Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where Would Jesus Live?

Here's an interesting article from Sojourners asking if Jesus would have swung through the suburbs or restricted himself to cities and farms, where we know there's plenty of sin and/or oppression. Don't sell the 'burbs short when it comes to vice and spiritual anguish, the writer argues.

I don't pretend to know what Jesus' itinerary would be in modern America. Over the years, I've had my differences with Jesus, from my end centering on the question of whether or not he actually existed, much less if he were God.

Still, ours has been a friendly tension. For a long time I've had the idea that I liked him (or the idea of him) a good deal more than the religion that grew up around him, at least in its furious and absolutist fundamentalist form. Loved Him, hated It, you might say. So I'll just give it all a miss.

On the other hand, the folk over at Sojourners make me think.... I'm not sure what they make me think. They seem thoughtful, wise, compassionate. And just how Christian is that, I mean really?

If I read Richard Dawkins correctly, he thinks that what I would call the progressive end of the Christian spectrum could arrive at its moral and ethical positions -- its plan of action -- through an understanding of evolutionary biology, through an intellectual understanding of humanity and the amazing universe, without recourse to the Christian myth. I think Dawkins is saying that "liberal" Christians' acceptance of irrationality of any kind of god worship -- benign and even useful though that gentle group of religionists is -- aids and abets the crazies because once you let "faith" determine how you behave, more bad things crawl out of the darkness, since the crazies can always find a whisper in their heads urging them on. It's not that bad religion does more harm than good, but if only we could squelch the bad, Dawkins says. It's that religion is a package deal, and it's a noxious package, and there's no way to save it from its basic intellectual flaw.

That's a bigger question than how one comes down on the Jesus of the gospels. Still, one of the things on my summer To Do list is to reread those gospels in a good modern translation and decide whether there's more harm than good therein. I'll let you know.

I'll let you know what I think, I mean.

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