It isn’t just pastors that notice that people become more religious during the holiday season.
It’s almost time for Christmas.
How do I know? It isn’t the Black Friday sales or shiny Christmas light displays.
It isn’t the Christmas carols on the radio or my shrinking checking account balance.
The best harbinger of the holidays is the number of “scholarly” articles and books released to answer the question “Who was Jesus, anyway?”
The Daily Beast brought their version out last weekend. Salon answered with, “Jesus Resurrection, What Really Happened?” Both articles discuss Jay Parini’s new book “Jesus: The Human Face of God.”
Obviously, it isn’t just pastors that notice that people become more religious during the holiday season. After all, if Ricky Bobby taught us nothing else, he revealed America’s closely held belief that baby Jesus was the best version of the savior – other than perhaps the version of Jesus wearing a tuxedo tee shirt because he is formal but he wants to party, although there is no scriptural reference for that.
But I digress.
It’s just the scholarly articles don’t reveal much more knowledge of Jesus than the impish scenes from Talladega Nights.
The Daily Beast article in which Parini reviews and discusses his own book, wondered aloud whether Jesus was “a wandering magician or a Mediterranean peasant, a radical revolutionary (a Zealot) or a mystic or a radical Jew or, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah.”
Parini also discusses Jesus’ resurrection as well as his birth and upbringing.
“By his death and crucifixion, he modeled suffering and death as well as life. He understood that his life was symbolic, even mythical,” Parini said. “And by his resurrection—which was not the Great Resuscitation but a kind of magical transformation into a new form of life, eternal life, he offered humanity hope.”
And then Parini gave us his own interpretation of who Jesus is in summation of his studies while he compiled the biography of Jesus.
“For me, he’s the central character in the greatest story ever told. It’s a story about a gradually realizing kingdom that lies inside of us,” Parinia said in his Daily Beast piece. “He encouraged us to enter the wider mind of God through attachment to his teaching and example, but he left only one commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” It’s quite simple, this message, but it’s enough.”
It is a simple message.
But if Jesus were merely magical, mythical or mystical, his “love” would be meaningless. This wayward wizard wandered the desert trying to convince people that he was God’s Son, fully one third of the triune nature of God.
If Jesus is in fact, not part of the Trinity, than I want no part of Him because he is nothing more than a liar. Philosophy is useless if it isn’t based on truth.
This is a subtle attack on modern Christianity. Because many people believe in the Bible, it is unpopular to say something negative about the central figure in their faith.
So a philosophical pillow fight ensues.
Jesus was a great guy. He taught some nice things. We really like this Jesus guy – especially baby Jesus because he helps retailers make a profit each year.
Now get ready for the “but.”
But He isn’t really like the evangelicals claim He is.
Parini is a self-professed believer and even claims to believe in Jesus’s resurrection in his book. In his book, the author clearly tries to speak well of Jesus while tempering the belief systems he finds fanatical.
“The message of God’s love in operation in the world trumps everything and must be regarded as the necessary extension of the idea of rebirth, the social basis for true spiritual enlightenment,” Parini wrote. “Nowhere more so than here does it matter that we find a proper balance between the literal and the figurative, giving full weight to the concrete meaning while relishing the mythic contours of the story.”
I don’t know that I can get into the slippery slope of a partially true scripture. How do I decide where to draw the fuzzy line between what is believable and what is actually just a mythic contour?
I appreciate Parini trying to bridge the gap between fact and faith, but I can’t help but wonder how much finance played a part in the work’s creation and release.
Don’t forget, there are only 22 shopping days until Christmas.
Do baby Jesus a favor and buy his new biography. If you do that and share a few statuses on Facebook, you should be rewarded with a great Christmas.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org