Staggeringly Revd Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, West Yorkshire, the Dales and any other bits that can’t afford their own bishop any more

People don’t understand the rules about the Invisible Magic Friend’s holy virus. I’m used to this. Jesus almost never spoke directly and to the point. He delighted in being obscure. Not understanding the rules is exactly the same as ignoring them.

6 thoughts on “Staggeringly Revd Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, West Yorkshire, the Dales and any other bits that can’t afford their own bishop any more

  1. Jesus almost never spoke directly and to the point. He delighted in being obscure.

    And therein lies the problem.

    Deliberately obscure, flowery or evocative language is fine for poetry and some branches of literature.

    If you wan to communicate effectively, however, clear, simple language is required. This is true for messages of a political and religious nature.

    Unfortunately, simplicity is not seen as being ‘clever’ and is sadly undervalued. This manifests itself in the likes of Boris, Rees-Mogg and others airing their erudition [or at least their expensive education] by use of complex vocabulary and poorly thought through analogies and metaphors. The net result: confusion (and the provision of loopholes for people to ‘interpret’ and exploit). The attempted recovery through simplistic three phrase slogans swings so far the other way as to be similarly ineffective.

    Compare and contrast with the simple, emotive language used by the evangelical right in America which can whip followers into a frenzy.

    If the IMF (in its temporary corporeal form) wanted to get humanity to follow its edicts, its messaging was surprisingly unclear (and self-contradictory*) — not what one would expect from an infinitely wise, omniscient being.

    *allowing cherry picking by whoever had an agenda they wanted to push


  2. I’d be interested to know what words of Jesus he considers to be confusing? A quick google search on “Jesus being confusing” comes up with several sites. These are from the first one, called 7 Hard Sayings of Jesus:

    Let the Dead Bury the Dead
    Whoever Divorces and Marries Another Commits Adultery
    You Must Hate Your Parents, Spouse, Siblings, and Children
    You Must Be Perfect
    Fear Him Who Has Power to Cast into Hell
    Sell What You Have
    Let Him Who Has No Sword Buy One

    None of these are even vaguely hard or obscure, unless you don’t want to accept the prima facie meaning. The other sites I checked are all the same – Jesus being obvious but contrary to modern Western morality, or to whatever predetermined opinion the reader has.

    As an example, this is what that website says of the last of the list, the one about buying a sword:

    Didn’t Jesus in another place command us to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39)? It would be difficult to reconcile this advice about buying a sword with his admonitions at other times where he advised against using violence. It is likely that Jesus here is speaking ironically, suggesting that the arrest and charge they’re about to be indicted with would only be just if they would be political revolutionaries like the zealots (Isaiah 53). We know this because when Peter actually follows the command literally he is rebuked by Jesus. Rather than being an affirmation of modern gun laws or the use of self-defense, this passage is meant to highlight the injustice of the Roman and Jewish leaders violence against Jesus.

    There you go. A simple instruction to buy a sword twisted into a lesson about the immorality of violence. Jesus isn’t confusing, it’s just that his followers largely disagree with the stuff he says.


  3. We should not make the mistake of treating the Gospels as history, or as faithfully recording things that a real, historical figure actually said or did. They are not even trying to convert people: they are largely trying to convey messages to existing members of the sect. They draw heavily on already-familiar texts such as the Hebrew psalms and prophets, and draw deliberate parallels with mythical heroes such as Moses and Elijah.

    There is a passage in ‘Mark’ that goes: “And he said unto [the disciples] , Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them”. The initiated members of the late 1st-century Christian sects would have seen this as an assurance that they too were in a privileged position, and were on track for eternal life.

    Whether one regards the words put into the mouth of Jesus as obscure or not, I don’t think Bishop Baines’s point about Covid advice was particularly well illustrated by bringing them into the Thought. Indeed, he made Covid advice appear even more confusing than it actually is.


  4. In the early days of Christianity, it was a mutual aid group. If you were in a unfamiliar place, you knocked on a door with the fish symbol on it , snd got a meal and other help. I wonder if the parables might have been partly some code, or initiation, which stopped non- Christians getting help under false pretences. The very vagueness of the parables might have constituted some sort of recall test.


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