If Generation Next is supposed to question everything and trust no one, where does faith fit in?
Consumers demand that their food be pesticide—free, their cosmetics and shampoo be paraben-free, and that everything possiblefrom clothes to toilet paper—be made without additives or chemicals. But there's nothing that has more additives to the original product than Christianity. How do we get back to the 100% organic version of Jesus?
In his personal search for the organic Jesus, Scott Douglas goes on a funny, thought—provoking romp through the foundations of belief. Christianity, he says, has become a simulacruma bloated, overprocessed image that lacks the true substance of the real thing. His search for the original took him far and wide through historical Christ figures, urban legends, odd facts about the faith, freakishly flawed Christians, and the Internet. Using relatable, contemporary anecdotes, and unlikely wisdom concealed within humor, Douglas reveals a way back to the authentic essence of following Christ.
By including "wiki" breaks, social media callouts, quizzes, charts, and more, #OrganicJesus is ideal for readers raised on social media who can't step out of their house without tweeting about it or eat lunch without posting on Instagram. Douglas is careful to be as non—biased as possible, writing not for any particular agendapolitical or otherwisebut instead encouraging readers to seek their own path for spiritual renewal. The result is a candid look at modern Christianity that will challenge savvy young Christians to put as much effort into discovering sustainable religion as they do in their pursuit of an organic marketplace.
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About the Author
Scott Douglas is a librarian, and a writing instructor for Gotham Writers Workshop. He is the author of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, The N00b Warriors series, and has been a regular contributor to The Wittenberg Door and Ignite Your Faith magazines. His Bible tweetscalled "Tweetvangelism" by Time Magazinehave over 4,400 dedicated followers. Douglas also wrote a regular column for the popular McSweeney's online magazine.
Read an Excerpt
Finding Your Way to an Unprocessed, GMO-Free Christianity
By Scott Douglas
Kregel PublicationsCopyright © 2016 Scott Douglas
All rights reserved.
The Passion of the Jew
That's the sound I remember most from The Passion of the Christ. It came from two rows behind and was occasionally followed by a tearful, "They're killing Jesus."
There were other vocalizations besides. When the movie began, a woman a few rows back loudly exclaimed, "Subtitles? They'll start talking in English, right?" There were lots of gasps and a surprising number of Praise Jesuses. The guy next to me nudged me early in the movie and said, with his mouth full of popcorn, "This is really sad, no?"
But it's the wailing I remember most.
Like everyone else in the nation, I had heard a lot about Mel Gibson's graphically brutal love song to the Messiah. I had heard three separate sermons from two different pastors on why I had to see this movie. Every magazine, secular and Christian alike, said the same thing. One magazine in particular suggested that not seeing this movie would be un-Christian.
I love gory movies. If it has the word Tarantino in it, I'm in. But I always felt conflicted about movies that portrayed Christ. There's no artist in the world who can accurately portray him, so why try?
So I didn't go at first. Not until my grandma guilted me into it. She had already seen it something like fourteen times. The same way some women went repeatedly to see Twilight and Titanic, my grandma went to see The Passion; if there was a person who hadn't seen it, she'd tug their arm and pull them into the next showing.
Ten minutes into the movie, all I could think about was the Krispy Kreme donut shop that had opened in the parking lot of the movie theater. I know people were moved to tears by the movie, but the message was lost on me. It wasn't a movie about Christ's pain — it was a movie about some guy getting beaten to death. I understood that the whole purpose of a passion play was to show this, but the movie just didn't work for me. It didn't work for my stomach either; where other people would wince at the lashing, my stomach would growl and, loudly and inappropriately, remind me how much I wanted that donut.
Still, I stuck with it. According to some articles I read, it was my Christian duty to support this movie. If nothing else, I knew it would have a happy ending, and the two hours of blood would be worth it. The ultimate message of love and redemption would be revealed.
A funny thing happened on the way to the ending: a shadowy figure left the tomb — one could only assume it was Jesus — and the credits rolled.
Before I saw the movie, I heard pastor after pastor say this was a great evangelical movie. But when I saw the ending, I just didn't get it. I couldn't imagine that any person who didn't already understand what the death and resurrection of Christ meant would walk away from this movie and say, "Now I get it!" If I wasn't a Christian, I would have walked away and said, "That was messed up what they did to Jesus." And that's it.
I looked at my watch as I walked out of the theater, and I sighed sadly. On top of having seen one of the most pointless and depressing movies of my life, Krispy Kreme was closed.
As I thought about the Organic Jesus, The Passion is one of the first things that crossed my mind. Despite my expressed distaste for the movie, it opened up dialogue for a topic that was frequently overlooked: the historical Jesus.
Jesus was God. And Jesus was man.
To understand the human nature of Christ, it helps to strip away everything the Bible tells us about his divine nature and the wise things he said, and to just think about what history may tell us about him.
There are many things with regard to any religion that have to be taken by faith. Religion by its very principle is not always logical; in essence, faith is believing in something you cannot understand with rational thought. But while Christianity may have fundamental principles based solely on faith, it is also grounded in fundamental truths that are based on logic. One such truth is that Jesus Christ actually existed.
Full disclosure: we're about to get historical. After this point, there are going to be a lot of references to historical events, seminars, and other things some people do not find interesting. Don't worry. It's going to be okay. I'll get you through it.
If you feel intimidated, music helps. Following is a playlist of seven songs about historical events to get you in the mood.
"1913 Massacre" by Woody Guthrie. It's never a good idea to yell "Fire!" in a crowded building when there is no fire. The event happened on December 24, 1913, at the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan. Seventy-three people were killed while fleeing the building.
"April 29, 1992 (Miami)" by Sublime. Depending on your view, this song is about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Though the name of the song gives the correct date of the riots, the lyrics refer to April 26. Apparently the band members were so moved by the event that they couldn't get the date right.
"The Lords of Salem" by Rob Zombie. Zombie goes oldschool on this classic ditty about the Salem Witch Trials.
"When the Tigers Broke Free" by Pink Floyd. This song describes the death of Roger Waters's father in Operation Shingle, a WWII amphibious landing battle that took place several months before the Battle of Normandy in Italy.
"Back to December" by Taylor Swift. The song is allegedly about Swift's breakup with Taylor Lautner. Though the song doesn't mention it, one can speculate that Swift felt forced to break up with Lautner upon realizing that if they ever married, they'd have the exact same name.
"Suffer Little Children" by The Smiths. The song is about the notorious Moors Murders. The Moors Murders took place in England between 1963 and 1965. During those years, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley murdered five children between the ages of ten and seventeen.
"Louisiana 1927" by Randy Newman. He may be better known for film scores, but Newman is also a great storyteller. Such is the case with this song about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which was the most destructive river flood in US history.
* * *
It all began on a dark and stormy night in the seventeenth century. It was England, so let's just say it was gloomy too. The printing press had been alive and kicking out books for quite some time, and people were starting to get ... enlightened. (Maybe that's how they came up with the term for that period: the Age of Enlightenment?)
It's hard to place a firm starting date, but we can certainly point out some of the key players: Baruch Spinoza, Voltaire, and Isaac Newton. They were the original bad boys of intellectualism, and they were on a mission to change things up.
Amongst other contributions, these three said, "Just because we've always believed this way doesn't mean we have to continue to believe this way." It was a naughty way of thinking, and they took some heat for it.
At first people started to rethink things like science and math. It didn't take long for someone to get religious and bring Christ into the Enlightenment conversation. And so it was that scholars began to wonder if there was more to Jesus than what the Bible said. They began to look for historical evidence.
Albert Schweitzer is the one responsible for coining the term historical Jesus when he wrote the book The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906. Schweitzer was not the first, however, to provide scholarly research into the historicity of Christ. The quest for the historical Jesus first caught on in the eighteenth century, most notably with David Strauss, who popularized what would be known as the "Myth Theory" when he published Das Leben Jesu, Kritisch Bearbeitet (translation: The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined).
Over the past several hundred years, there have been several variants of the Christ myth theory. Each variant essentially says one of three things:
1. There was no historic figure named Jesus; Jesus was, in fact, invented by early Christians.
2. There was "technically" a person named Jesus, but all the teachings and miracles are either made up or metaphoric/ symbolic.
3. Jesus is really a composite of several different people over a period of time.
The problem with all three of these theories is simple: there's historic evidence from nonbelievers that debunks them.
Which leads us to (drumroll) ... The Quest for the Historical Jesus (wild applause).
* * *
My introduction to the so-called "historical Jesus" took place when I was a teen. The minister was preaching a rather windy sermon about who Christ was. At the end, he paused, looked dramatically at his notes, and then made a startling pronouncement: "Over my dozens of years of scholarly reading and research, I have come to the conclusion that Christ could not have performed the miracles in the Bible. He was an amazing teacher — perhaps greater than any we will ever know — and his teachings should be followed and abided."
What surprised me more than the minister's declaration was that he was not fired. Many people at the church concluded that it was all a giant misunderstanding and he didn't mean it "like that."
But he did mean it "like that," and he preached it again in several other sermons.
In the end, it didn't matter to most of the people in the church. They were there for the long haul, and a greater sin than saying you didn't believe in the miracles of Christ was saying you did not believe in the church. Church, for a lot of people, is the foundation of their life. The message is just a happy coincidence.
Not until a year after that sermon did I again encounter the historical Jesus. It was during an introduction to religion course that I took during my first year in college. The course covered all the major religions, from Eastern religions like Hinduism to Western religions like Judaism.
Christianity was taught halfway through the class and was met with the most interest. The teacher, an energetic older man whose clothes got drenched in sweat halfway through his lectures, began his lecture with these words: "Everything you learned about Jesus from Sunday school ... is a lie."
There were three quests for the historical Jesus, each more controversial than the previous one. The third was the most controversial and the one most commonly referred to in colleges across the country. It was also the one my former minister so fondly followed. Among other things, it questioned the plausibility of Jesus's miraculous actions.
My college professor was eager to discuss one of the greatest groups in modern Christian scholarship: The Jesus Seminars. The Jesus Seminars was made popular in the 1980s and 1990s. It was made up of 150 scholars who would sit around and vote about what they believed Jesus did or didn't do by casting votes with colored beads. They essentially re-created the Gospels by removing anything they did not think was true.
As hard as I tried to listen to the professor explain his fondness for his beloved Jesus Seminars, it was hard to take him seriously when he referenced the beads. His description of old men tossing around beads felt more like Mardi Gras than academia.
"They said why they believed or didn't believe though, right?" a student asked at one point.
The professor looked at him, confused. "They didn't need to — the action of throwing the beads said it all." He added, as a way of clearing up all confusion, "The beads were colored."
* * *
When I began my own quest to see who Jesus really was, I was almost immediately reintroduced to the now disbanded Jesus Seminars. Their quest for the historical Jesus may be a bit liberal for some, but it did do one important thing: it proved that Jesus did exist. Even the most liberal religious scholars will agree on two things: one, the baptism of Jesus happened; and two, the crucifixion was real.
There are two notable historic historians people talk about when they mention the history of Christ. The first is Titus Flavius Josephus (AD 37–ca. 100). Josephus was a historian who wrote about different events of the Roman Empire. A Jewish soldier who fought in the First Jewish-Roman War as head of the Jewish forces in Galilee, Josephus after the war became a Roman citizen and friend to the emperor's son. His most important contribution to Christianity was his book Antiquities of the Jews. It's important for this reason: Josephus was a non-Christian who references Jesus Christ. The book provides three key passages that help prove the existence of Jesus.
In book 20, chapter 9, section 1, Josephus writes regarding the crucifixion: "He assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others."
In 18.5.2, Josephus writes of John the Baptist, "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man."
Finally, in 18.3.3, Josephus writes,
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Some scholars have tried to discredit this third passage, saying the content was added at a later date by someone else; this certainly might be true, but the writing style does appear to match Josephus. The fact is, however, there are two passages that are almost unanimously undisputed, and a third that, while debatable, certainly seems likely.
The other historian of note was Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (or Suetonius, as he was known to his homeboys). Suetonius was a Roman historian who is best known for writing biographies about Roman rulers. In his work Claudius, Suetonius says, "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [the emperor] expelled them to Rome." Nearly every scholar agrees that Chrestus is a reference to Christ.
Those are the two main writings commonly referenced; however, a slew of other historians provide further corroboration. Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, is one. His last work, The Annals, is the one most important to the history of the Christ. In The Annals 15.44, he writes,
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.
Mara Bar-Serapion is a bit of a mystery. It's known that he was a philosopher, and that's about it. He's most known for a letter he wrote to his son. The letter contains this passage: "What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished."
The reference to a king of the Jews is of note.
There were other books that support the existence of Christ; unfortunately, they have mostly been lost or are simply not reliable. Notably, there was Thallus, a historian we know very little of but who, in his book History, writes of an earthquake and great darkness, similar to what the New Testament mentions when Jesus was crucified. Acts of Pilate is allegedly an official document from Pontius Pilate and mentions an account of Jesus; unfortunately, this text was most likely written by Christians and is not authentic. There is also Celsus, whose work did not survive; however, it is known that he wrote a document that attacked the Christian faith. He believed Jesus was merely a magician and sorcerer, but it's of important note because he acknowledged that Jesus existed and performed what Christians call miracles and what he called trickery.
The question is not whether Jesus Christ actually existed-it's whether he was who he said he was.
* * *
So that was quite a bit of information. Let me pause and lay it out briefly one more time — this time as a PowerPoint presentation:
Slide One — A giant word art smashes on the slide using a fancy turning-type animation. When you get over how awesome the animation was, you realize it says, "Age of Enlightenment." But before you can take that in, images of Newton, Spinoza, and Voltaire flash on the slide. Voltaire, with his sexy, long, flowing hair, is of course the best-looking of the bunch. Spinoza looks a little like a stoner, and Newton looks constipated.
Excerpted from #OrganicJesus by Scott Douglas. Copyright © 2016 Scott Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: Organic Jesus, 11,
Part One Not Yo Mama's Christianity,
1 The Passion of the Jew, 23,
2 Will the Real Jesus Please Step Up?, 39,
3 Does God Have a Pinky Toe?, 53,
4 50 Shades of Bible, 69,
5 History of the World, Part 2, 81,
6 East of Eden, 95,
7 Can You Put That Miracle in the Form of a Pill?, 107,
Commercial Break: Interview with an Atheist, 119,
Part Two Not Yo Mama's Faith,
8 Natura-Diddily, 135,
9 Would Jesus Take a Selfie?, 145,
10 Love in a Time of Cholera, 153,
11 Christian Hard Rock, 163,
12 What the Faith!, 173,
13 Wise Blood, 185,
14 Living on a Prayer, 195,
Epilogue: Organic Faith, 209,
Discussion Questions, 217,
Which Bible Hero Are You? Quiz Results, 225,
About the Author, 229,