Shift Happens

They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:23)

When the whole Christianity thing is kept under control like it’s supposed to be then things go fine. As long as the believer types are able to function like everybody else we’re all able to get along and pursue the American Dream like one big happy family. The good news is that most Christians get this; they watch the same TV shows and movies, wear the same clothes, live in the same big houses, drive the same expensive cars, break the same laws, chase the same divorce rate, own the same toys, obsess about the same stuff, and basically seek after their own interests just like all the unbelievers around them who are going to hell on a technicality. I support this kind of innocuous Christianity as the best way to show sinners that God loves them and wants them to be happy.

But every once in a while Christianity can get out of control and actually change somebody. This is generally a pain the butt for all concerned and tends to give Christianity a bad name. Take Paul, for instance. He was a really cool Pharisee with a lot going for him. He could argue like a machine gun, do all kinds of nifty rituals with one hand tied behind his back, hated people who rocked the boat, and bowled 237. So then he goes off and gets religion, which is kind of ironic since he was already in the religion business to start with, but he most likely didn’t get the irony until he was in Rome getting ready to be killed. (Execution brings out the funny bone in some people. Just before Joan of Arc was burned at the stake she was reported to have shouted, “Ha! My last name isn’t even Arc, you dweebs!”)

Anyway, Paul suddenly goes all ga-ga about Jesus like he’s the first to figure it out and so you might as well erase the other twelve guys who started the club in the first place. Like, duh, Paul. But he’s so flipping into the Jesus thing now that he runs all over creation babbling about it, and then, as if that isn’t enough, he jots down a whole bunch of new stuff about Jesus and starts firing that stuff to every Jesus franchise in the Roman Empire. It’s like he’s on religious meth or something. The guy can’t shut up or sit down for a freaking minute before he has to blow into another town to preach the company line or he has to invent some new doctrines for people to memorize. The guy is a bona fide Jesus wacko times ten. Eventually the Romans have enough of that and off him.

All this to say that Paul’s hypertensive version of Christianity was probably okay at the beginning, sort of like spiritual jumper cables to get things off the ground. But the guy would be totally screwed if he were around today. I mean, for 2000 years Christians have suffered under the stigma of being Christians, and finally we’re making some real progress. Nobody wants some flaming religious zealot around making everybody uncomfortable. Those days are gone, thank God. Christianity is no longer limited to a bunch of happy-dancing Jesus freaks. Now it’s something everybody can be a part of no matter what their religious preference or sexual orientation is, although, since Christianity was purchased by the Republicans in 1979, Democrats must switch political affiliation before they can be officially received into communion.

Conversion to Christianity can be a great thing as long as a person doesn’t get overly ambitious about it. It is important to remember that Christianity, before Paul crazed it all up, was pretty much meant as a quiet pastime like cards or Scrabble is viewed today. Yes, every once in a while somebody gets majorly altered by Christianity, but you shouldn’t hold that against Jesus, who learned the hard way that religious excess was a sure-fire way to get yourself nailed.

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