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To Debunk a Mockingbird

December 12, 2012

Many people are trying to dispel the “Jesus myth” these days, not least Dan Brown (however badly written or ill-construed the series was). For one, the Council of Nicaea most definitely needed to be inspired by God, or else many basic tenants of the Christian faith come crashing down. There were many gnostic gospels, a revelation to Peter, and apocalyptic works that make little sense to us. Why did we decide to make the books we have as canon? It remains to be seen what would have come of things if we had put the Gospel of Thomas amidst Mark and Matthew and so on. The final authors behind the Gospels were not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as I have learned recently. Their accounts may very well be some kind of legend that was passed down from person to person until the vaunted Council.

Nevertheless, in the first century A.D., it is very obvious that something happened. Whatever it was, Paul wrote beautiful works of sophist prose to the various churches in Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, and so on. The other letters by the supposed apostles wrote in similar polished language, and they testified to the legendary figure of Christ many times, and to their own suffering. Whether their deaths were real historical occurrences or not (Peter may not have been crucified upside down), they were striving for something – hoping for something – praising and lauding someone, whose name was Yeshuah, or Jesus. Yes, there were multiple different resurrection myths floating around, such as the one involving Horus in Egypt and so forth, but why not? How else would the magi know about Christ’s birth (if they were historical people) if there weren’t legends floating around? Just like the multiple resurrection stories – there are multiple flood narratives, and multiple Cain and Abel narratives – pointing to the idea that there is some kind of truth behind them. “Now we live by faith,” to paraphrase Paul, “but someday we will live by sight.”

That said,  it is the naked fact that this is a legend that makes it so remarkable, and it is not by the reason that something happened alone that we believe it. I believe God wants us to follow him and to live a life of faith with or without the Bible – for the belief of a little child is much more precious than one of an adult, learned scholar, according to Jesus. Jesus loves little children, as the hymn goes, and in turn, whether it makes sense or not to our rational minds, children love Jesus.  Although Jesus’ existence is tantamount to that of King Arthur or what have you, the fact that it remains in our minds today either points to the supreme idiocy of the human race or that there is some undergirding truth to the whole story. Neither is important. Children do not love Arthur as they love Jesus – yes, some do love the story and relate to a child-king removing a sword from a stone – but they do not love Arthur as a friend, savior, and comforter.

Yes, one can point to the fact that Christian parents encourage this trait, and it may be argued that it is only something children are coerced into doing without any desire beforehand, and that is probably an easy assessment to make. But in so doing, you are only debunking a mockingbird. The fact that Jesus is there, that he is always calling, that his song touches our hearts even still, remains. His faith, if there was a Jesus, as I do believe there was, was the faith of a mustard seed. It didn’t matter that he was legend. No other legend has been more important to the development and growth of so much of the human race than this one. It takes a lot of skill to never have written anything down, never tell anyone to talk about you, only travel less than fifty miles, never get rich, only have twelve close friends, die an unimportant death, and set the foundation for western growth and thought as a whole. No one else has done the above things and become legend – all the other legends of the ancient world were fighters, heroes, murderers, war-mongerers, and successful rich people. No one else has left as much of an imprint on the world – for simply doing and saying the right things and that alone.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” writes Gerard Manly Hopkins. To say God does not exist is to say that your body is not yours. To say Jesus never lived is like saying that tomorrow will never come. Does this necessitate becoming bigots and abusers, as many Christians have become? Does it vindicate the rampant capitalization of modern American evangelicalism, the ‘fast-food’ churches? No, and no. They are mockingbirds who have forgotten the tune of the first one to sing. But the first song remains, and it “frustrates the wise” and is revealed to “little children.” As Christmas and Advent come along, I hope that you celebrate it (if you celebrate it) like you did as a little child. That is the only state of mind, I believe, that God would want any of us to be in.


From → Philosophy, Religion

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