Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Packaged for Consumption

I read two interesting blogs this morning. NT Wrong's The Resurrection of Jesus as Mass Hallucination and Drew's The Political Simulacrum of Sarah Palin.

N.T. Wrong makes the case that the resurrection sightings were the result of the literary device of mass hallucination. He cites several examples and concludes:

The most plausible explanation for the accounts of the sightings of Jesus, therefore, is that they derive from individual vision reports, which over time have been transformed into reports of mass sightings of Jesus. Such an explanation has the support of comparative historiographical evidence, and persuasively accounts for the evidence we find in the New Testament.
I think that is good fun especially since the church has sold its soul for the pottage of historicism. In other words, the church bases its truth claims on the supposed fact that the resuscitation of the corpse of Jesus is an historical event.

The curious thing is that it has worked. The church has duped 100s of millions of people over the past 1700 years with its ridiculous claims. Now I am not against stories. I tell tales myself. But when we think that there really are monsters hiding in the closet (and we don't mean it in a metaphorical sense) it's time for some medication.

Yet the church in dead seriousness continues to delude itself and others about this. They expand their empires convincing people that their tales are "really" true.

The result has been the packaging of Jesus as the real god/man, the only god/man, the god/man you can trust to lead your nation to war against its enemies. Give your life to the Empire (whom Jesus blesses--God Bless America and all) and spend eternity in heaven! Rape Earth today, go to Heaven tomorrow. Can't beat that deal.

Since Constantine saw his vision of the conquering Christ on the Milvian Bridge, the church has been good medicine for empire-building and for war. As legend has it, Christ told Constantine, "Under this sign, conquer." The sign was the cross. Christ and Empire make a resilient couple. Yet Christ is a total fabrication. The church has packaged Jesus as the conquering saving Christ for whichever Empire it wishes to serve and for its own good. It is all package, no substance.

The Jesus of the Gospels, let alone the elusive historical person, has nothing in common with this conquering Christ. The Nicene Creed under Constantine's direction united Christianity under one myth. Jesus in the creed does nothing. There is no person there. It is a myth--a fictional package.
Yet the church has a proven success rate of selling that fictional package.

Packaging is also part of the political process, of course. Candidates are packaged and imaged for our consumption. We know that. But usually, we have some recourse to the real person behind the package.

Drew suggests that Sarah Palin is a product image for America. She is shielded from the press and an unknown in the political world. Drew concludes:

Here we have a simulacrum of a political agent. She is thus far only an image of a political persona. The reality is that her image construction does not seem to be grounded in the reality of her true self. While many of us know this to be true, many of us also refuse to acknowledge or accept that Sarah Palin is a ruse intended to symbolize something that does not really even exist....

Hence, the choice for Sarah Palin is an image without referent - a simulacrum of an ideal that appeals to a specific brand of voter. She is a brand image and nothing more. A ruse intended to get your business. She is an advertisement for a carnival alchemist who can magically heal your cultural ills with a tonic that has no healing properties at all.

Neither the image of Sarah Palin nor the image of Constantine's Christ exist as realities. They are images: not the real Sarah; not the real Jesus. America is being invited once again to buy the package of Christ and Empire.

Palin provides the link to the religious voter that McCain alone couldn't deliver. That Christian link is crucial for the Christ and Empire image to work.
The McCain/Palin ticket combines neocon empire-building with the blessing of the Christian God. Under this sign, conquer.


  1. Hmmm... I am with you on a good chunk of this, my trouble is with the extremity. Anyone who believes in a literal resurrection is in need of medication? It is this same kind of "all or nothing, with us or against us" mentality that drove me out of fundamentalism towards progressivism. Yet so often we are only offering the flip side of the same coin. The same shrillness, intolerance, and rolling of the eyes at anyone who thinks differently is displayed by progressives. I think that cuts at the heart of what we should be about.

  2. Oh, fine then. Point taken. But how can I emote my righteous anger if I have to be nice?

  3. ROFLMAO!!
    Nice give Andrew, good take John.

  4. If the Church duped millions of people, John, then why do you still belong to such a wicked group?

    After you pass on to wherever, the Church will still celebrate every Easter with: He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

  5. Stushie, you know perfectly well we can still celebrate the resurrection, whether we celebrate Jesus who overcame tyranny or Jesus the zombie. The former is the Jesus I would much rather hang out with. You?

  6. After you pass on to wherever, the Church will still celebrate every Easter with: He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

    I hope so. I hope the church and humanity will be here long after I pass on.

    But I don't want to trade Earth for Heaven. I have no real need to survive my body.

    I do have a real need to be an ancestor. That means that I want human beings and animals and trees, and bugs to be here long after I am gone. If "He is Risen!" is a Christian way of saying I am committed to the sacredness of Earth and all of life, then I say it too. And I do say it that way.

    I think the message of Jesus was overshadowed and misrepresented when the church wed itself to empire and we put our meaning and value in some other realm outside of Earth while at the same time exploiting Earth for temporary gain.

    But I also think that we can find the life-giving message of Jesus for Earth and for Earth's future.

    As much as I am frustrated with the church, it too is my home.

    Those are the questions I am seriously asking, Stushie. Thanks for the push.

  7. John,

    Bathwater and baby.

    Ever read "Rumor of Angels" by Peter Berger?

    I have met this Jesus of Nazareth in prayer and in prophetic dreams. The "story" is that he rose and then "ascended", putting Him where He now is such that meeting him in prayer can happen.

    If I can meet him in prayer in this place that defies all I know about science and reality and logic, I honestly can't draw a line in the sand that says he didn't rise and ascend just as they said he did. The stories they tell of him are consistent with the One I have met.

    Whether they got the physical details of the history right or not, the important thing now is that he lives. And if he does, then who knows, maybe that story really did happen.

    Why not?

    I'm not a Christian because I believe the Bible or the Church. I love the Bible and sometimes believe the Church because I am a Christian.

  8. Jodie,

    I have not read the Peter Berger book. Is that the same Peter Berger who was the sociologist? I will check it out.

    I will take your baby with bathwater critique. I could very well be doing just that.

    Part of the deal as I mentioned when I commented to Stushie is that my primary commitment now is to the future of Earth, not to a transcendent vision beyond Earth. I am agnostic regarding its existence and have no concern for it.

    If there is a way to integrate Christian language and a commitment to the sacredness of Earth and its future, I am all for it.

    I have no interest in trading Earth for Heaven. My hunch is that Christianity has done that, all though not all of Christianity in all places.

    I do like your thoughts on prayer.