Garry Wills on Jesus

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The conflation of the religious and the political has become so common that we almost take it for granted. We often measure religion’s strength with the standards of political power, and have come to accept the way politicians of all stripes wield religion like a fiery sword. But when was the last time we actually talked about God? Or talked about faith separate from politics, or of the institutions that shepherd us through religious practice?

In time for Easter (the celebration of the resurrection) Garry Wills has his own mediation on faith, and specifically, on Jesus. Not the historical figure – a contradiction in terms, Wills says, an impossibility (for without the faith, and the resurrection, would we care about any supposed historical figure?) But the “divine mystery walking among men.”

More on this soon.

Garry Wills

Professor of American studies and cultural history, Northwestern University

Author, What Jesus Meant

Harvey Cox

Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School

Caleb Stegal

Editor, New Pantagruel
Extra Credit Reading
Garry Wills, Christ Among the Partisans, The New York Times, 4/09/06

Jon Meacham, The Radical, The New York Times, 3/12/06

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  • Nikos

    🙂

  • Nikos

    Here’s an electronic Easter Basket from your resident pseudopagan atheist (who digs the pre-Christian message of unconditional love, forgiveness, and charity): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/paul.htm

  • That sound interesting. I wonder what Garry Wills thinks about the Gospel of Judas of Iscariot. I know the Pope doesn’t seem to keen on it.

  • chukmeister, my guess is he wouldn’t care. In my view, Jesus was transcendent. What he was teaching was that divine power is within you. To stop seeing others as powerful and using that as an excuse for allowing suffering. So, he would say that it doesn’t matter whether he instructed Judas or not. That’s a red herring.

  • avecfrites

    People have used Jesus to justify just about every point of view, from war to peace, socialism to capitalism, charity to self-reliance, etc. Is there any aspect of Jesus that EVERY Christian can agree with?

  • Nikos

    Off topic and directed to the Alley: CCM, I’ve a question for you here: http://www.radioopensource.org/guttersnipe-alley-april-2006/#comment-9430

    and I know you’ll be reading this thread pretty darn soon, so I’m giving you a head’s up here. Thanks (everyone).

  • avedfrites, No, I don’t think there is any aspect that everyone can agree upon. He was so radical and people responded with such divisiveness, that the real man and his teachings are lost in the mythic import that each group has adopted.

    Alas, it is up to each of us to glean what we will. I just don’t bother arguing with people about it. Of course, since I also believe in the teachings of Siddhartha and many others, I generally keep to myself on such things anyway.

  • cheesechowmain

    Nikos @ 7:49. I think they’re Meerkats. Aren’t they just the coolest. A group of meerkats are called a ‘mob’ or ‘gang’. Sort of hooliganesque, no?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerkat

  • Jesus Christ will always be all things to all people. From what I can tell, the Christ of Matthew is a different person than the god of the Gospel of John. The Christ who brings the sword is a different person than the “Prince of Peace.” As an unbeliever my main interest in Jesus Christ is intellectual and sociological. From the perspective of an interested party in how our nations is run I am interested in how to leverage the reality that people actually believe this individual, Jesus Christ, was the Son of God, and how I can use that belief and their reverence for the words of the New Testament to my own ends. This might seem mercenary, but you have to win battles on the terms of your opponents many a time.

  • here is my Jesus playlist…

    People Get Ready – Eva Cassidy

    Personal Jesus – Johnny Cash

    Down to the River to Pray – Alison Krauss

    Jesus Walks – Kanye West

    Just a Closer Walk With Thee – Joan Baez

    Wade in the Water – Eva Cassidy

    God is in the Roses – Rosanne Cash

    Amazing Grace – Elvis Presley

    A Living Prayer – Alison Krauss

    Shall We Gather At The River – Willie Nelson

  • I heard Christopher Lydon mention the song Jesus Walks by Kanye West on a previous show and I’ve been exploring the world of hip hop on the world hip hop thread so I had a listen. I thought it was the most moving testimony to the living Christ (not to be confused with historical Jesus) I’ve heard in a long time. I was so moved by the song I built my Jesus playlist around it.

    Yes, I’m a Buddhist but my Christian roots go deep. One thing about my Christian upbringing was that we were encouraged to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. I was so successful at developing my personal Jesus that eventually I went back and read the bible and was shocked! That Jesus in the bible wasn’t the Jesus I knew! I don’t know who that guy was.

  • Now I just read the Meacham review. He says, “Wills rejects the familiar distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faithâ€? a distinction I just made in my previous post. I’ve become very ambivalent about details like, did Jesus roll away the stone, walk among us and then ascend or was his mother a virgin? I think I find resurrection easier to believe than the virgin birth but I’d been feeling like these matters were beside the point if Jesus was real in my life (which I can be ambivalent about as well). Maybe I’m just avoiding the issues. I seem to be one of the people who accept faith yet do not trust the gospels. This has given me much to ponder. How timely too with Easter (the holiday named after a Saxon fertility Goddess).

  • diemos3211

    It’s hard to trust the gospels. It’s pretty well established that they have been screwed around with regularly and were picked by committee in the first place. Only one of them is even written in the first person IIRC.

  • Is this a new series that follows a religious calander? April is Easter and Jesus, May is a look at Buddha for Visakha Puja, then in June there is Shavuot and a discussion of Moses’ trip up the Mt. Or will it be a look at the ledgends of Canada’s native peoples for First Nations Day?

  • Maybe we could also have a seasonal theme:

    Spring in to action with that attack on Iran

    The lost Summer dream of an easy victory

    Nuclear fall-out

    and another Winter of deep snow-drift despair.

    Sorry, I digress. We were talking about more important things, like missing bones. Aren’t they still looking for the skulls of Peking Man? Is this a convergence?

  • peggysue, I’m with you. The Jesus in the Bible doesn’t mean anything to me. As diemos3211 says, these were texts selected by a committee with a political agenda. Also, even if they had been written by actual witnesses of Jesus, the writers are still human and have their own perspective/political agenda.

    The question then is, “So, why do you call this person you have a realtionship with Jesus?” I’m not sure I have an answer for that. Except to say that somehow, out of all the muddled messages that came from different churches, our culture, my communties, I gleaned something about this man and what he was teaching/modeling. I base my relationship on that. I don’t think it really matters if I call him, Jesus, though.

  • Allison, I think you are correct in saying “Jesus was transcendent”. What I was refering to in the “new gospel” is how much lighter Jesus seems in National Geographic print. His portrayal is more of a human being than of God.

  • alison:

    and at least since Constantine rode into battle under the banner of Christ the interpreters of the bible have been the always untrustworthy ruling classes.

    sidewalker:

    don’t forget about nuclear winter.

  • nuclear winter…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter

    at least then we can quit worrying about global warming

  • Peggysue, what about the nuclear summer that may follow?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_summer

  • Chuckmeister, by then we wouldn’t have much left to worry about but just in case maybe we should stock up on sunscreen

  • True, true

  • Chukmeister, I think its good to show him as a human being. IMHO, he was a human being that offered us a model of how transcend. Its important that he wasn’t necessarily ‘perfect’ in every moment of his life here. I also believe that he was only god insomuch as we are all god. If “in the beginning there was nothing but god” then everything is god. Paradoxically, because everything is only a smidgeon of god, we lose the connection and can’t see the divine in everything and ourselves. I think Jesus was offering up the possibility for each one of us to reconnect the way he did.

    The Siddhartha story has a similar theme.

    So, if more translations of more ‘gospels’ reinforce the idea that Jesus was human, the better. I think it helps to defuse some of the dictatorship of the religious leaders.

  • peggysue:

    how can you make a Jesus themed playlist and leave off Mahalia Jackson? don’t sleep on Mahalia.

  • Nikos

    This is a long one, folks, because of the quotations. Feel free to skip it or come back to it when convenient. Same for its sequel.

    In the second post in of this thread, I link to a book chapter from The Washington Post website @ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/paul.htm Paul: The Mind of the Apostle By A.N. Wilson – Chapter One: The Emperor Nero’s Legacy to the Christian Church.

    Now, I don’t much like bringing elements of a piece out their larger context, but for the questions I’d like to pose, I’m afraid I must. The better tack would be to advocate that those of you interested click the link and read the entire chapter – which takes about a half an hour – and then come back to this.

    The chapter begins with a fascinating explanation of the Roman Emperor Nero’s misunderstood and unintentional role in the earliest developmental decades of the obscure Jewish sect of proto-Christians. Nero of course famously blamed a great fire in Rome on this sect, and then infamously persecuted them.

    (begin quote)

    Nero’s cruelty to the Christians in the gardens of the Vatican at the dawn of the gentle age of Christendom has been seen ever afterwards in Christian tradition as the beginning of a religious persecution. It was nothing of the kind. The advantage of singling out the Christians for special blame after the fire consisted in their tiny numbers, in the fact that, as a sect, they were quite obscure. Few would feel aggrieved at their demise. Christian folk-legend has not been slow, in the intervening centuries, to build up Nero as a religious persecutor; nor is it any accident that the Bishops of Rome should have chosen to take up their residence on the supposed site of this hideous torture. But if a martyr is someone who dies for their faith then the victims of the Neronian persecution were not martyrs. Jesus was in all likelihood a martyr – a man who died for his own particular vision of what it meant to be Jewish, and who was arraigned by the Roman governor as a troublemaker: “the King of the Jews�. The human torches screaming in Nero’s gardens were not martyrs in this sense.

    But Nero had given the Christian movement two vitally important privileges: a public name and a number of dead, who could be seen instantaneously as martyrs. Any obscure group poised to play an important part on the world stage must thank, in retrospect, the ruling power that first bans, or drives into exile, or murders, some member of the sect. The magistrate who decreed that Lenin’s brother should be hanged can have had no more idea that he was going to have an influence over world history. Similarly, Nero, with a theatricality of which only he would be capable, provided the Christians with a “send-off� into the history books. Tacitus, ever eager for florid examples of cruelty in Nero’s character, immortalised the scene for us, but this was caviar to the general; and it is only by the merest of accidents that Tacitus survives in the world at all. The Christian literature, by contrast, flourished from the beginning, and this is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the story. The fact, for example, that Nero had no religious motive whatsoever in wishing to make human torches out of the Christians in his garden pyrotechnics did not prevent their instant canonisation in the eyes of their coreligionists.

    One of their number, a Jew named John, who fled the city of Rome just in time, took this terrible calamity as a token or sign that the end of days was at hand. For thirty years, since his death, Jesus the Messiah had mysteriously failed to return to earth, though he was expected to come imminently on the clouds.

    ‘Every eye will see him even those who pierced him [i.e. the Romans and not, as in Christian hymns, the Jews – for it was the Romans who killed Jesus]; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.’

    Seer John’s people, Jesus’s people, the Jews, remained unvindicated. But now that the Beast, the dreaded Whore of Babylon, Rome, had begun to persecute the Holy Ones of God, it was surely a sign that they would be swiftly avenged. Taking refuge on the Greek island of Patmos, this visionary was granted a series of revelations of the Almighty’s purpose in History. The meanings of these unforgettable and potent images – the Four Apocalyptic Horsemen, the Lamb Triumphant on his Throne, the chorus of praise uplifted by the Redeemed, the torment of those, Jewish and Roman, who have not recognised Jesus as Lord – are matters which have provided a rich source of study, for theologians, literary historians and psychiatrists. The historian who tries to date and place John’s Revelation is guided by the author to a quite specific time span. The words of the revelation are written down four years after the Roman fire, and shortly after Nero’s own death. We know that they were written before the ultimate calamity of the Sack of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, since the worst fate our seer can imagine befalling the Jewish capital is that a tenth of the sacred city will be destroyed. He writes of the earthly temple as still in existence. No one who knew of the total devastation and ruin of Jerusalem could have prophesied so comparatively mild a fate for it. Moreover, we are told that the great whore, who is “Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations�, represents Rome. She is seen in the vision rutting with a beast which has seven heads, and these heads our author explains, are the seven kings (or emperors, basileus in Greek). “Five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes he must remain only a little while.� All this as a piece of historical writing, places Revelation firmly in the short-lived reign of Galba. Five emperors have fallen – Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero. The sixth, Galba, will be replaced by Otho, who also will not last long. Accurate as far as it goes. What makes the Revelation of John painful reading for the Jewish historian is the wild inaccuracy of its prophecies in general. John foretells the establishment of an everlasting earthly Jerusalem, while Babylon, that is Rome, is completely destroyed. Within two years of the Revelation being written down and sent to his fellow believers in seven towns of Asia Minor (western Turkey) Jerusalem had been devastated. As Jesus may or may not have predicted, not one stone of it remained upon the other.

    (end quote)

    This, even to my simpleton’s mind, is pregnant with questions. Especially: All this as a piece of historical writing, places Revelation firmly in the short-lived reign of Galba. Five emperors have fallen – Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero. The sixth, Galba, will be replaced by Otho, who also will not last long. Accurate as far as it goes. What makes the Revelation of John painful reading for the Jewish historian is the wild inaccuracy of its prophecies in general. John foretells the establishment of an everlasting earthly Jerusalem, while Babylon, that is Rome, is completely destroyed. Within two years of the Revelation being written down and sent to his fellow believers in seven towns of Asia Minor (western Turkey) Jerusalem had been devastated. As Jesus may or may not have predicted, not one stone of it remained upon the other.

    American foreign policy is affected in part by fundamentalist Christians pining for the End of Days.

    Why do not Christian religious professionals fess up and place the Book of Revelation in its historical context and admit that the prophecy failed?

    Why must we – not merely the country but the world – remain hostage to this time-specific prophecy whose era passed long ago?

    I’ve got another coming, but, for simple decency, must cut it into two posts.

  • Nikos

    More from Paul: The Mind of the Apostle By A.N. Wilson – Chapter One: The Emperor Nero’s Legacy to the Christian Church.

    (begin quote)

    The fact that the Gentile world adopted Christianity is owing almost solely to one man: Paul of Tarsus. Without Paul, it is highly unlikely that Christianity would ever have broken away from Judaism. Only a moment’s reflexion tells us what a different world it would have been. The whole Jewish inheritance, which is woven inseparably into the Christian religion, would never have been available to the Gentile imagination. The stories which, until our generation, were told to almost every child in the Western world, would have been the exclusive preserve of the Jews: Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Daniel in the Lions’ Den. The concept of moral law as a divinely-given set of precepts, spoken by the Almighty to Moses on Sinai, underpinned, at least until the eighteenth century, the ethical, political and social fabric of Western statecraft. God himself is, for Western Man, the God of Israel. If metaphysicians for the first two millennia after Christ have drawn on non-Jewish traditions – above all on those of Plato and Aristotle – for talking about God, it is nonetheless to the Hebraic tradition, of a God who created the world of matter and who is involved with his creation, that Western philosophers have always returned. And this is the inheritance which Paul opened up to the Gentile world.

    This is something so extraordinary that many people do not notice it. It is one of those huge facts which is so obvious, like the fact that most people in America speak English, that we do not often pause to ask how it happened. This is to some extent because of the misconceptions which exist about Paul in the popular mind; misconceptions which come about partly because Paul is widely regarded as someone who distorted the original message of Christianity. Jesus, it is thought, preached a simple message of love. Paul came along in a later generation and complicated it with a lot of difficult “theology�. Paul, it is supposed, was a bigoted Jew who, as a result of his conversion on the road to Damascus, became a bigoted Christian. He is widely regarded as a misogynist, the father of that strand in Christianity which sees the female sex as inferior to the male. Notoriously, he condemned homosexuality.

    (end quote)

    Obviously, the genie is out of the bottle as far as Christianity’s influence on public policy and statecraft goes. But should it remain so? I will post more pointed questions regarding this on the ‘Is God In Our Genes?’ thread later today or tomorrow.

    More germane to this thread’s topic is the implication that Christianity isn’t the product of Jesus, but of Paul:

    “…Christianity itself is understood as an institutionalised distortion of Paul’s thought, the inevitable consequence of the world having lasted (at the time of writing) more than nineteen hundred years longer than he predicted. Paul did not imagine that there would be such a thing as Christianity, or Christian civilisation, any more then Jesus did.�

    And, (begin quote):

    Nero’s great achievement as an unconscious propagandist for Christianity was to make it seem as though this chaotic collection of Jewish heresies had an “originator�, or that the various small groups of Christians scattered, by 64, throughout the Empire, from Jerusalem to Rome itself, all represented the same point of view. Once again, in retrospect, it must have seemed obvious to anyone that this was so. The “early Christians� were our spiritual ancestors. They might not have shared all the customs and practices of a modern Lutheran or Roman Catholic but basically they all believed in – well, in Christianity. And surely it is obvious what Christianity is?

    As the second millennium of Christian history comes to an end we might consider this a foolish question which barely requires an answer. Surely, Christianity is the system of beliefs which most of the main Christian denominations hold in common: it is the belief that God fulfilled the promises first made to the Jewish race in the person of Jesus Christ; that the birth, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus brought redemption to the human race; that through him, all people, Jews and Gentiles, could be restored to that relationship which had obtained between humanity and the Godhead before the Fall. That, surely, is Christianity? And the belief that Jesus, before he died, established an everlasting covenant with his people, the token of which was the Eucharist, the sacrificial meal by which, offering bread and wine to God, Christians receive the Body and Blood of Christ? In other words, Christianity is one of the world religions, founded by Jesus, in a manner comparable to the establishment of Islam by the Holy Prophet or Buddhism by the Lord Gautama.

    The historian has to interrupt this series of assumptions. Deeply ingrained as they may be in the Gentile consciousness, they can not be substantiated. When we have looked at the evidence, it will seem at the very least highly unlikely that Jesus, a Galilean exorcist executed in circa the year 30, probably for sedition, had any ambitions to found a world religion. All the indications are that this charismatic healer and preacher limited his sphere of activities to rural and exclusively Jewish regions. For example, though he was probably born, and certainly operated, near the great Hellenistic city of Sepphoris in Galilee, we hear no mention of this city in the Gospels. We read only of a Jesus who chose to move about among the fishing-towns and agricultural communities of Galilee – hotbeds of political dissent against Rome, according to Josephus. The Gospels were written to make us suppose that Jesus did indeed reach out to all mankind as some Saviour-figure who would embrace Gentiles as well as Jews, so it is all the more remarkable that these books should clumsily have recorded sayings, which on balance would seem to be authentic, in which Jesus is quoted as saying that his mission is to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel�; that he has no desire to throw the pearls of his wisdom before the Gentile pigs. In another place he is quoted as saying that the Gentiles were dogs.

    Jesus would seem to have shared the views of many Jewish contemporaries that the world was about to come to an end and that God would redeem Israel and bring to pass a new era in which the rule of the Gentiles would be smitten and driven away. Since the end of ages was at hand, and the Gospels record Jesus as predicting as much, it is hard to imagine why Jesus would have entertained the quite incompatible belief that several thousand years of human history stretched ahead in which a new “religion� would be necessary. As far as the historical Jesus was concerned, it seems overwhelmingly likely that he did not think there was any future for the human race at all; that is, in so far as we can deduce any interest in the “human race�, as opposed to the fate of the Jews or more narrowly of his own followers, in the recorded sayings of Jesus.

    Some little while after the death of Jesus, his followers in Jerusalem grouped themselves around his brother James. We are told that they continued to observe the Jewish law, and to worship in the temple. These testimonies from the New Testament reveal to us the rather puzzling information that Jesus’s closest friends and followers, and indeed his family seemed to know nothing about the “fact� – taken for granted by so many of us – that Jesus, or “Christ�, was the “originator� of a religion called Christianity.

    We assume that this fact is so obvious that merely to question it sounds cranky – as if a pet theory is going to be advanced. The simple truth, however, is that the New Testament documents themselves do not bear out Tacitus’s notion that “Christ�, if we take him to be the same figure as Jesus, was the “originator� of Christianity, if we take that word to refer to the set of beliefs normally regarded as Christian – belief in the Divine Saviour and his resurrection, belief in the Eucharist. If there is any single individual who can be labelled the “originator� of Christianity in this sense, it would be Paul.

    (end quote)

    This begs more questions than I, a mere ‘pseudopagan’ atheist, can hope to begin to pose. At the very least it implies that the global religion called Christianity might instead be better named ‘Paulism’.

    Undeniably, a great faith tradition arose from the works of Paul. One wonders, however, how many its creeds are Jesus’s, and how many instead are Paul’s and his successors’.

    Moreover, one wonders why so much ‘conventional wisdom’ of the Paulism called Christianity isn’t examined for its actual relevance to a world some two millennia after the sect’s earliest origins and tribulations. A world now armed with weapons that people can honestly mistake for the monstrosities prophesied as ‘Armageddon.’

    I will close only by once again recommending the entire chapter I’ve selectively quoted from here.

    It’s worth the half-hour it takes to read.

  • I just unpacked a new book just at the bookstore God Laughs and Plays by David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why. The Subtitle: Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamentalist Right.

    From the inside flap: “In God Laughs and Plays, Duncan argues that the de facto political party embodied by the so-called Christian Right has turned worship into self-righteous betrayal of the words and example of the very Jesus it claims to praise. In reply, Duncan offers a thought-provoking collection of “churchless sermons,� stories, memoir, and conversations – all united by the contention that the way of life preached and embodied by Jesus is apolitical and should be free of media machinery.�

    Convergence?

    And just a reminder… check books out on the internet BUT then go buy them at your local small independent bookstore.

  • Jitney: “how can you make a Jesus themed playlist and leave off Mahalia Jackson? don’t sleep on Mahalia.”

    I KNOW. I had her “Take My Hand Precious Lord” on my list but Joan Baez starts off with that before getting into “Just a Closer Walk” and I wanted to follow “Jesus Walks” with “Closer Walk”. I don’t own any Mahalia Jackson so I was just listening to those annoying little itune blurbs which take a long time to come through with my slow system. But yeah, you are right, she’s great.

  • peggysue, thanks for the recommendation. I read The River Why years ago and loved it. It flows with the spririt of the love of life that is the great revelation. I will have to get his newest one, from an independent.

    In that same spirit, I would have to include Van’s Have I Told You Lately That I Love You on my playlist.

  • Long ago I had a home made casstte with Van doing a very Van version of Be Thou My Vision I don’t even know what album it was on. I tried in vain to find it for my Jesus playlist but alas.

  • On Hymns to the Silence

  • THANK YOU!

  • Is it that our human leaders, teachers and mentors prove to be all too human after all? Is this why we can create a fantacy around a figure, historically rooted or not, and find hope in his or her re-presented words and deeds? It’s like the invisible childhood friend who was kind and always there for you when brothers and sisters were mean and parents angry. Jesus loves you, we are told (or at least I was told) in church. No matter what you do, he will forgive you, he will take your pain. Just try to be loving. WOW! What a guy. The only thing is we grow up and find out he isn’t there, and the pain persists, the heart aches and no amount of prayer to an illusionary figure (disappearing bones or not) bring comfort. We are cast back among sheer mortals and just have to find a way to help each other and live in peace. Those words and deeds, AS ANY that speak of hope and human dignity can provide a guiding light, a foothold, an example. But in time of real crisis, it is the true hand of friendship that pulls us back from the edge and brings comfort. Isn’t that the point? Don’t look elsewhere. Don’t look to the heavens, to an invisible friend or simply to the words of a book. Look to each other. Help each other. Love each other.

  • Well, sidewalker, I’m not sure that there is a unversal truth to your experience. When I was in my darkest moments of life. Thinking that I was going insane. It was an ‘out of body’ – for lack of better words – experience of a nothingness, then a mantle of intensely white light that felt like pure joy and the receiving of a message that everything was as it should be along with a gentle, happy, laughter that brought me back from the edge. I define what I experienced as a moment of divinity. I simply don’t have any other words.

    I get these moments rarely. But when they happen, I am completely rejuvenated, relieved and filled with a sense of power. No other person provides me with this. Is this my own inner strength? Is it some god? Is it a transcendent realization of what exists outside of our mundane perception? No one taught me this, or told me that it was a possibility. I can’t tell you why it happens to me. I can only tell you that it has been critical to my well-being. And to the nature of who I am and how I walk in this world.

    Certainly, I can’t imagine being here without the comfort of friends. I cherish them. But those ever so fleeting and illusive moments are what fuels my heart and keeps me plugging away at this life in the most constructive way I can imagine.

  • Thanks for your response, allison. Of course my statement above was a personal expression, though I probably used an overly universal style. I don’t reject others’ spiritual experiences and accept that something else could keep one from fatally falling. As you say, it happens to you. Maybe I am a materialist at heart and find my blessing in the wonderful workings of nature and the kindness of people. At times I wish there was something more. I wish I could reawaken that childhood friend to reasure me that all is well, to feel, as you have, that everthing is as it should be. Bare feet on cool sand, a hug from my son, the warm circle of friendship, morning tea and toast with honey: these are the things that help bring the sun out from behind dark clouds, at least for a while.

  • sidewalker and allison: I appreciate you above posts thank you both for being so open. I mostly find my spirituality anchored in the love I share with family and friends and in the beauty and power of nature but there is something else that for lack of better words I will call “being in my groove” or the feeling that my life has a kind of destiny and I know it when I’m in it. I also know it when I’m not in it, which can be painful.

    I have been thinking, in terms of this thread, about one of Martin Luther King’s sermons where he talks about his religion becoming real for him. He talks of how he already had his PHD in theology and had been working as a preacher. His father was a preacher. His grandfather was a preacher so it seemed natural he would become a preacher. But then he talked about a night during the Montgomery boycott when he’d been getting death threats and felt his family was in danger. He tells about getting up at night and not being able to sleep, sitting at his kitchen table with a cup of coffee. He thought he was doing the right thing but he was having doubts and he says he knew then that his religion had to become real to him if he was going to go on. So he prayed. Then he says he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him, “Martin, Stand up for righteousness! Stand up for truth! For I will be with you always!â€? and of course he did continue on. Was that his imagination? I’m convinced it was real. Was it really Jesus? He thought so. He went on to follow his destiny and he said some prophetic things. When the war with Iraq was just gearing up and I heard his “Beyond Vietnamâ€? speech it sent chills down my spine. I believe he was a prophet or to use a less biblical term, he was very tuned in.

    I’ve never heard voices or anything but I do sometimes get a feeling in my solar plexus that may be some form of instinct and I have experienced the faith-building event of answered prayers (in uncanny detail) while other prayers are never answered (or maybe “Noâ€? is the answer). Sometimes we answer each other’s prayers.

    When I first went back to school I had hardly any money and no furniture and I needed a table to use as a desk so I prayed for a table. There was a knock at the door and my neighbor ask “Hey, do ya’all need a table?â€? and she gave me a table. I still have it. It’s just an ordinary small table and it could have been coincidence that she needed to get rid of a table right then when I was praying for a table but that table will always be a little special to me.

  • Nikos

    Despite my damnedest to stay out if threads like this, I get sucked in by dialogue between inspiring writers like sidewalker and allison.

    The reason I coined a new term for myself — pseudopagan atheist — is because my own version of the ‘childhood friend’ sidewalker mentions ended around at 11 years of age when an older relative explained why ‘God’ never answered prayers. Despite my crushing disappointment, it made sense — especially after having learned a few years earlier that ancient yet intelligent peoples had believed in and had prayed to other, older gods called ‘pagan’, and yet these gods weren’t any more ‘real’ than the Christian pantheon. People prayed to their pagan goddesses and gods while monotheistic conquerors murdered and burned them — and to no avail.

    And yet, I could never quite shake the intuitive feeling that although there might not be any greater Consciousness above and beyond me, something was linking me to the energy fields beyond my skin. Linking me to other people, to animals, to trees. Even to lakes, marshes, and swamps. Eventually in the words of the late Alan Watts, I recognized that this novel (to me) Asian concept called ‘Tao’ wasn’t a God, or even a god, but a poetic, metaphoric expression of the energy that permeates and empowers (literally) all life on Earth. Scientists would call this sunlight, since 99% of life on Earth is powered by solar energy — but the Tao isn’t quite so describable. I think the Tao (I’m no expert, remember) is the biosphere itself: it’s what each of us is fundamentally: an individual, individuated expression of the living Earth.

    So, my ‘childhood friend’ is still there, but it isn’t ‘personal’…well, except that it is, since it’s each of you as much as it’s me or the oceans or the mountains.

    Any religion or spiritual paradigm that places the Divine in each and every one of us (and ignores destructive myths like those of the Devil and Hell, and Judgment and arbitrary moralizing) is on the right track. Any religion that preaches that each of us is a sacred expression of a greater Divinity is on the right track. Any religion that inisists that you treat every other living thing as a goddess or god — and of equal value to you — is worthy of exploration.

    I just wish they’d cut the unnecessary doctrines and dogmas that insist that ‘their way’ is the only and truthful way, and that those who ignore their call (a call that usually includes a collection plate of some kind) are doomed, or misguided, or downright evil.

    Does this make any sense? (I haven’t been awake long, and am coming off a very fuzzy couple of days.)

    Here’s a link to the kind of ‘right track’ thing I applaud: http://www.kuow.org/program_lecture_series.asp?Archive=04-12

    This aired last night on KUOW, and is another Easter Basket from unbelieving me to the rest of you. I promise you’ll like it.

    In fact, if all contemporary religionists were like Michael Lerner, I’d not mutter so much as a word of dissent. (Well, maybe not – but I’d have a lot less credibility if I did!)

  • nother

    Sidewalker, I posted the following passage from the NY Times book review about David Hume, on the Beckett thread. It seems to merge with your sentiment:

    “Although his revolutionary work in philosophy demonstrated the uncertainty of all knowledge, including knowledge of God, Hume resisted despair. When his thoughts got him down, he famously wrote, ‘I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse and am merry with my friends,’ and all would be well.â€?

    The last four lines in Emerson’s poem on “Friendship,” at the beginning of his essay on the same subject:

    “Me too thy nobleness has taught

    To master my despair;

    The fountains of my hidden life

    Are through thy friendship fair.”

    Is there anything more euphoric than those precious moments of mutual laughter with a friend? I’m talking side-splitting gut-wrenching laughter when you both just contributed some deep insightful wit to one another and tears well up in your eyes – and as the laughter begins to die down there are no words worthy to end the moment, just appreciative little chuckles and serene smiles of knowing.

    Allison, your great post has me looking back – looking back for moments of divinity in my past that I may not have fully recognized.

    Peggysue, thank you for your post as well. I love the writing about MLK. My overall feeling is what ever inspires any of us to MLK’s mission to “Stand up for righteousness! Stand up for truth� is a beautiful worthy thing. For some of us it’s religion, for some of us it’s simply living by the golden rule, for some us it’s a mystery. Personally, I strive for those lofty goals (albeit, not to MLK standards) without religion. Your prayer for that table might have been answered, but I can’t get past the prayers not answered for food by children right now in India and elsewhere, the prayers not answered right now by people in Sudan to stop the rapes and killings, the prayers not answered for oxygen and a tree to hold on to by whole villages swept away in the Tsunami.

    Please let me emphasize though, I think your personal spirituality is beautiful, precisely because it’s personal. And from the history of your posts on ROS, I feel strongly that you strive for those lofty goals of MLK.

  • Nikos

    Peggy Sue, I was writing while you posted your 1:08 PM.

    You wrote: “Then he says he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him, “Martin, Stand up for righteousness! Stand up for truth! For I will be with you always!� and of course he did continue on. Was that his imagination? I’m convinced it was real.�

    Me too (surprise!). I believe the sense that we’re all linked by a common ‘divine’ Humanity (purposeful capitalization) is rooted in our lives’ common ‘roots’ in the biosphere. In MLK’s religious vocabulary, this sense ‘spoke’ to him as Jesus. And that’s fine, so long as those who understand and use that vocabulary don’t try to force it on the rest of us.

    Here’s a pop culture way to put it: imagine I’m debating Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

    (Think Lloyd Bentson and Dan Quayle.) One or both of them compare themselves to MLK. What do I say?

    Yup.

    “I knew Martin Luther King, Minister. And with all due respect, you’re no Martin Luther King.â€? 😉

  • Nikos

    Is NOTHING sacred anymore? 😉

    MOONIES & SUSHI Duration: 00:07:00

    Where does your sushi come from? If you answered, “The ocean,” you’re right, of course. At least we hope you are. But between the ocean and your mouth, there are a number of intermediaries. Picturing grizzled but dedicated fishermen? Exquisitely skilled sushi chefs? Well, them too. But at thousands of restaurants around North America, there’s one surprising middleman: the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

    A special report published in today’s Chicago Tribune details links between Reverend Moon’s Unification Church and a commercial seafood operation called True World Group. Turns out the controversial Reverend set his sights on sushi domination more than twenty-five years ago — and now his church is reaping the rewards.

    Monica Eng is co-wrote today’s story in the Tribune. We reached her in Chicago.

    http://www.cbc.ca/radioshows/AS_IT_HAPPENS/last.shtml

  • h wally

    Nother, I too feel for those, all over our world, who suffer. I also wonder, is is Jesus who is failing or is it us. Not many of us is willing to sacrifice our our lives for others. We’re insulated from the true picture of what is going on in our world. We talk and support a cause but we don’t really do as much as we could. We guarantee our own comfort before we give to our pet projects. If we really could feel what they feel we’d be so disturbed we would never be able to rest again. For many years I gave all that I could to try to make ammends for things I’d done in my youth as a soldier. I lived in a truck and volunteered where ever I was needed. In time I burnt out because the supply of misery in this world is unlimited. I truly admire Mother Thereas and people like her who somehow have the strength to keep doing it. I still work at making the world a better place but I limit it to the area I’m in ,otherwise I’d feel overwelmed by the flood . I encourage all of us to do more than we think we can. To give more than we think we can. Push back.

  • nother

    h wally, thanks for the post, and thanks for all you’ve done including defending this country, which means ultimately defending the ideals of its framers.

    Your post reminded me of a quote posted in the Neo conservative thread by Steve 02130, I had been meaning to write it down, now I will:

    The least pain in our little finger gives

    us more concern and uneasiness than

    the destruction of millions of our fellow

    beings.

    — William Hazlitt

    The closer we can realize true empathy, the closer we will get to change. Empathy hurts though. It means forgoing that new issue of people magazine and instead delving in the darkness of Sudan; reading the grisly facts and contemplating them. I know I’m not doing enough right now and I know that means continually rattling myself free from my comfort zone. I’m an average looking white male in the richest country in the world – that automatically puts me in a dangerous comfort zone. Communities like ROS remind me daily to put things in perspective, or at least try. Part of that perspective is knowing that a little by a lot counts. A single act of courage by Rosa Park’s brought together enough people to move a mountain of discrimination. Not tear it down, but a least move it.

  • nother, yes, that table prayer/manifestation was easy, watching my friends die of cancer isn’t (not to mention all the suffering of the world). I’ve heard MLKing say that suffering is redemptive and I’ve wondered what that means. The first of the four noble truths in Buddhism is that suffering is an inherent part of life. Ethical conduct, meditation and wisdom are the way out of suffering. Or so the Buddha taught. Cultivating empathy, acting on love, is I think where we find god in ourselves.

  • Nikos

    I’ve just posted a piece relevant to the question of Jesus, politics, and social policy here:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/is-god-in-our-genes/#comment-9562

    It’ the 380th post of that thread (and it’s much more evenly tempered than most of my posts there!).

    I put it there instead of here because it’s germane to all religious influences on the body politic, not merely the Christian influence.

    And, if you reply to it there, Potter might soon have the chance to grace that thread’s 400th post with another of her ‘milestone’ gems!

    PS: here’s a correction to one line: “any more than I have to refute the claim that angels cause mutations…�

    And I typed the same mistake a few paragraphs later. Sigh.

  • Nikos: I heard most of Michael Lerner’s talk last night too. I thought he made some interesting points. With right-wingers out there giving Jesus such a bad name it doesn’t help for progressives to condescendingly equate faith with stupidity. I could see his point about how that pushes some people to the right but I sure wish those people were not such lily-livered cowards. How strong is their faith I wonder if they can’t even stand up to some snotty pseudo intellectual? I mean it is possible to have both intelligence and faith. And is that any reason to vote for a bad president who can’t speak in complete sentences? No! That just confirms their stupidity.

  • Nikos

    Peggy Sue (5:11): I essentially agree. I am increasingly of the opinion that the intellect and the intuitive are linked more closely than the problematic left-brain/right brain conventional wisdom (mistakenly) makes it seem, but can nevertheless operate in mutual exclusion of one another. I think religion is a product of unverifiable intuition, while science mostly appeals to the intellect. (See my gazillion posts on the Dennett thread.)

    For this reason, I’ve no serious quibbles with Lerner. Or with Bishops Spong and Pearson, ftm.

    My stridency is over the unquestioned premise that we must remain hostages to millennia old religious-morality systems – whose long accepted ‘common sense facts’ don’t stand up to empirical scrutiny.

    Gotta run. I’ll try to rejoin the show when it streams at 4:00 PM Pacific.

  • fiddlesticks

    peggysue Says:

    April 12th, 2006 at 2:11 am

    “Yes, I’m a Buddhist but my Christian roots go deep.”

    And your Jewish roots?

  • mulp

    Aren’t Muslims Christians?

    How different is Islam from Greek Orthodoxy, Catholocism, and the full spectrum of Protestanism, and then we have the Christianity of the missionaries (especially Spanish Preists) that wedded local religion with Christianity, and of course Mormanism, and so many more.

  • Nikos

    Hey fiddlesticks! (5:46) Nice to see you back and meddling!

  • fiddlesticks

    “Aren’t Muslims Christians?”

    ha, ha, ha,

    LOL, everything is evething else, LOL

    That’s my multi culti poster, all right!

  • Nikos

    Mulp (6:00 PM): the Koran makes clear that, unlike Jesus, Allah was speaking directly through Mohamed’s mouth. Muslim fundamentalism is born from this ‘certainty’. Muslims must believe that every word of the Koran is God’s Truth – no room for ‘interpretation’. This distinguishes the Koran and Islam from its two Abrahamic predecessors. If Judaism and Christianity are milk and cream (take your pick), then Islam is cheese: stemming from a common source but qualitatively distinct.

    Or so it seems to me.

  • Nikos

    Proud to be a multi culti poster.

    fiddlesticks, can you contribute without implicit insult?

  • fiddlesticks

    “Hey fiddlesticks! (5:46) Nice to see you back and meddling!”

    MY Christian roots are very shallow but yes, I am the great meddler.

  • cheesechowmain

    Messiah according to wiki:

    “In the first century, Jews interpreted the prophecies of the Tanakh to refer more specifically to someone appointed by God to lead the Jewish people in the face of their tribulations with the Romans.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah

  • cheesechowmain

    Question to Mr. Wills: Does the sermon on the mount transcend politics? Does it apply to earthly concerns? How does this square with many religious / political activities that work contrary to these teachings? Specifically, capitalism / materialism and militarism…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sermon_on_the_mount

  • h wally

    Peggy Sue, Since the begining the (political) powers that be have seen religion as a manipulative tool to move the masses in the direction they want. I think that’s one reason Jesus never called upon anyone to start a church. He also didn’t have a scribe following him around writing down his words. He knew what would happen. An organized church would be corrupted. The written word can be twisted. I think the church is within us. The answers we seek are within. It’s amazing how similar Buddhism and the teachings of Jesus are similar.

  • jazzman

    The historical Jesus (if he existed as he is portrayed) was first and foremost a rebel, non-conformist, and humanist. If he were alive today, he’d probably adopt whatever religion his parents believed and work from within that framework as a humanistic reformer for the betterment of all. The historic person was a product of his times and was aware of the Jewish Prophesies. If we are to believe that the authors of the eclectic texts that were allowed to comprise the New Testament didn’t reshape those events to comport with those prophesies to manufacture the Savior, Jesus did his best to make them self fulfilling. In any even it doesn’t matter whether the stories are accurate or total fiction, what does matter is that the drama is believed by over a billion people to one degree or another and construe it to believe that if they believe in the divinity of Jesus then God will be on their side, and the side of manifest destiny (according to the current administration.) This Christ drama is what Dennett and Dawkins and Nick (oh my) call a meme, but it is a super-meme and each individual shapes it according to his/her belief system. This allows the individual to justify any thing her/his belief system supports in the name of Jesus and by extension God.

  • Nikos

    h wally: some people believe Jesus came back to preach in his homeland after a journey east, where he was exposed to Buddhist principles. I’ve no strong opinion on this, but it’s interesting, huh?

  • h wally

    Nikos. Many christians believe that the bible is the absolute word of god. The problem, as I see it, with such thinking is as I posted a minute ago. Words can be twisted. You look at the crusades or “radical islam”. Both have changed the word to suit their cause.

  • Nikos

    jazzman: I like your 6:39, and will reply later tonight (oh my!) 😉

  • kel

    As fully described by Sam Harris in “THE END OF FAITH” all this is nothing more than fairy tales. How any thinking person can subscribe to these quaint myths today blows my mind.

  • cheesechowmain

    Example of Christianity and earthly conerns:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonhoeffer

  • h wally

    Nikos, good point. I think there are so many different religions because there are many different peoples living many different lives. Buddhism suits the region from which it sprang. African tribesmen have their own special religions. Joseph Campbell did an amazing job of mining all of these religions and belief systems and showed us how similar they all were. I wouldn’t have a hard time believing he was exposed to buddhist princilpes

  • broads48

    How do you talk to people who must wear their Christianity as a cloak and will not admit the possibility of views legitimately at variance with their own? How to challenge the narrowness and exclusionary view that makes following the “right” belief path the highest priority . . . and blinds the holder of that belief to other choices? How Christian is it to pronounce your belief as if you only . . . and those who agree with you . . . have the right answer and express sorrow (but not really respect) for those who haven’t gotten with the program?

  • cheesechowmain

    Consensus is orthogonal to religious philosophy and metaphysical ontology.

  • Nikos

    kel (6:47), if you got a couple hours, read through the Dennett thread (but hold your nose through my many half-crazed rantings!)

    I’ll say this though: my thinking has evloved and moderated somewhat since then. (thank goodness)

  • Nikos
  • h wally

    Kel, these things may seem like fairy tales to you but many people would disagree. I live in Mexico. On a drive one day I went by a shrine to the Virgin Guadalupe. In front of the shrine were crutches, casts and other things. They were left by believers who left these things who had they’re prayers answered and people were healed. It’s easy to intellectualize faith etc. I don’t think faith is an intellectual act. If you removed the idea of a god you would remove the hope of many who have no other hope.

  • mulp

    On the “what do all crhistians have in common” question, I go with the “follow me”, but it was/is clear that Christians can’t agree on one single thing about christianity.

  • h wally

    Broads48, I’ve always had a hard time with people like you describe. I think people like that are afraid and have a weak belief system. They’re afraid to hear other opinions because they’re afraid their beliefs won’t stand up to other ideas.

  • cheesechowmain

    I would not underestimate the power of fairy tales. They have deep resonance in tangible activities of humanity. Their power is somewhat obscured by their simplicity of form and language.

  • h wally

    Broads48, I’ve always had a hard time with people like you describe. I think people like that are afraid and have a weak belief system. They’re afraid to hear other opinions because they’re afraid their beliefs won’t stand up to other ideas. I have my beliefs and I’m content for them to be that.

  • Nikos

    mulp (6:57): right, and this is no doubt due to the fact that Paul and others, not Jesus, founded Christianity. Which none of our radio guests seemed prepared to grapple with.

    Later all.

  • h wally

    What we believe is personal. Each of us creates God in our own image. There is no religion that is the worlds religion. I agree with many things about many religions but have my own unique perspective. I’m happy when I meet someone who has similar beliefs and enjoy the chance to listen to other perspectives. My own beliefs have changed over the years.

  • fiddlestix: “And your Jewish roots?”

    I once heard my dad speculate that the Scottish clans were one of the lost tribes of Israel but I don’t think there is any conclusive science to support the theory.

  • Potter

    Allison 9:34 and Sidewalker 10:52 Thanks both resonate w me very much.

  • fiddlesticks

    “I once heard my dad speculate that the Scottish clans were one of the lost tribes of Israel but I don’t think there is any conclusive science to support the theory.”

    yea, right. LOL

    So are the Mormons, and the American Indians, and the Eskimos?

    All lost stem from the lost tribus!

  • h wally

    Nikos, I tried grappling with that very idea a few moments ago. Jesus never asked anyone to form a church because he knew how corrupt they can be. He told us that the church is within us and that we have adirect connection with God we didn’t need to go to church to find answers. There were scribes in those times and it would have very resonable for Jesus to have one following him to take all his words down. He didn’t because he knew how words can be twisted.

  • fiddlesticks

    I have a couple of comments:

    As a non-Christian I like what Mr. Wills was trying to do, separate Jesus from politics since he sees the Christian Right using Jesus to justify their own political program.

    What I heard by way or response wasn’t reassuring: that Jesus’ message fueled the civil rights movements.

    I don’t think this historically entirely accurate since many, many civil rights workers were not Christians (remember Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner?)? Many were either Jewish, or Marxists, or both, others were atheists with a sense of justice—in this I completely agree with Mr. Wills. Left wing Christians like to think that all morality stems from a left wing Jesus which is a crock.

    Moreover, the Christian left like to invoke Martin Luther King almost as a challenge: i.e. If you don’t agree with me than you are a racist, is a tacit assumption behind that challenge.

    The problem is that right wing Christians can also appeal to MLK and they can also push their agenda, as many do, in his name.

    Finally, whenever I hear Jesus discussed Jews are always present in the discussion either overtly or covertly.

    The one point I didn’t agree with Mr. Wills is when he began by invoking Paul as if Paul and Jesus held the same views about Jews. This isn’t clear to me from reading the Christian Bible.

    I do like and agree with Mr. Wills overall message: separate religion from politics. There is a social realm which is worldly, non Christian but still imbued with a sense of justice and morality.

    There were morals before Christianity, in Judaism, in Greek socio philosophical thought, in Buddhitst thinking, etc. and there will be morality even if we had no religions to push it.

    If anything the conjunction of religion and morality it can be argued has been detrimental to the moral life on earth: Crusades, Jihads, Pogroms, were all done in the name of religion.

  • h wally

    I agree with much of what you said Fiddlesticks. I think our beliefs should be a personal thing. I include religious as well as non-religious beliefs. MLK and others in the civil rights movement had mamy different beliefs that led them to unite in this fight. It wasn’t so much that their beliefs united as much as them acting on those beliefs. I’m actively opposed to people trying to convert others to their belief system. As I’ve said before it’s something uniquely personal to all of us and each of us believes in our own way. I’d alter your last statement to “If anything the conjunction of “organized” religion and morality, it can be argued, has been a detriment to the moral life on earth. To that I say amen

  • h wally: I agree on the Jesus didn’t want his teaching institutionalized point. He was rebelling against the institution. He was clearly saying that they got in the way of your relationship to the divine. Like many before, and after, him his teachings were twisted almost as soon as he was dead. His apostles may have been profoundly moved by him but they never attained his transcendence. Therefore, their teachings were corrupted by their fears.

    The story of Rumi’s life and what happened with his teaching after he died is similar. He met Tams of Shabriz – who may have also influenced St Francis of Asisi – in the second half of his life and he discovered the ecstasy of escaping the limitations of his fears and communing in the realm of the divine. One very simple thing that he re-discovered was the ecstasy of spinning around. He would spin wildly and encouraged others to do so. Many thought he had lost his mind. But as soon as he died, his sons institutionalized “The Turn” and created this grueling training that included spinning in bare feet around a nail protruding from the floor. They invented a sect of Islam. Rumi was the original dervish, but the whirling that you see now, which is very proscribed, does not at all resemble what he was doing and encouraging.

    IMHO – For people to really find the freedom, the ecstasy, and the openness that can come from connecting to the universal, they need to leave the institutionalized teachings behind and search their own hearts. Many of us start in an institutionalized setting. Its an introduction. Its a tribal experience. It serves the 1st Chakra. But true spiritutality comes through the 7th Chakra (the crown) and is only activated as a living practice when it is connected to the 4th Chakra, the heart. You ultimately nurture a healthier 1st chakra and become a more creative member of the tribe.

    As long as the tribe is keeping you from moving beyond the ties that bind you to it, you will function with fear. The antithesis of connectedness. People with fear try to generate fear in others for the sake of control. Not because they want to control others simply for the sake of it, but because they are trying to assuage their fears. You can only get people to see beyond their limitations if you can embrace their fears and help them face them.

    But many can’t and won’t. And if there was one strong message I got from my first spritual experience it was this: While you fill your life with light through compassion and actions that reduce the suffering of others, suffering is a part of this life that is not to be eradicated. It serves a purpose. And those who suffer may be suffering exquisitely. To know great suffering is to appreciate equally great joy. And the suffering of others is an opportunity for those who are not suffering to empathize with that exquisiteness and to take action. I see a paradox in which this is an existence that is meant to have extreme suffering always and yet, our work is to help each other end the suffering. But it is not about ending the horrible things that happen. It is about transcending.

    Oh, this is so hard to articulate. It sounds so trite. And i’m not living some grand life of sainthood. Still, I have these realizations in me and it is my practice to activate them in as many ways as possible in my life. Sometimes that just means making my daughter laugh when she’s frustrated. Sometimes that means holding a place for someone in our circle when she is grieving her murdered sister and can’t participate for months. Sometimes its planting another indigenous plant.

  • Aaron867

    How did the party of Jesus become the war party, and the party which defends the use of torture? How has Christianity been so twisted? Modern politico-pseudo-Christians are more Pharisee than the biblical description of the Pharisee.

  • fiddlesticks

    “I agree with much of what you said Fiddlesticks. I think our beliefs should be a personal thing. I include religious as well as non-religious beliefs.�

    I appreciate your reply h wally, but I must demur from the opposition you set up between organized and personal religion. The word religion itself with its etymological meaning “to tie, perhaps also to restrain� would place all religious belief in the context of a community faith. It is what ties people together spiritually.

    Private faith is never very private since we tend to talk about our beliefs and conversation is but a step away from conversion. I am not suggesting that people stop having spiritually based beliefs. That would be like asking people not to drink when they are thirsty. I am merely saying that we need to be realistic about what religion can and can’t accomplish for us.

    Faith, belief, religion calling what you will is potent and dangerous thing and we should recognize it as such.

    “MLK and others in the civil rights movement had mamy different beliefs that led them to unite in this fight. It wasn’t so much that their beliefs united as much as them acting on those beliefs.�

    Yes, but remember that many of the people, perhaps most, who opposed MLK also shared the same religious beliefs.

    To understand the civil rights struggle of the 50’s and 60’s, it seems to me you have to place the struggle into its historical context. The struggle didn’t grow out of shared beliefs that “segregation was evil.� It was part of the world wide struggle at the time against fascism or any thing that smacked of fascism. After WW2 revealed what racism was capable few people of conscience were willing to allow something like that to occur again. In that sense Camus’s Rebel and all the other writers on the liberal left being read at the time, Marcuse, Sartre, Gandhi, etc, were as responsible for the spawning the civil rights movement as MLK. Community organizers like Julian Bond were as steeped in Camus as they were in traditional religion.

    It is also interesting to me that Gandhi is often turned into an honorary Christian by leftist activists of that ilk.

    Besides, there is an added irony in MLK’s very name. His name sake Martin Luther also began as a “reformer� celebrating private conscience but ended up calling for the destruction of the Jews in Germany in his time. There is a lesson to be learned, there it seems to me.

    Religious people on the left because they believe that their motives pure, their aims just and their means humane think that if everyone believed and acted as they do the earth would be transformed into a garden of Eden. They don’t see that it’s that very set of assumptions that will forever keep them from accomplishing their noble aims.

    “I’m actively opposed to people trying to convert others to their belief system. As I’ve said before it’s something uniquely personal to all of us and each of us believes in our own way.�

    But is this enough? One need not actively try to convert anyone in order to impose their belief system on a community. What I am saying is that it’s imperative that we get religion which deals with supernatural phenomena out of the business of crating an ethical and just world. I would rather put my faith (the irony is intentional) in politics than in religious belief and superstition, private or public.

  • fiddlesticks

    Aaron:

    “How did the party of Jesus become the war party, and the party which defends the use of torture? How has Christianity been so twisted? Modern politico-pseudo-Christians are more Pharisee than the biblical description of the Pharisee.”

    Ha, I am a Pharisee. The word in Hebrew is means “interpretation,” and is related to a word that means “translation.”

    Pharisees were the Rabbis who interpreted scriptures and opposed themselves to those who offered single fundamentalist and ritualistic interpretations of same.

    It is ironic that in Christianity it came to mean self serving hypocrisy. This points to a fundamental mistrust of diverse interpretations of texts. In as much as this is not the case today since the Protestant reformation introduced a rich and diverse community of interpreters which now extends even to the Catholic Church, I would say that Christianity too has graduated into Phariseeism. This to my mind is an advance and much more important the desire to bring to do away with politics in the name of justice and equality.

    It’s not an accident that many of the reformers in the Christian tradition who railed against the Pharisees were very intolerant people.

    The current right wing evangelical movement is as anti-Pharisee as are its leftist opponents.

  • darvall

    If Jeasus was the son of God then he must have understood human nature.Therefore Jeasus knew what would become of his teachings,so I say Jeasus wanted the results that we have seen in the last 2000 years.

    Humans are incapable of loving their neighbors, so we must now ignore our neighbores

  • I am enjoying the conversation, particularly the depth and complexity with which the participants are tackling the subject(s) at hand. However, I have a simple question I pose as a sort of litmus test to everything and everybody. It goes like this: So what?

    What follows from the thoughts and critique presented? What’s next?

  • rsamstag

    Chris,

    Thanks so much for having two of my favorite authors and people on your show. I am not a Christian and listening to your hour tonight didn’t make me one, but I have profoundly appreciated the intelligence and deep thought that underlie the words of Gary Wills and Harvey Cox on the question of Church and State. I applaud your giving them a forum and thank them for spending the time. Bravo.

    Randal Samstag

  • rsamstag

    And my apologies to Professor Wills for mis-spelling his name!

  • Nikos

    Fiddlesticks: being an unbeliever, I don’t exactly understand the whole Pharisee thing, so I didn’t quite grasp your 11:23.

    On the other hand, I find that your 11:15 reflects many of my own opinions. My only serious quibble is the notion that white segregationists shared the black Southern Baptist creed – I think this was more in name than in ‘reality’ (whatever the hell that is). It’s only my opinion, but I feel (intuitively) that the black Baptists’ experiences of oppression differed so much from the whites’ experiences as beneficiaries of the same oppression that the two strains of what nominally is the same ‘faith’ can only be similar in style, not in substantive ‘quality’. In other words, the black Baptists would have internalized a radically different spiritual message than the white Baptists. (This, of course, is only my inexpert opinion, however.)

    Now, I agree wholeheartedly with this: “One need not actively try to convert anyone in order to impose their belief system on a community. What I am saying is that it’s imperative that we get religion which deals with supernatural phenomena out of the business of creating an ethical and just world.�

    Right on, and well said.

    We Americans live within a loosely ‘Christian’ belief system pretending to be secular. It’s not a theocracy by any means (not yet, at least), but it’s judgmental and prejudiced to boot. (As I suspect you would agree.) I thought Wills expressed it well several times in the show, especially when calling the placement of the 10 Commandments ‘idolatry’.

  • nother, thanks for the Emerson’s poem. I also loved the beautiful way you described the euphoria of friendship.

    I know what you mean about MLK, peggysue. The other day I was listening to one of his speeches and my son came by and we just sat, said nothing and took it all in. When I hear his eloquence, I have the feeling that something spiritual, maybe Nikos’ “energy fields” was flowing through him and giving him a heightened sense of vision and awareness. But I am reassured that he was still simply a person, not an iconic, post-mortem figure of divinity appearing in others’ scriptures. If the voice of Jesus ressonated through my speakers, I might agree that he was also spiritually “energized.” This said, the hand-me-down character written of in the bible offers inspiration and a formula for how humans might better live together on this earth in peace, so I, as many others, take note. Any such inspiration that directs people to give of themselves to improve others’ lives seems worthy. But it is again the human to human association that attracts me to this figure or any literary character. If the divine walked among us, one would expect them to do great deeds of kindness. This would not be special nor rare. So it is in the gesture of ordinary people, with all their imperfection and burdens, to reach out and help each other that I find the greatest hope. This was what made MLK special and which motivates me to be there for others and offer what I can.

  • Nikos

    I find much to agree with, and yet some questions raised, in Jazzman’s 6:39 PM April 13, 2006. Sentence by sentence:

    “The historical Jesus (if he existed as he is portrayed) was first and foremost a rebel, non-conformist, and humanist.�

    ‘…if he existed as portrayed’ is a million dollar question.

    ‘Jesus’ was a common name not only of Jews of that era but of its mythological figures. Scripture mentions a ‘Jesus ben Pandera’, whose story is so much like Jesus of Nazareth’s it seems not at all unlikely that this is simply of different version of the same demigod. (See Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets for several short articles on these topics: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-006250925x-5 ). So, was Jesus of Nazareth unique, or merely a local variant of a common Hellenistic demigod or heroic archetype? If he was not only unique but genuinely historical, how do we know that the multiplicity of gospels of Jesus didn’t include many others of the regional mythological stew that included Jesus ben Pandera?

    Speaking of Hellenistic stews, how many people know that the title “Christospreceded Jesus of Nazareth? That it was a longstanding title for dying and resurrecting deities like Adonis – and even Dionysus? Which makes the fun-loving, orgiastic, and often stone-drunk Dionysus just as much ‘The Christ’ as Jesus? (Happy Eostar, my pagan kin. 😉 )

    Now, as for the ‘humanist’ ending of Jazzman’s opening sentence: I certainly want to believe it. But what about this from A.N. Wilson? – “The Gospels were written to make us suppose that Jesus did indeed reach out to all mankind as some Saviour-figure who would embrace Gentiles as well as Jews, so it is all the more remarkable that these books should clumsily have recorded sayings, which on balance would seem to be authentic, in which Jesus is quoted as saying that his mission is to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel�; that he has no desire to throw the pearls of his wisdom before the Gentile pigs. In another place he is quoted as saying that the Gentiles were dogs.�

    And: “Jesus would seem to have shared the views of many Jewish contemporaries that the world was about to come to an end and that God would redeem Israel and bring to pass a new era in which the rule of the Gentiles would be smitten and driven away. Since the end of ages was at hand, and the Gospels record Jesus as predicting as much, it is hard to imagine why Jesus would have entertained the quite incompatible belief that several thousand years of human history stretched ahead in which a new “religion� would be necessary. As far as the historical Jesus was concerned, it seems overwhelmingly likely that he did not think there was any future for the human race at all; that is, in so far as we can deduce any interest in the “human race�, as opposed to the fate of the Jews or more narrowly of his own followers, in the recorded sayings of Jesus.� http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/paul.htm

    Are we conveniently overlooking a less-than-noble truth about Jesus that has endured for centuries, obscured by the highfalutin old English of the King James Bible?

    Jazzman wrote: “If he were alive today, he’d probably adopt whatever religion his parents believed and work from within that framework as a humanistic reformer for the betterment of all.�

    This would be true if our conventional impression of him is accurate, and not a self-serving image foisted by a professional Church in search of universal humanist appeal.

    J: “The historic person was a product of his times and was aware of the Jewish Prophesies.�

    Yes.

    J: “If we are to believe that the authors of the eclectic texts that were allowed to comprise the New Testament didn’t reshape those events to comport with those prophesies to manufacture the Savior, Jesus did his best to make them self fulfilling.�

    Another million dollar question. And as much as I liked Garry Wills, I absorbed his words through a skeptical filter that wonders if the Gnostic Gospels are more ‘accurate’ than the canonized Bible. Because, after all, the early Church selected the Gospels that best suited its goals in that time. And it hunted down and burned all the rival gospels it could find.

    Hmmm…

    J: “In any even it doesn’t matter whether the stories are accurate or total fiction, what does matter is that the drama is believed by over a billion people to one degree or another and construe it to believe that if they believe in the divinity of Jesus then God will be on their side, and the side of manifest destiny (according to the current administration.)�

    Yup.

    J: “This Christ drama is what Dennett and Dawkins and Nick (oh my) call a meme, but it is a super-meme and each individual shapes it according to his/her belief system.�

    Yes, but Caleb Stegal sure didn’t like this notion, now did he? He was the voice of institutional religion, and much more so than the self-described ‘conventional Catholic’ Garry Wills. This is an ironic paradox, if you consider that Protestantism was in its Martin Luther-created inception, the non-institutional Christian option!

    J: “This allows the individual to justify any thing her/his belief system supports in the name of Jesus and by extension God.�

    Yes, and yet this, in my worried opinion, might just be where all the trouble starts.

    Thanks, Jazzman.

  • babu

    There is room in this (very good discussion) for consideration of the so-called ‘Oracular Voice’ which arises everywhere, all over the world, in one generation after another from the mouths of unsuspecting babes with the same message, basically:

    “Put aside your weapons and love your enemy as your brother.”

    Christ was only one of a long unbroken line of oracles in which MLK is a recent example.

    Historically, many of these voices have been adolescent girls and young women, who spoke out against the ruling power on issues of conscience in which they had no direct role or detailed knowledge. Often they are just as surprised by their messages as the people around them.

    You will know the voice instantly if you hear it, either from inside you or outside.

  • allison:

    I have a mini chakra tutorial on my webpage – once it loads the chakras will move up the spine.

    http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/kundalini.html

  • Buster Hyman

    It’s so amazing how people can waste their whole life doing nothing. Myself, when I see a glass of water I see it as a glass of water and I don’t try to read anything into it, it’s a glass of water.

    Religiouns, gods and things were created to control people. The churches where more interested in weath and controling people. To say you know what Jesus said is like saying, “I know the first words of man.” The Bible has been re-written so many time not much is left of the original dialogs. Then some brainy guys said, God told me this so I wrote it down is a bunch of crap. God didn’t talk to no one. It’s all about mind control. Saddam controled his people but you don’t see anyone calling him God. Why is it that all these nut casses want me to believe in the same crap they do. I don’t see people climbing over each other to learn science as I did. For these people calling themslves Christains that like to go to war or control other you have a sad life. To the people who use Jesus’s name to gain political power and wealth, why do people follow you. Religions are what’s holding man back from greater discoveries. Let me tell you all, don’t blame God for every thing that goes on, on earth. What gets me is how many stars are out there that have planet and these freaks want to make you believe that we are the only animals that think in the universe. Religion is going to be the down fall of the United States and the world.

  • fiddlesticks

    Nikos:

    “Fiddlesticks: being an unbeliever, I don’t exactly understand the whole Pharisee thing, so I didn’t quite grasp your 11:23.”

    Phariseeism, which is to say Rabbinic Judaism. was it seems to me an adance in religous thought in as much as it introduced a move away from fundamentalism and towards multiple interpretations of religous dogma.

    The Rabbis while struggling with the meanings (plural) of their texts were aware that meaning was an interpretive act and not given directly by any text. Hence they tolerated disagreement. Dialogue became the mediating agency through which these meanings were expressed.

    On the other hand, those who blieved and believe that meaning can be found directly and unmediatingly in experience tend to avoid dialogue and opt for dogmatic expression of fundamental values.

  • fiddlesticks

    “It’s so amazing how people can waste their whole life doing nothing. Myself, when I see a glass of water I see it as a glass of water and I don’t try to read anything into it, it’s a glass of water.”

    That depends, Buster.

    Is the glass full or empty? Is the water drinkable or is to be pured down a drain.

    As Gertrude Stein would say, “glass of water is a glass of water, is a glass of water.”

    We can’t all see the glass of water through your eyes. Some of us have eyes of our own.

  • Potter

    Allison April 13th 10:35 While you fill your life with light through compassion and actions that reduce the suffering of others, suffering is a part of this life that is not to be eradicated. It serves a purpose. And those who suffer may be suffering exquisitely. To know great suffering is to appreciate equally great joy. And the suffering of others is an opportunity for those who are not suffering to empathize with that exquisiteness and to take action. I see a paradox in which this is an existence that is meant to have extreme suffering always and yet, our work is to help each other end the suffering. But it is not about ending the horrible things that happen. It is about transcending.

    Your posts of last night shine, particularly the above quote.

    Deep suffering causes some movement towards transcendance ( and thus joy ) but one may not get there. Suffering causes pain again in others so often because is is not transcended. Though suffering cannot be eradicated and is useful, the striving itself to end suffering is not to be eliminated either however ( potentially) useful and exquisite and transcendent it is.

    Again, on the one hand you ( rightfully) suggest acceptance of suffering on the other acknowedge the need to strive to eliminate it (ultimately through transcendence).It’ s a dynamic. Transcendence is a hard state to maintain however.

    Though I am not a believer in Christ, I know the his depiction in art as having suffered exquisitely or in ecstacy, perhaps these images are meant show the way (re-mind) to transcendence/God.

  • peggysue,

    Have you ever heard of Amatsu?

    If you go to our Alley, I’ve linked to some information on this ancient practice.

    http://www.radioopensource.org/guttersnipe-alley-april-2006/#comment-9639

  • Peter Bearse

    My “comment” was put forth a few days before the radio program in a letter that responded to the editorial handling of the Sunday, April 9, OP-ED piece by Wills, one of the pieces cited as a reference on the RadioOpenSource.org site. The letter indicates a possibly dangerous misuse of Wills’ views of Christ as beyond politics because “not of this world.” PeterJ@politicalcommunity.us

    _________________________________________________________________

    TO THE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES:

    Your editorial translation of Garry Wills’ Sunday OP-ED, “Christ Among the Partisansâ€? into a warning: “Stay away from politicsâ€? — reduces an otherwise insightful piece to an unjustified and dangerous proposition that is adverse to the maintenance of a democratic Republic. Your insertion of “Stay away from politicsâ€? as an answer to the question “What would Jesus do?â€? is also inconsistent with the main line of Wills’ essay, which identifies such answers as a form of idolatry.

    The fact is that Christians’ participation in electoral politics provides a good role model for others whose non-participation your facile conclusion would help to rationalize. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas reached an opposite conclusion solidly grounded upon Christian values:

    “Attempts by Christians to avoid political involvement because of the “dirtyâ€? nature of politics are rightly condemned as irresponsible, if not unfaithful…it is the task of Christians to be politically involved exactly because we recognize that politics inherently involves compromise and accomodation. To withdraw from the political to remain pure is an irresponsible act of despair.â€? [in Hauerwas’ “A Community of Character: toward a constructive christian social ethic” (p.73), quoted in my book “We, the People: A Conservative Populism,” excerpts of which can be found via http://www.politicalcommunity.us.]

    Indeed. The keyword is “irresponsible.“ A democratic Republic cannot survive if its citizens continue to withdraw from participation in politics. How can we have a government “for “ the people if American politics is not “of� them and “by� them?

    Peter Bearse, Danville, NH, 603-362-6150, 4/11/06

  • fiddlesticks

    Bearse, why do you see an opposition between being a Christian and participating in politics?

    Christians are also citizens and as citizens they are surely required to participate in the body politic. Garry Wills merely says, and I agree that it not be done in the name of their religion. Will sees a disjunction between the other worldy message of Christ and the human all too human reality of politics.

  • fiddlesticks

    Stephen Karmol Says:

    April 13th, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    “I am enjoying the conversation, particularly the depth and complexity with which the participants are tackling the subject(s) at hand. However, I have a simple question I pose as a sort of litmus test to everything and everybody. It goes like this: So what?

    What follows from the thoughts and critique presented? What’s next?”

    So what? I’ll forego the desire to be flippant and merely say that the topic affords for good conversation.

    WBUR yesterday had a brilliant discussion with a writer about the art of conversation. That program gives a more eloquent answer to you query than I could.

    I suggest you listen to it on the web

    In fact I wish Chris would invite the author who has been praised by Harold Bloom to his program to discuss the ” demise of conversation” in the US.

  • Nikos

    Karen Armstrong

    Those of you (like CCM and Potter) looking forward to a Karen Armstrong ROS hour can click here: http://www.kuow.org/weekday.asp for an hour with KUOW’s Steve Scher.

    After today it will be in the Recent Shows archives drop-down box (found in the lower right of the web page); it was Friday, April 14th.

    It also streams over the net tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Pacific @ http://www.kuow.org/kuow2/default.asp

    (She even touched briefly on the current Iran-USA stand off.)

    Another book of interest is Jonathan Kirsch’s God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670032867/002-5071434-3142460?v=glance&n=283155

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0142196339-3

    I plan to read it this weekend. Here’s a brief review from (http://atheism.about.com/od/bookreviews/fr/GodAgainstGods_2.htm)

    “It seems that the course of historical events was largely due to the fact that Constantine the Great needed the cohesive force of Christianity and lived long enough to ensure that Christianity was able to get a firm hold on power and influence. Julian ‘the Apostate,’ however, failed to accomplish the same for paganism because he simply didn’t live long enough, reigned a mere two years, and died at the age of 32.

    “As energetic and personable as Constantine, he might have turned the whole thing around and forced Christianity into minority status — the fate of the West was determined by a single spear thrust in Persia, or perhaps by the fact that Julian neglected to buckle his breastplate securely before the battle. The actions of these two individuals literally changed the world in ways that continue to affect us today, and it’s interesting to ponder what might have happened differently with just some small changes to their lives.

    “Religiously speaking, pagan polytheism is far more tolerant than monotheism. Polytheists don’t really care if you worship a different god and can even be quite happy to incorporate your god into their own pantheon. This doesn’t make polytheists inherently virtuous — when it came to political matters, their ability to deal out death and suffering was quite good.

    “The question is, though, whether the West might have been spared all of the religious wars had Christianity simply remained ‘one among many’ religions rather than acquiring the power to drive out all other beliefs and enforce a rigid orthodoxy. Maybe, maybe not — it’s not as though human beings are lacking any reason to go to war once religion is removed form the list of disagreements. Yet perhaps the absence of divine sanction for wars would have lessened their ferocity and impact.

    “Kirsch has a real flair for making these ancient figures come alive and his writing style makes this book an engaging and enjoyable read. This examination of the early relationship between Roman polytheism and Christian monotheism should give people good reasons to think a bit more carefully about the rise of Christianity and to what degree that was really a good (or inevitable) development.�

    Happy Spring Festival of Your Preference.

  • Nikos

    I’ll try this ‘awaiting moderation’ post in two parts instead of its original one:

    Karen Armstrong

    Those of you (like CCM and Potter) looking forward to a Karen Armstrong ROS hour can click here: http://www.kuow.org/weekday.asp

    After today it will be in the Recent Shows archives drop-down box (found in the lower right of the web page); it was Friday, April 14th.

    It also streams over the net tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern / 7:00 PM Pacific @ http://www.kuow.org/kuow2/default.asp

    (She even touched briefly on the current Iran-USA stand off.)

  • Nikos

    Another book of interest is Jonathan Kirsch’s God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670032867/002-5071434-3142460?v=glance&n=283155

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0142196339-3

    I plan to read it this weekend. Here’s a brief review from http://atheism.about.com/od/bookreviews/fr/GodAgainstGods_2.htm

    “It seems that the course of historical events was largely due to the fact that Constantine the Great needed the cohesive force of Christianity and lived long enough to ensure that Christianity was able to get a firm hold on power and influence. Julian ‘the Apostate,’ however, failed to accomplish the same for paganism because he simply didn’t live long enough, reigned a mere two years, and died at the age of 32.

    “As energetic and personable as Constantine, he might have turned the whole thing around and forced Christianity into minority status — the fate of the West was determined by a single spear thrust in Persia, or perhaps by the fact that Julian neglected to buckle his breastplate securely before the battle. The actions of these two individuals literally changed the world in ways that continue to affect us today, and it’s interesting to ponder what might have happened differently with just some small changes to their lives.

    “Religiously speaking, pagan polytheism is far more tolerant than monotheism. Polytheists don’t really care if you worship a different god and can even be quite happy to incorporate your god into their own pantheon. This doesn’t make polytheists inherently virtuous — when it came to political matters, their ability to deal out death and suffering was quite good.

    “The question is, though, whether the West might have been spared all of the religious wars had Christianity simply remained ‘one among many’ religions rather than acquiring the power to drive out all other beliefs and enforce a rigid orthodoxy. Maybe, maybe not — it’s not as though human beings are lacking any reason to go to war once religion is removed form the list of disagreements. Yet perhaps the absence of divine sanction for wars would have lessened their ferocity and impact.

    “Kirsch has a real flair for making these ancient figures come alive and his writing style makes this book an engaging and enjoyable read. This examination of the early relationship between Roman polytheism and Christian monotheism should give people good reasons to think a bit more carefully about the rise of Christianity and to what degree that was really a good (or inevitable) development.�

    Happy Spring Festival of Your Preference.

  • fiddlesticks

    Karen Armstrong is my least favorite commentator on relgious issues.

    “She even touched briefly on the current Iran-USA stand off.”

    She would, wouldn’t she. I can just imagine whay she said.

  • Potter

    Nikos thank for all of our excellent excerpts and links. They really give depth to the subject.

  • h wally

    God bless us all Tiny Tim.

  • cheesechowmain

    Nikos, thanks for the kuow + K.A. heads up. I had missed this.

  • After listening to K.A on Kuow and thinking reading throught the various threads, I got to wondering about the communal growth of religions and religious sects and thinking about the process of diversification, differentiation and self definition and what kinds of parallels can be draw with the 19th~20th century flourishing of nations and nationalism.

    An obvious similarity is that both religious faith and nationalism are persuasive forms of social/personal identification and attatchment that pull on emotions more than reason. So they were both powerful shapers of the social landscape. Both also seem to require foundational myths, heroic figures and their guarded protection from defamation and degredation.

    When nations combine these and toss in irrational faith in the fair workings of the market, could we imagine a more potent brew?

    Nikos, Potter or anyone else who have thoughts on this or can point me to some interesting sources? I’m sure much more acute minds have written on this and I’d love to explore this link.

  • A.M. Pygmy

    Ouch! Maybe it was just my copy, but the podcast cut out while Wills was still giving his final rebuttal. You know the feeling when you’re walking up a stairway and the last step isn’t there?

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  • Potter

    Sidewalker– Fiddlesticks and I were going back and forth on the Gospel of Judas thread. To try to make a point Fiddlesticks linked to a philosopher I have never heard of : Eric Voegelin who seems to be getting into this very topic ( your 4/15 @ 8:38). I have not had a chance to read it through but perhaps you are interested. ( the point that Fiddlesticks was trying to make was when he invoked this did not fly for me- but the philosophy looks like it’s worth exploring).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Voegelin

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Voegelin#Voegelin_on_Gnosticism

  • Potter

    FYI More:

    Karen Armstrong w Brian Lehrer ( scroll down):

    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episodes/2006/03/28

    and KQED ( scroll down):

    feed://feeds.feedburner.com/kqedforum

  • Post Game Analysis: Amen

    Thank you

  • Thanks, Potter

  • voices

    Is NPR becoming a new outlet for prosletizing? what’s the deal? where’s the critical analysis of how everything everyone says about jesus is hearsay from people who at minimum recorded their recollections 60-100 years after his supposed life and death? That’s been translating a gazillion times from languages that don’t translate well into English, that were purposefully manipulated for power? And why is what a guy in the middle of the desert 2000 years ago said something we should really care about anyway? Come on guys- use your brains a little more- I know you have them…..

  • come on voices – use your heart a little more – I know you have one…

  • Today Steve Scher on KUOW Weekday talked to Anne Lamott about Jesus, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld as well as writing, reading and the Queens dogs,

    to hear it: http://www.kuow.org/weekday.asp

    —Anne Lamott once wrote “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Lamott became known as a liberal Christian after her book Traveling Mercies was released five years ago. She takes on faith issues again with her new book Plan B; Further thoughts on Faith. How does a feminist, single mother, born-again Christian, liberal, writer see the world? She joins us, so we can find outâ€?.—

  • serious lee

    Jesus is just alright by me.

  • serious lee, I wish that little bird would take wings again.

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