Oh, Jesus!

Some of my best friends are Christians, I'll admit it. No kidding. I mean real, believing Christians. Jesus, the Cross, the Virgin Mary, the whole schmeer. I myself was brought up in a Protestant household, though I don't remember my parents protesting anything very vigorously. I mean, they didn't do anything drastic like go to church regularly. They did send me to Sunday school, but let me pick one -- Congregationalist, Methodist, Presbyterian, it was all the same to them, as long as it wasn't "high church" Episcopal, which was too close to the Catholics. (I think that being anti-Catholic was the only way my mother had of remembering that she was a Protestant, which was a tie to traditions in her own girlhood.) I had to work my way through theology pretty much on my own, found my way into Christian Science (I'll tell you about it some time -- that had its funny moments), which prepared me for dialectical thinking (Mary Baker Eddy was a kind of Hegelian), which set me up to move right into Marxism when I got to college, having left Christianity far behind.

Later, after I had actually read a lot of Marx, I discovered -- to my relief -- that he himself had said, "Je ne suis pas marxiste." I thought about that, and decided that if Marx wasn't a Marxist, I wasn't going to be one, either -- because after all, I wanted to be like Marx. And the best way to be like Marx (as I imagined Marx to be) was to be nondogmatic. Still later, after I'd developed some more-or-less original interpretations of my own, I had to remind myself that I was not and would not let myself become a Foxist.

But I digress. My view of the figure we call "Jesus" is that he is probably based on a real, historical person (not by that name, of course, but some Hebrew or Aramaic name that has been transformed into "Jesus"). I imagine that he was one of many charismatics using magic to draw a crowd. This was probably not too hard to do among a colonized people suffering from corrupt administration, economic slow-down and high taxes. Turning bread into wine, raising the dead, walking on water -- pretty good tricks, but more or less standard among magicians of those days. I'm also willing to believe that he believed he was "the Son of God," something special, the real Messiah. The really interesting question is why today, after all that has happened in the past two millennia and all the debunking of magic, literate people would themselves believe that he was, and that he can somehow save them. Especially people in the US, especially people I know who seem otherwise quite rational.

When in 2001 God told those 19 men with box-cutters to bring down the twin temples of Mammon on 9/11, we saw yet again that religion is not a harmless delusion. For a while after that attack, I became violently intolerant of anybody who seemed to be surrendering moral responsibility to a god --especially when the God they believed in had been created by, and his pronouncements were controlled by, other people. To see how I felt, watching the towers burn and the people fall and wandering through lower Manhattan in the following days, see my five-day journal, Attack on New York. I've calmed down since then, and I accept that it's probably true that everybody, or almost everybody, needs a god or God for solace in the lonely times -- even Marx recognized this. I just think everybody should have a god of his or her own, and recognize that this deity exists only by the strength each of us gives it -- that it originates in our own imaginations, which does not make it any less real, but does not let us deny our own responsibility for our acts.