Jesus Without Jesus

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As much as some people would like to believe, not all of Jesus’ teachings were about charity and love. At times, Jesus could be downright mean. In the book of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, Robert Wright writes in the Atlantic that “Jesus’ most salient comment on ethnic relations is to compare a woman to a dog because she isn’t from Israel.”

Much of the image of Jesus as a proponent of universal love comes from the gospel of Paul, according to Wright, and Paul’s motivations may not have been entirely theological. Wright explores the idea of Paul as an “ambitious preacher of early Christianity,” who wanted to set up an expansive and franchised religious organization in an increasingly globalizing world–as much a CEO as a spiritual leader.

This reading of scripture could be dismissed as simple atheism, but Wright insists that he leaves room for “the prospect of divine purpose generically.” Christianity’s promotion of transnational love, respect, and morality may have been spiritually pragmatic, but exists within a historical widening of tolerance and amity for people generally. And if history moves gradually, and “fitfully” toward harmony, according to Wright, “then maybe some overarching purpose is built into the human endeavor after all.”

The argument bears some resemblance to one in Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Zooey insists that 98 percent of Christians try “to turn Jesus into St. Francis of Assisi to make him more ‘lovable.'” The problem is that “If God had wanted somebody with St. Francis’s consistently winning personality for the job in the New Testament, he’d’ve picked him, you can be sure.”

SourceThe Atlantic

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