I had the opportunity to interview Jesus the other day and to ask him about some of the un-Christian aspects of fundamentalist Christianity. I hope you will enjoy our conversation. I appreciated him taking time to talk to a Gentile about some of the more egregious misdeeds of the fundamentalist members of the religion which bears his name.
Me: So Jesus, what do you think about Christianity 2000 years later?
Jesus: Yeshua, please.
Me: Alright, Yeshua…
Jesus: I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about it, really. I mean, I’m a Jew. Look, I told my disciples not to go among the Gentiles: Don’t throw pearls before swine, I said. Do not give to dogs what is holy. No offense.
Me: None taken.
Jesus: Could I be any clearer than that? But did they listen?
Me: So you don’t approve of Christianity?
Jesus: It’s not for me to approve or disapprove. It’s not my religion. You have to understand that Christianity is not a religion I had anything to do with. Jew, Jew, Jew – can I be any clearer about that? It’s a religion about me, which isn’t the same thing. I’m wondering if I should sue over them using my name, or get a cease and desist. That’s worked for rock stars, right?
Me: Of course, fundamentalist Christians seem more focused on the Old Testament. They hardly ever mention your name.
Jesus: True that!
Me: You never see them so much as mention your Sermon on the Mount, let alone a single one of your Beatitudes.
Jesus: Beati-what? Oh, that’s a Latin thing isn’t it? (Jesus shook a fist at me and smiled) Some of my best work, but I can’t take too much credit for it. As your Bible stands today you can find some of the same things I said there in Isaiah and I hear they’re in what you’re calling the Dead Sea Scrolls as well. It’s all about piety.
Me: What do you think about David Barton and people like him who try to use Scripture to advance their own agenda?
Jesus: I’ve been hearing a lot about this guy. Has he even read the Bible? Heard of it, maybe? Speaking of which, I have to point out to you that I hadn’t read the Bible myself until this morning – we didn’t have a Bible back when.
Me: Not even an Old Testament?
Jesus: You mean the Hebrew Bible, right? No, the Hebrew Bible – except the Torah of course – wasn’t put together until the same era in which Christians were putting together their New Testament, long after me, long after the Temple, long after my Jewishness was even a memory….
Me: But getting back to Barton….
Jesus: Give me the quote again. It’s like white noise when I listen to him, or maybe all those voices I was hearing in the wilderness.
Me: This is what he had to say: “I was really struck with a passage that Jesus has in Matthew 12. Matthew 12 he talks about how an unclean spirit had gone out of a man and in verse 43 it says it goes through dry places seeking rest and finds none, verse 44, then he says, ‘The unclean spirit says, ‘I will return to the house from which I came.’ When he comes, he finds it empty, swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself.’ I thought, that’s that principle, if you don’t fill it with good stuff, bad stuff is going to find its way in and it will be a lot worse. So we had it filled with kind of a God-fearing system and then we made it a secular system, so now we made it seven times worse by saying, let’s take Sharia law, not only do we not want biblical stuff we don’t even want secular stuff, we want seven times worse than secular. The vacuum is going to get filled with something, and if we’re going to refuse to have some Judeo-Christian principles in there on which the founders built everything and that’s what they had as the undergirding , if we’re not going to do that, then what are we going to fill it with? Right now it appears that it is going to be Sharia.”
Jesus: Oh Son of Man! Look, I was trying to draw attention to this – or rather my – evil generation. And that’s the key here: that generation was supposed to be the last dominated by Satan. I mean, Barton may not have noticed this but I was preaching the imminent return of the Kingdom of God. I don’t know what went wrong there. I was so sure… Anyway, it seems silly to quote me about something I said 2000 years ago about a situation that existed 2000 years ago without mentioning that I was wrong. I mean, that’s a relevant fact, isn’t it?
Me: Is that your mea culpa?
Jesus: Look, I don’t like to use Latin. I’m sure you can understand, right? I mean, it brings back memories. (Here Jesus rubbed his wrists meaningfully).
Me: My bad.
Jesus: Hey, that’s funny! Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that you can’t pick and choose which facts you want and just discard the stuff that’s inconvenient. And what’s the deal with Sharia law anyway? I’ve read it and it looks about the same as the Law of Moses to me and I should be an expert right? And maybe Barton is just picking and choosing his facts again but in Israel as in the rest of the ancient world, there was no difference between “secular” or “profane” and “sacred” or as Barton says, “god-fearing” – it was not a distinction we made. Barton is misrepresenting historical facts – well, what’s new, right?
All I’m saying is this: if you want to know what I was talking about 2000 years ago, you can’t use modern concepts to understand me. You have to put my words in their proper context, as a Galilean Jew living in the first century and not as a Gentile – a fundamentalist Christian – living in 2012.
Here’s the deal: the first stories about me were in Aramaic, whether oral or written. People today don’t speak Aramaic. The first Gentile stories about me were written in Greek. They don’t speak Greek either. So how are they supposed to understand what I was trying to say? To be perfectly honest, we don’t have much in common and I have even less in common with people like David Barton, who exploit my words for personal gain.
Me: So you don’t think much of David Barton.
Jesus: He’s not a Jew so he’s not my problem, right?
Me: But he is, sorta, isn’t he? I mean he misrepresents you.
Jesus: Well he’s hardly alone in that! Okay, look, I’d answer with a parable but it’s clear the 21st century mind doesn’t understand parables so I’ll put it is plainly as I can: This guy stands against everything I preached in my Sermon on the Mount. I invite people to read what I said and to put it into its proper first century Jewish – and I can’t stress that enough – Jewish – context. Take the 21st century out of it, take later Gentile influences out of it, and definitely take David Barton out of it.
Me: Any final thoughts?
Jesus: Yes. Last of all, there were no fundamentalist Christians or Evangelicals the year I was crucified. There weren’t any after I was crucified. There was no Bible to be taken as the “inerrant” word of God, and I didn’t give anyone permission to disregard any part of the Law of Moses like these fundamentalists do – but of course, they’re not Jews, are they? They’re Gentiles and you remember what I said about the Gentiles.
I will tell you what I told them: that it’s easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one iota of the law to become void. They’re sinners and Gentiles, their piety is a pretense, and if I can be excused for quoting a Roman, I wash my hands of them!