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Would the real Jesus please stand up so we can recognise you?
by Graeme J. Davidson,
4 March 2006

Jesus is the champion of feminist, heterosexual and gay rights, laissez-faire capitalism and revolutionary socialism. He’s pro the establishment, the Treaty of Waitangi, freedom fighting and pacifism. And, of course, he’s an environmentalist, a save the whales campaigner and a pro family advocate.

Some of Jesus’ followers had trouble recognising him after he rose from the dead, according to gospel accounts. I sympathise. I’m familiar with the biblical depiction of Jesus as a first century itinerant teacher and healer, an heir to the Jewish throne who falls out with the authorities and is executed mainly for asserting his divine relationship with God. But these days Jesus seems to be on everyone’s bandwagon.

He’s the champion of feminist, heterosexual and gay rights, laissez-faire capitalism and revolutionary socialism. He’s pro the establishment, the Treaty of Waitangi, freedom fighting and pacifism. And, of course, he’s an environmentalist, a save the whales campaigner and a pro family advocate. There are books with titles like Jesus Christ — the Master Psychologist, The Lord Christ Jesus was a Vegan, and Jesus was Caesar (which argues Jesus was the divine manifestation of Julius Caesar), while an article asking “Was Jesus a Stoner?” claims he used cannabis for healing. Now, would the real Jesus please stand up so we can recognise you?

In his book, Jesus was a Feminist: What the Gospels Reveal about His Revolutionary Perspective, Leonard Swindler says Jesus attracted women followers and broke with the customs of his time to treat them as equals with men – a position denied to them by later males who quickly dominated the Church. Nevertheless, Jesus chose only men as his inner circle of disciples, and St Paul, the first New Testament writer, wrote of how women should have a subservient role.

But what about Mary Magdalene of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code fame? Didn’t she have a close relationship with Jesus and was maybe married to him? And as most Jewish men of the time were married, doesn’t that suggest Jesus was, too? The Bible does tell of Mary Magdalene being possessed of evil spirits and that Jesus healed her. She was among the women at his death and at his tomb - not alone in being a female camp follower of Jesus. And not all Jewish men of the time were married either. Around 43 AD, Philo of Alexandria reported there were 4000 mostly unmarried Jewish men living like monks at Qumran by the Dead Sea.

Well, maybe Jesus was gay. Theodore W. Jennings Jr. suggests this in his book The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament. Jesus certainly chose men for his inner circle and the Bible says he had a special relationship with a disciple whom he loved. Loving someone, though, isn’t the same as having sex or even wanting to have sex with that person. The fact is we know virtually nothing of Jesus’ sexuality.
Jesus did tell a story praising the servants who invested their master’s money to best advantage. But the point of the story wasn’t to underpin free-market capitalism. In contrast, Venezuelan President Hugo Chàvez recently declared Jesus “the greatest socialist in history”. Liberation theologians echo this view teaching that Jesus had a special affinity with the poor and often suggest a Marxist approach and political activism to overcome injustice, poverty and oppression.

The Bible certainly emphasises how Jesus was concerned for the deprived and taught how each of us has an obligation to share resources and help those in need, but this is hardly a vote for a Marxist-Leninist ideology or a centrally run economy based on state-owned enterprises.

Jesus’ comment to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is often viewed by conservatives as Jesus being the peacemaker who was pro the established order. Jesus was hardly that. He said he’d come to bring the sword and to divide families. At one point, he encouraged his disciples to buy swords and one of them used a sword in defence of his master. Jesus overturned tables and took a whip to the money-changers in the Temple.
So, is Jesus pro the Treaty, the environment, whales and pot? Your guess is as good as mine.
But of one thing we can be certain, we’ll persist in making Jesus in our own image.

 

 

 

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