Jesus Christ - the man, the message
Are You Worried About Dan Brown Or Have You Got More
Which is the greatest insult - proposing that Christ may have been a married man who
fathered a child or betraying his teaching every day? The protests surrounding the
controversial best selling novel, The Da Vinci Code and the subsequent movie adaptation,
center on Dan Brown's depiction of a humanized Christ. This greatly offends some people
including members of the clergy. It would appear that some of the clergy are more
vociferous about the book than they are about war and famine. This strikes me as bizarre.
Nevertheless, some Christians are defensive and confused.
Christ's teachings of non-violence are ignored on a daily basis, on an individual
level and by the state. Certainly, the church has criticized the war in Iraq but there
is no real concerted effort to change anything and if you want to change things; you
have to change people's minds. Suggesting that Christ had a sex life or was in love
will not get anyone killed. Sending young guys to Iraq does.
We live with labels and sometimes the labels become meaningless. What is a Christian
anyway? As a citizen of the West, I believe I live in a predominately Christian culture
but one devoid of Christian values. I can't fathom how anyone who doesn't believe
in Christ's basic teaching of non-violence can be a Christian. How many of you think
that you're a Christian now? If you think that war is sometimes morally justified,
fair enough, but surely you lose the right to call yourself a Christian. Keep the
Old Testament on your bedside cabinet but you may as well throw your copy of the New
One of the themes running through The Da Vinci Code is interpretation. How do you
interpret the New Testament, or religious art, or a prophet's life? How easily we
interpret things to suit our self-interest. Religious zealots from many branches of
religion willfully misinterpret scripture to justify evil deeds. 'Christians' look
to the Old Testament to defend the ethos of an eye for an eye. The Bible is not a
coherent work. It is fire and brimstone, wrath, love, and compassion. It's a mass
of contradictions, a pick and mix of philosophies.
So, let us look at the theory that Brown poses. Did Christ have a sexual relationship
with Mary Magdalene? It's fascinating but does it matter? I think the fact that most
people reject Christ's message is the thing that matters. It's not enough to have
faith. Faith without responsibility is like living in a vacuum. We all have a responsibility
to each other. This man Christ, whether he was straight, gay, single, married, a prophet,
or a magician, had something important to say. If the new religion is consumerism,
then let us admit it. If we reject Christ's message, why not just admit it.
The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining thriller. It is not a revolution. It is not dangerous.
Is it blasphemy? One person's blasphemy is another person's reasonable statement.
I respect Christ as a man but, as an atheist, I don't believe him to be divine. You
don't need to believe in God to have a moral framework. You don't even need to believe
that Christ existed to accept his philosophy. I believe in his message. Does that
make me more of a Christian than you? We cannot rely on heroes or saviors. We must
rely on ourselves. That means not being imprisoned by labels. The human race has always
needed something bigger than itself to explain our very existence. How did we come
into being and why? So, we turn to religion or to science or technology, or to cults
or drugs, anything we think will give meaning to where we came from and where we are
heading. The majority of people in the UK, according to regular surveys, say they
believe in God. Most of them don't go to church, except for weddings, christenings,
and funerals but they have a belief. Is this attachment a mere conditioning by society
or does it represent a genuine need?
Religious leaders of the past, (and some in the present), feared Darwin's theory of
evolution but it did not destroy religion. It is entirely possible to value science
and have a faith if you don't insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible. Dan
Brown's earlier book, Angels and Demons, attempted to reconcile science and religion,
theorizing that the Big Bang actually supports Genesis by proposing that life on Earth
was created in one supreme moment. Technology can save us and damn us. It saves us
from disease and it threatens us with being vaporized in seconds. We still live under
the shadow of bombs, a Cold War fear now replaced by the fear of terrorism and nuclear
weapon proliferation by "unstable countries". It's inevitable that our thoughts turn
to what awaits us on the other side. I like to make a distinction between cleverness
and intelligence. Humankind is clever but not intelligent. We are clever enough to
invent the atom bomb and not intelligent enough to stop ourselves from inventing it.
So, what is the ultimate blasphemy? Is it The Da Vinci Code or the atom bomb? We know
what evil is. We have no excuses. Does the means justify the end? But there is never
an end. There has been no 'war to end all wars'. Are you still worried about Dan Brown
saying Christ was married and fathered a child? I suggest you grow up. I suggest you
look around the world and the mess we are making of it. We have war, pollution, climate
change, greed, famine, and the breakdown of families. Where did all that come from?
It didn't come from a challenge to conventional religious beliefs.
Perhaps Christ did lead the life of an ordinary man, despite possessing extraordinary
gifts. Still anxious about it? The direction of the world has been decided by a handful
of men and endorsed by the rest of us, the apathetic billions who allow things to
happen. We participate when ordered or do nothing. The Earth contains amazingly powerful
energy and we learned how to harness that energy, like children playing with dangerous
toys. Angels and Demons speaks of our spiritual growth not keeping up with our scientific
achievements. It was always a losing battle. Scientists leave ethical decisions to
politicians. They allow politicians to be gods with the power to decide life or death.
They, and us, have relinquished all moral responsibility.
Every government looks at other governments like a set of dominos. They don't want
to act independently and be toppled. 'They have weapons so we must have weapons'.
No one will act unilaterally. Christ acted unilaterally and was crucified. If all
the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus,and atheists etc., took up the message of peace
advocated by the prophets, there would be an overwhelming force of billions. That
is power. That is influence. The true following of scripture would stop war tomorrow
and atheists have known this for such a long time. One pacifist creed leads to another.
That's domino toppling; the minority power brokers brought down by the great majority.
The power really does lie with us, not our leaders. Will the meek inherit the Earth?
No. Those prepared to get off their butts will inherit the Earth.
Religion has always been divisive. It unites people in their hatred of other religions.
Patriotism unites people in their hatred of other countries. It doesn't have to be
this way. Take the positive from religion and patriotism, ditch the negative, and
you have a new consciousness. If we can't grow up, what use is any of it? Is salvation
in religion or science or neither of them? We are obsessed by labels that make us
different. Still worried whether Christ lived as an ordinary man? The Romans thought
they could keep the masses happy with bread and circuses. We basically think the same.
Shopping and entertainment will keep us in our places. Forget spiritual enlightenment
or political engagement; we could win a plasma TV.
We face so much. We have to figure out how to feed the whole world. We have to stop
the rise of mental illness. Are you still worried about Jesus? The spirit of Christ
does walk amongst us. He is on every stop the war banner, he was on the Rainbow Warrior,
he was in Gandhi and he was in Martin Luther King. He was in the young Chinese protestor
who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. It is a spirit that moves people
to do extraordinary things. Christ existed or he did not exist. God exists or he/she
does not exist. Either way, the power is with us, the multitude. There are many problems
to overcome and none of us can pass the buck. So, we've all got a lot to do. We could
be extraordinary. Anyone still worried about Jesus?