11 March 2013

219. What if...

Any religion is based on a myth. - Don't go, stay with me! I am not using the word in a derogatory sense but in its fondamental meaning which is a structured story regularly revitalised and enacted by rituals. -

We all know that little Jesus was born in a barn and placed in a manger, that three kings from afar guided by a star came to visit him and how he talked to the priests for his bar-mitzvah and how he divided his loaf of bread for his last supper with his mates and how he had to carry his own cross up the hill on Golgotha.

A myth somewhere along the line is based on a true story and by 'true story' I mean a fact which took place in History. It is the case with Jesus of Nazareth. He is a historical figure. He did exist.

During the past centuries since his historical existence, while some spent time and effort enhancing the myth by declaring him a god and his mother a virgin mother of god, others worked at finding out documents and archeological evidence of his life. The former tried to hinder the work of the latter. But in the end historical truth always wins over myth.

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So, what if... Jesus was just a man, a guy from Nazareth who lived under Roman occupation of his country. His old man, Joseph, married his mother when she was pregnant. Joseph was a mature man with a number of young children to look after when his first wife died. He badly needed another wife because with his activity of carpentry and wood merchant his business selling to the Roman army was flourishing. He promised a friend who had a young pregnant daughter that he would marry her. Joseph was of king David's descendance and as such had to register in Judah rather than in Galilee where he lived when the Roman administration did a census. From there before coming back to Nazareth they travelled to Egypt where Mary had relatives.

Little Jesus grew up as a spoiled brat. He was the benjamin and did have the attention of his old man and his mother perhaps more than the eldest children. In the story of the prodigal son he is actually talking about himself. As a young man in his twenties he received some money from Joseph and left to study with a sect in the desert on the other side of the Jordan river. There they asked him to be their leader but as he did not completely agree with their theories, he came home to Nazareth and to his old man.


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Christians have to face the fact that the myth will soon be erased by the facts of History. And then what? Will we stand up and cry? Hoping against all hopes that the clock can be turned back? The myth cannot hold any more. Nobody wants to hear it, no one wants to believe it. It does not make sense anymore. It is dead. Like the old Romans at the end of the empire, we are faced with the fact that our comfortable faith and religious practice are dead.   

My concern is about the void it creates.

"Man will not live of bread alone", it says somewhere in the scriptures. Can we re-invente a relationship with God? Without the dogma of the original sin, the curse, the guilt and the sacrifice to redeem humanity? Can we find inspiration in the life of Jesus the man, the great thinker and reformer? We will have to.


    

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