And it all Started with and Episode of South Park: On Vegetables and the Historical Jesus

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Well the two topics aren’t reaaaly all that related, but wait, they are.

So I had a talk with my host mom yesterday.  She blatantly asked me at Iftar if I was on a diet (I only drank the soup, mainly because I had pre-gamed with some green beans and pancakes on my own). Anyway, I used her question as a launch pad for my request.  “Can we have vegetables at iftar?  I mean salad, cooked veggies, any kind of veggies.”  She replied, oh ok, I didn’t know you guys like that kind of thing…. (um yeah, we’d much rather prefer five different types of bread for dinner every night for 30 days…. sigh).

Today I got just wanted I wanted! Salad and a side of some vegetable dip stuff! (although I fear that they now think we don’t want any carbs at all! ha, ha…)  I thanked her, and she replied that it was not Moroccan custom to have veggies at iftar only at dinner or lunch…. um, ok.  But Seeing as how we don’t have (lunch or dinner), why would you make the one meal of the day so nutrient free? (is it because she and her blood family post-games it at restaurants and other people’s houses while my room mate and I are left to commiserate at home?)…. to each his own.

The point is, this situation, if I take my host mom at her word, that the thought never occurred to her that we would want vegetables, is an interesting one.  It reminds of a larger discussion I put myself in the middle of, without really thinking about it yesterday about the historicity of Jesus.

I have a classmate who’s agnostic, which to me is fine, actually the majority of my classmates and colleagues throughout my educational experience have probably been agnostic. I had been laughing at what apparently is an iconic SouthPark episode, the Mormon Episode (this might have been the second, complete South Park episode I’ve ever watched, the first one was the Facebook episode a few years back).

It was pretty funny, and yet it in the end, it still kind of defended Mormons after ridiculing them for much of the show.  At any rate, I mentioned that yes, my mother could not wrap her immigrant mind around Mormon doctrine, I remember her saying something very similar to what one of the South Park characters said “Jesus came to America?”… and that was the end of her Mormon experience.

And here the situation got hotter, my comment was not to make fun of Mormons, but to say that that the reactions of the characters wasn’t that far-fetched.  But at any rate, it led to a discussion on whether or not Jesus actually existed.

I prefaced the heart of my post with all of this, to be honest I’m not completely sure why…. ha, ha….. My stance is that we can argue about the miracles and the supernatural aspects of the accounts of his life, but regardless of how you feel about that, it’s pretty much accepted as fact that he existed.

This person is of the persuasion of those who sides with a minority of scholars who question his historicity.  Which is also fine.  But, as the person spoke, and I tried to understand their point (which to me at times felt like general railing against organized religion—- the logic was something to the effect of, it’s a proven “fact” that the “mythical creature” (because he lived several hundred years, according to the Bible, ha, ha… that point made me laugh anyway) Noah in the Bible is a lie (apparently there is some ancient King who built a boat in ancient Iraq and some people say that it’s his story that got built up into the Noah story, this was the first time I’d ever heard of such a person, but I would very much like to know more… well it’s on my to-do list) the same thing can be said of Jesus.

This person was making Jumps in logic, and I was not willing to commit to those kinds of acrobatics.  Two different situations and time periods and circumstances, and even if they were similar enough to draw such a parralel, correlation does not equal causation…. The Noah story is false, ergo,Jesus never existed?  It was computing.

I pointed out the Josephus the historian as oft-cited as proof that Jesus existed, to which the reply was that one source is not proof enough of anything.  I wouldn’t write a paper with only one source so why should a faith depend on that…. Good point.  At this point I had to concede my ignorance and say that I think there are more, but I don’t personally know them.

What has probably stuck with more is what the person said next, or in the course of the conversation thereafter. They said that Jesus, could have been an amalgam of what was originally three distinct individuals that lived around that time.  Later on people puffed them up to give us the Jesus figure that we know in modern times.

I still held that the development of the early Church wouldn’t have taken the form that it did, had Jesus not been an actual person… and said that that idea reminded me of  professor who claimed that the Prophet Mohammed never existed.  Perhaps I did not articulate the point well, but what I was thinking about was the time between the writing of the first Gospels and Jesus death/resurrection/disappearance/whatever you want to call it.  Yes, I guess I am that behind the times that I had never heard of such a thing. But,

It seems to me that you would need more than a generation and half to make up something so spectacular, the Noah story, if made up, in my mind is an amalgam of a process that spanned generations, but we have early church writings touting Jesus as a individual, and at least some intra-church, non-Christian writings referring to Christians more or less as  “followers of some man named Jesus they thought was God”…. that actually existed pretty early… At any rate, I said you can’t prove that he didn’t exist, even if people can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he did

But this was  a strange retort, a weak one,… incomplete in my eyes.

later that evening I did what any curious person in the modern age would do, I googled that mess!

and learned quite a bit in the process.  The historical citations I found don’t seem all that convincing, although there are at least a few that refer to Christians as follower of a particular man/historical figure.

But my women in Christianity class id not fail me, people disavowing Jesus’s complete existence is a minority opinion among Biblical scholars.  What struck me the most was that I found a website that said pretty much what my classmate had said, the theory about three men being merged into one to become Jesus Christ.

It was then that the thought hit me…. to me this person is doing the same thing that they are accusing believers of doing.  It’s not just a coincidence that the three men in one theory had somehow become part of this person’s psyche, an important example for their argument.  It’s probable that they came across that sight, read the information, and said yeah!  see I knew it was all made up. I wonder how much scrutiny this person applied to this site, how much background information they dug up before appropriating these ideas as their own.

This to me at least, makes other parts of the conversation makes more sense… Maybe my atheist/agnostic comrades will disagree,  but it seems to me, that in the case of faith, whether you have one or you don’t, it’s a question of looking at the information available to you, and picking what speaks to you most.  That’s the moral of this situation.

Our personal experiences and preferences affect us a lot more than we care to imagine or accept.

and then it hit me, that’s how we communicate about everything.  That’s why my host mom, a Moroccan woman who is used to eating only bread and finger foods at iftar, never thought to make me a salad.  I have a deeply rooted distrust for the host family system, so it’s hard for me to see this omission as anything but deliberate abuse of the system (albeit although my misgivings are not without reason, I tend to not give people the benefit of the doubt in these situations).

Jesus never ever existing (once again, the miracles and such are a separate issue) Doesn’t make sense to me.  Jesus existing doesn’t make much sense to my classmate.

I sent this to a dear friend of mine of Facebook,

Somehow I fear that I a little of this, this week, but I can’t shake the idea that my comrade did that too.  And there I have it, yet another reason why I don’t like getting into religious argument/discussions… sigh.

I guess this means I had an epiphany of sorts, now what?

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