Glutton for Punishment


Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)

Flush your comfortable, suburban theology down the toilet. I’d like to introduce you to the Apostle Paul, a bona fide religious wacko of the first order, the freakiest of all Jesus freaks, and a dyed-in-the-wool spiritual masochist.

For Paul, it’s not enough that Jesus suffered. It’s not enough that Jesus was persecuted. It’s not enough that Jesus was beaten to a pulp.  It’s not enough that Jesus was spit on and mocked. It’s not enough that Jesus was stapled to a couple of pieces of wood and planted on a hill far away like a tacky Tiki torch. It’s not enough that Jesus was cast as the erotic star of Mel Gibson’s torture porn flick, The Passion of the Christ.

Noooo. This isn’t enough for Mr. Colossal to the Gentiles. Paul doesn’t buy the substitutionary theory of Christian living. He doesn’t go for a vicarious Christianity like the rest of us. Paul isn’t into the Jesus-died-so-I-don’t-have-to theory. Paul doesn’t seem to think “It is finished” means it is finished, for Christ’s sake. What the hell is up with this guy?

And what is “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” supposed to mean? Something is still lacking with the cross thing? And he’s going to pick up the slack? Is he serious? Doesn’t he read his own freaking letters? Did he buy Galatians from an online essay service? Did he find the book of Romans in a malt shop in Malta? Did he get his theology degree from a damn diploma mill? Whom did he see on the road to Damascus anyway, Emo?

Look. I’m not saying Paul wasn’t sincere. He probably would have been a great guest on Oprah. But this kind of attitude only invites trouble—which, apparently, he enjoyed in a perverted sort of way. Hey, I’m not judging him; it takes all kinds. Just don’t expect me to sign up in the lobby for spanking and whips. After all, according to the old hymn, Jesus “suffered and died alone”—with the emphasis on the alone part.

Paul’s okay, I guess. But I prefer my own Christianity over easy, thank you very much.


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