Advent reason

“It stands to reason,” my mother would say, and if it did not stand to reason, then it did not stand at all.

Our upbringing was not religious, but was deeply ethical. Jesus of Nazareth was seen as a model for life, his treatment of people was an example for people to follow.

Once someone drifted from the ethical to the religious, then they had moved away from that which stood to reason and what was there to differentiate their claims about the supernatural from the many old superstitions that persisted in Somerset and from the esoteric beliefs of the neo-pagan hippies in Glastonbury?

If there was no criterion of reason, if there was no ethical code, then it could be whatever some church leader said it was.

The church has steadily watered down the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the ethical demands he made, replacing them with a spirituality of reassurance: don’t worry about the way you treat others, have the sacraments, believe the right things, attend this liturgy or that course, and you will get to heaven.

It doesn’t stand to reason.  It implies that Jesus favours those who have rejected his ethical teachings on justice

As Advent arrives tomorrow, the shift becomes obvious.

The book of Revelation Chapter 1 verse 7 has the following words in the King James translation:

Behold, he cometh with clouds;
and every eye shall see him,
and they also which pierced him:
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
Even so, Amen.

The words inspired John Wesley to write the following verse in his hymn Lo! He comes with clouds descending.  There was no mistaking Wesley’s understanding of Revelation, if you rejected the teaching of Jesus, then the end of life and the day of judgement would not be a welcome prospect.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

The words “those who set at nought and sold him” were felt by some as being susceptible to an anti-Semitic construction, “those” was seen as referring to the Jews. Such concerns could have been addressed by substituting “we” for “those.” This has happened in the hymn now sung in churches. Revelation 1:7 is now rendered as:

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
we who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
Lord, have mercy,
let us all thine Advent see.

However, it is not just that “those” has disappeared; the whole meaning has been changed. There is no deep wailing anymore, the day of wrath is something to be welcomed by all, “Let us all thine Advent see.”

Jesus didn’t say that, Jesus is clear about his ethical demands.

What then is the point of belonging to a church? What is the point of ethical behaviour? Do Christians now posit an amoral God who does not discriminate between heinous criminals and those who have striven to live just lives? If all end up with the same reward, sure, what’s the point in bothering?

It doesn’t stand to reason.

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