, are neurotic. And although that claim seems too general to me, I do agree with Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University Neuroscientist, who says “Religious Fundamentalism Could Be Treated As A Mental Illness.”
But whatever the reasons for the responses, both pro and con, let’s consider a few points of clarification.
First, let’s establish the fact that Jesus did not come to create Christianity. From Reza Aslan’s book titled, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, “Jesus of Nazareth was first and finally a Jew. As a Jew, Jesus was concerned exclusively with the fate of his fellow Jews.’ His mission was ‘solely to save the lost sheep of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24) and ordered his disciples to share the good news with none but their fellow Jews: ‘Go nowhere near the gentiles and do not enter the city of the Samaritans.’ (Matthew 10:5-6)
So it follows that the modern day understanding of Jesus as the founder of Christianity is a 2000 year old social construction that started around the time of St. Paul. In fact, the whole mythology of Jesus’ modus operandi is just that, a mythology.
Jesus was a revolutionary in a time when religion and politics were one and he wanted to boot the Romans out of the Holy Land, which he believed was given to the Jews by God. He was executed for his efforts. From Aslan again, “Crucifixion was a punishment that Rome reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition.”
Aslan’s book gives us a deep look into the socio-political state of Jesus’ world. By doing so he illustrates the accumulated differences in interpretations. He gives us a historical basis from which to understand the man. In doing so, he shows the elasticity of human stories.
The meanings in our lives come from stories that emerge from social constructions being continuously built on a substrate of objective reality. Like a never ending stage play being performed on a stage in a theatre. In this example, the stage and theatre are objectively real. The play is a social construction.
John Caputo’s religious application of Derrida’s deconstruction is aimed at the accumulation of those meanings shaped by political agendas that have accreted to this modern day Jesus construction throughout the 2000 years since his death. Caputo’s goal, as is the goal of all deconstruction, is to find the truths contained therein, no matter how painful they are.
The reason I blamed the neurotic form of the Christian construction as it interacts with those of government and capitalism is, it gives the illusion of moral authority to them. But in fact it is a perversion of Christianity invented to justify immoral actions. They are all three social constructions and they have irreconcilable inconsistencies within and among themselves.
I am not throwing the whole religious project under the bus. But in order to reconstruct stories to make a better world, we must recognize that religions as social constructions should not be the basis of unquestioned belief in an orthodoxy. They are creations based on constructions of our own making and we can disassemble them to make a better world. Core religious truths, when recovered from 2000 years of reconstructions, can guide us to that end.
Without those truths, the moral perversions contained today in religion, government and unfettered capitalism will continue. We will stay on the trajectory described so well by Caputo, “Strategically, diplomatically, socially, politically, morally, economically, evangelically, in every possible way we are witness today to a low point in American leadership, an ethical, social, political and biblical catastrophe.”.
Robert De Filippis