Heaven Can’t Wait

Jesus was a radical, and it’s time to start saying so

| March-April 2005

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    P.S. Mueller

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I’ve long been fascinated by the religious right. When I was a kid I had a Sunday morning paper route, and one of my favorite rituals after getting off work was watching televangelist Jimmy Swaggart sweat out the sin. It was mesmerizing theater. In college I used to seek out roving revivals, just to get a whiff of the snake oil. A few years ago, while I was working at an alternative newspaper, one editor jokingly referred to me as his “faith and values guy,” because of my fascination for all things fundamentalist. 

If Bible-banging conservatives were involved, I was there with a notebook: in part because, as a liberal journalist, I was interested in exposing the political machinations of the movement’s cynical leadership; in part because I could get parishioners to say more than they should have. I knew how to fit in. I knew what they wanted to hear. 

When I would introduce myself to potential sources, for instance, they’d typically ask whether or not I was a Christian. “I’m still sorting out the whole religion thing,” I’d say sheepishly. They liked that. It put me in the category of savable. 

After working on a story about a 4,000-seat conservative “megachurch” in the Minneapolis suburbs, though, something turned in me—call it a moment of clarity. The church I wrote about was, as I expected, self-consciously slick, overly simplistic, and fueled by fear. My conclusions published, the hate mail poured in. 

“Obviously, you are not a Christian,” one reader concluded. A number of missives expressed similar sentiments. If only I were not so lost, so arrogant, so blind. If only I believed. 

The thing is, I do believe. I spent my childhood running through the halls of my family’s big old church. Mom taught Bible school, Dad directed the choir, and the minister who confirmed me remains a philosophical and spiritual counselor. They made me the bleeding heart I am. 

Robert Abramson
6/4/2013 3:54:15 AM

I find it amazing that so many have written so much about Jesus and haven't a clue about the era he lived in, the religion he practiced, the individuals who wrote or changed what has become the New Testament and what their objective was. There are so many changes that have been made to the New Testament that one should ask , what was the purpose? Who is always the bad guy? How come? The Koran is more straight forward. It flatly calls for the murder of infidels.

12/14/2012 11:20:16 AM

Excellent article David. So ironic to me when Jesus' message is interpreted as a justification to exclude anyone from God's unconditional love. A Course In Miracles book offers exactly the sort of clarified message you're alluding to. God and Jesus are not about fear (love's opposite) but the reasons we tend toward that involve an epistemology of the ego that only the bravest may ever realize. Best wishes to all this holiday season & thank you.

Robert Johnson
12/12/2012 5:11:26 PM

There is legitimate doubt whether Jesus really existed or not ( http://www.deism.com/jesusexist.htm ). The Jesus portrayed in the New Testament was, like the entire Bible, very ambiguous. For example, he was not even clear about what you must do to receive eternal salvation ( John 3:16 has Jesus saying believe God sent his only son Jesus to save you and you're saved while Mark 16:16 says Jesus said you must also be baptized. And different Christian denominations even argue about baptism; should it be submersion or just a sprinkling. ) Jesus taught people to fear God at Matthew 10:28 which as a Deist I think is morally wrong. Jesus also endorsed the violent Old Testament/Hebrew Bible laws at Matthew 15:4-5 when he attacked Jews who did not kill their disobedient children which the OT demanded they do. What is needed is a revolution in religion based on our God-given reason and Deism as the American revolutionary and Deist Thomas Paine called for in his powerful thought provoking book The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition. Progress! Bob Johnson www.deism.com

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