Shuck and Jive

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In Appreciation for Marcus Borg

I opened my email this morning to the sad news that Marcus Borg died on Wednesday.  Professor Borg  was instrumental in helping me find meaning in Christianity.  His book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time enabled a generation to find a way to enter or to re-enter the Christian tradition by way of history and metaphor.  

If you search Borg on my blog you will find a number of posts dedicated to the study of his writing.   I gave away and replaced Heart of Christianity many times in my efforts to introduce people to a thoughtful Christianity.   Borg was a founding member of the Jesus Seminar who I credit for helping me find the content of my faith.  I wrote this a couple of years ago:
Two books, Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography changed my faith. Not just my thinking…my faith. Default religion (Jesus died on the cross to save some people from sin so they--Christians--can go to heaven when they die even though most people will go to hell) lost its appeal for me long ago. 
Borg and Crossan introduced me to a Jesus who was a real person. He embodied a vision of justice, peace, and hope that wasn’t based on supernaturalism. In opposition to the injustice and dehumanizing forces of Empire, this Jesus preached the “empire” of God that is real, present, and participatory.

I don’t talk or write about my faith too often. It is mine. It is personal. It is sacred to me. Making it public risks misrepresentation and belittlement. I also know that talking about personal faith can sound self-righteous and grandiose.

At the risk of all of that I will say that for me, my search for the historical Jesus has enabled me to find content for my faith. It is not simply an intellectual exercise. This vision, this icon, this myth (in the true sense of that word) of the historical Jesus is sacred.

Jesus stood up for those who were put down.
I trust, I have faith, that I can do that too.
That is the Jesus who is “in my heart.”
That is my faith.
I thank the Jesus Seminar for their part in restoring it.
Maybe the quest will inspire you as well.
Marcus Borg was always a gracious teacher. I was fortunate to have him on Religion For Life three times (Evolution of the Word, Speaking Christian). The one I enjoyed the most was the last when he talked about his book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most.

He will be missed by many.

I count myself among that number.


  1. Sad news. "Meeting Jesus again for the First time" was a game changer for me. In part, I came to your church in Elizabethton initially because one of Borg's books was on the website's reading list. It's far to say that Marcus Borg had a significant effect on my spiritual path, and I am grateful for that.

  2. Thank you, as always, John! Yes, Borg helped me too find (as I call it) "the good Jesus" -- as Thich Nhat Hanh especially has too.

    Despite the interview you had with Reza Aslan, in which he says he does not portray Jesus as a violent revolutionary in "Zealot," I think the Jesus you describe here is in great contrast to that portrait (being made into a movie). In the interview, Reza seems to think it would have been impossible for the historical Jesus to have had any idea of nonviolence. I was especially surprised when he wrote that "the only God Jesus knew" was the bloodthirsty God who ordered the slaughter of every non-Jew in Israel, explaining "loving the neighbor" in Leviticus 19 by skipping over the instructions in that same chapter about leaving gleanings for the alien and remembering that they themselves had been aliens in Egypt. There's the whole book of Jonah, with God caring about not only the violent Assyrians but also "much cattle" : ) I appreciated so much Aslan's description of Islam in "No God But God," but I think he just leaves out too much of the Hebrew bible to take seriously that Jesus could only have conceived of violent resistance. Bart Ehrman's view, for example, is that Jesus expected God's kingdom soon -- but it would be by God's power. I've been very perplexed by Reza, whom I have admired. If you blogged about "Zealot" and I missed it, my apologies for re-commenting here! But your appealing description here just reminded me how different is "Zealot"s Jesus. Thank you so much again for everything!!

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