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The Rebel Jesus and … Al Gore…?

“So Jesus was kinda like Al Gore,” my ten-year-old son explained as we were driving along this morning. HUH?

I can’t remember his original question this morning, but we soon found ourselves in a discussion about how some people read the Bible literally and others see it symbolically. This led to further discussion of creationism vs intelligent design vs evolutionary biology. Then the conversation morphed into a discussion of Jesus and the four versions of his life presented in the gospels.

(Oh, by the way, we’re Unitarian Universalists, just in case you’re wondering. And, no, we don’t spend every Sunday doing interpretive dances, regardless of what Garrison Keillor says!)

So, anyway, I was trying to explain to my son about the canon formation process (how the different books of the Bible came to be chosen by the church fathers to be included in the final version of the Bible) and that led me to bring up the original Jesus–a radical guy who served the poor and upset the apple cart–versus the Jesus that church leaders made him into through texts written much later–as in a highly theologized God incarnate.

When I explained about what we know about the historical Jesus being a rabble-rouser, my son piped up with the comment I quote above: “So Jesus was kinda like Al Gore.”

My first thought was, HARDLY! Gandhi or MLK maybe, but Al Gore? A politician?!! Then I looked at it from my son’s perspective. To him, Al Gore is a rabble-rouser who is trying to change the world and help people. He’s a real role model for my son, who is an environmentalist who wants to change the world. Gore has helped effect a sea change in the American public’s attitude about global climate change. He has fought for the environment for decades and faced ridicule and countless disappointments. He’s also no martyr. But we weren’t talking about Jesus’s martyrdom in our conversation, only his work with the poor and downtrodden.

Yeh, I know. For some of you readers, this post may make you feel a little uncomfortable. I was surprised at how uncomfortable it made me feel, too, considering that I do not believe in the trinity or Jesus as God (except in so far as I believe that God is love and that the power of love resides in us but is also bigger than us). I’m sure to my son, though, the comparison made sense. Two men to admire. Two people dedicating their lives to help others. Two leaders who inspire millions.

I love how the most interesting conversations seem to happen while we are driving along. I take my cue from my inquisitive son’s questions and follow his lead in car conversations generally. I do have to wonder, though, how he will like going to Vacation Bible School with our friends’ kid this summer. He’s not shy of asking pointed questions. Could turn out to be a real rabble-rouser….

4 Responses

  1. Let me start with: I’m a Christian. I think that helps as a beginning.

    The Jesus I know is the one who cares about the poor. He’s the one who doesn’t want the money changers in the temple. And, he’s certainly the one who would be against preemptive war. Wasn’t he called the Prince of Peace?

    The problem is people like to use the idea of Jesus for their own gain. This is never a good thing (on either side of the aisle).

  2. Yes, I agree completely. The corruption of the image of Jesus for gain and the manipulation of the religion for bad ends are two of the reasons that I began questioning the received truths of my former evangelical Christian faith in the beginning. I like being a UU because they aren’t doctrinal and welcome people who are questioning.

    The Jesus you describe appeals to me, too. To me Jesus is all about putting your money where your mouth is — feed the hungry, comfort and care for the needs of the widows and orphans, foster peace (which can’t be sustained without justice), and care for the planet. I find it really hard to swallow when I hear people talk about “following Jesus” but they only think of this in abstract ways and it’s really just about getting into heaven. I have met few Christians who look like they are really following Jesus.

  3. Hmmm…if you believe the “heretics”….does this make Tipper the equivalent of Mary Magdalene?

    “I have met few Christians who look like they are really following Jesus.” That pretty much sums up all my views on religion, right there.

  4. Tipper as MM? LOL 🙂

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