Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here´┐Żs how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

The immoral Jesus

By Peter Fleming - posted Monday, 16 October 2006


Jesus Christ is indecent, outspoken, and known to be violent. He keeps bad company, is no role model for ordinary decent folk who just want to get on with their lives, and has absolutely whacko opinions on just about everything. He is, quite simply, immoral.

That friend of drug-mules and terrorists, Jesus of Nazareth, would, frankly, never be allowed to speak on an Alan Jones talk-back segment for more than a quarter of a minute, would he? Our Saviour is, to put it bluntly, a scandal, an abomination and an embarrassment.

Recently, a student in one of my theatre history lectures gave a presentation discussing whether or not a certain film conveyed “a message of Christian morals”. She, not I, had chosen the topic, and at the end I gently suggested that it may have been better to have asked whether it conveyed Christian values rather than Christian morals.

Advertisement

While there is, undoubtedly, a Christian morality, it is not necessarily a sign of a Christian. The deeply entrenched dislike of hypocrisy in our Western culture stems from an acute awareness that apparently Christian acts can in fact mask despicable intent and wallpaper over more secret, darker deeds.

Conversely, we know from the word go, from the New Testament, that the despicable and the corrupt were often good friends of Jesus.

It astonished me that this student, of a quite definitely younger generation, and at a Protestant college, could have somehow missed out on this cornerstone of Christian teaching. It seemed only yesterday, when we older types were at university, that this simple thought - that Christianity was not the spiritual property of “the good” - was, after pre-eminence of the salvific message of Christ’s dying on the cross, the central conceit in the evangelical propaganda wars.

Notions such as that God kept an account book and weighed up our good deeds and our bad and thus determined our entry into, or exclusion from, Heaven, were regularly trounced; after all, had St Paul not made it clear that “all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”? Were we not encouraged to “come as you are”, “warts and all”, “saintly or sinning”? Was there not more celebration in heaven over the repentance of one sinner than over the many righteous? Did we not believe in the hope of death-bed conversions by the worst of the worst, after a lifetime of “immorality”?

It seems as if, in this era of hard-nosed, conservative over-regulators, status-seekers and high-achievers, we need once again to remind ourselves of the counter-cultural immorality - the wild outrageousness - of our Lord and Saviour.

There is nothing, at heart, very special about the word “morals”. Originally it just meant “customs”, or perhaps, better, “customary behaviour”; “what everybody did”; “the norm”, as we might say in Australia. In the pluralistic Roman empire, “mores” (to use the Latin) could vary from province to province, and just so long as the “mores” did not affront the majesty of the Emperor and what he stood for, people were free to do what they liked.

Advertisement

Christian behaviour was, in Pliny the Younger’s time (circa 100 AD), noticeably different from the “mores”, and thus was considered a threat, although Pliny himself found it hard to understand why, since the principles he uncovered in the “sect” - which he perceived as honesty, integrity, and the worship of Jesus as a God - seemed harmless enough.

Over time, of course, as Christianity became the dominant religion in society, more and more people sought to advance their status by attaching themselves to perceived “Christian” “mores”: and given that a belief in sanctification implied that Christian influences had progressively improved the “mores” of individuals, the word “morals” itself came to have a certain aura of sanctification about it.

In the 1960’s, when I was growing up, people were praised for having “morals”. Johnny O’Keefe was reminding people of a truer form of Christianity when he sang the song contradicting the norm, in which the man of doubtful character in a street of gossips is the one who dashes out and saves a child from being run over, sacrificing himself in the act.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in OnLine Catholics in Issue 122, September 20, 2006.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

69 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Peter Fleming graduated in Arts and Education from the University of Sydney; his studies focusing on Classical History, English Literature and American Music Theatre. He is a graduate of the NIDA Playwrights Studio. He has taught in schools, universities and tertiary colleges, covering subjects such as Ancient History, Religion, English Literature, Theatre History and Arts Administration. He also survived a year of teaching drama in North Carolina.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Peter Fleming

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 69 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy