It’s a bit absurd that I find myself these days advocating for the historicity of Jesus given the fact that I just released a book with the sub-title: “Dethroning God and Jesus to Save Ourselves and the World.”
If you have followed my journey through my five books, you know that since 2005 I’ve been sharing my story out of organized religion and particularly Christianity. The story was tolerable to my Christian publisher through Divine Nobodies and Wide Open Spaces. But Being Jesus in Nashville was too much to take, and they rejected my manuscript and abruptly cancelled my publishing contract under the charge of heresy. So my last two books Notes from (Over) the Edge, and the newly released Inner Anarchy have been independently published works. These last few years I have deconstructed, dismantled and discarded my Christian belief system, which was an interesting path for a guy who has a Master of Divinity degree and spent many years preaching the Christian message.
There are two groups of people who are likely to be bothered by my book Inner Anarchy: those who have fixed Christian beliefs about Jesus, and those who have written him off.
Jesus got robbed by institutional Christendom. He needs a new PR Director because the Christian religion has too often given him a bad name. Jesus did not start the Christian religion. It’s not Jesus’ fault that he got hijacked by a religious ideology that preaches God’s wrath and eternal hell. Speaking of hell, if Jesus were alive today, he would raise hell against the Christian establishment much the way he did with the religious establishment of his day. I’ve been sharing these ideas for years now, which includes the 15 Things Jesus Didn’t Say post, which went viral. I also recently did a post about how I have separated Jesus from Christianity – Why I Believe in Jesus (Why I’m Not a Christian). In my most recent book Inner Anarchy I take Christianity to task, and show how the Christian religion has in many cases misrepresented and twisted the life and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus has a message and I believe it’s worth considering. In fact I believe he bore witness to and demonstrated a truth that has the power to save ourselves and a world that is careening down a path of doom. In my view, as a reaction against the absurdities of the Christian religion, people want to write Jesus out of history itself.
There is near unanimity among scholars that Jesus existed historically, although biblical scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the details of his life that have been described in the Gospels. There are countless resources that delve into the matter of the historicity of Jesus. Here are a few I’ve read:
1. The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian by Robin Lane Fox
2. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth by Bart D. Ehrman
3. Jesus and the Politics of his Day by E. Bammel and C. F. D. Moule
4. The Historical Jesus in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine
5. Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels
6. Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels by Michael Grant
7. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Over the years, all kinds of non-Christian spiritual writers have spoken of the significance of Jesus. Sylvia Browne comes to mind. A couple interesting perspectives on the topic are: An atheist defense of the historicity of Jesus and The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus. I think one of the challenges in sorting all this out is how the Christian religion has added quite a few extracurricular ideas and teachings about Jesus that aren’t historically verifiable.
Another problem the Christian religion has caused with respect to Jesus is making Jesus’ truth and teachings exclusive. According to this mindset, one has to “become a Christian” and “accept only Jesus” in order to have the truth. So either you belong to the Christian club, or you’re out of luck, doomed, and destined for Hell. Seriously??? The truth Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated has universal significance and it doesn’t require one to become a Christian. Jesus never intended for himself or his teaching to become a religion. Instead, Jesus confronted the problem with the religious mindset altogether, and lifted up truth that any person can embrace if they are willing to look inside themselves.
It is not the “sinners” of the world who need to “accept Jesus,” it’s the Christians. They are the “unbelievers” who turned Jesus into a religion and failed to embrace his truth. Accepting the truth that Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated will make you a heretic like he was. That’s the kind of inner anarchy we need now. I count myself as one of those who had done just that. I had to apply inner anarchy to myself.
I wrote in Inner Anarchy:
“As I write this book, I send rough drafts of chapters to a few ex-Institutional-Christian friends for input and feedback. That was humbling! A few of them were like, “Seriously, Jim; we’re back to quoting Bible verses?!” That didn’t go over too well! It wasn’t easy convincing them that this was not just a rehash of their old religion. Having just spent years shedding religion, they were fearful of getting sucked right back into it. Maybe others of you felt the same.
Hopefully I succeeded in persuading them that what this book is about is nothing like that. But to lift up what is real and shine the light on where all this is going, it was necessary to untangle the mess the Christian religion had made of Jesus and his teachings. It was critical to see that Jesus taught that the God and heaven we have all been waiting for up in the sky have been in us all along. Once we get that, we can let that entire mindset and system die off and become obsolete.”
(Image by Gregilnero/deviantart.com)