On Christian Fundamentalism’s Neverending Effort to Win Custody of Jesus

By | July 31, 2013

tug of warI’ve been watching the controversy surrounding Reza Aslan’s new bestseller fairly closely. The book is called Zealot and it’s the latest of many titles to argue that Jesus was a revolutionary teacher, a man of prophetic vision, a political rabble-rouser and a devoutly religious Jew whose only real claim to divinity is found in the identity imposed upon him after his death. The author of this book has done what a variety of scholars have attempted to do: Separate for us the historical Jesus (the pre-myth person who lived a natural life in a real time and place) from the Jesus of doctrine—the eternalized celestial figure identified for generations all over the world as the Son of God.

I was first introduced to Dr. Aslan’s book one Friday morning while getting ready for work with the television within earshot. I was distracted by the protest of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who strongly opposed the author’s depiction of the New Testament gospels as works of historical “fiction” written to promote an agenda. The exchange ended with Scarborough aggressively telling Dr. Aslan: “It sounds like a fascinating argument, [however] I am a believer, and I don’t think it’s myth.”

A week later, Dr. Aslan recorded the now-viral Fox News interview during which anchor Laura Green badgered him about his credentials—arguing that he doesn’t have the expertise to write a book about Jesus because he’s a Muslim. He remained gracious, but was clearly confused by her behavior as he repeatedly attempted to explain his responsibility as a historian of religions.

And then this afternoon, an Evangelical pastor by the name of John S. Dickerson wrote a Fox News article arguing that while Aslan “has been formally educated in theology and New Testament Greek,” his “Muslim beliefs affect his entire life, including his conclusions about Jesus.” Dickerson opined that the author of Zealot experiences a “conflict of interest” that is no doubt rooted in his adherence to a “religion that has been in violent opposition to Christ for 1,400 years.” Therefore, according to Dickerson, neither Aslan, nor his book, offer credible depictions of the historical Jesus.

As I’ve observed the reactions to Aslan’s work by Christians in the media, I’ve thought quite a bit about the three behaviors displayed. First, I thought of the effort to demonize the author despite his credentials and exhaustive research. (He claims to have read 1,000 books while preparing to write his work.) The second behavior—the blind rejection of information—was seemingly an effort to discredit and silence the author. (Cognitive dissonance, anyone?)

But the third behavior is more peculiar. I’m speaking of the attempt to hoard the person of Jesus, his memory, any scholarship associated with him, the endeavor to write about him and the privilege of speaking about him for those within the religious in-group. This behavior—the act of declaring one’s own group the only qualified custodian of the faith— seems to speak to the ongoing desire to insulate traditional Christianity against some presumed threat. This insulation reduces the chorus of voices in the discussion so that the only ones who can be heard are those who agree to reach an approved set of conclusions.

Those who attempt to declare themselves the custodians of the faith will tell you that they only wish to protect Jesus from the theological banditry known as intellectual pursuit. There is some belief within Christendom that it’s the true Christian’s job to reject every unapproved conclusion—no matter how accurate, logical or well-sourced that finding may be—in the interest of preserving the religion.

I wonder when people will realize that Jesus doesn’t need our protection. Jesus doesn’t need to be protected from archaeological evidence. Jesus doesn’t need to be protected from his own contextual history and he doesn’t need to be protected from scientific inquiry. Jesus doesn’t need to be protected from “liberal” theology, and he doesn’t need to be protected from the questions we may have about the birth of the religion we’ve named after him.

Jesus doesn’t need to be protected from anything you or I can write—no matter how critical it is. The only thing in need of protection is the collective ego belonging to this generation’s very fearful Christian fundamentalists—an ego which cannot bear the prospect of being wrong.

When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol. May we all find the courage and wisdom to never make ignorance the aim of religion, nor idolatry the replacement for faith.

Note: Thanks, WordPress, for featuring this post in your Freshly Pressed collection!

112 thoughts on “On Christian Fundamentalism’s Neverending Effort to Win Custody of Jesus

  1. Anthony Salvatore

    What a wonderful ‘voice’ in the midst of so much mind-lessness (well actually, its probably that people have imprisoned Jesus in their own mind-boxex from over-thinking Him rather than taking the first step to act like Him. Thank You! Crystal St. Marie Lewis. Bravo!

  2. hadhufang

    Brava! Well presented, well argued, well written. Thanks so much for your thoughtful perspectives, Crystal!

  3. dinetahray

    “May we all find the courage and wisdom to never make ignorance the aim of religion, nor idolatry the replacement for faith.”
    That’s a mouthfull! Amen to that! Great piece!

  4. Eliza

    Sinners, all who are outside of faith in Jesus Christ as the Beloved Son of God, who as God became man that He might bear the sins of many, take their punishment, and reconcile them to God the Father, will always reject the Biblical doctrine that Jesus Christ is God. And yes He did claim to be God in the Bible, most notably in the Gospel of John. No, Jesus Christ doesn’t need our protection because He is God, but He has commanded through Jude that we contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. As far as the scholarship of this apostate, did he inquire only with those who agree with him? He, of course, wouldn’t go to those who believe the biblical doctrines about Jesus Christ. Of course, this supposed scholar can’t explain the fact that all of the apostles died a martyrs death without rejecting what they saw and knew to be true, that Jesus Christ died on the cross was buried and that He rose again. John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

    1. kibriasa

      I understand you haven’t read his book or seen the fox news interview? Because he clearly states that his book has endnotes referencing both scholars who agree and those who disagree with him! You are allowed to have an informed opinion as is he – regardless of what faith you are. I have not read the book myself and find it funny how many people freely judge without even knowing what they are judging!

  5. Pingback: Jesus doesn’t need our protection. | hoping for redemption

  6. Do I Have My Keys?

    Beautifully written and well-executed ideas. I am in total agreement and have been for quite some time. This coming from a young man who attended Catholic school his whole life. People are so needy and desperate for a crutch to hold themselves up against their own self-inflicted short-comings and short-shortsightedness that they manipulate Jesus into whatever will fill the void. God forbid you call them out on it. “You’re going to hell!” Smh.

  7. allthoughtswork

    Ka-POW! You just hit it right out of the ballpark! Well articulated and nicely organized. Wish there was a button that just automatically sent a copy to Roger Ailes’ inbox. We’ll call it Common Sense Spam.

  8. lexborgia

    Excellent. After being subjected to another ‘freshly pressed’ load of religious nonsense earlier today, I was wondering if the WP Panel is ever capable (or genuinely interested) in presenting us with a coherent, intelligent essay that that doesn’t reinforce ignorance and Superstition – would be great to actually hear something from a Jewish standpoint as well. Deductive reasoning and verification isn’t blasphemy, it is the sole gateway to self improvement. I’m an Atheist, yet I’m not here to decry anyone – believe what you will, but for ‘God’s sake,’ make a real effort to understand the background and substance to what you believe. This is indeed a wonderful piece and a pointer to anyone, believer or nonbeliever, to reject blind faith, and rather, to verify your faith. Well done. Cheers.

  9. sonatano1

    “When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol.”

    Agreed totally. If God is all-powerful, he needs no protection or help from us. What fundamentalists are truly afraid of isn’t that intellectual pursuit will hurt God, but that it will force them to examine their own beliefs and their reasons for believing what and how they do.

  10. rami ungar the writer

    As a History major, I don’t find it ridiculous that Dr. Aslan has read so many books. It’s quite common for historians to go to great lengths, reading numerous books and interviewing hundreds of sources, both in favor and against their arguments, just so they can get a comprehensive look at the issue. And as for the whole bias issue, if that argument applied to everything–that you can’t write about something unless you’re apart of a certain group–then I couldn’t write a novel about street gangs in a dystopic future because I’m neither in a gang or in a dystopia, people of Spanish descent can’t study and write about the Holocaust because they didn’t have family in the camps, and men (or women, probably), couldn’t write about feminism because they’d be biased! The flaws here are obvious.

  11. Pingback: When a God Requires Custodial Protection

  12. mcnultyjames65

    An extremely well written article and I agree with you about all the bickering and ‘Keeping Jesus to oneself’ thing…
    It was along time ago and we can only have faith and know that WHOEVER, or WHATEVER Jesus was, he was definitely not ORDINARY. Even those who did not believe in him and could not explain him were, to say the least, afraid of him, In what way, we shall someday know, but he was not the ordinary guy walking around the desert.
    I read DEEPAK CHOPRA’s book ‘The third Jesus’ and he is(I believe Hindu) but he brings out much the same point as you do. Fantastic Job! Thanks, for your work…

  13. Pingback: On Christian Fundamentalism’s Ongoing Effort to Win Custody of Jesus | Grace and Stuff

  14. marymtf

    I’m not religious, but I do believe in God. What I’ve noticed is that the Judeo-Christian religion makes a safe target for anyone who wants to stomp on other people’s faith. Then when people react, it seems to me that the agnostics and the atheists mock them at every turn for being angry and wanting to protect their faith. Agnostics and atheists have their own biases. In one sense they are no different to believers. Agnostics and atheists seem to think that because they aren’t believers that their every pronouncement must be right. Last time I looked those people are as much part of a flawed humanity as the rest of us, and as capable of getting it wrong as anybody else.

    I know nothing about the major or minor religions, but have yet to see anyone in our politically correct world having the courage to examine and write critically about them. So, while I’m sure that Dr Aslan has read ‘so many books’, she hasn’t read any critical texts on other religions or not enough to make hers a credible thesis.. For true balance and understanding, that’s surely what she needed to do. Otherwise her book is limited, no matter how many people she has spoken to or how many books she has read.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs are about a work of non-fiction, the truth is that when a writer begins with an idea she / he also begins with an attitude. That’s human nature. Writers of non-fiction rarely if ever change their minds about their original belief. They usually haul in the sort of experts that will confirm them. As long as we understand that, to paraphrase rami unger the writer, then anybody can study and write about the holocaust, about feminism. But also, anybody reading about the holocaust or feminism or even religion needs to keep that in mind.

    1. Alan

      You know nothing of the major or minor religions of the world, (your admission) but you feel justified in saying that nobody has has had the courage to examine and write critically about them. I think that is exactly what Dr. Asian has done. You are assuming he started off with a conclusion and set about to prove it. I doubt that (I have not read the book, and neither have you.) You have determined that he was biased from the start, yet you have no evidence whatsoever that you are correct. You are guilty of the bias that you accuse him of.

      1. marymtf

        Here’s the thing, Alan. you admit that you haven’t read Dr Aslan’s books yet you are willing to not only agree with what he has to say, but also to defend him. That shows at the very beginning what you are willing to believe.

        I’m not accusing you, just stating a fact. Two men sitting in a cave at the top of the mountain at the end of the world will have opposing opinions on an issue. It is human nature. And it’s also human nature that neither of those two men will convince the other about who is right.

        There is no such thing as balance. You must surely realise it yourself when you choose which books or newspapers you will read or choose which radio stations you will listen to. You have an opinion and you choose to listen to or read those who agree with that opinion. If you are a writer, you need to write something coherent that people will want to read, you need to have a point of view on an issue and a path to follow at the very beginning or you will get nowhere.

    2. Betsy Kardos (@BetsyKardos)

      “So, while I’m sure that Dr Aslan has read ‘so many books’, she hasn’t read any critical texts on other religions or not enough to make hers a credible thesis”.

      Firstly, Dr. Aslan is male.

      Secondly, with three of his four degrees touching on religion, including comparative religion, yes, he has definitely “read critical texts on other religions”.

      Thirdly, you have no idea what his “thesis” is, so how can you voice an opinion on whether it is “credible”? Especially when you admit you are ignorant about the very religion he is writing about? The book attempts to place what the New Testament records about Jesus in the cultural and historical context (not so different from what any New Testament scholar has done in the past), which sheds light on what the writers intended to say and what they believed their readers would understand. In many cases, this is quite different from what Western Christians are taught or think simply by reading and interpreting the Bible without independent information being available. The book does not seek to discredit Christianity, but to put it into a context by separating Jesus from the dogma that has little to do with the historical figure.

      Fourthly, of course any writer begins with an attitude. But a scholarly work examines and cites where scholars disagree about points, which Aslan does. He also makes it very clear what his interest in the subject is all about, in the Introduction and in the number of interviews and other publicity information that is freely available out there.

      Lastly, I agree that atheists are often quick to mock believers. To be fair, they are equally derisive of those who believe in pagan gods as those who are monotheistic. Christians generally take more heat because they make themselves a target by vehemently engaging in religious conversations publicly where they present neither facts nor logic which make a genuine discussion possible. Atheists see no difference between people who believe in unicorns and Santa Claus and those who believe in a god or gods for whom no more evidence exists than fairy tale creations. However, their general attitude of intellectual superiority doesn’t do anything to create an atmosphere for positive debate.

      1. marymtf

        I didn’t mean to query whether doctor Aslan has read critical texts on other religions; I mean has he read texts that are equally critical of the other three significant religions. A degree in comparative religion or not, if you’re going to deconstruct a religion or a person who is significant to it, then you need to have not only read texts that do the exact same of the other major religions but also be prepared to make the important comparisons, not some weak points that you can quickly refute. That’s what ‘scholarly’ means.

        It’s possible that a handful of such texts exist. If so, not as many, I suspect, as there are about the Judeo-Christian religion. I mean, all the major religions have the ‘cultural and historical contexts’ that can be closely examined and explained’, if there’s an interest and a will to do it. One has to wonder why go over old ground when there are fresh fields to be conquered.

        I haven’t read Doctor Aslan’s book, so I don’t know what his thesis is. But let me reiterate, no matter what the thesis, what every writer knows about writing non-fiction. You begin with an idea, and when it’s to do with religion it’s often based on a bias, and then you build a case for it by finding material that will fit that idea, rejecting material that doesn’t fit that idea. Or at the very least, as I’ve said, choosing the weakest points to refute. That last is necessary if you’re going to prove yourself right. Otherwise why write the book.

        You know what, Betsy? You have your opinion and I have mine. I doubt that either of us will convert the other, so let’s leave it at that. Frankly, I’m done with this article.

  15. Crystal Post author

    I would just like to welcome all of you to my little space on the interwebs and say that I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you so much! I’m honored that you took the time to respond. 🙂

  16. Andrew Durand

    What kind of bugs me personally is that this debate is not new. It is not “new” research that has made these claims about who the real Jesus was, they have been around since Christians began worshipping in peace. And quite honestly, they are recorded in the actual Gospels. This debate will not be settled by some guy who has read a bunch of history books by other people who have made historical interpretations. It will not be settled by traditional Christians who have kept the same faith since the Apostles passed it on. Both sides will remain and no “new research” will convince either side; there is no cognitive dissonance on either side. It is simply different directions of faith. Thank goodness we live in a place where we can discuss these ideas.

  17. mrjstenberg

    The point Mr. Aslan tries to make, despite the intensive and exhaustive research, is nothing new. The assault on the doctrine of the hypostatic union is old news. Jesus is who He said He is in the Bible. After reading through the comments it seems to me that Eliza is the only one that appealed to Scripture when commenting and I commend her for that. Any professing Christian must hold the authority of Scripture above all things including exhaustive research and PhD’s. Though Jesus, the Son of God, doesn’t need me or Eliza to defend His deity Scripture commands us to. I can appreciate the copious hours of research that Mr. Aslan put in to write his book but the fact is this: he is wrong. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I’ll take Jesus’ word for it, after all He is God.

    1. slamadams

      But Scripture wasn’t written by a deity. It was written by man as an account of a deity. And if it was written by man it is equally capable of being false or at least flawed

      1. mrjstenberg

        Scripture was penned by man as he was inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. To affirm God, creator and sustainor of the universe, and than question His ability to preserve his Word for His creation is simply mind blowing to me. Please read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. All Scripture is breathed out by God.

          1. mrjstenberg

            Okay, than I can accept your reasoning. I cannot hold you to the same standard I hold a believer to. Thanks for your conversation, have a great day.

          2. mrjstenberg

            Okay, than I can accept your reasoning. I cannot hold you to the same standard I hold a believer to. Thanks for your conversation, have a great day.

          3. slamadams

            I don’t see why it makes a difference. its not the Word of God. Its the Word of God says these humans.

    2. leilovely17

      I agree with the authors point that Jesus does not need a protector, but it is very important to use the scriptures when speaking of Jesus and his time on earth. The scriptures are proven time and time again. Whats written is God’s word and not the whimsy of men who called themselves believers. Its truth and life that are these very scriptures. Well said mrjstenberg. You have a new fan 🙂

    3. Betsy Kardos (@BetsyKardos)

      If you accept the authority of scripture, fine. But what is the scripture you are accepting? You are accepting an imperfect English translation of documents that no longer exist. You have no way of knowing whether you are interpreting what Jesus said correctly. Even assuming that what you are reading is a direct quote of Jesus, how can you tell whether you can take it at face value if you don’t know as much as possible about the historical and cultural context in which he said it? There is little that Aslan has in his book that is different from what any good Bible commentary will say.

      Believe blindly, if that comforts and validates you, but don’t criticize others who seek to learn more with the brains God gave them. Otherwise, you prove the very point that Crystal is making. Faith that cannot stand scrutiny is probably faith based on a very shaky foundation.

      1. mrjstenberg

        Thank you for your reply Betsy. I can appreciate your point of view about faith but your argument falls short of making a coherent point.

        First you show a complete lack of understanding about the science of linguistics or translation. Your comment systematically undermines all those scientists who have used ‘their brains that God gave them” in the process of translating the ancient documents we STILL have. There are so many free resources on the internet and at your local library regarding the way the bible has been preserved through history. Furthermore I continue to be amazed that someone who can affirm a Sovereign God, Creator of the Universe, would also imply that He cannot protect his Word from corruption, but I digress.

        Secondly, your argument is self defeating. You ask how I can determine what can be taken at face value since I’m not an expert on the history and culture of antiquity. This questions implies that one must be an expert in those fields to properly understand the clear message of the bible. It only follows than that if being an expert in such fields of study is a prerequisite to understanding the bible than one would have to be equally the scholar to discern what Mr. Aslan wrote otherwise you’re simply taking his word for it…you have faith that what Mr. Aslan wrote is, in fact, true. You also err by not taking in to account the author’s religious presuppositions.

        Third, how do you know that the bible cannot be taken at face value? If your answer is because flawed humans have helped translate the editions we have today than I must ask: what makes Mr. Aslan’s book infallible? Why couldn’t he be wrong?

        Lastly, if you proclaim to be a Christian (I don’t know that you did so this statement is meant to be generic) than how else would God exercise His authority over you? By mere human emotion? By signs and wonders? I’ll take God at his Word and turn to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. My faith or belief is not blind but biblical.

  18. jon H

    Eliza wrote: “He, of course, wouldn’t go to those who believe the biblical doctrines about Jesus Christ.”

    I’m not sure if this counts as bearing false witness, but it’s certainly close. You may be missing the point in your attempts at Bible Study.

  19. Sharp Little Pencil

    I’m a member of the Christian Left. We don’t get much press. We’re open and affirming of LGBTQ people; we embrace social justice. We’re like Universalists with the Gospel as main text.

    This article is BRILLIANT. I once stood as an LGBTQ ally at a rally with a sign: “My marriage doesn’t need ‘protection,’ but my queer daughter deserves a marriage license.” (Yes, lots of young gay kids call themselves ‘queer’ now!) In that same vein, God doesn’t need our protection, nor does Jesus.

    I really don’t care if he turned water into wine, if he fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes… I don’t believe in the “virgin birth” or the Trinity. But I follow Jesus, whom Muslims believe was a prophet and who many Buddhists believe was an enlightened spirit. All I know is that he spoke out for the disenfranchised (the same people Fundamentalists speak of in their small circles with such hatred), he spoke justice to power, and he died willingly on a cross to demonstrate love, even forgiving his torturers. He was a political prisoner executed by the (Roman) state, and that makes him a most contemporary figure indeed. I’m going to get Dr. Aslan’s book from the library ASAP and maybe buy it if we can scrape together the bucks.

    Thank you and bless you! Amy Barlow Liberatore, Madison, WI

    1. slamadams

      zealot is a pretty broad definition. I think it definitely fits here.

  20. Eliza

    No I haven’t read his book, however, I saw on Fox News that his claim to have a history degree in religion is a lie. If that is a lie, what other claims are fallacious? Did he really use 1000 books? Don’t you know that of course he will deny the deity of Jesus Christ because it says in the Koran that anyone who claims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is cursed. He’s a Moslem for goodness sake. Again, of course, unbelievers will attack the deity of Jesus Christ because that would mean that they have to give answer to Him. Which of course they will even though they refuse to believe in Him. Isn’t it interesting that Christianity is being attacked; if you say anything against Islam look out because a Fatwa will be issued against you. The genuine Christian church, doesn’t do that. Why would anyone in their right mind want to leave the faith of love and embrace the religion of hate? Oh, that’s right he is not in his right mind, he is a sinner and a Moslem.

  21. Donna Owen

    I haven’t read or saw any of the reports but, growing up Roman Catholic I do know that Muslims revered Jesus Christ as much as Catholics do……there are extremists in every religion – Catholics never seem to want to remember the Crusades were they butchered, raped and murdered innocent people in the name of Christ. I do know that God has no religion and that there haters in every religion……and everybody should have a more open mind in remembering that the Catholic Church is more interested in keeping what they think is their monopoly on God and the money that fills their coffers. God has no religion.

    1. Azhar Ali

      Besides, I would like to add that there is a number of Christians who have written extensively about the Muhammad, Prophet of Islam. And as a matter of fact Reza Aslan has even challenged the Islamic beliefs that Jesus was of virgin birth and he was crucified.

  22. Jenn Besonia

    “I wonder when people will realize that Jesus doesn’t need our protection.”

    I agree very much.

    It’s just really saddening sometimes (but actually I prefer to laugh at them privately) that many have blind faith and think that exploring their religion historically and intellectually is a demonic activity.

    Would definitely post this on my Facebook. Never mind that my hardcore catholic/christian contacts will think of me as an evil person again.

  23. derb523622013

    What an absolutely brilliant piece of work here! You are a voice of reason among the ever-increasing voices of delusion among the various factions of the Christian communities.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  24. slamadams

    Fantastic read, especially the last paragraph. Its an interesting notion that Jesus could go from god to idol. It’s such a perfect way to describe modern Christian fundamentals.

  25. slamadams

    Its also really interesting to see what Christian fundamentals really seem to care about, the magic tricks not the lessons. So much so that someone who seems to (at least from your description) try to isolate his teachings from the myth (which may be the big turn off for nonbelievers) is attacked.

  26. worldwideepiphany

    Incredibly well written. This is the voice of what young people are crying out for. In simple terms, people question their faith and mortality every day…this is a different way of searching ones heart, it is based on experience and true adherence to the words of Jesus…

  27. ravensmarch

    This is the second article on the topic of that interview I’ve read without every having seen the interview, and I’ve enjoyed both immensely. The other took issue with the notion of Aslan being accused of wielding his authority offensively, when it’s his authority as a trained scholar that gives any foundation to his work (http://penbooksword.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/because/, for the curious). Yours takes an entirely different tack, but nails home its argument wonderfully and you’re a magnificent example of how one ought to approach their faith (whichever faith that might be).

    One thing I want to comment on apart from your own work: ‘Dickerson opined that the author of Zealot experiences a “conflict of interest” that is no doubt rooted in his adherence to a “religion that has been in violent opposition to Christ for 1,400 years.” Therefore, according to Dickerson, neither Aslan, nor his book, offer credible depictions of the historical Jesus.’ While I’m not a follower of any of the Abrahamic traditions, and the one I’ve had the most contact with is Christianity, I’m labouring under the notion that Islam conceives of Jesus as a prophet to be honoured. While I might be off on that (I frequently am in religious matters), that’s hardly “violent opposition”.

  28. bikerchick57

    “May we all find the courage and wisdom to never make ignorance the aim of religion, nor idolatry the replacement for faith.”

    I love this sentence, it says it all. Congrats on a wonderful post and on being freshly pressed.

  29. vnp1210

    Extremely well said! It amazes me how people claim to “know” Christianity through their literal interpretation of the Bible. True religious scholars, including priests, are taught to study (not read but study) the Bible. It was in Catholic school that I learned that the components of the Biible were written by different authors to different audiences for different purposes. So why is this so hard for everyone else to accept?

  30. jwolfe42

    Very nicely written. I shudder to think of the response to the book in question, Zealot, if the author were Jewish.

  31. madison1751

    Great article, and I like your little cartoon too. I have a couple of comments:
    First, Reza Aslan is bumping into a fairly large knowledge gap. As a religious historian, his knowledge of the subject exceeds that of most Christians bashing him. I believe this is why the interviewers refuse to discuss the points he makes in the book. They simply have no way of refuting the claims he makes.

    Reza is also a Muslim, a community that is poorly understood in the United States. They are the proverbial “other” meant to be feared and distrusted. Reza is very familiar with this fear. His family escaped to the United States during the Iranian Revolution when he was just seven. Eight years later, he and his mother converted to evangelical Christianity to escape the various problems caused by the fear of Muslims. After Reza graduated from high school however, he converted back to Islam before heading off to Harvard. His mother BTW, never left the Christian faith… and Oh, and I almost forgot… his wife is Christian too. While some Muslims seem happy to stay isolated in their community, Reza is certainly not one of those.

    Reza had his early life severely disrupted by religion, so it seems logical that he took to studying it. Accusing him of some underhanded plot to defame Jesus (especially when you haven’t read the book) is simply the manifestation of this fear and distrust. I’m not going to let Reza off the hook entirely though. He is far too smart to innocently write about Jesus in a book called “Zealot” without expecting a firestorm. He and his publisher knew exactly what they were doing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the true purpose of this book wasn’t simply exploiting that raw emotion. While I also have not read the book, it seems like it would be a watered-down version of what “The Jesus Project” did. Maybe “watered-down” is unfair… perhaps “sexier” is a better adjective. Either way, this is nothing new…

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  33. jwkuyser

    This: “Jesus was a revolutionary teacher, a man of prophetic vision, a political rabble-rouser and a devoutly religious Jew whose only real claim to divinity is found in the identity imposed upon him after his death.”

    I can’t see what is wrong with simply seeing Jesus as a good man who said good words.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion!

  34. abell2live

    Reblogged this on Abell2Live and commented:
    Interesting take on responses to Reza Aslan’s Book, entitled Zealot. Her final sentence is most striking: “When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol. May we all find the courage and wisdom to never make ignorance the aim of religion, nor idolatry the replacement for faith.” There remains a careful balance between what Crystal St. Marie Lewis proposes and correcting error. Christians have a commission to proclaim the message of Christ, when this is compromised by others, correction of the message must take place. However, we many time are distracted by side-bar conversations about who have the authority to write about Christianity. Seen in this was, Ms. Lewis has a point.

  35. Barb Willson

    I really find it pathetic when people declare their God all powerful in one sentence and in need of our puny human defense in the next.

  36. Nathan

    I like the comment you made about not having to protect Jesus. I am a devout christian of the LDS faith and from my standings, God does not need protection from us. He will be God no matter what we say or do. this was a good post. Thanks.

  37. perceptionvsrealityvictor


  38. camdenstables

    I think there is a certain arrogance and self righteousness that goes into explaining the life of Jesus in a way that aims at making it more palatable. Jesus and his disciples had the ability to clearly say what they meant and set straight the misunderstandings of their message, yet that did not prevent them dying at the hands of men. Why do we think our message should be afford us any easier road?

  39. Original Mahmood

    I just finished writing the draft of a blog speaking exactly about what you just did, but in islam as we face the exact same fundamentalism that rejects any idea that might be against its own and hoarding the masses to beleive in the mohammed and islam that only they see .

    and the media urges them on because it brings more viewers and reflects badly on religions that preach (not to be wasteful) in a world ruled by consumerism the media thrive in strengthening those extremist to weaken the religion it self.

    people of all faiths need to realize that being a fundementalist hurts the prophets or lords were trying to protect , hurts them to see all this hate and anger and suffering caused in their name.

    i thank you for this beautifully writtenand articulate article, and i wonder if i can use some of the ideas you put for my blog.
    have a pleasant evening

  40. joannevalentinesimson

    A few years ago, I listened to a set of tapes from the Teaching Company; I believe it was titled: The Historical Jesus. The lecturer came to the largely the same conclusion as Mr. Aslan, citing several scholarly resources – no doubt many of them in common. Where was the furor over that?

    1. Original Mahmood

      it challenges the authority and knowledge of those who beleived and preached for years, it shows that they lacked essential true knowledge and only focused on enriching them selfs. what we call in the quranic term,”they take pride in their sin” and ignorance !

  41. cabbagetroll

    Correct me if I am in error here, but are you suggesting that the Truth does not need defending? This is not at all in reference to Dr. Aslan’s book, by the way; I’m more interested in the claims you make near the end of the article.

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  43. kristen

    Thank you for an excellent article! It seems common sense is the thing that needs the most defending.

  44. mechabrizilla

    Nice Blog. What I found most interesting about this book was that no one actually talked to him about his sources at all. I’d have loved to hear more about that. As far as I can tell, the only sources on the life of Jesus are found in the Bible, the work of Josephus, and the Quran. I admit that I know next to nothing about the Quran, but the Bible and Josephus certainly don’t describe Jesus as a Zealot, which has a very specific historical meaning. Jesus didn’t advocate for the over throw of Roman authority. I do have to wonder where these historical views of the real Jesus come from. What are the other sources? I don’t think God needs our defense, but when someone comes up with such an incredibly different interpretation of the life of Jesus, I don’t think it’s wrong to wonder at the writers motivation… Though I think that should have been secondary to figuring out what sources he worked from.

  45. geekybooksnob

    “The only thing in need of protection is the collective ego belonging to this generation’s very fearful Christian fundamentalists—an ego which cannot bear the prospect of being wrong.” Wow, extremely profound. Thank you, your words resonated strongly with me.

  46. SR

    Reblogged this on Neybin's and commented:
    Great piece. I especially love where the author, Ms. Crystal St. Marie Lewis, wrote “Jesus doesn’t need to be protected from anything you or I can write—no matter how critical it is.”

  47. ehecno

    I saw excerpts of the fox interview and basically the host tried to tell the author, because you are Muslim; you are unfit to write about Jesus. There will be people saved out of all nations/faiths. Because GOD looks at the heart of man and not the external. Nice your post.

  48. dcomeaux

    Crystal, this is nice. The egos in our generation are running high. It’s all about “my” rights and how others infringe on those rights. The heart of the fight for human rights is their attack on religion. This will eventually bite us all in the behind because the world will not suffer in their denial of our God without Christians witnessing such suffering. I wish the world would wake up, but unfortunately it will get worse before it gets better. We must stay in prayer so we can get through the fall that’s about to hit us, in this generation or the next, or the next.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It was absolutely wonderful!

    God bless!!

  49. leilovely17

    People always have something to say, whether its for Jesus or against Jesus. I find it funny that people always want more evidence to prove that Jesus is who he said he is, when the very Bible gives so much and there is also secular evidence which proves that Jesus exists. However what people have a problem with is the issue of his divinity.But anyways, let not religion matter–only people are religious–that’s not what Jesus is about. Jesus is about relationship and love. He will love us forever no matter who we worship, what we did, what we choose to do, or whatever we choose to believe, or where we end in eternity. He will forever love us. We are hesitant to accept his love; because it requires us to love him in return and to love him requires unconditional belief(Faith) or the knowledge and acceptance that he is the true way to life. WILL you JUST love him? because, HE LOVES us!

  50. sassysweetbren

    Amen sister. Well written. My God protects, love, heals, is patient and I do not deserve Him yet, He still loves me. I love Him dearly and anything that can say He isn’t the Son of God doesn’t get the time of day from me. Thanks for writing this. You should win an award.

  51. Philosiful

    “When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol. ” GREAT

  52. chriswieseman

    When the discussion of Jesus’ diety is brought up, it is not that we as Christians are defending Jesus Himself. He needs no defense!!! After all He is diety!!! What your claonlyng is that we are defending Him, but your missing it. Its not Him we are defending, but it our faith in Him we are defending from those who want to try to tear down our beliefs. It is no different if I were to say allah was only a man not a God. So yes, if you attack my faith in what I know to be true of my Lord Savior Jesus Christ then I will defend it whole heartedly. Also by defending my faith I am not laying sole claim on Jesus. He is for anyone and everyone who excepts Him, and believe in Him. It seems to me that Dr. Aslan’s own faith needed to be validated because in his faith Jesus was only a grear teacher, and it took him 1000 books to try to do so. Well I only have one more thing to say. “It only took me 1 book to know who Jesus is.” The Book of Truth – His Word – the Bible


  53. Grace Terry

    When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol. May we all find the courage and wisdom to never make ignorance the aim of religion, nor idolatry the replacement for faith.

    To this I say a loud, “Amen,” except in these two statements you perpetuate the idolatry of referring to God with the masculine pronoun only , which is probably the most common and most pernicious idolatry of Christianity. Talk about rabid defensiveness! Try suggesting that the Higher Power often called God (a.k.a, Great Spirit, the Force, the Creator, the Infinite Divine, the Universe, etc. etc.) is both masculine AND feminine, BOTH and NEITHER. Try suggesting that God doesn’t necessarily look like that patriarchal image on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Try suggesting that IF God is metaphorically, the “Heavenly Father,” then God is also metaphorically, the Great/First Mother. Try suggesting that true believers could refer to the Divine in gender – inclusive language in order to be more reflective of the Whole Truth.
    THEN you will see some defensiveness, not to mention ugly, ugly misogyny, from both fundamentalists and otherwise “progressive” Christians. By the way, I have considered myself Christian until recently. Now I consider myself a “follower of Jesus called Christ,” who was decidedly feminist according to the gospel records we have. May the Great Mother bless all who participate in this conversation.

  54. PD McKeand

    Crystal, this is probably the best written article I have ever seen anywhere on the internet. You posit your observations succinctly and comprehensively. Your grammar and punctuation leave nothing to be desired. Your thoughts are complete and erudite. I cannot tell you how glad it makes me to see someone who writes an article, who ACTUALLY can write PROPERLY. There are so many people on the net that think they can write and then cannot even distinguish between there, their and they’re, some of them can’t even distinguish the three “too” words.

    I just had to tell you that my faith in the English language may not be complete any more, however you have definitely scored some points for the side of proper grammar and word usage.

    Thank you so very much.

    -PD McKeand

  55. Kagi

    Reblogged this on flamesword ~ watching in the shadows and commented:
    A great point about the fundamentalist ‘bunker mentality’, the habit of hunkering down defensively inside their insular group and labeling everything that is ‘other’ or ‘outsider’ as a threat, and intellectual pursuit doubly so. They want a bubble, a way to surround their subculture and insulate it entirely from ‘the world’, the outside, those that are different from them. I grew up in that bubble, and when I broke free of it, I felt like Rapunzel leaving her tower. I grew up so isolated from everything that did not agree exactly with my parents beliefs, that it was the same to me as if I had grown up in a tower, cut off from everything around me and unable to explore or learn or grow in spirit. That is what this mentality ultimately does, in fact wants to do, to it’s children. A stone prison with no key, no way out, no help and no hope. No life. This faith is barren.

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