Risky business

Do you ever feel that we are obsessed by avoiding risks?  Are we so risk averse that we are afraid to live?  A while ago I wrote a short piece about what might have happened if Jesus had consulted a risk management agency before he started his work….

“So Jesus, you are thinking of going out and starting a new religion, where people who have broken the law can avoid judgement if they are truly sorry and show that they want to change by choosing to follow you and obey your teaching.  Hmmm.  Well, I think you’ve done the right thing in consulting us; seeking the advice of wise and experienced men is invaluable in matters like this.

I think the best thing to do here is to carry out a risk assessment.  It’s fairly standard practice and makes sure we don’t do something stupid (or at least, it covers our backs against the lawyers if something does go wrong (laughs)).

First we have to think of what might go wrong, then we decide how likely it is, how much it matters if it does go wrong and finally we think up how to stop it going wrong. So, let’s start.

Now, your message, ‘Repent and follow me, I will forgive you sins’.  What could go wrong?  Well, why would anyone believe you?  What are your credentials?  I think if you just start telling people this then it’s a high likelihood that nobody will believe you.  But the impact of people not believing you is pretty low, they’ll just think you are an idiot so no harm done really.

Sorry, didn’t quite catch that? You are going to do some miracles to show that you are telling the truth?  Well, that would certainly start to address the question of whether they believe you.

But think, you’ve not done any before, so what happens if your miracles don’t work?  Well, you might upset the person you were doing the miracle on, and you might be a bit embarrassed, but that’s not really a big problem.  You could always move to another town to avoid the stigma.  You’re going to do them all over the region?  Well that would be a bit more serious wouldn’t it.  No, we’d advise you keep it local.

But supposing they do work.  Hmmm, according to our data that would imply that you claim to be God!  I think we’re starting to get into a bit of a high risk area here.  If you claim to be God, that will upset a lot of people.  You know, there are lots of people’s jobs depending on telling others what God thinks, you know, the priests and teachers of the law – if you just come along, claim to be God, and tell everyone what God really thinks then they will be out of work.  They wouldn’t like that!

No, you would definitely upset the Pharisees.  They’ll fight you all the way.  They’ll probably try to catch you out and maybe even plan to kill you.  I think we’ll have to mark this down as a rather high risk!  How can we mitigate that I wonder?

You’re going to surround yourself with a band of followers?  That’s a good idea. Yes, that will offer you some protection.  What do you mean, one of your followers is going to betray you?  Well if you know that, don’t choose him!  Come on Jesus – you seem to be deliberately taking risks here!  Look, if you do go ahead with this, we’d better form a panel to vet your followers; make sure they are the right sort, you know, decent middle of the road people. That might do it.

And I suppose there’s some hope in that we Jews aren’t allowed to kill anyone without Roman orders.  But then, what if the Pharisees stir up so much unrest that the Romans just want you out of the way.  You know how much they like a quiet life.  No, I don’t think that’ll get you off the hook.

And look, if you are trying to form a new religion and you end up dying, what will that achieve?  Your followers will become totally disheartened, and give up believing you.  After all, what use is a dead leader (laughs).  And once the Pharisees have tasted blood, if your followers do continue to say you are the Son of God, they’ll probably end up dying painful deaths themselves.  You wouldn’t want that would you?  Oh come on, you can’t tell them to ‘pick up their cross and follow you’; that’s not very kind.  And nobody will do that anyway!

Oh, you have a masterstroke do you?  What’s that then?  You’re going to come back from the dead?  (Uncontrolled laughter)  Oh dear, I’m sorry.  But really!  You’re relying on something as crazy as that to ensure the success of your new religion?  Dear, oh dear. (Mops a tear of laughter from his eye)

Well, at least we can say that this risk assessment has been a useful exercise.  It certainly shows that your plans are crazy.  They are deliberately high risk; I would even go so far to say negligent.  They will lead to a lot of pain and suffering, and frankly the chances of success are minimal.  No Jesus, I really don’t think we can contemplate supporting this mad idea of yours.  But at least we’ve been able to head this off before it got started.  That must be some relief to you.

What?  You’re going to do it anyway.  Well really!”

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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