Who knew Jesus would be featured on 31 Days of Deities? Oh I did! And I love adding Him to the list because so many new pagans are still honoring Jesus as a part of their pantheon. And who better to discuss Jesus than Heather.
I have to be honest with you. When I first volunteered to write about Jesus for the 30 Days of Deity, it came from a not-so-holy place. I was angry about the Circle of Moms fiasco: angry at Christians who didn’t seem to understand what the heck their god was saying and angry at Pagans who were flippant in their dismissal of Christianity. The whole thing irritated me, and when Angela put out the call, I was all like, “Shootchyeah, I’m gonna TEACH some people.”
And then I sat down and actually started writing the thing…and it all got a little complex. What, exactly, should I be writing about this particular deity? What would be of most use or interest to my fellow Paganistas? Should I be cut-and-dry historically accurate? Mythologically centered? Should I describe the believers or the Belief. In the end, it’s a little bit of both.
First, the basics (and I mean really, really basic basics): Christians believe that Jesus was born to a virgin (in most traditions) who was impregnated by Jahweh (the Jewish god) himself. He grew up and was crucified by the Romans as a political enemy. His death meant that anyone who believed in him gained access to eternal life: his death and subsequent return to earth were meant to be an example of Jahweh’s great love and forgiveness for the human race. (AGAIN: this is BASIC info. Not all Christians believe Mary was a virgin, or that she was impregnated by God, or that the crucifixion IS an example of God’s love so much as it is an example of God’s unearthly will. For my purposes, I’m gonna blow off the ENTIRETY of Christian spiritual struggles. 2000 plus years of debate and female subjugation goes bye bye, y’all! Wheee!)
Muslims (and various other sects and religious groups) believe that Jesus was an important prophet who readied the world for God to come and gather up believers.
Most Jews today believe that Jesus was NOT the Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament in that many, many of the prophesies therein were not fulfilled: the Jews were not brought together, there was no peace, the Temple was not rebuilt, and the list goes on. Many Jews point to a passage in Daniel that talks about a disruptive false Messiah who would royally ding things up. They assume that Jesus was the Royal Dinger Upper and still wait for the real Messiah.
Having butchered the basics, let’s move on, shall we?
Jesus was way cool.
People can talk all day long with plenty of fodder for the tongue about the egregious acts done in Jesus’ name. War, bigotry, divisiveness, greed, corruption…pretty much the most ugly acts humans can think of have been done by Christians marching under the shadow of the cross. People can be derisive about a Christian’s belief in a Messiah born on December 25th, citing Mithras and the Solstice. They can be derisive about Easter, citing Horus and hibernation. But these things are not about the god behind the religion: they are about the people doing the worshipping—or those who lead the worship.
One thing that has long frustrated me about Paganism is the lack of written word to guide me. I can read books written in the last century about earth-based beliefs, but Gaia never wrote anything herself—at least nothing I can read without struggling to understand the language. What Jesus said (if one is to believe the Bible actually catalogs Jesus’ words) was pretty simple. When asked, he said that the two most important commandments in the Jewish faith were to love God and to love your neighbor (Mark 12: 28-34.) Jesus felt that the poor, the sick, the people in jail should be cared for. In fact, he went so far as to say that those who did NOT take care of the poor, sick, and incarcerated would suffer eternal punishment. (Matthew 25: 34-46.) He told his followers again and again not to try to judge others or guess Jahweh’s plan, but to simply follow God’s law and take care of their fellow human beings. How awesome would it be if ALL of us could just act like that? See? Way cool, right?
Of course, before we get all invested in the idea that Jesus was a big ol’ hippy who only wanted peace and love, we have to face the cold, hard truth that the Biblical Jesus was also aware that his words and deeds would be divisive. In fact, he WANTED that division, if pretty much all of Luke 12 is to be believed. It was important for Jesus’ followers to actually FOLLOW his words, and that would mean that they would have to separate from worldly influences, which would cause rifts in relationships.
It occurs to me, at the end of this post, that I am no more sure of what to write than when I started. What I WANT to say is something about how Jesus spoke words about living true and being a good person and that if people who say they follow him fail to live true or be good people, that isn’t his fault. What I WANT to say is that if somebody was looking for a person to emulate, they could do a lot worse than the son of a carpenter who was so focused on what he felt the truth was that he held to it even when it killed him. What I WANT to say is that if you want to be angry at something when politicians and bloggers and entertainers start spouting off about Christianity without having any grasp of the Christ, be angry at Paul or Timothy or even James, but don’t pin it on the Christ himself, because it isn’t his fault. I’m just not sure I can say those things clearly, though, so perhaps I’ll just let Carl Sandburg do it for me. Mkay?
TO A CONTEMPORARY BUNKSHOOTER
You come along. . . tearing your shirt. . . yelling about
Where do you get that stuff?
What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few
bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem
everybody liked to have this Jesus around because
he never made any fake passes and everything
he said went and he helped the sick and gave the
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist
and calling us all damn fools so fierce the froth slobbers
over your lips. . . always blabbing we’re all
going to hell straight off and you know all about it.
I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t
throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I
know how much you know about Jesus.
He never came near clean people or dirty people but
they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your
crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers
hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out
of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into
the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined
up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men
now lined up with you paying your way.
This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened
good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful
from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands
wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human
blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching
about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who
lived a clean life in Galilee.
When are you going to quit making the carpenters build
emergency hospitals for women and girls driven
crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about
Jesus–I put it to you again: Where do you get that
stuff; what do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash
a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance.
Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your
nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way you scare the
women and kids I’d feel sorry for you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when
he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that’s got nerve and can pull off a great
original performance, but you–you’re only a bug-
house peddler of second-hand gospel–you’re only
shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this
Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it
up all right with them by giving them mansions in
the skies after they’re dead and the worms have
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need
is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without
having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of
age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross
and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more money
on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be out of a job,
Jesus’ll fix that up all right, all right–all they gotta
do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re
handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers
and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and
murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus
wouldn’t play their game. He didn’t sit in with
the big thieves.
I don’t want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won’t take my religion from any man who never works
except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory
except the face of the woman on the American
I ask you to come through and show me where you’re
pouring out the blood of your life.
I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha,
where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is
straight it was real blood ran from His hands and
the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red
drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed
in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth