Humans discovered lust long before they invented religion, naturally, right around the time they concluded Flange A could be inserted into Slot B. Basically, the first humans lusted from the get-go, else there never would have been the second humans.
But until they invented religion, humans had no problem with their lust. Suddenly, it was sin. The Jews restricted sex six ways to Sunday—or Saturday, I guess. From the first century on, Christians were told to take their lust, smunch it into a tiny ball, and slip it under the bedroom rug. If a Muslim woman doesn’t bleed on the wedding night, the husband can accuse her of moral laxity and unencumber himself from his marital bonds on the spot—a definite mood killer.
Pretty much for the past 3,500 years, religion has been shining its flashlight into society’s backseat and chiding us to “get a move on, you two.” We hastily buttoned and zipped ourselves up, yet when religion was out of sight, we were right back at it.
Lust wins every time. Humans can’t help it.
Which, oddly enough, brings me to Jesus.
All this talk of lust was meant to bring me this pass, wherein I make a point about Jesus and in so doing make a point about scripture and in so doing make a point about the whole concept of God talking to us.
Think about this. The Party Line is that Jesus never married. That may be the case, but does even the most hidebound Baptist think that young Jesus never even considered the prospect, that he never showed an interest in girls? Humph, the Baptists concede. OK, but if he had, it would have been purely through the application of his detached intellect and will.
Really? Picture teenage Jesus sitting in synagogue. The rabbi is going on and on. A line of sweat snakes down the side of Jesus’ face. He sighs. Across the way, in the female section of the synagogue, he spies a young woman. Now, would that teenage Jesus think to himself, “Hmmm, she would be a logical choice for copulation—a perfect God-fearing mother for my children,” as if copulation were just some kind of contractual transaction?
No, young Jesus isn’t interested in lying naked with the girl as a matter-of-fact means to a righteous end. The naked togetherness is an end in itself. Lusty young Jesus desires sexual pleasure for its own sake. And that desire is autonomic. One doesn’t choose to blush. One blushes. Same with lust. We’re not as removed from our animal selves as we like to flatter ourselves in our Sunday Best. In fact, our animal self is our true self. We are animals—very clever animals but animals nonetheless.
How do I know this about Jesus? I was a teenage boy. Supposedly, Jesus was fully human. If he was a fully human boy, Jesus lusted. Saying that Jesus could have been a fully human boy without fantasizing about bare-naked girls is saying that God could make a circular square.
And here’s where I segue into the second point I wanted to make, the one about scripture. The Bible is usually wrong—Jesus being sinless, for example. Said differently, the Bible’s not constrained by the facts.
The people who wrote the New Testament had an agenda: Jesus is the Messiah, so straighten up and fly right! Remember that the first gospels weren’t scratched out until 30 years after Jesus died. Thirty! During those decades, the first believers had been tinkering with the ideas that would later become doctrine—ideas like the sinlessness of Jesus. So some of those words and actions of Jesus were tweaked to squeeze them into the emerging superstructure of orthodoxy.
Other words and events were invented whole cloth to bolster that blossoming doctrine. Take the made-up story of young Jesus besting the scribes and teachers of the law at the temple as a 10-year-old. It’s made up, because Jesus was almost certainly illiterate. Any schooling he received was just to learn his father’s trade.
So am I saying we can’t trust scripture? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. This brings me to my third point: God doesn’t talk through a holy book. Turns out, God doesn’t talk at all. Said more prosaically, we are left without the counsel of God as we tarry on this earth. When you think about it, the fact we have scripture, written by men, is an admission that God doesn’t talk. Scripture is just us panicking in the vacuum of God’s silence.
We’re on our own. Not that there isn’t a God. It’s just that He has this thing about being inscrutable. He expects us to figure things out ourselves—hence, leeches for dropsy. If He was interested in talking to us, how about a cure for cancer? More dogma we need like a hole in the head.
And it’s a good thing we’re on our own. We can do this. Yes, lustful folks like us who undress one another with our eyes. We’ve gotten this far on our own. Surely we’ll surmount whatever shall come to confront us without the aid of holy texts.
As I said, we’re clever animals.