Apostasy Project: Jesus was an apostate
The Reverend Brendan Johnson believes in God but not dogma. Which is why he supports our Apostasy Project
Let me start by saying that I’ve never found labels to be very useful, and that most people who identify themselves as having ‘an ism’ often end up saying, “Oh, but I’m not that sort of Christian/Atheist/florist/Whatever”.
Having said that I have a label, I am an Interfaith Minister and I call myself “Reverend”. I am ordained by the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation and although we use the language of existing religion to describe ourselves; we serve people of all faiths and none in our diverse communities. We believe that difference, when approached as a potential source of enrichment, need not be experienced as a threat.
On a personal level, my search to bring meaning to my life and to others, has always led me to reject dogma in all its forms, political, cultural and religious. In the Interfaith movement I have found a place where I can express myself, and more importantly, allow other people to find their own answers. Whatever they may be.
I’ve studied theology, mythology, philosophy and I’m friends with a number of authors working the field of “new spirituality”. But when it comes to arguments about magic carpenters, talking camels, flying angels and so on, I find myself most often siding with the humanists and atheists. These things are, and I believe, intended to be read as, myths. I think anyone who falls into the error of literalism is massively missing the point. The “God” I believe in is far removed from the angry white man on a cloud smiting people. I have more in common with anyone who believes in the mystical, unscientific, impossible to describe, yet all pervasive force we call “love”.
Let me give you an example: In the Christian New Testament there is a story of how 5,000 people were fed using five loaves and two fishes. Now if a gathering of 5,000 out of a population of only half a million (according to estimates) gathered in a country that was occupied by a foreign army (who recorded everything) wouldn’t there be some sort of record in the Roman archives? But there isn’t. So it obviously isn’t some sort of historical account. So what would any reasonable person conclude? That this is a story with a moral. In this case, that there is a source of love (here God through Jesus) which is inexhaustible – there is enough for everyone.
I’ve come into contact with far too many people who refuse to think beyond the literal, and the labels, so that when someone tries to express their own thoughts, they don’t see the person they just see someone who is “wrong”, or “evil” because they don’t believe in the same ideology. They claim to believe in love and forgiveness, yet shun someone simply because they have changed their minds. This happened to me when I rejected Catholicism and there are still members of my family who are praying for my soul to return to the “true church”, which is nice of them.
Apostasy is one of the few labels that I have ever been really drawn to. I always felt it was a badge of honour and a great compliment. It means someone who holds an opinion (which is all a belief is) that is “wrong” because it is different. Almost all the great thinkers (including Jesus) started as apostates. Anything that allows people true freedom of thought – which is, after all, the only freedom we have that cannot be taken from us by force or legislation – must be preserved and defended. People must be supported to swim against the tide. This is why I back the Apostasy Project. I value and want to support the right to think differently for all. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”