Why Doesn’t Jesus Sell in the 21st Century?

© 2021 Jim Spence -  In an era where one side is dominating the political power struggle in America, writing political opinions has become tiresome. It is instructive that the term “controversial” is used by the media today to describe anyone who disagrees with popular culture.

Forays into writing about the spiritual realm can be a daunting task. As an observer of the trends in human history, perhaps it is not such a great idea to begin penning columns on the tedious yet all important topic of faith, particularly given my penchant for being flippant. Naturally, I proceed.

The first question that must be asked is simple. What exactly did take place 2,000 years ago? At the risk of offending readers, let me toss my two cents into the collection plate.

It is important to keep in mind that human beings seem to almost always disappoint one another. History suggests mankind has an unmistakable pattern of blowing it, which is really good, because most of us detest feeling all alone.

In the aftermath of the resurrection of Christ, and for the following 1990 years, countless human beings have been contemplating the gospels. My personal experiences with churches are quite minimal. However, I have read the gospels a few times. It does seem that wherever people gather and are encouraged by others to pool their resources, political jockeying eventually becomes a large part of the picture. This was probably true of the hunter gatherers who lived in caves. And it is also true of the leadership at large capitalization technology companies today. Come to think of it, some of these CEO’s dwell in caves too.

When the term, the “Jesus brand,” is used here, it is meant to be a metaphor to describe the net effect on humanity of efforts by various human beings to spread the good news, particularly to those who are not easily convinced. With this in mind, a few comments on the actions of self-described Christians seems in order. It is quite odd that the gospels are remarkably consistent in the way they portray the disciples as being a bunch of cowards at the moment of truth. To put it succinctly, the gospels report to us that the disciples, including the first pope, Peter, denied he even knew Jesus when confronted by others. This occurred after Jesus was taken into custody and Peter scattered like a frightened quail when it became increasingly likely in his mind, that he would be also be arrested if he was associated with his beloved teacher. The other disciples also fled the scene when the Romans swooped in and grabbed Jesus. What is striking is that these are hardly flattering depictions of the disciples. These are self-portrayals included in the gospels by the disciples themselves. Confessing their actions suggests a very poorly thought out public relations strategy. Salespeople who are charged with hawking their wares and ideas (even something as wonderful as the good news), rarely disparage themselves as a preface to explaining their story about what a great product or idea they have. Clearly, the idea of confessing their lack of courage and faith on the week of the first Easter, was a large part of the disciples testimonies in the gospels. Not so noble actions by the actual authors in the New Testament, are laid bare naked for all to absorb. Again this is inconsistent with suggesting they formed a conspiracy to deceive others.

Ultimately the turning point in this story seems to be the resurrection. The disciples, including Thomas, seem to have behaved as if they realized that everything they had been told by their teacher, was actually true when Jesus repeated it all to them after the crucifixion. It was after this key event, that the disciples willingly subjected themselves to persecution, which again, is hardly something people defending a lie or loose conspiracy would ever do, especially considering there was no visible upside in propping up a lie about something as intangible as the after-life.

The second curious characteristic of the disciple's claims, given the institutionalized chauvinism of the era, is the disciples’ choice of witnesses. It is unfathomable that anyone crass enough to actually promote a preposterous scheme, would risk life and limb, while relying on the testimony of the female followers of Jesus as their onsite witnesses that He had risen. Females were simply not considered credible witnesses 2,000 years ago. In the end, from the post resurrection events forward, the disciples chose abuse, torture, and even death, over recanting their testimonies. Could it be they were possibly telling the truth? Hold that thought.

Let’s make some tough general statements about the actions of humans leading the church, particularly as the process of spreading the good news unfolded over 1990 years. In the early days, when the disciples were being harassed and persecuted, they tended to work well together. However, even in the earliest days of the church, there were a few theological squabbles between Paul, Peter, and James. However, hardball power politics did not really begin to become the norm in the church until 300 hundred years after the crucifixion, when Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. Competing church factions formed not long after the power and influence of the church with the state became obvious. Since that bell weather event, the battles for the increasingly abundant political power associated with high profile keepers of the faith, have been almost endless.

The first major split in the Christian church involved the break between the church leaders in Constantinople and those in Rome. It happened a thousand years after the crucifixion, when the Eastern Orthodox Church leaders walked away from the Roman Catholic leadership hierarchy over disputes best characterized as pure politics. The divide is called the “schism” by scholars. Almost five hundred years after the schism, Martin Luther blew the Christian power structure even more wide open.

This quick survey of 2,000 years of Christian church history, especially the more noteworthy actions by those who were supposedly managing the “Jesus brand,” suggest human nature regarding politics is powerful. An even broader survey of the history of human behavior within the church is sometimes even uglier. In fact, the trail of atrocities done in the name of Jesus Christ, is simply mind-bogglingly sad. And when this factual information regarding Christian misbehaviors gets into the hands of the several generations of academics for scholarly “interpretation,” it is easy to see how the fundamental message Jesus offered the world simply gets lost. The good news has been overwhelmed by agnostic interpreters using a lengthy laundry list of bad actors and their actions as justification for profound skepticism.

Still, in 2021, we have the amazing teachings by Jesus that are recognized around the world as forces for good. Millions of people who are NOT Christians, almost universally concede that He was a great force for good. He was in their words, a wonderful teacher. To the non-believer, these statements are consistent with high praise. Yet, these lofty statements are inconsistent with His own words.

The problem with any frank discussion about Jesus, is that He actually did not leave any room for simply being cast as an extraordinarily “good guy.” Instead, Jesus made numerous extraordinary claims about who He was. So bold and shocking were His claims regarding Himself, that He left no room for middle ground. In effect, He was either who He said He was, or alternatively, some sort of a ranting lunatic with a messiah complex. This stark truth is worth pondering, since it is an “either/or” proposition.

Finally, Jesus said repeatedly as is reported in the gospels, that His kingdom was not of this world. His visit with John the Baptist in a Roman dungeon is characterized as an effort to, “…free John within his cell.” We should pause and devote sufficient energy to reconcile this statement. Only after we come to terms with its implications, can we realize that a “choice” is required. We are all in cells.

That Jesus does not really “sell” well in most circles in the 21st Century is obvious. In America and Europe, it is fashionable to actually ridicule followers of Christ. In other jurisdictions, it is fashionable to kill Christians or jail them. In Western popular culture, those who follow Jesus tend to refuse to be indoctrinated by emerging power structures of the vast and growing state. In other regions, Jesus is also considered a threat to the existing power structures of the state. Again, like John the Baptist, we are all in cells.

Paradoxically, pop culture, particularly in the wealthy west, seems captivated by the idea of how fair it is for everyone to continuously receive "free stuff," without any consideration of the real sacrifices required by others that are actually necessary to produce free stuff. And yet, with human nature finding it so easy to judge the motives of others, Christ provided us with the easiest model to follow, regarding the process of judging and free stuff. Ironically, though “grace” is offered for free, it does not fit the trends associated with modern narratives. This presents the great paradox of our time. The Jesus brand does not sell well, despite the benefits being “free.” And the concept of short term sacrifice for long term gain is so yesterday.


Some Thoughts on Easter and Easter Films

© 2021 Jim Spence - My two favorite movies shown around Easter time are Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandments. Both stories reflect an aspect of human history that is inescapable. I am speaking of slavery. In Ben-Hur, the good guy, Juda Ben-Hur owns slaves. In the Ten Commandments, the Egyptian pharaoh owned slaves. 

Many generations ago Africans were captured by other Africans in Western Africa and sold into slavery. They were sold to Arabs in the Middle East, and also to Europeans. Many of these victims were transported to the U.S.

Mercifully, slavery ended in America in 1865 after the death of nearly 600,00 Union soldiers. Fast forward seventy-six years and there were calls on Franklin Roosevelt to desegregate the U.S. military. FDR never made that happen. However, after incarcerating all Japanese Americans, he did lead an effort to mobilize a generation of Americans. American sacrifice and commitment to freedom saved the world from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. But it was Harry Truman who desegregated the military.

There are takeaways from all of this. Change comes slowly. More important, 21st Century Americans bear no responsibility for 19th Century slavery or 20th Century segregation, any more than 21st Century Germans and Japanese should be held responsible for the actions of Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo.

Oddly, the shift towards growing anti-Americanism around the world has been pronounced in recent years. The trend began about the same time the Marshall Plan funds were done being expended.

When I was in grade school in the early 1960’s JFK'S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France when Charles De Gaulle decided to pull France out of NATO. The consummate politician sensing inexplicable anti-American sentiment within the French population, De Gaulle told Rusk he wanted all U.S. military out of France as soon as possible. The Democrat Rusk responded, "Does that include those who are buried here?" Reportedly, De Gaulle was speechless.

Rusk would be an anachronism today. Democrats simply don’t say those sort of things anymore. Instead they feel more comfortable joining the globalists in engaging in endless searches to find sins that 21st Century Americans can be required to apologize for. We Americans, particularly white men, are all somehow to be held responsible for the actions of our great, great, great, great, grandparents.

At a professional conference in France early in 2005, there were a number of international engineers, including French and American participants. During a break, one of the French engineers drew attention to himself and asked, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?" 

An American engineer offered the sobering explanation. "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people. They are nuclear powered so they can supply emergency electrical power to heavily damaged shore facilities. They have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day so first responders and others can assist victims. They can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day. They carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and the injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships. How many does France have?" There was no response or further explanation required.

Defending America is unfashionable, but the aspirations of would-be immigrants to come to our nation belies the characterization that America is unfair to people of color. Still, it is more fashionable to search for American sins than acknowledge any of the positives.

A  U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included admirals from the U.S., British, Canadian, Australian, and French navies. During a cocktail reception, a group of officers that included personnel from most of the countries was engaged in conversation in English. When a lull in the discussion materialized, a visibly irritated French admiral complained that, whereas continental Europeans all learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?" 

Without hesitating, an American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because hundreds of thousands if not millions of Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans died arranging it…..so you wouldn't have to speak German." The group conversation resumed in English.

I’m a huge tennis fan. I haven’t watched a French Open in nearly twenty years. This story comes to mind. Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83 at the time, arrived in Paris by plane several years ago. At French Customs, it took him a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag. 

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the annoyed customs officer asked the old man.

 Mr. Whiting nodded acknowledging that he had been to France once before.

"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready," the bureaucrat said admonishingly.

Whiting scratched his head and said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it." 

"Impossible,” the Frenchman retorted while shaking his head vehemently. “Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!" 

The old American smiled as he gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained the circumstances, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June of 1944, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to." The conversation ended and Mr. Whiting was allowed to enter the country. 

There are several points here. Twenty year old American boys who landed at Normandy in 1944 would be 97 years old today. No American should dare claim credit the sacrifices they made. Twenty year old union soldiers who died in the Civil War would be 160 years old today. No American should dare claim credit for the sacrifices they made. CONVERSELY, and this is critical, NO American should be required to take the blame for what those long since dead did or didn’t do. We are all just human beings who are responsible for what WE DO in the present.

One of the greatest Americans ever, Thomas Sowell, a man who has lived the American dream asked the following question last summer: “Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

It was a rhetorical question. The answer is YES.

Happy Easter!


Good Friday - Exercising Judgment in Today's World

 © 2021 Jim Spence - Over the years I have “judged” many issues on this site. Judging is nothing more than gathering relevant data and forming an “opinion.” However, judging has somehow taken on a negative connotation. Ironically, it is now the “opinion” of millions of people, even college-educated people, that judging (forming informed opinions), is wrong……unless of course, your judgment agrees with theirs. Fortunately, unlike in places like China, Russia, Cuba, and North Korea, it is still our constitutional right to use our judgment to voice opinions….for now.

One of the dangers of voicing one’s views on public policies, particularly the political machinations of the participants, and relating them to spiritual matters, is it is a slippery slope. Since I plan on doing precisely that on my first column in many months, let me begin by saying that when it comes to judging myself on spiritual matters, sadly I know I come up woefully short. So far short do I fall, I have sought spiritual counseling to improve and perhaps prevent hundreds of new mistakes, particularly in my interpersonal relationships.

The trouble with one’s spiritual life, is it also happens to be one’s real life. And how one chooses to either ignore or embrace this reality can deeply affect one’s interpersonal relationships with others. With this in mind, what follows are my opinions expressed with this caveat; I am working on improving my own spiritual life. Any opinions expressed below will in no way improve my own shortcomings as an aspiring Christian man. That is another matter for another column.

In recent weeks I have received several inquiries about my plans for ever writing opinion pieces on this site again. Was I done? A few explanations seem appropriate to explain my prolonged silence.

It is pretty safe to say I am dumbfounded. As free people, we Americans have a duty to exercise sound JUDGMENT, particularly as we attempt to collectively choose how we wish to be governed. Let us be mildly blunt here. There is no collectively informed judgment at work in America anymore. The outcome of the election of 2020 was not determined by people who pay attention but are not all-in on politics. Seventy-four million people who went to the trouble to vote were cheated. Anyone who believes that 16 million MORE Americans cast votes for a dementia-plagued Joe Biden than were cast for an intelligent and articulate incumbent president like Barack Obama in 2012, is entirely too gullible to converse with. If you think more than 81 million Americans actually voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, please stop reading this column right now and seek help. Not spiritual help. We all need spiritual help. I am talking about basic cognitive testing for brain damage.

The massive and brazen election fraud of 2020 is the BIGGEST SCANDAL in American history by a billion miles. This scandal involved thousands of elected officials and dozens of important members of the judicial branch of government. A third world-grade election theft took place. And sadly, third world-style government and much more brazen lawlessness is sure to follow. We will reap what we sow.

This is nothing if not sobering. Clearly there are forces at work throughout the world that are simply being dominated by sheer evil. Know this, the spread of the dominating influence of evil transcends America’s traditional battles between big government-oriented Democrats and free enterprise-oriented Republicans. Democrat vs. Republican squabbles are as American as apple pie. However, anyone who watched the 2016-2020 period unfold with any modicum of objectivity, should understand America has entered a whole new era of deception and corruption.

The facts are hard to swallow. America faced many challenges heading into 2020. Instead of our elected officials facing even a few of them, we were forced to endure a farce impeachment charade that was no different than the absurdly dramatic soap operas on daytime television it pre-empted for a few days. Astonishingly, there was even a vindictive ex-post facto attempt at impeachment again in 2021. Some elected officials must be thinking to themselves that it is too bad use of the guillotine to permanently terminate the political careers of rivals is still frowned upon. Totalitarians love purges.

The failed impeachment scam of 2020 should be framed in the history books as fitting an unmistakable pattern between 2016 and 2020. It won’t be framed that way but it should.

When the impeachment angle failed in February 2020, it was followed by Democrat’s trite, “accuse him of racism” reaction to the initial steps taken by Trump to contain Covid. Understand this. Democrats never cared much about the impact of Covid, except for how ginning up FEAR of the virus could be used to re-capture the awesome power of the federal government. When Democrat’s baseless Asian racism charges regarding efforts to contain the Wuhan virus fell on deaf ears, the subsequent “political” strategy for using Covid fears was quickly moved to the top spot of the next push. The get Trump at any cost efforts, which had repeatedly failed when they involved one false personal accusation scam after another, morphed into duplicitous angle that wasn’t aimed directly at Trump. It was aimed at paving the way for ballot box stuffing instead. Though evil to the core, it turned out to be a wildly “successful political strategy.”

Pause and consider the sequence. From the Democrat’s spring press conference forward, the FIX was in. The Democrat’s had just dismissed Covid as racist ploy a few weeks earlier. They then pivoted and decided to use the fear of Covid as a head fake. They had an excuse for printing up and distributing blank ballots with no controls in every jurisdiction. All they had to do was sell it. And it was a pretty easy sell because it could be accomplished with the perfect cover. “The greater good” of fighting the contagious and deadly Covid virus required America to be flooded with blank ballots.

The sensation-seeking media provided full protection. In fact, the media conducted a propaganda campaign associated with grossly overstating the death rates that will live in infamy. The objective was achieved. Nobody would be required to vote in person in November of 2020. Instead…..hundreds of millions of “paper ballots” were jettisoned out into the mail system with no controls. Is it any surprise what happened from there?

Now we are supposed to believe that a dementia-plagued Joe Biden secured 16 million more voters than rock star Barack Obama did in 2012. Sure thing.

As we all contemplate these startling developments in U.S. history, we should understand that there are incredibly evil forces at work here that are far beyond the control of those seeking facts, truths, and reasonable public policies. We get bashed regularly. Millions of us who try to do what is right by treating all others fairly, are continuously bombarded with false accusations. Popular culture is Democrat, and all non-Democrats are FORCED to defend themselves at every turn. First and foremost, non-Democrats must prove they are not racists. They are guilty until they prove themselves innocent of racism. The easiest way way to prove one is not a racist, is to embrace dementia-plagued gas bags and their discredited ideas on public policies. If one refuses to do this, it is considered sufficient proof to convict them of adoring the devil…….Donald Trump. It’s heresy and the inquisition will prevail. It is the old, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” con. And it is played every day with impunity.

The takeaways for readers are pretty simple. There will be no second civil war in America over basic freedoms. Unlike 1860, when the Democrats and a few states seceded because they sensed their preference for denying people their freedom would come to an end, in 2020 the bloodless Democrat coup was successful. They took Washington D.C. without firing a shot. It is critical to recognize that the end of personal freedom is here.

Per the first paragraph of this column, over the years I have avoided all discussions of spiritual matters here on this site. Like most others, I have always kept spiritual matters and political matters separate. As I contemplate returning to a process of actually writing down my thoughts on the state of America and posting them here, I find myself out of separation options. It is my view that when a world containing millions of people who love freedom, especially in America, will, for the foreseeable future, be dominated by those who are so deluded by illusions they will endorse tyranny, it is long past the time when people of faith should make sure their spiritual lives reflect life as we now know it.

Should I decide to explore the many disturbing conclusions of the 2016-2020 period in greater detail, it will be through a spiritual lens, so that the comments might actually do some good for believers. The evil one wants me to be violently angry at those being duped. I refuse.

The political lens is opaque in America. There is no other way to say it. Darkness is everywhere. What is going on in America right now is beyond absurd. It is profoundly disturbing.

I’ll close with one more chilling thought. When you have gotten run off the road or had to slam on the brakes hard several times over the last few months, simply because other drivers are too busy texting on their phones to pay attention to the challenges of sharing the road, it is very bad. However, when you pull alongside these people who just forced you into desperately evasive action, and see that they did this to you while they were wearing a mask because of the overwhelming drumbeat to “stay safe,” you know the zombie apocalypse has arrived.