Monday, December 28, 2009

With Christmas just barely past, I have for you an Outrageous News story all about Jesus. To be more accurate, this is a story about people who purport to know the truth about Jesus, specifically, the truth about his financial holdings. You can read the full story here.

So, the traditional view of Jesus has always been of a humble man serving others without the trappings of wealth and often without the convenience of a home. Indeed, his birth in a stable full of animals seems to set the stage for a lifetime of poverty. This view has been largely unchallenged until recently.

Enter the preachers of the "prosperity gospel" who believe that not only was Christ NOT poor, he was actually quite wealthy. This, of course, has theologians in the poverty corner annoyed.

I'll say right now that I'm not taking a side in this debate, mainly because I wasn't there, and because I plan to continue worshipping whether Christ walked around in rags and bare feet or flashed his Rolex everywhere he went. I do have to take issue with a few of the arguments presented by the proponents of a wealthy Jesus, mainly because they're silly.

One scholar on the side of a prosperous Jesus points out that Mary and Joseph had to be wealthy because they traveled to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey (the Cadillac of its time, so says this guy). Poor people would have eaten the donkey (not so true of a Cadillac). I'm actually not entirely sure the donkey in question is even doctrinal. A quick search of my online version of the New Testament produced the following: "There were no occurrences of the word DONKEY found in the Text of the Scriptures." Hmmmmm...maybe I should search under Cadillac. (For those sticklers out there, I also searched using the word "ass" and found no reference to the presence of one during the trip to Bethlehem.)

Another of the wealth believers argued that Jesus had to be rich because he had many followers, and nobody would follow a poor person. A more traditional scholar is quick to counter that with examples like Martin Luther King, Jr., Buddha, and Ghandi. I submit myself. While not a religious figure, I do have 42 followers and 91 Facebook fans at this writing, and I'm not exactly raking in the dough here.

Finally, there is the argument that because soldiers at the crucifixion gambled over Jesus's clothing, the clothing must have been very expensive, ergo, rich Jesus. The person putting forth this argument states that he doesn't know anyone, not even Pamela Anderson, whose clothes would be gambled over like that. Considering the fact that celebrity belongings frequently fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in auctions, I don't think this person understands how to make his own case. Also, I think the gambling had less to do with the quality of the clothing and more to do with the fact that there was one set of clothes and more than one soldier who wanted it. Casting lots is to Jesus's time as rock/paper/scissors is to ours.

Of course, even trying to refute arguments I think are nonsensical has made it appear as if I'm firmly in the "Jesus was poor" camp. I'm not. I'm in the "Jesus is personal" club and figure I'll have all the answers to my questions after I die. In the meantime, angry theologians can have their debate.

I'll be busy looking for a Cadillac to eat.