Monday, July 20, 2009

Jesus: The Living Parable or That's Friggin' Religulous Part 2

Back in May on the very last day of my Judaism, Islam, and Christianity class we watched and discussed Bill Maher's new film, Religulous. If you haven't seen it then I recommend watching it because it might introduce you, the viewer, to new and (maybe) challenging views on religion. I wrote a post describing my thoughts on Religulous back in November before I got a chance to watch it. Bill Maher's point is not to abolish and ridicule religion but to ask serious questions on what we consider sacred, although, to me, it did seem like he was ridiculing the faithful. Should we question the sacred, and if we come up with answers that challenge our current beliefs how do we then live with them?

[Bill Maher talking with Jesus at the Holy Land Experience in Religulous]

Try Googling "Jesus Pagan gods" and you get over 700,000 results on this very controversial topic. Do myths and deities of "pagan" religions share similarities with the unique Son of God? You can get lost quickly in the garbled debates of the unique nature of Jesus but outside of the biased canonical texts,which believers claim have been protected and guided by the hand of God, there are no existing 1st century original copies of ANY manuscript that describes Jesus in detail, divine or not. All we have are stories, and if those stories share similarities then it is because those similarities speak clearer to the human heart than any other elements of storytelling.

Did Jesus actually exist as the Bible portrays him? I believe that he did indeed exist but his portrayal in my protestant Bible was skewed to fit the theology of those who won the bible battle during the history of the early church between warring Christianity sects. Is Jesus then a mishmash of ancient deities and myths? A question like this is only challenging to those who put Christ on a pedestal above the message he brought to humanity. I believe that Jesus the man, Rabbi, and Jewish prophet very well could have existed but we have no contemporary outside sources to verify his existence outside of a brief and questionable reference by Josephus.

We ended class with our professor, Rabbi Rami, asking what we would say to Bill Maher's statement that Jesus is a mythical character made up of deities that predate him. The class was speechless, nobody said a word, including myself. Rabbi Rami's response in a nutshell is that the Jesus story is just one of a long chain of other myths that have spoken to the inner core of the human spirit. There is nothing unique about the Jesus story since elements of it have been told in other religions. This does not mean that Jesus is a fictional creation of the early church but that the story of Jesus should be more important than the historicity of the man the story is based upon.

Those who heard Jesus tell the parable of the good Samaritan would not have been outraged if Jesus told them that the characters of the story never existed. The moral of the story which speaks to humanity's inner spirit is what should be held sacred and not the characters who take a part in the story. Jesus is more of a symbol, a finger pointing to the moon, who points beyond himself to something greater. Christ's message, which is the heart of Christianity, becomes untouchable, an eternal flame, when divorced from the pointless battle over the historicity of the man. The finger may be broken, bent, replaced, or even cut off but the moon will still remain.

What Maher is saying is that we have the lessons and no longer need to keep anything that keeps humankind from progressing forward. This is not a move away from God but a leap and a stride towards it. His view is that organized religion is detrimental to the progression of man since it's views are static and works to keep men in the dark. All Bill is doing is asking whether or not these symbols still work for man in our enlightened age. Are we able to stand on our own feet and say "I will serve my fellow man for the greater good" without an external source prodding us to do so? Until humanity instills the lessons that Jesus and others have brought we will continue to rely on them for guidance. This is why I like to describe Jesus as a walking, talking, living parable: he is a manifestation of what humanity yearns for more than anything else: Love.


Don said...

I'm right there with you Erusso. This wonderful journey is "pointing to the moon". I have only discovered that fact in the last few months. Thanks for a very nice post. Gotta watch that movie....

captron52 said...

A very informative and interesting post!Keep up the good work!

Eruesso said...

Thank you Don and Ronnie for all of your comments. Although the film seemed a pinch more about confrontation(yet comical) than asking serious question I truly enjoyed this film.

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