Jesus Was Not a Christian
By: Coulter Prehm
It seems necessary to me, due to the obvious nature of the title of this work, to offer one or two explanatory sentences regarding said title. Of course Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. He did not adhere to Christian creeds or doctrines, nor was he a follower of himself. Even as a Jew Jesus broke the mold. His ideas and knowledge of the spiritual life were considered heresy for which he was eventually sentenced to death and consequently (and I do not believe this was his intention) launched a new world religion. This is important to note simply because Christians generally state that their mission in life is to “Be like Jesus”, hence we go through fashion fads (or faux pas) like wearing cheap rubber bracelets inscribed with the too-well-known acronym WWJD. The problem is that the question of, “What would Jesus do?” is rarely addressed or actualized in any context, including that Christianity. I believe Jesus was simply on a path to more deeply knowing and experiencing deep Reality (God) and that his teachings are not only instructional but invitational to all who are desiring to taste spiritual freedom. WWJD? Jesus would love.
One afternoon years ago while I reclined alone on the grass at a park near my home, basking in the sun with a crisp Santa Fe breeze ruffling my shirt (it couldn’t ruffle my hair due to my early-in-life balding), a voice suddenly and clearly spoke within me and said, “I am not the God of the Christians or the Jews.” After a long pause during which I’m sure held my breath as my mind raced to understand the meaning of these words The Voice began again, “I am the God of All That Is.” This was a major turning point in my life. It seems true to me that the more a person’s eyes are opened the bigger God becomes. Having a small understanding of God is an indication of blindness. In the beginning of the spiritual journey it is natural that the god you are able to see will be a local one. A god that is “for you” and “against your enemies”. A tribal notion of God reminiscent of the times when if one people group was victorious in battle against a neighbor it was because, from their perspective, their god had come through for them. These are very small gods indeed which govern over such tiny niches of the race of men. I don’t believe in such gods. And who wants to be in union with a god who is only god of the Christians, or the Hindus or the Muslims or… (fill in the blank with whichever group you want)? These are only slightly larger tribes.
Besides the issue of the grandness of God being continually understated is the very real problem of anthropomorphizing; as Voltaire stated, ““In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” We want a god who talks like us, thinks like us, is like us. A god whose idea of justice is punishment because, well, that’s the way people like it (which is clearly observable with even a glance at our punitive judicial system). The idea of a God who is infinitely beyond us is too much for people to grasp… obviously. But what if there was a path, a way to begin to commune with, to know, and to actually become part of a God who transcends our reason and the natural realm. What if there was a way to become things which in the past we thought we could only possess; being rather than having love, joy peace, hope, etc. I believe there is a way and that Jesus existed and exists to lead us on such a wonderfully mind and spirit expanding adventure as this.
It’s easy to get caught up in one’s particular religion; the rituals, traditions, practices, creeds and community, and miss the point. It’s easier to think and speak of love than to love. Less committing to chatter on about peace and joy than live a life so saturated with Peace and Joy that you alter your surroundings and the hearts of those you meet are touched ever so gently that they feel invited to share in your freedom. To have religion as something to believe in is much different than embarking on a spiritual journey… it’s the difference between believing in God or experiencing and transforming into the internal, eternal light that is God.
I was raised Christian with traditional Christian thoughts, ideas, traditions, creeds, etc. I was taught that Jesus was my savior. I have since discovered Jesus as my teacher. These are very different viewpoints. Jesus as savior requires nothing from me other than a willingness to consent to certain ideas (e.g. that he died on the cross for my sins because I am sinner and needed saving from God and that if I believe in Jesus I’ll go to heaven, and so on and so forth). Jesus as teacher is an invitation. No quick-fix notions of salvation will do for you when Jesus is your teacher… Jesus isn’t interested in that. His desire has been for me, as for anyone who’s ever met him, to take us down a path of transformation through which we become like him. By that I mean we become Love and Mercy, Kindness and Peace. This is salvation. To become so filled with peace that one effectively is Peace is truly an experience of being saved… set free.
The goal of this short book is to inspire you toward greater freedom and understanding of your inherent beloved-ness through the ways and teachings of my teacher, Jesus. I will be discussing following Jesus as a legitimate spiritual path, not a religion to subscribe to. I hope that you will be able to set aside (the best you can) your preconceived prejudices and notions and be able to hear something new, fresh, and maybe challenging. The teachings of Jesus are applicable to all (to those of any background, religious or irreligious) and the Truths contained in his words and revealed through his life have the power to set men free. This is my desire; that maybe in some small way my small words would act as an oracle. Not that I would be the teacher but simply that I may introduce you to my teacher. That you might discover the deep freedom that I know and be a partaker of the Love that sustains me and for which I am eternally grateful.
Peace and deepest joy to you on your journey!
1: Transformation Over Conformation
I’m not trying to convert you. I care zero about whether or not you attend church services, memorize creeds, participate in conferences and potlucks, or if you tithe. Christianity was never intended to operate as world dominating, conversion-based, group-think system but is a legitimate spiritual path at its purest. I am writing to you, for you, because I have discovered freedom and how to live in the realm often called “heaven” even while standing and breathing here in the physical. I’ve discovered what it is everyone is looking for, and I’m still discovering it every day. It’s easy to see without much deep insight that the vast majority of people are existing in a state of hell, to one degree or another. Fear about what tomorrow holds, if the bank account is going to cover the bills, stress over relationships, security, poor self-image… honestly, the list goes on and on. If anyone discovers a sliver of the peace, joy and power that are heaven it seems to me that they have a responsibility to share about how and where it was unearthed so that others might benefit as well. My intentions are that simple.
First, to dispel a common assumption; I don’t believe that every non-Christian is going to some hell, or that adherence to certain established ideas will get you “saved”, whatever that means. I believe that heaven is now and beyond this life, and the same goes for hell. These are real but they are not relegated to being only far off, future-tense realties; not merely mystical destinations for the good and the bad. These states are for all people at all places in all times to experience. To come to exist in a reality filled with goodness, peace, light, joy, generosity, and to recognize that you are eternally loved and worthy of that love is what I would name “Heaven” and is the meaning of salvation as far as I can tell. (More on the topic of heaven and hell in an upcoming chapter). No, this is not a book meant to sign you up for membership to an organization. Jesus aims to help change the way people think; how they understand themselves, reality, and God because in changing the way we think our heart is correspondingly transformed. This is enlightenment. Every aspect of our being is conformed to a higher reality. We can go so far as to say that who we were before this time of metamorphosis is not who we are after. It’s that radical! The discovery of Truth, Love and Freedom is so wonderfully life-shattering that it renders our previous understanding of self obsolete. We become a new creation.
To be using the same words yet meaning very different things is one of the dangers of using words at all and, indeed, of being human. We think differently and have different paradigms, all of which have been shaped by our own specific life circumstances and experiences. For this reason, it is important that I clarify some of the terms that I will be using regularly.
When I say “Christian”, I am by no means referring to the entity of Christianity that is the institution and organization. I don’t mean all the different denominations and sects, the rituals, observances, dogmas, books, preachers, and programs. In this writing as in my life, I am concerned with those things which cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and especially freedom. I am very unconcerned with systems which cause people to conform externally but leave the internal state unchanged (referring to religion merely as a form of group-belonging as opposed to a spiritual path). No, when I speak of Christian I am using the term in its most strict sense; one who is likened to Christ. To be like Christ, part of Christ, is to be like God; part of God. (Note; although we are all inextricably “part of God” there is a role for us to play. Our heart can be conformed and transformed to love; to be Love. This is to be like Jesus and, not coincidentally, to be like God who is Love Herself. Through this transformation we begin to consciously add to the beauty that is God. We are no longer un-conscious wanderers through life but are acting to contribute light, healing and wonder to the world. End of note.)
Another term that is important to clarify, though in doing so I will be admittedly unclear, is “Christ”. This word does not mean “Jesus”. So what is “Christ” then? The word Christ means “anointed”. It speaks of bearing the power, blessing, and image of God; to be like God. Christ is not Jesus’ name. Christ is for all of us. Christ is connection that sustains all. This is one reason why the current idea of being Christian can be too small for myself and many others. “To be like Christ” (which is a traditional Christian idea and jargon) means currently and generally to behave how one feels Jesus would. This is a noble aim, but it’s not the point. We are to add to the Christ reality. To be transformed, enlightened, and to live knowingly as the image of God. You have probably heard the term “Christ Consciousness”. “Christedness” is a universal reality that all may enter into and are indeed already part of. To be a Christian in the sense of including one’s self in the organizational structure that is the Church and consenting to its dogmas and ideas is very different than entering into and living as part of the everlasting mystery that is Christ. Actually being love, being peace, being joy. That is not to say these two are mutually exclusive, just that consenting to ideas doesn’t by necessity equate to living or being the ideal. It’s the difference between concept and reality. I want to restate in order to be perfectly clear… the Christ reality is for every person on the planet to participate in. Period.
The last term that must be mentioned is ‘God’. Everyone has their own baggage attached to this word. God is beyond defining. In shedding some light upon what I mean when I say “God” it may be easier to share what I don’t mean. I am not referring to Jesus. Additionally, I do not mean a man sitting on a throne somewhere in the far reaches of the universe in a city called heaven, whence he dishes out judgements upon the earth and presides over a terrifying courtroom where, if you are found unworthy, you are tossed into a lake made of fire where you will be tormented forever. Again, to be very clear, this is NOT what I mean when I say “God”. I experience God as the life, power and flow that connects all creation. All creation is a manifestation of what I am calling God. Lately I have been experiencing God as “The Great Goodness” that is the cause and sustaining factor of all life and creation. Say “The Divine” or “The Universe”; call God He, She, or It… I don’t care. God is beyond naming so name God what you will. I will be saying God simply as a common term to reference the un-referenceable so that we can all be on the same page, linguistically at least. For me, God is all, is in all, and is holding all things together. You are in and of God, for nothing can be outside of God, and discovering your place and part in and of God will “set you free”. Free to be you and simultaneously to be one with everyone and everything else. This freedom is, I believe, the very liberty that Jesus promised his followers and is still the promise today.
The goal of any true spiritual path is transformation, not conformation. We are supposed to be different. Each of us thinks differently, experiences life differently, and has a different set of skills, understanding, and purpose that we are to contribute to the whole in the short time we have been allotted in our bodily state. Attempting to cause persons to conform and be like one another is an offense to the creativity and almost absurdly spectacular diversity that is inherent in God. Although we are unique, our uniqueness is still being developed and affirmed. Much of the influence and thrust of our culture at large is in the direction of conformation. We are told, if not out-rightly, that we should think, behave, talk, believe, dress and act like everyone else. This may well be a reason for the millions of dollars being spent on therapy and soul-numbing drugs each year; that individuals are feeling caged and confined by the continually spewed message that they should be like someone else… someone they are not. This is most definitely one of the experiential states of hell mentioned previously. To view yourself as inherently inadequate or lacking fundamental beauty and worth is to be stuck in the prison of your own mind and wrongly constructed self-image. A prison which currently and has always held too many captives. To be quite frank, to gage our personal worth through observing the lives of celebrities or those who are upholding the well-advertised status quo is delusional. As the infamous rapper Tupac Shakur once penned, “Only God can judge me.” A true spiritual journey is meant to unravel the lie of uniformity, setting you and I free to add our own specific color to the glorious kaleidoscope of creation.
Regardless of what anyone may say to the contrary, spiritual openness, curiosity, and practice are essential to cultivating deeper understanding of the transcendent aspects of our being and experiencing the freedom I am speaking of. Without basic openness and curiosity one will never even venture upon the spiritual path in the first place. Once on the journey, there are a variety of practices one may perform that will lead to greater personal revelation and understanding (these practices, such as mediation or prayer, loving your neighbor, exercising generosity, etc. will be discussed in following chapters).
Jesus has been my personal guide and teacher throughout the process of more deeply discovering who I am, eternal purpose, and laying hold of the multitude of other benefits that come with living a life in the realm and reality of heaven. His teachings are simple and deep, rooted in love, beauty and union. If your heart is soft they will lead you into joy unspeakable and peace that goes beyond understanding.