Dissents Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 3 2012 @ 5:41pm

Buzzfeed and the band King Missile are on the same wavelength:

A reader differs:

Andrew, please know there is no reliable scholarship that corroborates your account of Jesus's attitude during his execution. The earliest gospel, contrary to your portrayal of calm willingness, indicates that he might have believed in the apocolytpic fever of the time and believed that he was indeed the Messiah, destined to be rescued by God so he might liberate the Jewish people ("…why have you forsaken me"). Later accounts altered the account, adding the "let your will be done" and "it is done." This fits a historical pattern wherein more accurate accounts of historical events are followed by increasingly elaborated and fictional accounts to further a partisan's agenda. Christianity, even if containing moral wisdom, fits this pattern.

The love that you claim embodies the core teachings of Christ is actually more an emphasis of Paul than the historical Jesus. The latter was a firebrand who insisted that end-times were at hand, requiring total repentance and submission to the Jewish God. This was his "core teaching", as far as history goes. But even that version is speculative given the sparse nature of the historical evidence.

My interpretation of Jesus' attitude in his Passion is derived from years of contemplation on the Gospel stories. They are indeed contradictory – but I see his final cry of despair a sign of his humanity, that he, like all humans, also knew doubt and terror. Maybe Jesus was in reality a rebellious Jewish provocateur, but that is not the point of the Gospel stories. Their point is the precise opposite. Another writes:

When you talk about "the fundamental incompatibility of Christianity with human power," it's hard to take you seriously.

You do realize that Christianity only became a major religion when the Roman empire endorsed it? Seems to me that Christianity owes its success to its deliberate, centuries-long campaign to link its fortunes to those of powerful political leaders. That's not a bug; it's a feature.

It's even harder to take you seriously when you quote others talking about the "blood-drinking gods" that Christ "liberated" us from, and the "reality of a love which asks no questions about worthiness." Christ's father was possibly the most blood-soaked deity in history. Can you point out a single quote from Jesus repudiating his "father's" brutality? And since Christ's gift of salvation is denied to those who fail to accept him as their lord, it's kind of hard to paint his love as some sort of selfless gift to all humankind. To an unsaved soul like me, it seems a lot more like a tool of coercion.

I love your blog, but I wish you'd stop pretending that "Christianists" are tainting your otherwise blameless faith, and recognize that maybe the Bible itself is at the root of the problem.

Well: is it the Bible or Constantine? What's interesting about Jesus is that he claims to fulfill Jewish law but so often violates it in the furtherance of caritas. He is about love transcending law. As for the fusion of Christianity with the Roman Empire: this was a strange turn of events. But I do not believe it alters the meaning of a faith incarnated in a human being who died long, long before that happened. And, for my part, the fusion of early Christianity with such extraordinary political power was a terrible harbinger of abuses to come, including the eternal evil of anti-Semitism. Another reader:

You've read Garry Wills right?  He totally shreds the Jefferson Gospels.  There's not really much I can add because Wills' takedown is so devastating.  But I am with Wills in that I would rather have the offensive and messy Jesus than the cookie cutter cynic sage favored by Jefferson and his legacy, the Jesus Seminar. There is no political thinker I admire more than Jefferson.  But the Jefferson Gospel?  Meh.

And as a classicist, I might add that the politically correct argument that Jesus never claimed Messiahship is historically dubious.  The Jewish High Priests did not turn over cynic sages to the Romans for execution. They turned over people who threatened their authority.  What besides the claim to divinity could have provoked the crucifixion? 

I am with you in the overall thrust of your essay, especially reminding everyone of the example of St. Francis.  My main comment would be it is the divinity of Christ that offers the sharpest challenge to our corrupt and compromised institutions, especially the Church.  

I do not buy Jefferson's final Jesus, as I made plain in the piece. I admire his willingness to look deep, and try to recover a Jesus he could reconcile with what he knew to be true.