Sunday, May 24, 2020

#145 / Jesus As Sociologist

Most of my friends, I think, find "Jesus" pretty hard to take. I have never actually polled my friends, but I know that many of them do find it quite difficult to get their mind around someone whom many claim to be God himself, rendered in human form, someone who died and then rose from the dead, and who will return at the End of Days to judge the world. Those are, of course, some of the religious claims of Christianity.

Just for this blog post, at least, let's set the religious and theological questions aside, and think of Jesus as a "sociologist," as someone whose observations of how the world works are worthy of attention. The image above is of Jesus giving the "Sermon on the Mount," which is one place where some of Jesus' most pertinent observations were imparted to his followers. 

Jesus reportedly said two things that are rather radical in their implications, but that are "sociological" observations, the way I see it, and not necessarily religious directives. 

First, Jesus said "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." This is, emphatically, not actually a call for you to donate to the church (though you'll hear that phrase, quite often, when the pastor passes the collection plate). What this observation actually tells us (and it is an "observation," not a directive) is that if we invest our time and money in any cause, then we will love and support that cause. 

I, personally, have found this to be quite true. When I donate to "Save The Redwoods," I love the redwoods even more than I did before. And the same is true with respect to all the other causes, including political causes and campaigns, to which I contribute. 

The lesson (not a directive) is that if you would like something to happen in the world, give money! Give the treasure of your time and effort. Properly understood, Jesus' observation is another way of saying that we do not change the world by observation, but by action, and the actions that will most signifcantly change the world (and change us) are the actions by which we give our resources to the causes we support. Jesus tells us that we "support" them because we have given our treasure to them (not the other way around). 

I consider this to be an infallible guide to the kind of action that can change the world. Since I think that the American Revolution was one of the "main events" in human history, I do not think that it is a coincidence that the revolutionaries defined their status as revolutionaries by pledging their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."

Here is the second one of Jesus' sayings I would like to highlight. It is another truth that I would call "sociological": "To find your life you must lose it." 

Life is a supreme and unexpected gift which has been given to us all. I take Jesus to mean that we should appreciate this gift, and let the life we have been given carry us along, instead of thinking of our lives are something that we, personally, create. "Your" life is the life you construct, the kind of life in which we might work for a "good career," for more money, or fame, or for some other accomplishment that we think is important. If we can trick ourselves into losing that focus on "our" life, on our own accomplishments as the definition of our life, if we can respond "to life," instead of presuming to treat life as our own construction project, we will truly find the life that is seeking us. 

I consider this approach to life to be another infallible guide to the kind of action that can change the world. Indeed, this is a revolutionary saying. 

Recently, I said in one of these blog postings that we need to face the challenge of our human-caused global warming crisis with some lessons from Utopia, and to seek out actions that are new, and unexpected. We need to undertake actions that have never been seen or thought of before. 

Giving our treasure to the causes that inspire us, and giving up our own plans and projects, going forward, and counting on life to support us, are "utopian" ideas, indeed. Jesus, as sociologist, tells us that they work!

I consider these observations to be the most reliable guide we can follow, right now, as we consider how we must transform our lives and change the world.

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