The Universe Loves You! (A publication of the Marginal Mennonite Tract & Propaganda Dept.)

The Universe Loves You! … & thinks you’re perfect just the way you are!

The christian church teaches the doctrine of original sin, that everyone is born with a sinful nature.

… We, on the other hand, believe in original goodness, that the spark of the divine resides in each and every human being. (Psalms 82:6, John 1:9)

The christian church portrays God as the heavenly father.

… We believe in God as mother, as well as father. (Isaiah 49:15)

The church says God’s justice will require him to damn most of his creatures to eternal punishment.

… We believe hell is a myth, and that every person who’s ever lived gets a seat at the celestial banquet table. (Isaiah 25:6)

The church claims Jesus was rejected by the Jews, and that his message superseded the “Old Testament.”

… We believe Jesus was a Jew in good standing until his dying day, and that everything he taught was firmly grounded in Torah.

The church asserts that every word of Jesus is true.

… We believe most sayings attributed to Jesus were put on his lips by the authors of the gospels, decades after his death. Of the 100 or so sayings that originate with Jesus, the densest collection is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). We particularly like the ones emphasizing: Mercy (Matt. 5:48/Luke 6:36); Forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15/Luke 6:37); Nonviolence (Matt. 5:39-40/Luke 6:29); Compassion (Matt. 7:9-11/Luke 11:11-13); Freedom from anxiety (Matt. 6:25-30/Luke 12:22-28); and Non-attachment to material things (Matt. 6:19-21/Luke 12:33-34).

The church insists Jesus was sent to earth by his father to die as atonement for humanity’s sins.

… We believe Jesus did NOT die in some cosmic “child sacrifice” scenario. Rather, he was swept up in a Roman dragnet and, in short order, found himself looking down from a rebel’s cross, probably regretting he’d stayed so long in Jerusalem.

Christians think the kingdom of God is coming down the road, and that it will be the exclusive domain of church members in good standing.

… We believe God’s kingdom is a state of being. Inside us. Here and now. In our hands. Within our power. Available to EVERYBODY. (Luke 17:21)

*A publication of the Marginal Mennonite Tract & Propaganda Dept.*

*Visit the “Marginal Mennonite Society” Facebook page & “like” us.*

*Revised: March 2012*

Disclaimer: Marginal Mennonites are a diverse and contrary bunch. This publication does not purport to speak for all. The ideas expressed above belong solely to those Marginal Mennonites who subscribe to them.

Comments (18)

  1. HonduraKeiser

    How convenient, work from the unfounded premise that the Gospel writers were liars so you don’t have to actually deal with the words of Jesus you dislike and then cherry-pick the few words you actually can get behind. “Yeah, this hollowed-out Jesus that doesn’t require faith, acknowledgement of personal sin or belief in something higher than myself; that’s a guy I can get behind.”

    I love how you make faith-claims about the nature of God, His Kingdom, the future and who Jesus really was and yet yourself only believe in all this nonsense on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    I will give you credit though, you’re nothing if not a prolific fire-brand for milquetoast faith.

    Reply
  2. Matt

    I’ve got news for the universe – I’m not perfect.

    I’m selfish, I’m often lazy, I’m often downright mean to others because they annoy. I find myself mired down in all sorts of hurtful attitudes.

    But, glory to God, Christ is healing these hurts and more! I know God loves me as I am, but I continue to mature by God’s grace, never staying just as I am.

    Reply
  3. Tim B

    Whenever I start thinking that perhaps uber-fundies Michael and Debbie Pearl have no idea what they are talking about, I find that you type something new on this site and erase all doubts that it can be much, much worse.

    Charlie, you just have no clue what you’re talking about. I just can’t put it any nicer than that.

    Reply
  4. Charlie K.

    Thanks for sharing, Tim! And for being so nice about it! I was counting on you chiming in. And just to show how ignorant I really am, I have no idea who Michael and Debbie Pearl is.

    Reply
  5. CharlieK (Post author)

    Thanks for the feedback, dude.

    Reply
  6. Charlie K.

    It’s fascinating how easy it is to get church people all riled up, even so-called “radical” church people. Much depends on one’s perspective, of course. The christian church and its belief system look completely different once you’re on the outside of it looking back in. (I speak, of course, from personal experience.) Once you’re on the outside you no longer have to toe the company line, so to speak. And that is a great psychic relief. Some of you folks just need to get yourselves some non-christian friends, some buddhists and some hindus, maybe throw in a wiccan or two, or *gasp* a non-believer. And don’t tell me you already have such friends, because I won’t believe you … not as long as your claims to the exclusive truth of christianity are a routine part of your expression of faith. Non-christians soon tire of keeping company with those suffering from spiritual superiority complexes. May the Supreme Being (who may or may not exist) bless you all (if she’s actually into the whole blessing thing)!

    Reply
  7. Tim B

    I don’t need to prove to you I have friends outside of the religious. I came to faith at 19, which should tell you enough. Our problem isn’t even a different faith. For instance, I have no issues with Muslims, Jews, or agnostics. My problem is seeing someone co-opt the Faith and Book with which they obviously oblivious to the core concepts.

    For instance:

    We believe Jesus did NOT die in some cosmic “child sacrifice” scenario.

    This ignores one of the first prophecy’s regarding Abraham and his son Isaac, the child of promise. It ignores countless words in the Old and New Testament on the subject.

    Rather, he was swept up in a Roman dragnet and, in short order, found himself looking down from a rebel’s cross, probably regretting he’d stayed so long in Jerusalem.

    Also ignores the fact that it was the Jewish religious leaders that threw out the child of promise. Also, the fact that Jews and Gentiles were both complicit in the murder of God’s son.

    Also telling is your decision to only believe Jesus’ words that you already believe in. That’s a religion of oneself. It’s making yourself a God when you only choose believe that you alone are right.

    Call me weird but between the two of us, I’m the wacky liberal.

    Reply
  8. CharlieK (Post author)

    Tim, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the “Abraham sacrificing Isaac” story is a foreshadowing of the “God sacrificing Jesus” story. First of all, let’s be clear this is a christian interpretation of a Jewish text, wherein the christians have chosen to perceive meanings that are not really there at all. Talk about twisting a text to make it say something that’s convenient to you! This is a prime example.

    I don’t care how many centuries the christians have been interpreting it this way, that doesn’t make it correct. Ask one of your Jewish friends. Seriously. Ask them whether they are comfortable with christians reading the Jewish scriptures and seeing, between the lines, foreshadowings of the Christ. Here’s what your Jewish friends will tell you: They’ll say it’s highly offensive to Judaism, and it’s self-serving of the church.

    For christians to tell Jews that they understand what’s going on in the Jewish scriptures better than the Jews do is akin to Mormons telling christians that certain passages in the NT can only be understood properly when read in conjunction with the Book of Mormon. What would be your response to a Mormon who’d say that to your face, Tim? Yeah, I thought so.

    So no, I vigorously object to any readings of the Jewish scriptures that attempt to foreshadow anything in the NT. To do so is a violation of another religion’s holy book. I think christian scholars who have been working to create an interfaith dialogue with Jewish scholars are coming around to this perspective.

    Here’s a question about the Abraham/Isaac story that has always perplexed me, and maybe you can help. Why was Abraham so compliant with God’s command to sacrifice Isaac? He didn’t seem to offer any resistance. Is this the same Abraham who bargained with the Almighty to save a bunch of strangers in Sodom? Where were Abraham’s bold bargaining powers when it came to the fate of his own son?

    Personally, I think we’re looking at two different Abrahams here, from different story traditions. Stories that were created to help the Jewish people define their identity, to give them a patriotic backstory. Stories that were eventually merged into the Torah we have today. Stories not to be taken literally, because they were never intended as history. There was certainly no sense at the time of their writing that these stories would one day be viewed as holy scriptures, and taken literally.

    I would also suggest you run past your Jewish friends your statement that the “Jewish religious leaders threw out the child of promise” and see what kind of reaction you get. Christian scholars have come to reject this view, because of the recognition of the role it played in feeding antisemitism through the centuries.

    Reply
    1. RALPH

      Old Testament are no Jewish Scriptures.
      Ask to any Samaritan or Karaite friend.
      Israelites was 12 very diferent tribes, Moses, Aaron, Myriam, Amos, etc. wasn´t jews.
      Even Job was an Edomite book translated into hebrew.
      Christians don´t need somebody teling me how to interpretate my Sacred Book, just because him/her is distantly related by blood or marriage to authors from my Book.
      That notion you promotes is silly.
      Do you ask to modern biological descendants from Washington, Jeferson, Adams, Franklin, etc. on the right meaning and interpretation from USA Constitution and Bill of Rights?.
      Modern Jews are from mixed origins, from original Judah Tribe and every other people sometime got in contact with them. To claim jews are a pure race and exactly identical to Isralites from Biblical times, is an offensive racist and nazi idea.

      Reply
  9. CharlieK (Post author)

    For anyone who likes this tract, I now have a final draft available in PDF format, suitable for printing and distribution. Here’s a link:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/87421307/The-Universe-Loves-You

    I’ll be passing out copies on The Bowery this afternoon. If you’re in NYC you’re welcome to join me. Afterwards we’ll go for a plate of soup dumplings in Chinatown. Then walk up to Union Square and see what the “Occupy Wall Street” folks are up to. Good times.

    Reply
  10. CharlieK (Post author)

    For those of you who don’t like this tract, I’d encourage you to write your own, touching on the same issues I raise in mine. And post it here. I’d be interested to see what a “Young Anabaptist Radical” tract would look like. Would it reflect conventional orthodox christianity? Or would it have something to say that’s out of the ordinary, provocative, dangerous, heretical?

    Reply
  11. TimN

    CharlieK and TimB,

    It’s interesting to see that you honed in on the Abraham sacrificing Isaac parallel to God sacrificing Jesus. Everett Thomas focuses on that story in his editorial for April. He has an interesting alternative to penal substitutionary atonement. Basically, he argues that God sacrificing Jesus was an act of worship of humanity rather than God taking the penalty for our sins. He makes his point by making a parallel with Abraham and Isaac. Note that reading Jesus through Abraham is different than reading Abraham as foreshadowing. The two are similar, but its important to differentiate the two for the reasons you outline, Charlie. I don’t think TimB said enough one way or the other to make it clear which he was doing.

    Also, CharlieK, in regards to your suggestion that we write a tract: it’s never been homogeneous enough around here for that and I don’t think it ever will be. Anabaptists have always been all over the map, despite the best attempts of H.S. Bender to tell us otherwise. Young Anabaptist radicals today are no different. No single person can speak for the whole and no one’s likely to start a tract committee anytime soon. If you’re interested in individual tracts by YAR contributors and their take on scripture, check out The Bible category. There’s plenty there to keep you busy reading for a day or two. And someone should tend to the archives around here anyway. It’s getting dusty in there.

    Reply
  12. Scott C

    I think what I find most disappointing about the Jesus of this tract is how passive he is about his own fate:

    “He was swept up in a Roman dragnet and, in short order, found himself looking down from a rebel’s cross, probably regretting he’d stayed so long in Jerusalem.”

    “Swept up”, “Found himself”, “regretting he’d stayed so long”…

    What I find compelling and challenging, scary and awesome, worthy of discipleship in the Jesus I see in the NT Gospels is that this Jesus knows from the get go what he’s getting himself into. He tells his disciples he’s going to Jerusalem and he’s going to get opposed and even arrested and executed for the message that he preaches. Knowing this will be his fate, he chooses to go to Jerusalem and face it, willingly and with full knowledge.

    Jesus was not in the wrong place and the wrong time. He didn’t fail to escape death because of his lack of foresight. Rather, Jesus was a wise political-theological Jewish activist (if not an all-knowing, future-scrying fortune-teller) with a radical message: radical enough to get him killed, and also radical in the notion that allowing his own murder was the avenue to his defeat of his enemies. And he told his disciples to take the same path: lose their lives in order to save their lives.

    In the NT Gospels, its the enemies of Jesus who “don’t know what they’re doing”, and Jesus forgives them. In the tract, it seems Jesus doesn’t know what he’s doing, and it gets him killed. Why follow someone who lacks this kind of foresight? What makes Jesus so special if he doesn’t preach this radical self-giving love of enemies?

    And without Jesus’ model of walking into his own murder, forgiving his enemies, and claiming to be victorious (expecting to be vindicated by God) — what’s the connection for the “Marginal Mennonites” between Jesus and nonviolence?

    I’m not really much into child sacrifice scenarios myself. What I find compelling about Anabaptism is that the way of the cross is a way of nonviolent political resistance to be imitated, not (or not just) a unique, one-time event that Jesus does on our behalf/in our place so that we don’t have to do likewise.

    Reply
  13. CharlieK (Post author)

    Thanks, Scott, for your thoughts. My views, as expressed in the tract, stem from the premise that Jesus was not divine, that he was not one-third of the so-called Trinity.

    I came to that position as a result of several things. First, the doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. It’s an invention of the early church. It’s also an illogical proposition: that Jesus was 100% human while simultaneously 100% divine. I never did grok that (even as a young person when I mouthed it as a personal belief), and I still don’t grok it. I believe it makes christians appear to be polytheists (3 gods, 3 gods, 3 gods in one) rather than monotheists.

    Jesus himself would never have considered himself to be divine, because this assertion goes against the very essence of Judaism. To Jews, God is a unitary, indivisible being, who does not take human form. Since Jesus was a good Jew, this would have been his position. I think Jesus would be shocked and dismayed to know that a religion has come to be based on his divinity.

    Further, if Jesus was, as the church claims, God in the flesh, then who was he talking to when he prayed in Gethsemane? Himself? Are christians comfortable with a deity who talks to himself? I know I’m not.

    Once one accept that Jesus was fully human and not divine, then one can see that Jesus did not have special powers to tell the future. Yes, he was bright, eloquent, wise, courageous, and charismatic. But he did not know ahead of time what his fate was going to be. The fact that the NT says he did is not convincing. As NT scholars will tell you, much of the Passion story is not history remembered, it is prophecy historicized. In other words, after Jesus was dead and gone, his followers struggled to make sense of it, to somehow make his death meaningful. This caused them to scour the Jewish scriptures for clues indicating that dying on the cross was the plan all along.

    In case you doubt that the NT writers did this, I will point to a glaring example where a writer slipped up and allowed us to see the truth. The story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey is told in all four gospels. It is only in Matthew 21 where the writer claims this was the fulfillment of a prophecy (from Zechariah). The writer, however, didn’t understand poetic parallelism (where something gets repeated from one stanza to the next), because he interpreted the Zechariah text as referring to two animals. Thus, in order to make his Jesus story conform to his reading of Zechariah, the author of Matthew has Jesus riding astride TWO ANIMALS. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself.

    Once one understands that the author of Matthew was indeed guilty of altering his version of history to fit his interpretation of an OT prophecy, it becomes easier to see and accept that it happened elsewhere in the gospels.

    All of this, in my mind, does not belittle the story of Jesus the Jewish rabbi, who was a great prophet and leader of his people, who had a unique spin on the Jewish scriptures, a spin which he emphasized the nearness of the kingdom of God, and described in his Sermon on the Mount the qualities of human expression that make the kingdom a present reality.

    I know that some will say I have a “low view” of scripture. But to me, it’s not a “low” view, it’s an accurate view. And in my mind, there’s no virtue in holding a “high view” of scripture if it’s based on man-made myths and doctrines.

    Reply
  14. one9

    beware, choose your yeast with care
    you can learn plenty but the Ultimate Truth is “illogical” without the Logos

    Reply
  15. CharlieK (Post author)

    Thanks for chiming in there, Mr. or Ms. one9.

    I have a hard time understanding why God would give us brains with rational faculties and the ability to figure things out logically, and then go and make the “Ultimate Truths” illogical. That just seems cruel, and devious, to me. It’s like God purposely doesn’t want most of us human beings to get it. Personally, I don’t believe God operates that way.

    This line that one has to accept certain things “on faith”, and not question them, is bunk. It’s an invention of the church, used to control people, to keep them in line. It’s an insult. And it’s why many intelligent, thoughtful young people walk away from church.

    So yes, I put the powers of reason over the church and the bible. Much like the abolitionists and the suffragists did. The church and the bible were on the side of slavery and oppressing women. But the abolitionists and suffragists (many of whom were liberal christians) said: We don’t care what the bible says (or seems to say), and we don’t care what the church says, we know what is right because of the witness of our God-given reasoning powers. And they changed the world.

    Now we all politely ignore those biblical texts which for centuries had been front and center, used to justify slavery and the oppression of women. Same thing’s going to happen to a lot of other biblical texts as humanity continues to evolve.

    Reply
  16. Tim B

    Sigh.

    Reply
  17. CharlieK (Post author)

    TimB, since you chose such a brief and cryptic response, I’m going to take the liberty of interpreting it to mean you’re acquiescing to my point of view. It’s an interpretation that suits me, based on the evidence at hand.

    Reply

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