Amoeba’s Lorica: Meme-ories 7 (Jesus, The … um …)

digjesusYour Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba found this meme specimen on his Facebook feed. He picked this one up out of the torrent because … well … it triggered his ‘red ink’ mode. Decades of grading and correcting student papers and professional manuscripts and … and … haiii-YAH!!!

[Sits down. Crosses legs. Closes eyes. Breathes deeply. Ommmmmmm …]

1: Jesus was a Palestinian. Jesus of Nazareth was arguably the most famous and influential Judean (Jew) of all time. His nation, Judah, came into being somewhere around 1000 BCE. Biblical accounts – which are all that Jesus would have had, or cared about – identified Judah as the ‘loyal’ (to Yahweh) remnant of the Greater Israel of David and Solomon.

The name ‘Palestine’ was derived from a name for the ‘Sea Peoples’ of Gaza and surrounding regions, also known as Philistia (the “Philistines”) – a group vastly different, in its culture and ethnicity, from both the Hebrews from whom Greater Israel evolved and the Caananites who were actually living in the Holy Land when the Hebrews arrived and shoved them aside. Alas, no ‘cowboys and Indians’ movies survive from this time period, despite the cinematic possibilities of Joshua as the Hebrew cavalry commander.

Greek historians first used the term ‘Palestine’ as a description for the entire Middle East region during the 5th century BCE – during which era, Judah was a conquered province of the Neobabylonian Empire, an event that colored practically every word in the Hebrew scriptures (Biblical ‘Old Testament’). Jesus of Nazareth, a notoriously sharp-tongued ‘Prince of Peace’, would doubtless have had choice words for anyone who labeled himself or his fellow Judeans ‘Palestinians’. Indeed, the Romans knew better than to designate the region of Judah ‘Syria Palestina’ until after the last flames of Jewish nationalism had been snuffed out in 132 CE.

2: Jesus was an anarchist. Jesus of Nazareth preached submission to the absolute rule of the god Yahweh. All of his actions, it may be argued, including his healings and messages of forgiveness, were intended to unify the Judeans under the rule of Yahweh, properly interpreted by (of course) himself, and prepare that unified people to assume the responsibilities of their ascendancy. His sometimes-contemptuous interactions with foreigners, including the Syro-Phoenician woman, the Samaritan on the road, and the Roman centurion, served primarily to demonstrate just how far short the ‘chosen people’ were of the religious discipline needed to justify their current circumstances, never mind their hoped-for exalted status. “Listen up, turkeys, these asswipes are doing better than you are! What are you going to do about this? I’m not pointing at them, I’m pointing at you!” All of this, YFNA argues, is the antithesis of anarchy.

3: Jesus led protests at oppressive temples. The Gospel accounts record only one such protest. Moreover, there was only one temple, in Jerusalem, and, during Jesus’s time, ‘official’ worship was to take place at this temple and nowhere else (Gospel mentions of ‘their synagogues’ are thought to reflect the situation of Jews and nascent Christians after the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 CE).

4: Jesus advocated for universal health care. The four canonical Gospels record 31 individual healings attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, three of which were resurrections from the dead (not counting his own). In nearly all of these cases (the healing of the servant’s ear at Jesus’s arrest is an exception), a declaration of faith, by the ailing person or that person’s representatives, was required. Jesus also remonstrated against the mean treatment of poorer by richer Judeans, echoing, and often quoting directly, similar remonstrances from the Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah – on behalf of those poor who had also made demonstrations of faith. It is hard for YFNA to extrapolate from this evidence that Jesus of Nazareth would support universal health care as conceived in the present day – which requires neither faith in, nor allegiance to, the nation or its god(s) (so long as taxes are paid). In a system consistent with Jesus’s message, access to health care would first require a confession of faith … which would only result in a universal system through outrageous good fortune – or coercion.

5: Jesus advocated for redistribution of wealth. The same Jesus of Nazareth who celebrated the largesse of Zacchaeus the tax collector also admonished his inner circle that “the poor will always be with you”. Wealth redistribution such as that practiced by Zacchaeus is always voluntary in the Gospels, and such accounts, again, were intended to support the main mission of unifying the Judeans under Jesus’s interpretation of Yahweh. Jesus criticized the unrepentent miser, often sharply, but there is no record of actions taken, unless you happened to be a turtledove vendor at the temple on the day Jesus went off there. It was left to the disciples to initiate enforcement of wealth distribution, in a scene where Peter is portrayed by Marlon Brando, and all the other disciples kiss his ring, or else. Even in this instance, however, enforcement occurs only among those who had previously volunteered to join the collective. There is nothing that YFNA can detect to suggest that Jesus or his movement would have wished any part in the confiscatory wealth-redistribution programs practiced by various governments and other agencies in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

6: Jesus was arrested for terrorism. Neither Jesus of Nazareth nor his followers engaged in terrorist acts. Unless you count cursed fig trees, or razor-wire verbal assaults on one’s own disciples, as acts of terrorism. (The man who said ‘let the children come to me’ wouldn’t last a week in a modern public elementary school.) Even during that temple protest, no one is reported to have died or been injured. That guy with the shoe bomb did more damage as a terrorist than Jesus or his followers ever dreamed of doing. (For someone under similar circumstances who did resort to terrorism, try this guy, and see 1 Maccabees 2: 46.)

What Jesus got nailed for was sedition, an attempt to overthrow the Judean government. A government of corrupt nobles who were trading off the last shreds of Hasmonean legitimacy and a whole lot of clout from their Roman sponsors and overlords. Whose games of ‘divide and conquer the Judean people’ through, among other things, pitting one class against another, and saddling them all with religious guilt, Jesus was attempting to overcome. Resulting in the most spectacular failed political revolution of all time.

7: Jesus the ‘conservative’. The writers of the meme did claim that they would wait for this …

It is commonplace, YFNA observes, for interpreters of a ‘liberal’ Jesus to see sympathy for their views in his messages of cultural tolerance and social / religious forgiveness. Moreover, he reckons, the living Jesus would almost certainly direct his prophetic vituperation at the authority figures of the modern conservative movement, just as he is credited with such vituperation against especially the religious authority figures of his own nation and time.

However, the overarching theme of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, as YFNA is given to understand it, is and remains the submission of the ‘chosen people’ to the absolute rule of Yahweh, the Judean divine monarch, and those who (ahem) represent this Divine on Earth. No way can YFNA construe this as a ‘liberal’ objective, no way can he remake a Jesus with this goal into some sort of preincarnation of Bernie Sanders. What Jesus offered, and his movement continues to offer, is not a worker’s paradise but a Great Amnesty, an opportunity for the community centered on Yahweh to grow and gain strength by attacking and breaking down internal barriers and refocusing the community on its common identity and goals. A community that remains focused on the decidedly un-liberal premise of autocratic, non-negotiable Divine rule.

Which pretty much describes the goals of most religious communities, not least those Christian churches that haven’t become so rabidly narrow-minded, Westboro folks, that they have utterly succumbed to Christianity’s Dark Side – which build up the very barriers that Jesus of Nazareth was trying to break down. Christian churches that prosper best in red states.

Were Jesus of Nazareth to return to Earth tomorrow in his human guise (as opposed to the apocalyptic one promised in Revelations), he would, YFNA believes, argue constantly with the Koch brothers.

But he would vote conservative.

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