A while back, El Cabrero received a challenge from WV blogger Juanuchis to write about five things I most admire about Jesus.
It took me a long time to get around to that, mostly because I can't think of anything I don't like about Jesus. For the record, El Cabrero has no complaints about Jesus (however, I'm not sure that the converse is the case.)
It's also a little hard to answer that challenge because there have been so many different and conflicting images of and ideas about Jesus. As the English poet and mystic William Blake wrote,
THE VISION OF CHRIST that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy...
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.
Still, most believers and secular scholars would agree about the basic outlines of his life that can be gleaned from early Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources. Here are the main points of agreement:
*Jesus was a Jew from the lower social classes who grew up in the region of Galilee and was probably born around the time of the death of Herod the Great (more accurately Herod the Extremely Nasty) in 4 BC.
*He was influenced by the preachings of John the Baptizer and was baptized by him in the Jordan.
*At some point thereafter, he began a short but very different public ministry, which could have lasted anywhere from less than a year to three years. This consisted of calling for repentance, proclaiming God's Kingdom, teaching, and performing acts of compassion such as healings and exorcisms. Most of this ministry took place in rural Galilee.
*Around 30 BC, when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea, he went to Jerusalem where he engaged in controversies and acts that were seen as a threat to the ruling social order. As a result he was crucified, a Roman punishment reserved for rebellious slaves and for those who threatened the social order.
*After his death, his followers continued to experience him as a living reality. They proclaimed this as his resurrection and vindication by God.
Here's the first item on my list: it is truly amazing that Jesus had such a huge impact on religion, history, and culture given that his public activity was so brief and that much of it occurred in what many of his influential contemporaries would have been considered to be an insignificant corner of the world. Moreover, most of his activity took place among the most marginalized people of a marginalized place.
By contrast, other religious and cultural leaders who gained influence had much longer to promote their teachings. Muhammad lived nearly 20 years after he began to preach the tenets of Islam and was a political ruler as well as a religious figure. Little is known for certain about Confucius, but he is likely to have taught for decades even though he never gained a political post of great influence. Gautama Buddha taught for 45 years after his enlightenment experience at the age of 35 and was celebrated by the rulers of his time and place.
The short life of Jesus and the events at the end of it were like an explosion that we're still feeling the shocks from after all these years.
WWTRJD? (WHAT WOULD THE REAL JESUS DO?). From yesterday's Sunday Gazette-Mail:
Low-income West Virginia families who depend on child support to make ends meet could be forced onto welfare if federal budget cuts go through as planned this October.
The cuts were passed by the previous Congress in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (which didn't reduce the deficit). That legislation cut social programs like child support and Medicaid by $40 billion and included $70 billion in tax cuts aimed mostly at the wealthy. Of WV's delegation, only Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito supported the DRA. New leaders in congress have expressed interest in restoring funding.
EVERY MOUNTAIN SHALL BE BROUGHT DOWN. Here's another take on the Bush administration's recent love offering to coal companies that eased restrictions on mountaintop removal mining. And here's an editorial from today's NY Times.
THE CAMEL AND THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE. Professor Allan Ornstein warns that America needs to fix the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else if it wants a decent future.
EVERYTHING SECRET SHALL BE MADE KNOWN. Blowing the whistle on contractor corruption in Iraq can claim a high price according to this AP report.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED