Archive for August 21st, 2008

Mothers Against Drunk Driving are Madd at Jesus

That’s right. It has been reported that Jesus of Nazareth, at a wedding in Cana, did knowingly and willfully provide alcoholic beverages to children UNDER THE AGE OF 21!!!!

As reported by the Jerusalem Examiner:

It was alleged that the bride herself was only around 13 or 14 years of age, and although the groom sported a full beard he wasn’t a day over 18. This did not deter Jesus and his mother Mary (listed as an accomplice) from providing double the amount of wine intended for the feast, which some say was a deliberate intent to encourage ‘binge’ drinking.

The Palestine chapter of MADD is asking that Jesus be brought up on charges but it is believed that the local Roman magistrate will dismiss the complaint as being a tad hysterical. No evidence can be found that Jesus actually purchased any wine near the time of the wedding.

Last week a 17 year old Judean boy was injured when his camel tossed him into the side of a date palm just two blocks from the site of the wedding. Centurions on the scene suspected that he had been drinking and he was given a breath test. Failing this (the camel fainted), he was ordered to gargle with lemon juice, vinegar and mint. His wife and four children suffered only minor injuries.

The instances of wine induced camel and donkey accidents among young people in the region around Jerusalem is said to be on the rise. New legislation is in the works to make it illegal for camels and donkeys to consume alcohol.

Seriously though. Recently a large group of university deans and presidents have asked that the legal drinking age be lowered, under the assumption that this will help reduce alcohol abuse on campus. Their arguments actually make a lot of sense.

But the only argument I need is this one: if you are old enough to get married, old enough to vote and old enough to die for your country then you are old enough to drink. I know 50 year olds who shouldn’t be allowed near a bottle of Bud – age does not always equate with maturity or the lack there of.

Europeans, who have don’t have  the Puritanical baggage we are saddled with, don’t have this problem with teen alcohol abuse. They never made alcohol into a forbidden and, therefor, very attractive taboo. Their coming of age parties are not built around getting ‘wasted’ because to the European kid it’s just another…food.

Anyway, Jesus didn’t have a problem sharing a glass of wine or two with young people. Not that it makes any difference to me. I was more than happy to allow my 19 year old daughter to enjoy a Mike’s Hard Lemonade on our family beach picnic the other day. Quite civilized, really, if not quite legal.


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Mythologizing Christ

Is there a tendency for Christians to turn Jesus into a mythological hero in the same way the we have made myths out of other beloved historical figures, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Davey Crockett?

I am not talking about the doctrines of the Incarnation and Resurrection. Nor am I questioning the historical veracity of the Gospel accounts. I am someone who firmly believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that he suffered and died on the cross to save us from our sins and that two days later rose from the dead, with a newly divine and perfect physical nature.

Though many skeptics see this synopsis of Jesus’ life as myth, it differs from typical religious mythology in that the sacrificial violence, the innocence of the victim and the sinful culpability of the entire community has not been glossed over and replaced with sanitized symbols. The uniqueness of the Gospel accounts is found in the ‘dirt’ that has not been brushed under the carpet. The sacrificial scapegoat does not nobly fade away and his death does not temporarily assuage the violent passions of contending cultural groups. The scapegoat miraculously comes back and those complicit (all of us) in his wrongful death are exposed for what they are, even as the scapegoat forgives them for what they did. There is a dirty realism to this story that aligns with what we know of history.

But what of Jesus the man? If he was “fully” man, as scripture states, that must mean that he had all of the physical, mental and emotional qualities of a human being. But there are degrees of qualifications and sometimes these degrees are called deficiencies (we all have them). Did Jesus have any physical or mental deficiencies, or was he the perfect “Uberman”?

We know almost nothing of the first 30 years of his life, other than some brief infant accounts and the one adolescent story concerning the time he disobeyed his parents at the temple in Jerusalem. But that incident suggests that, in at least one or two ways, he was much like other immature, yet gifted, boys.

As a baby he would have soiled his diapers, cried when he was hungry, in pain or frustrated. He probably felt pangs of insecurity when his mother left the room or perhaps felt a twinge of anxiety when his father returned home, irritated from a hard day’s labor. As a completely human male, he likely noticed pretty girls and perhaps vied for their attention in athletic competitions with other young men. If working as a carpenter’s apprentice perhaps he felt his face flush in embarrassment when he cut the molding at the wrong angle or ruined the finished piece with a misplaced hammer blow.

Some of the Apocryphal Gospels go to great lengths in an attempt to fill in these blanks of Jesus’ life and in doing so they develop a new, flawed mythology. In the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas”, Jesus turns clay figurines into actual living birds (also repeated in the Qur’an ) and strikes dead an offending playmate with just one look of his eye. Most of the Church (rightfully, I think) has dismissed these stories as legendary “tall tales”.

But is it essential for Christians to see Jesus as being somehow corporeally perfect? And if so, what do we mean by ‘perfection’? Some, who see the foretelling of his ministry in the writings of Isaiah, have come to understand that Jesus’ physical appearance may have been described as ‘ugly’. Alternatively, Andrew Greeley (the Danielle Steele of the Catholic priesthood) thinks that Jesus, being Jesus, probably was quite the sexy ‘hunk’ and very attractive to woman. Which one of these descriptions is likely to promote deep, spiritual relationships – the everyday person who can overcome all obstacles with God’s help, or the matinée idol, enjoying the advantages of his superficial gifts?

Dallas Willard suggests in “The Divine Conspiracy” that Jesus would most likely be an expert at all things and this is why – as engineers, teachers, doctors, bakers, bricklayers – we can come to him with all of our problems; spiritual, physical as well as professional. But is Willard talking about Jesus the mortal man here, or the Risen Jesus, who we see as being alive and with us today, even as he “sits at the right hand of the Father”?

Suggesting that the pre-risen Jesus was somehow physically and mentally ‘perfect’ in all ways, aside from his relationship with the Father, is bordering on dangerous mythology. I think there is more to this Incarnation than just seeing Jesus as the “perfect sacrifice”; God paying for our sins himself, a legal satisfaction, in order that we might be saved. Here we have God condescending to become like us, an inconceivable sacrifice alone, and we minimize the greatness of this sacrifice when we do not see Jesus as a man but instead some sort of God-Man.

When performing miracles and exorcising demons; is he using his own supernatural power or is he calling upon the power of the Father, something he says many will do when in right relationship with God? In the temple with the money changers; does he exhibit the cool, detached superior control of his emotions one might expect from a God-Man, or does he ‘lose it’ just a little bit? With the Canaanite women who asks for mere table scraps of grace, is he so intellectually superior and prescient (yet somehow devious) that he demeans this woman, using her fears and feelings to make a point? Or did he perhaps, tired and frustrated from dealing with obstinate Pharisees and dull witted Apostles, speak first without thinking? That is a forgivable human response.

Was Jesus the perfect sacrifice, like an unblemished lamb? Or did he lovingly make the perfect sacrifice, choosing to surrender to the human fear, pain and uncertainty of the Cross, something he tells us that we all can (and should) do, with the help of God.


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