Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What Jesus Meant

That’s the title of Gary Wills’ latest book. Wills is a Catholic and a Pulitzer prize winning historian. He says the standard question “What Would Jesus Do?” is irrelevant. It’s more important to figure out what Jesus meant.

Wills says “We must ask what Jesus meant by his strange words and deeds.”

Wills has been a political chameleon. He used to write for William Buckley’s National Review. Later, during the Vietnam era, he turned against the war and joined the New York Review of Books.

Most Christians will be offended by something in this book. The church hierarchy probably won't agree with “Jesus did not come to replace the Temple with other buildings, whether huts or rich cathedrals.”

Liberal/humanitarian Christians won’t be happy with “Jesus does not work miracles from humanitarian motives.”

The Christian Right, especially their “leaders” who’ve become so powercrazed lately, will not be happy. Wills says “if they want the state to be politically Christian, they are not following Jesus.” Take that, Dobson/ Robertson/ Wildmon.

The Pope undoubtedly doesn’t want to hear that he, “like his predecessors, is returning to the religion that Jesus renounced, with all its paraphernalia of priesthood.”

Wills says the Gospels are “a deep threat to the institutional church,” since Jesus opposed “just about every form of religion we know.”

He praises Jesus as a “radical egalitarian,” a proto-feminist and a subversive who “was never afraid to speak truth to power.” He disputes the popular “Christian” view that sex is somehow “unclean.” And he delivers a blow to the Dobsonites (pardon the pun): “Those persecuting gays are persecuting Jesus.”

Wills describes Jesus as mercurial and unpredictable; not the bland one-dimensional person usually portrayed. He gives a new translation to one of Jesus’ teachings: “If one coming to me does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and his children, and his brothers and his sisters ... he cannot be my follower.”

Now there’s a new twist on “Family Values.”

With so many people claiming they talk to God, and millions of Christians “knowing” exactly what the Bible means (and how to use it as a club), Wills’ new book might shake things up a little.

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Blogger erinberry said...

Sounds very interesting!

March 21, 2006 at 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One Rare occasions I would watch the TV evangelist, they love to quite from the fire brimstone old testemant and then "add" Jesus for spice.

Many times I have heard Jesus called the Original Liberal. Here you had a guy that thought religion was for everybody and not just for the educated ministers (rabbi's) (which we have today). He thought it could be practiced anywhere, no need for big churches (which we have today). He protested against authority especially the bankers (moneylenders), he preached true pacifism, race relations (brotherly love), loving and helping the poor, despising the rich. The virtues of Honesty and Respect for women.

Sure seems to reflect those weak, outdated Liberal Values that our Conservative Religous leaders seem to despise.

I mean it's all there and been there I don't know why this book would be such a surprise.


March 21, 2006 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erinberry: Excellent post you just did (your most recent one). I'll leave a comment as soon as I can think of one.

Erik: Yeah, the book didn't seem surprising to me either. But I'm glad there's an "authority figure" who's saying all these things. It might give more weight to what people of all politcal views have been saying to each other for decades.

March 22, 2006 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger prying1 said...

re: - quote - And he delivers a blow to the Dobsonites (pardon the pun): "Those persecuting gays are persecuting Jesus." - end quote -

Just because Dobson disagrees with the homosexual lifestye does not mean that he is "persecuting" them. Do you honestly think that Dobson would advocate rounding up homosexuals and throwing them to lions?

Remember - Judge not lest you be judged...

March 22, 2006 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Prying1: Well, since you're asking, yes I do think that's what Dobson would like to do. The hatred I see coming from Dobson, Robertson, Falwell, et al. is the same hatred that spews out of Osama bin Laden and Ayatollah Khomeini. If they weren't restrained by our democracy, I think Dobson and his ilk would be just as ruthless and merciless as the Islamic fanatics.

That's just my impression. Thanks for asking.

March 22, 2006 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

I think Dobson, et al, would do whatever it is that will drive them forward and further their careers or whatever.

Look at what they have done in the past.
How many southern white churches spoke out about the rights of blacks?
They would have lost a lot of people and thus, money.

Tell the morons in the pews that it's OK to hate fags and the greenbacks keep coming in.

Tell them about love and acceptance and they will walk out the backdoor and find someone that hates people as much as they do..

March 22, 2006 at 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Nick Payne said...

Sounds like a pretty sound book. I wouldn't dismiss WWJD just to ask WWJM though. both have a valid place.

As a subvesive Christian whohas a lot of issues with his denomination this sounds like an interesting read.

March 22, 2006 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Brazen Hussy said...

very good post Tom! myself as a crossbreed Malteser living in Malta which is an ultra Catholic country get to see tons of contradictions. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, will definitely give it a dekko, but not sure how much impact it'll have on the Church-they've gone about business as usual for years..get this: I think it was Pope Gregory (13thc?) finally lifted the prostitute slur on Mary Magdalene (apologising that it was a case of mistaken identity with ANOTHER Mary-god was everyone in Galilee called Mary??)but look up "prostitute" in Catholic dictionaries and you're bound to see a reference somewhere to M.M.! Just as the Islamic fanatics have hijacked Islam for political purposes, the Catholic Church did exactly the same to Christ's teachings centuries ago.

March 22, 2006 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike V.: I think you're right. Dobson and the other rightwing Christian "leaders" are as ruthless as anyone can get. There are millions of sincere and well-meaning Christians, but these "Christian" demigogues really suck.

Nick Payne: Yup, it's interesting. A lot of new twists on some old assumptions.

Brazen Hussy: Thanks. I doubt if the book will have much impact on the established church leaders, but hopefully lots of rank and file will give it some thought.

Jesus and Mohammed both had some great teachings, and both of them have been hijacked by powercrazed megalomaniacs.

March 22, 2006 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Tom, it is because of the things you mentioned in your article that most fundamentalist Christians will probably never open "What Jesus Meant" and/or read a word of it. If you're not for them, you're against them, after all.

"Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks To Believers in Exile" by John Shelby Spong is an excellent book that his been dismissed by many fundamentalists as "New Age", pagan, "someone trying to start his own religion", etc. I read his book, and I found that Spong raised some good concerns and asked some good questions about his faith and re. Christianity in general. He wants it to survive, and to not get dragged into the muck and made into something Jesus would never have intended... Then again, did Jesus ever really intend for a church to begin around his teachings?

As it becomes harder and harder to believe ancient religious doctrines in our modern world, some authors courageously try to breathe life into Christianity and make it as relevant as possible for believers of today. Try as they might, they run into the brick wall that has been put up by the power freaks... The fundamentalist ministers/preachers/pastors/etc. have so many of today's American fundamentalist Christians under their thumbs that all they have to do is associate the word/concept "Satan" with something they don't like, and their flocks won't go near those things... be it a book, a movie, a song, a church that has different beliefs... or individuals who express different beliefs.

I'm agnostic, but I was raised by parents who gave me the option of deciding on my own whether or not I believed in a Christian concept of God or in what the Bible says. I learned to believe that in order for one's faith to grow, one needs to question one's own faith. For quite some time, I attended a cool Methodist church that had a very liberal outlook, and which preached tolerance and social justice. What got me away from church was the realization that after many years, I still wasn't making any real "connection" with any god, and I found much of the Bible impossible to believe. I have become more inspired by the wonders of nature, science and human achievement... things I can see and touch. about seven years ago, I finally accepted that I'm basically a "show-me" kind of guy, and since then my inner religious battle has ended and I feel at peace with that aspect of my life.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ferdinand Magellan: "The Church says that the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church."

That pretty much sums it up for me, but I don't have problems with other people believing the earth is flat, that I'm going to hell, that there will be a second coming, etc.

As long as fundamentalist Christians don't try to force their beliefs on me or legislate morality for our country, more power to them. However, I do believe the ones who want to take us down that road should be stopped.

March 22, 2006 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: I doubt if any hardcore Fundamentalists will check out this book. But hopefully some of the Christians who are less rigid and dogmatic will check it out.

I'm Agnostic also. The Agnostic Creed (according to a bumper sticker) is "I don't know and you don't either." If everyone lived by that motto, there'd be a lot less violence in the world.

That sounds like an interesting book by John Shelby Spong.

March 22, 2006 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

Jesus was a Taoist. So let's see Dobson, Robertson & Falwell embrace everything Chinese. ;b

March 22, 2006 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rambling Taoist: I'd say Dobson, Falwell and Robertson are like the Chinese Red Guards of the 1960s.

March 23, 2006 at 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that isn't bad enough, I just finished the DiVinci Code and now it's going to be made into a movie


March 25, 2006 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: There'll probably lots of Fundamentalists protesting the movie. I liked the book. I don't know how much truth there was to it, but it was a good read.

March 25, 2006 at 3:25 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Religion is a peculiar animal. Its adherents are fervent and adamant in their beliers, dogmatic if you will.

Yet just from a logical analysis isn’t that precisely the "reason" for a religion? To add that passion and "meaning", not to mention distraction, to ones life? It is a bit like blaming a tiger for having stripes.

People with that mindset will not entertain anything contrary to their beliefs. Much like Robocop, it violates their prime directive. In addition, according to their religion they are doing what they should.

The book sounds interesting; I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

April 1, 2006 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

James: Yup, religion can be dogmatic, peculiar, illogical and a whole lot more. It only becomes a problem when people try to force their religious beliefs on other people. This book might shake up some people's complacency.

April 1, 2006 at 12:22 AM  

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