My old friend Peter Shapiro and I have been bantering about for a week. I just sent him another message suggesting we transcribe our chat, and sell it to a publisher. I suggested the ghost of Jack Kerouac has been with us, pouring a spirited stiff one, having a good laugh. We got razor sharp wits, here. I even wrote two songs. One is called ‘The Woo-Woo’ song. I suggested we form a band called ‘No Rest For Wicked Old Men’. Peter suggested a moniker, and after we bantered back and forth, I came up with….
JOHNNY EVIL – THE BOHEMIAN BOLL WEEVIL
“How did you come by that name, Johnny?”
“From the French Cajun name DeVille. My grandfather thought it was too sissy, so, he took the EVIL out of it, and gave it to his newborn son.”
“Is this why you drive a 1959 Caddilac DeVille?’
“You got it!”
“Will you play us a tune on your famous slide-guitar?”
“Sure will! This song, inspired by the movie ‘Salome’s Last Dance’ and explores the question I asked when I read the Bible for the first time when I was forty. Why wasn’t John the Baptist pronounced “EVIL” like Jesus was, and thus crucified by the high priest? This led me to look and see if the Jews really saw Jesus as being “EVIL”. What is EVIL, for sure, is to see both our Presidents being DEMONIZED as we are trying to get our troops and our citizens out of harms way of the EVIL ISIS MOTHERFUCKERS! My Puritan ancestors are frowning down on this one! Anyway, this tune is called ‘Salome Doing Evil In The Kitchen’.
More than 30 Christians arose early Sunday morning to listen to an atheist explain why he thinks Jesus Christ was a bad person.
“I’m very, very grateful for them allowing me to speak to them and for how open-minded they are,” Hector Avalos said. “I’ve been invited to speak at other churches, but not at this level of discord.”
Avalos, professor of biblical studies at Iowa State, was invited to Collegiate Methodist Church to speak on April 15 about the perceived unethical teachings of the Christian messiah.
“We have somewhat of a secular Sunday school,” Tim Garner explained.
Garner works for Collegiate Methodist, organizing talks and lectures from a variety of people and worldviews.
“Having an atheist here is something we welcome,” he said. “We like the intellectual give-and-take that comes with mixing opinions. There were questions that were probing, challenging sometimes, but always respectful.”
Avalos wrote a book about what he sees as Christ’s wrongdoings. “The Bad Jesus” argues that there is a bias in contemporary biblical studies which favors Christ. Avalos presented that thesis along with scriptural evidence for his claims.
“Modern biblical scholarship still portrays Jesus as superhuman,” Avalos said. “I wrote my book as a way of mitigating that, and instead analyze him ethically as a human person.”
Avalos said this trend is nearly universal, and can be seen within the works of Christian, Jewish and secularist scholars alike. However, Avalos is an expert in the Ancient Near East and used the Bible, as well as pre-Bible literature, in support of his points.
For example, John 2:14 famously tells the story of Jesus brandishing a whip in the Jewish Temple and pushing over tables because people were selling their cattle and otherwise exchanging money.
“If a man entered a church while you were playing Bingo, took out a whip and started tipping over the tables, would you say, ‘Gee, he’s really challenging the church’s view of commerce’?” Avalos said. “No, you wouldn’t find anything about that ethically okay, but because it’s Jesus, nobody thinks it’s bad.
“We don’t want people vandalising temples because they don’t think people are worshipping correctly.”
While some certainly disagreed with Avalos, there were no negative interactions between he and the audience.
“I’m surprised he escaped with all his limbs,” joked Madison Harrington, junior in aerospace engineering. “The lecture was really good, and everyone was very respectful.”
Vandalism is one thing, but some of Jesus’s actions would bring about grave repercussions, Avalos said. His words were even used by Nazis in anti-Semitic propaganda.
In John 8:44, Jesus charged Jews with being the sons of the devil.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to bring about your father’s desires,” the scripture reads.
“This had an effect on history,” Avalos said and showed the audience black and white photos of signs with German writing. “They put this verse on road signs in Nazi Germany. People acted on this throughout Christian history, and a lot of scholars know it.”
He may have said to love your enemies in Matthew 5:44, but in Luke 14:26 Jesus commanded his followers to hate their families, Avalos argued.
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple,” reads the scripture.
“If anyone else in history said this it would be viewed as hate speech,” Avalos said.
This verse is subject to such varying interpretation that Avalos dedicated a whole chapter in his book to it. For the lecture he broke down the arguments using Greek, the original language of the New Testament.
“People might say Jesus meant you should leave your family, or that you should love Jesus more than your family, but there’s no linguistic evidence for that,” Avalos said. “The word used for hate is miseo… which can be seen later in Luke 16:13.”
The verse Avalos mentioned reads “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other….”
“Nobody suggests this means you will love one master and love the other a little less,” Avalos said. “It’s zero sum, you’re to love one and hate the other.”
Avalos used additional scripture, such as Amos 5:15 and Judges 14:16.
Avalos also charged some of Jesus’s philosophies as violent.
For example Matthew 10:34 reads, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’” This is referring to the fate of those who did not follow Jesus as their messiah.
Avalos paired this with Christ’s more famous doctrine in Matthew 5:38, where he commands his followers to act peacefully and, when struck, to “turn the other cheek.” Avalos argues that this isn’t teaching pacifism or nonviolence, but deferred violence instead.
“The Old Testament God would punish you severely,” Avalos said. “Burns, plagues, agony, you name it. But it would always end in your lifetime. In the New Testament, the violence is eternal. The punishment is infinitely greater in quality and quantity.”
There are other views of Jesus which paint him as a lover of nature, and also as a feminist, Avalos said. Avalos again used the scripture, saying one could just as easily argue the opposite.
He used an example from Mark 11 where Jesus magically kills a fig tree because he was hungry and it bore no fruit.
“Think about it, is that an eco-friendly response?” Avalos asked. “He could just as easily made it grow fruit on the spot, and it could’ve fed even more people. You may say, ‘this is just a parable,’ but then it teaches a bad message.”
He also pointed to Matthew 24:37, which reads, “For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” This alludes to Genesis 6 when God sends a flood over the Earth, destroying all life save what was on the Ark.
“Jesus thought the world would be destroyed in some form,” Avalos said. “Is that eco friendly? This isn’t just genocide, it’s biocide. He’s proposing the destruction of the entire biosphere.”
For a feminist’s critique, Avalos offered Matthew 15:26, where a Syrophoenician woman approaches Jesus to care for her possessed son, and he says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
“In other words, she is one of the dogs,” Avalos said. “Jesus initially refused to help a woman because she was outside of his ethnic group. ”
Avalos went on to say there were cultures pre-dating Jesus which treated women better than Christian societies. Woman served as leaders at synagogues during the Byzantine era, for example.
“If there was a real historical Jesus, he was as flawed as anyone else,” Avalos said.