It is the Christmas season and, in case we forgot in the midst of the shopping frenzy, the holiday is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether or not you’re a Christian, you may appreciate the teachings and humanism attributed to Christ.
In today’s Utne (a progressive publication), David Schimke explores the notion that Jesus was a radical–and exhorts his liberal brethren to start saying so–in “Heaven Can’t Wait.”
Schimke, a believer in Jesus Christ, divides American Christians into two broad groups:
In the main (and here I confess to a gross generalization), Americans who consider themselves Christian tend to think about the New Testament’s central character in one of two distinct ways. For many, what matters most is that Jesus was a divine spirit who died for their sins. To accept him as your savior is to be saved, and the pursuit of that salvation is paramount. For a smaller percentage of believers, Jesus is a peasant revolutionary who lived by example and died for it. To model your behavior after his is to bring earth closer to heaven.
“Are you a Christian?” (the host) asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
Before he could recover, I went on to explain that while I appreciated his preoccupation with salvation, my main concern was good works. That the Jesus I met in the Bible would be more concerned about curing AIDs than outlawing homosexual marriage, more troubled by world hunger and violence than an erosion of “family values.”
His tenor changed, the studio phone line lit up, and we actually had a conversation. Instead of being on the show for 15 minutes, I stayed on for an hour. In the end, we agreed to disagree. He listened to what I had to say, though. So did his audience.
If progressives want to reclaim the moral high ground, it will require a series of similar risks, rhetorical and substantive.
What immediately came to my mind was a recent song from Shemekia Copeland’s “33 1/3″ album, “Somebody Else’s Jesus.” I tried to find a YouTube version, but it’s just not there yet. The premise of the song is much the same as Schimke’s, juxtaposing the humanist (radical?) side of Christ’s teachings with the more common conservative church world of American Christianity. Again, here’s the link to Schimke’s full article:
I am not a Christian, but I am very interested in how readers–particularly those of you who identify as (any kind of) Christian–respond to this bifurcated portrait. Does it ring true? Where do you place yourself? Have at it.