Tag Archives: Religion Dispatches

Interview with Marcus Borg

English: Marcus Borg speaking in Mansfield Col...

English: Marcus Borg speaking in Mansfield College chapel.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a busy couple of months, and time for posting here has fled away- my only hope is that someone missed these notes from BibleWorkbench!

One of our favorite biblical scholars, Marcus Borg, is interviewed by Candace Chellew-Hodge over at Religion Dispatches. His latest book, Evolution of the Word, presents the New Testament texts in chronological order and serves to highlight the influence that communities had on the shaping of the text and tradition. For some, simply the title will be unthinkable- how can the eternal Word Of God be changeable, much less evolving?

Here’s a bit of Borg’s perspective:

There were vibrant Christ communities spread out around the Mediterranean world before any of the documents were written, so the documents give us glimpses, or windows, into what those Christ communities were like.

And they make clear that the New Testament as a whole, including the gospels, are the product of those communities, written to those communities, and in many cases written within those communities. So, we learn that it’s not that the gospels created early Christianity but early Christianity produces the gospels as well as the other documents.

You can find the full interview at Religion Dispatches.

Why Christ’s Color Matters

Picture of Jesus with American flag

Picture of Jesus with American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Radicalized Jesus always has a problem with Americanized Jesus. It reminds me of a speech given by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper where she made a distinction between the Christ of Calvary versus the Christ of Culture. Radicalized Jesus could speak to the economic situation and address the class issues as well. Radicalized Jesus would challenge the status quo and invite others to see how people on the margins and all working class peoples live. Americanized Jesus, on the other hand, stands with the status quo and protects the interest of the wealthy. We have visions and portrayals of Radicalized Jesus, but since many of them come to us in brown and black skin or with tattoos and locks, we tend not to take them seriously.

– Andre E. Johnson, professor of rhetoric, religion, and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary, in a discussion of the book, The Color of Christ, by Ed Blum and Paul Harvey.

How has picturing Jesus as a white man shaped religious awareness in America? How has it been conscious or unconscious? And what difference does this history make in our supposedly “post-racial” times? You can find the full conversation “Mitt’s Jesus, Barack’s Jesus, and Why Christ’s Color Matters” over at Religion Dispatches.

How do you imagine Jesus? How does that shape the way you see the world? What does your image of Jesus say about what you value? What you overlook?

A Neoconservative Jesus?

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

Over at Religion Dispatches, Ira Chernus writes:

As I read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s popular new book, Kosher Jesus, I couldn’t help smiling, remembering the first time I was assigned to teach a unit on the origins of Christianity. I figured it made sense to start with the historical Jesus himself. So I plunged into the most reputable scholarly literature, to separate fact from fiction. It didn’t take very long to realize that there was, and is, no fact.

I was soon entertaining my students by telling them, in all seriousness, that Jesus is like a huge inkblot in a Rohrschach test. Everyone sees what they want to see. what any New Testament scholar claims to see tells us nothing for sure about the factual reality of Jesus. But it tells a lot about even the greatest scholar’s own presuppositions, worldview, values, and beliefs.

Chernus is wondering how the back cover of Boteach’s book came to sport supportive blurbs by the likes of Glenn Beck and Pat Boone. The link, he discovers, is through the fervent Evangelical support for the State of Israel, and the call to “oppose evil.” Boteach discovers a Jesus who is “a patriotic Zealot, `calling his men to arms. An armed insurrection against Rome was his battle cry.’

Hmmm. While I do believe that each of us projects something of our own desires and personality onto Jesus (there have been studies that show people tend to see Jesus as being like themselves), I’m not quite ready to go all the way with Chernus and say “there is no fact.” Something in the core of the Jesus story resists the kind of interpretation that Boteach imposes.

What do you think? Is “Jesus” just a malleable figure who can be twisted to support any position?

Take a look at the whole review at: A Neoconservative Jesus, Certified Kosher