Last month, I was reading Dr. Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus--another learned treatise explaining a scholar’s conclusions what we can or cannot know regarding Jesus.
And in the middle of a re-read paragraph, it struck me…
I don’t care.
(Don’t blame Dr. Allison—this work is as fine as any other. Makes some good points, and qualifies what we cannot know.)
I found myself having to forcibly re-engage (with reluctance) each time I picked up the book. Not because of the writing style, or the method of argumentation; I realized I am no longer interested in the topic itself.
It seems each author desires to paint Jesus in some light—and not just any old light, but something slightly “new” and “different” and captivating to the recipients. He was eschatological! He was philosophical! He was Jewish! He didn’t exist!
And with each approach, the scholars triumphantly extol a “new” revelation to the readers—the Gospel of Thomas holds the “true Jesus.” The Gospels give hints as to their eyewitness underpinning. Paul didn’t know Jesus. The Gospel of John was first—look to it for the “real Jesus.” The Gospel of Mark was first—look to it for the “real Jesus.” The Gospel of Matthew was first—look to it for the “real Jesus.”
Anywhere from inspecting each Greek word as if it dripped from Heaven itself, utterly packed with wholesome “trueness,” to looking at the general gist to looking at none of it at all! I think if we gathered every word some scholar held to be “true” when it comes to Jesus, it would include every word written in the first two centuries. And if we excluded every word some other scholar held to be false, we would have nothing left.
Take your pick—the piles are plentiful for the taking.
Then, even amongst those who agree on the excluded/included words, we are left with interpretation. Was he the Son of God? The Messiah? A traveling Rabbi? Did he preach love, hate, justice, mercy, all and none? Should we follow the Law? Or have we triumphed over it?
Would Jesus vote for Gay Marriage?
If Jesus called out certain Religious leaders, as he did the Pharisees, who would it be? (Having heard the polemic raised time and time again, I can answer confidently what every “True Christian” would reply: “Not me!”)
In the end, most people create the Jesus they want. Utilizing (and dismissing) whatever texts and/or interpretations are necessary to get there.
And my life is so full right now. I am running more than I ever have before (deciding for some inexplicable reason I will do a half-marathon this fall.) My son is in two (2) soccer teams and track, guaranteeing a practice and/or game every day. (Not to mention my own soccer.) My daughter continues to need assistance with schoolwork. My house enjoys creating work with drippy faucets, leaky roofs or peeling paint.
Adding on spring time projects outside, a family that would like to spend a little time together, an interest in a charitable project and friends who are inviting….
…just no time to care about what sandals the “true Jesus” would have worn. Or whether Nazareth existed enough to allow him to be from there at the time.
Equally my reasons to study the topic are waning. Arguing with apologists has become tedious. Sure, at one time it was fun, to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of argumentation. Never to convince the apologist, of course. They will staunchly hold to their belief even when their claims have blown up so completely the ashes will have nothing to do with them.
Always for the lurker. Always to let the non-talkative watcher know the tricks being pulled, the strawmen being created, the errors ignored.
Now the apologists come here no more. I can manage a comment or two on their sites and blogs, but then I am ignored. A new topic quickly brought up to bury the lingering questions that need not be addressed if not seen.
I ache for people struggling with their beliefs—verging on deconversion. Yet I find, even with my empathy, so little to say. I realize (having been there) they desperately desire to maintain some theism; some faith in a higher being. I have no words to encourage that hope. (I AM an atheist after all.) I hope they find truth. And hey, if they find a great argument for God, I hope they share it.
But how can I, a non-believer, in good conscience say, “Gee, I really hope Christianity in some form, or theism in another form work out for you”? So under the adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” I either maintain silence or attempt to convey my empathy without compromising what I am convinced is true.
I understand I should up-in-arms over the Christian invasion into the politics of America. Somehow I doubt my blog has changed enough minds to see Gay Marriage legalized more than it was before.
And finally, the people I am chumming with don’t talk about Christianity; they don’t swim in it. Frankly, I don’t know (and don’t care) what their particular religious beliefs are. Without feeding the idea—the idea dies.
Where do I go from here? Anywhere I want! The world is wide open. I still find the topic interesting enough to lurk on my own, so I review my blogroll as need be.
I originally titled this blog entry “Journey’s End.” Now written, I see that as completely incorrect and have changed the title to the more appropriate.