Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I musta misplaced my invite...
The theme for this Washington, DC, seminar of the the Jesus Seminar was the "Social World of Early Christianity.” We learned that early Christianity was fractured and filled with conflict from within and that order and unity was imposed by Constantine -- order that distorted Christian teaching and morality. We learned that Christianity grew largely because Christian women were fertile, because they did not abort, because Christians cared for the sick and so they got better (while pagans abandoned the ill), etc. We learned that Christians must not have been united if Jesus had to pray for unity and that they had to keep having councils because they kept having conflict and division even after the empire imposed structure and dogma upon the Christians.
We learned that Jesus was an ignorant and illiterate itinerant preacher and prophet. We learned that He could not have read the scroll of Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue and that the synagogue was too poor to have even owned the expensive scroll of Isaiah. We learned that outside sources are more objective to the nature and beliefs of early Christendom than the Bible or official history. We learned that Scripture, particularly the New Testament, needed to be "re-imagined" to remove the sexist distortion that infected the written text. We learned that Christianity was an oral religion with an oral Word and an oral history that got sidetracked in the written documents, Scripture, and history of the faith.
The audience of 40 mostly elderly participants was told to “make up your own canon” of scripture and one presenter said he would trade Revelation for Hamlet any day. He also suggested swapping out the Pastoral Epistles for any two Emily Dickinson poems. “We’d be way better off.”
The speakers complained at length about the continued worldwide spread of Evangelical Christianity and the failure of liberal religious thought to gain widespread traction. They lamented that even liberal Christian preaches tell the stories of Scripture in their preaching as if they were or could have been true. Modern day Christianity was generally condemned as anti-intellectual and they all regretted that they had largely lost the public battle for control of the shape of Christianity.
Ahhhh.... so sad. Forty elderly skeptics telling the other couple of billion Christians they knew Jesus, Jesus was a friend of theirs, and the Jesus of Christian proclamation is not the Jesus of history. Oh, well, I just knew you were waiting to hear a report of the Jesus Seminar meeting in March in DC... now weren'tcha!