Martin LeFevre: What Was Jesus?
What Was Jesus?
Someone ought to do a top ten list of the greatest ironies of history. As a despondent America slides through the season of shlock, vying for the greatest irony of all would be the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The underlying assumption of Christmas is that Jesus’ mission succeeded. Otherwise we wouldn’t celebrate his birth. Of course, few people really believe in “the Savior” anymore, and most don’t have a feeling one or another. Many believe there is no cosmic intent for humanity at all.
In the year 2008 year, give or take a few, of Jesus birth, Senator Chris Dodd recently came close to capturing the mood of this country. “The blow to American consciousness, confidence, and capability is beyond economic terms,” he said.
Our Conduit in Chief is going out as he snuck in. Under the cover of night a month before his ignominious departure from the world stage, George Bush crept into Baghdad on the most high-tech plane on the planet, Air Force One. All the technology in the world couldn’t keep him from having two shoes thrown at him however.
Bush and his administration are already rotting on the garbage heap of history, and they haven’t even left office. Meanwhile America awaits its “Messiah,” President-elect Obama. He rose from the same fetid swamp of Illinois politics as Governor Rod Blagojevich, but expects us to believe that none of Chicago’s stink sticks to him.
Brahmins like the Bushes have tried to make Jesus theirs, but he isn’t the lord that George Junior serves. Bush’s arrogant confidence that history will vindicate him reflects a certainty that evil will prevail (in the name of goodness and God of course).
There is no deity, but there is inseparable intelligence within the universe, inextricably part of every atom, molecule, cell, species, and star. The universe breathes intent into the latent mind of man, not through some projected Creator, but through the mystery inherent in its very existence.
What is that intent? Is it simply that we end our divisiveness and destructiveness, live in harmony with the earth, and grow into human beings, sharing in the awareness of the cosmos.
Jesus represented, for the Middle East and the nascent West, the possibility of an inner revolution and the chance to change course. If he had succeeded, he would have begun a revolution similar to what Siddhartha began in India a few hundred years before. The regional revolution in human consciousness that the Buddha ignited would have combined with the regional revolution that Jesus was meant to ignite, and we would be living in a very different world.
Jesus life shows that the bloodlines of aristocrats count for nothing in the end. He emerged from the salt of the earth, like the vast majority of us, to walk the land and teach a message of forgiveness and love.
The people of his time refused to listen and so failed come up to the mark. Jesus himself did not fail, though he took the failure of his mission back on himself on the cross. The truth was too much for his disciples, and 2000 years of popes and preachers have been echoing their misunderstanding, falsehoods, rationalizations, and outright falsehoods.
Before one can have any insight into Jesus and his failed mission, one has to step out of the trap of tradition. Jesus did not ‘die for our sins;’ he died because his people willfully missed the mark. He was not God, or even a human freak as other great religious teachers have been, but as human as any one of us.
Jesus’ message was twisted before they took him down from the cross. Therefore we cannot know just what that message was, or have any certainty about the nature of the man. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to John Adams, “the whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective…and such tricks have been played with their text…that we have a right to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine.”
And yet if we are anchored in self-knowing and intellectual honesty, eschewing the dead weight of belief and tradition, we can catch glimpses that give insights beyond theology. We can “pick out diamonds from dunghills,” as Jefferson did in his study of the Bible.
Then, even as we celebrate on the 25th of December a birthday taken from the pagan god Mythros, we can feel the yearning in the human heart for that which is true and good and just. And, feeling that yearning in a dimming world on the brink, we will keep the human heart alive within us.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.