The real Jesus

Can’t say I agree with everything Andrew Sullivan writes here (especially trying to pretend that Democrats and Republicans are equal-opportunity offenders in politicizing Christianity), but I really like the basic message: look not to what today’s churches teach, but what Jesus (and St. Francis, for that matter) taught.

 “I am a real Christian,” Jefferson insisted against the fundamentalists and clerics of his time. “That is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

What were those doctrines? Not the supernatural claims that, fused with politics and power, gave successive generations wars, inquisitions, pogroms, reformations, and counterreformations. Jesus’ doctrines were the practical commandments, the truly radical ideas that immediately leap out in the simple stories he told and which he exemplified in everything he did. Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching.

Now that is an inspiring message.  Hating gays and obsessing on others’ sins, not so much.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

11 Responses to The real Jesus

  1. Robert says:


    You and Sullivan don’t seem fully aware of Christian theology. If Jesus is God, as the theology says, then Jesus taught that homosexuality is an abomination (Lev. 18:22). Jesus was so obsessed with “sin”, that he punishes children for the “sins” of their fathers “unto the third and fourth generation” (Deut. 5:9). What’s more, the threat of violence is inherent in Jesus’s doctrine of eternal torture.

  2. Steve Greene says:

    No. I’m confident both Sullivan and I are quite aware of Christian theology.

  3. Steve Greene says:

    p.s. Do you really want to go down the road of suggesting that theology should be based on the proscriptions from Leviticus? That’s not a world many Christians would actually accept.

  4. Robert says:

    I’d be happy to go down that road. 2 Tim. 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”

    So, did Jesus not say that homosexuality is an abomination? (You can find similar verses besides in Leviticus).

    Christian’s don’t accept such theology because they’re either unaware or ignore their own scriptures.

    • Steve Greene says:

      I chose this one at pretty much random on a google of “things Leviticus bans” (only half a million hits or so) Tattoos, pork, even touching pigskin (i.e., football), blended fabrics. Why does God hate my shirts?!

      • Robert says:

        Yes, why is Jesus obsessed with blended fabrics and pigs? And why did Jesus ensure Leviticus was included among his canon of “inspired” scripture?

        Ok, ok, Leviticus was just an aberration. I mean, it’s the only place hating gays and obsessesing over others’ sins is mentioned, right?

        (1 Cor. 6:9-10): “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

        (Rom. 1:26-28): “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

        Eh..perhaps, not so much.

      • Steve Greene says:

        Give me something other than Leviticus or Paul on these matters. Like, oh, I don’t know, something Jesus actually said (which was Sullivan’s and my point).

  5. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    On the topic of ancient Middle Eastern mythology, how does Zoroastrianism or the Hittite religions view homosexuality and pork? And how does, or should, this affect the structure of politics and society 20 centuries later?

  6. Robert says:

    Give me something other than Leviticus or Paul on these matters. Like, oh, I don’t know, something Jesus actually said (which was Sullivan’s and my point).

    I suppose I haven’t been clear, though I’ve made every attempt to be. If you think Jesus is God, as Christians theology asserts, then without question Jesus said homosexuality is an abomination. Do you disagree with any of that?

    What’s more, the Bible states that it is all inspired by Jesus and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”. Do you disagree with any of that?

    • Steve Greene says:

      I see the bible as a combination of what Jesus said, what God said, and what humans said. I think in some cases it’s pretty clear which parts humans are responsible for.

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