Palm Sunday: History and Tradition

The time for the followers of Jesus to publicly protest injustices such as wealth inequality is at hand, argues retired Baptist minister Rev. Howard Bess.

By Howard Bess

In about 30 CE, Jesus traveled about 70 miles south of his native Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This trip is mentioned in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels, all of which describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the first event of a tumultuous week that ended with Jesus’ crucifixion as an insurrectionist and later with his resurrection from the dead. When scholars interested in studying the historical Jesus look for historical certainties in the gospel writings, they almost unanimously identify this trip to Jerusalem as a matter of history, not just tradition or fiction.

Jesus and His Disciples in a Wheat Field by the Sea of Galilee – Archaeology Illustrated

Scholars are not of one mind about the details of these three events. The three gospel writers obviously embellished their stories with fiction. There are things we know with reasonable confidence. We know that Jesus being greeted by multitudes in Jerusalem is not remotely possible. This was probably Jesus’ only trip to Jerusalem during the short years of his public ministry in Galilee. 70 miles is a long walk. He might have been known by Jerusalem’s Pharisees, but the Pharisees would have ignored him. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was more likely a very small political protest march, more like a form of street theatre.

The details of the story, i.e. children waving palm branches and Jesus riding a donkey in fulfillment of a non-existent Old Testament prediction, are more likely small parts of the process of turning the political nature of the Jesus movement into a new religion that glorifies the political leader. The reality is that Jesus was a religiously devout and practicing Jew, who was killed for his political activities. Those who want to look at the whole process should read Barrie Wilson’s book “How Jesus Became Christian.” The process of change has left followers of Jesus reciting the Apostles’ Creed that deifies Jesus and leaves what he said, taught and lived unsaid.  It left Jesus followers asking “what should I believe?” to the exclusion of “what should I be doing?”

On Palm Sunday, 2018, children will once again parade through church sanctuaries waving Palm branches or paper replicas in the celebration of the “triumphal” entry into the city of Jerusalem.  It is a tradition that seemingly will not go away. Once again nothing will be said from Christian pulpits about the horror of Roman rule. The Roman rulers were ruthless thieves of land and wealth. They made hard-working laborers into economic slaves. The Roman tyrants in the hinterlands of the Empire shipped stolen wealth back to Rome, where wealthy people had sumptuous living.

The Romans were masters of the vision of greatness. They called it Pax Romana. In fact the Romans had a vast propaganda program that justified the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It was unimaginable no matter what they called it. Jesus saw through all the ugliness, seeing it as a wholesale denial of justice. His entry into Jerusalem was the beginning of a week of protest.

Today, pastors of churches, who are well trained in high quality seminaries, know the context of the ministry of Jesus from Nazareth. Ministers by the tens of thousands know about the ruthless greed that drove the Romans. They know of the compromises that were being made by the priests of the Jerusalem temple. They know about the rage of Jesus at the injustices of the system. They know about the fraud of a triumphal entry but will say nothing. Instead, tradition will triumph once more and children will wave Palm branches once more.

If there is any time in the year when followers of Jesus should massively protest against the evils in our society, it is during holy week beginning with Palm Sunday.

Jim Wallace, editor of Sojourners magazine has chosen the April 2018 edition to call for a return to aggressive protest by followers of Jesus from Nazareth. He sees the disparities of the Roman Empire being repeated in America under the banner of Make America Great Again. For Wallace the time for the followers of Jesus to publicly protest is at hand. Protest marches against injustice are a part of our Jesus tradition.

In our America, protest marches have been used effectively to bring about change. The American master of the protest march was Martin Luther King Jr. When he led marches, he was using the tool of Jesus, the protest march. Many Christians kept advising King to back off from his protest marches. He kept on marching. His “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is one of the truly great literary pieces of our history. It was addressed to the clergy of Birmingham.  Protest marches are unsettling to the majority. They produce consequences that are not comfortable for the protesters. King was in a jail in Birmingham because of his non-violent protest marching. Jesus was killed because he protested.

Jim Wallace has been arrested and jailed 23 times because of his protests against injustice.

The tradition of celebrating Palm Sunday as a triumphal entry should cease. It needs to be replaced with protest marches against the abuse of power and injustice in all its forms. It is the message of Palm Sunday.

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.  His email address is [email protected]

45 comments for “Palm Sunday: History and Tradition

  1. Mild-ly - Facetious
    March 26, 2018 at 14:02

    New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recommends 3 books that illuminate America’s history of racial inequality …

    By Emily Heller
    Mar 26, 2018

    New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has seen this movie before. Alienated people who feel left behind by their leaders elect a demagogue whose dog-whistle politics feed their basest instincts.

    … Landrieu explains how to deal with politicians like Duke and Trump who spout coded racist rhetoric. He also discusses such wide-ranging topics as criminal justice, immigration, and gun reform, how he came to self-identify as a “radical centrist,” and why politicians need to lean into the discomfort of the current political and social climate. If these sound like topics for stump speeches to you, you’re not alone — Landrieu is frequently brought up as a potential 2020 candidate.

    … The books Landrieu recommends at the end of the podcast reflect the racial and historical reckoning he’s experienced as a white leader of a diverse Southern city. The mayor’s removal of New Orleans’s Confederate landmarks pushed him into the national media spotlight last year after a speech defending the move, in which he called the monuments a form of terrorism, went viral. He credits his conversations with black friends and constituents, specifically jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, with helping him recognize the psychological harm that Confederate monuments cause to individuals and communities. That decision, and the aftermath, is detailed in his new book, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.

  2. Peet Pearson
    March 26, 2018 at 13:22

    First, I believe Jim’s name is spelled Wallis, but a minor point.

    You are right, most of us who trained in mainline seminaries heard a very different foundational narrative about the ministry and culture of Jesus than was usually preached by the same folks, especially Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter. No wonder mainline congregations are in such disarray (I won’t even mention “evangelicals, as they represent a very different problem) over current issues, for example, the United Methodists officially against homosexuality and others over responses to Israel and the illegal Israeli occupation of Palistine. Congregations have been too often steeped in American civil religion and popular prejudices rather than serious biblical scholarship. Having taughtin two mainline seminaries, I saw little courageous teaching and witnessing by the faculties, especially to the masses beyond their classroom. As with local church pastors, financial insecurity and tarnished reputations, and sometimes limited curiousity, still undercuts prophetic living. Where is Prof. Walter Wink and his theologicallay and politically informed criticism of the current “domination sytems” at work?

    Given the actions of this past weekend, I couldn’t help but see in my imagination this year’s children leading the parade, not waving palm branches, but brandishing signs for peace and sanity against the violence inherent in our armed and militaristic and racist society. This old, retired preacher feels a sermon coming on…..

    Thanks for your essay.

  3. Mild-ly - Facetious
    March 26, 2018 at 11:22

    An outstanding caricature of American antipathy as well as moral value / civic mindedness was revealed in the choice of Sixty Minutes over Fire and Fury. Stormy Daniels over Martin Luther King.
    Salacious Sensualism over the American History that reveals the Real moral and civic attitudes That We Actually Value.

    News film of the violently vicious contempt southerns held (and hold) toward Blacks is captured history that we ignore By Choice.
    Stormy Daniels vs. President Trump is the current lick-your-lips “social media” frenzy.
    After all, what can we learn from history vis-a-vis How We Americans Live Today In A STILL Divided Nation.? !

    This Tuesday’s Neilson Ratings will reveal much about ourselves and our ‘values’ as Human Beings.
    The ignorance that we embrace only feeds the twisted, immoral, indifferent attitude that keeps us terribly divided.

    Immorality and wickedness have a father that has free reign throughout the world.
    He is the unseen enemy of everyman.

    The Light of the world, the Truth in this world is Jesus Christ.
    As we choose, so shall we live.

    The Active Hatred in the hearts of White Southerners, displayed during the Civil Rights Era remains alive today.
    Yet we choose to ignore it in favor of an adulterous woman calmly sitting before a national audience of voyeurs, revealing her sins.
    Is she judged? Is she forgiven, condemned, admired or rejected?
    “GO AND SIN NO MORE.” Gospel of John, chapter 8 – vs.1-11 speaks of a woman caught in the act of adultery.
    It teaches that wrongs cannot be corrected until they are Recognized as Wrongs.
    Racism, like adultery is wrong. It is evil persecution and oppression. As we accept this evil as a “Societal Norm” we also likewise accept adultery, murder/mass murder, corporate greed, rapidly increasing homelessness, pollution of the earth, etc. etc. as norms of society. — Chaos and disorder lead into disorder and a dismantling of social order and the phrase “lest we repent, we will likewise Perish” will become the Reality. — Ignorance of History has established marching orders — those that ignore it Are BOUND to repeat it.

    History and Tradition.
    Will the Wake-Up! call drive in time…?


  4. March 25, 2018 at 19:32

    Author has his view..and I’m not against the church practicing what it preaches on justice. (I think real tort reform, etc. is better than the “showy” outrage. I mean have there been changes for all the walk outs?)

    But to me he forgets one thing:

    The people killed Jesus gladly when he said they couldn’t just whine that the inequality didn’t favor them…

    The workers/slaves just were mostly mad that they were slaves, not that slavery existed. They would be quite happy on top themselves.

    I don’t see Jesus as saying “get more political power” and trust in some 19th c. ethic to effect change… Aka set up your own, but a “fair” system…

    Such has often led to hell in the hands of young Hegalians like Marx, Nietzche, and all their friends…

    His point was lose. Suffer the lose. Not demand justice.

    So yes, by all means wave the fronds for Jesus to come and be whatever messiah you want him to be! The author rejects the others messiah, half the people are conjuring up their own.

    Its an old tale: Buddhist, Islam, etc. all lay their cloaks at Jesus’ feet at long as its down their path.

    Yet that sorta shows in which crowd you’ll be in the rest of the week…

    As the French say, “there can be more humility wrapped in purple than in rags.”

    Heck… Half the people here are in the crowd of palm Sunday!

    • Zachary Smith
      March 26, 2018 at 01:45

      The people killed Jesus gladly when he said they couldn’t just whine that the inequality didn’t favor them…

      What you forget is that Jesus was executed by the Romans.

  5. HpO
    March 25, 2018 at 19:32

    Pop-quiz me, brother Howard Bess.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels … describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem … as an insurrectionist … political protest march, more like a form of street theatre.”

    FALSE. “Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem” as a prophetic event “took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet[s Zechariah & David. It was] written of Him [Israel’s Messiah Jesus] that they [would’ve] done these things to Him.” LOOK IT UP – Matthew 21:4 & John 12:16 are prophetic fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 & Psalm 118:25-26.

  6. March 25, 2018 at 18:59

    Considering how many Americans believe thenselves to be good Christians, this essay is well placed as a reminder of the hypocrisy that helps Americans sleep well at night. The “good Reverend” Billy Graham, pastor of warmongers, just passed. If the church actually gets active in condemning the warfare and inability of the US government to address inequality of its citizens, I’m all for it.

  7. Annie
    March 25, 2018 at 17:57

    This is not an attack on Mr. Santorum’s Christian beliefs, since I am adverse to doing that, but his hypocrisy is mind boggling. He doesn’t believe in using artificial birth control less a life be lost, but his response to those who marched yesterday, and whose purpose was to encourage law makers to implement gun control legislation, was that students should learn CPR Instead of demanding politicians pass reforms.

    • Annie
      March 25, 2018 at 20:29

      I’m rather sick of this. My comment is under moderation once again? Maybe I shouldn’t post here anymore.

      • Zachary Smith
        March 26, 2018 at 12:23

        I can see two problems with your previous post. First there is the link. For some reason the forum software doesn’t like links along with comments.

        The second is the word “Santorum”. I’m not going to post it here, but a duckduckgo search for that word had at the very top the Urban Dictionary definition. If the person who created the forum software had a wicked sense of humor, he just might have slipped that word into the check-it-out list of prohibited terms.

        As you say, Santorum is beyond redemption, and keeps proving it. His recent talk-talk about guns and school kids was a stomach-turner. That ******* is typical of his breed – SO concerned about the un-conceived and un-born, but to hell with actual breathing humans. The incident also tells a lot about the TV people who put him on the air to do his retard show/tell.

        • Annie
          March 26, 2018 at 16:51

          Thanks for responding Zachary, and maybe it is the link, but I’ve seen many post links with comments and were not awaiting moderation. My response to John Wilson’s comment “… the US still has some ways to go to be on par with the horrors of religious fanatics of times gone by.” I disagreed with that comment, and my response was in no way inflammatory, or abusive, yet it was also put under moderation. Thanks again.

  8. mike k
    March 25, 2018 at 15:53

    Also, Jim Wallace is a good Christian of the type the article endorses, and any influence he could have had on Obama would have been good, but like in the case of Jeremiah Wright, Obama probably chose to ignore the good counsel offered to him.

  9. Zachary Smith
    March 25, 2018 at 13:40

    Mostly I liked this brief essay because realism is good. Example:

    We know that Jesus being greeted by multitudes in Jerusalem is not remotely possible.

    The modern political aspects of the piece were vexing. I hate to be seen as defending Trump & Company, but this next bit is simply unreasonable.

    Jim Wallace, editor of Sojourners magazine has chosen the April 2018 edition to call for a return to aggressive protest by followers of Jesus from Nazareth. He sees the disparities of the Roman Empire being repeated in America under the banner of Make America Great Again.

    Since “Jim Wallace” was a brand new name for me I looked him up. He was the “spiritual adviser” to Obama, a man who was just as nasty an Imperial Ass as Trump. BHO was just a smoother talker than the foul-mouthed and bombastic Trump.

    That Jim Wallace dumps on Trump but cozied up to Obama makes me suspicious of the man and his motives.

    • mike k
      March 25, 2018 at 15:49

      How is it possible to “dump on Trump”? He more than deserves whatever negative stuff is said of him. You just cannot even imagine how evil and dangerous this man is.

      • Annie
        March 25, 2018 at 18:09

        Mike K, there is a lot wrong with Trump, but from the very outset he was dumped on more then any president in my own memory. His speech, his hairdo, etc, and they even dumped on his wife, and lets not forget Russia-gate.

  10. jean delarue
    March 25, 2018 at 12:29


  11. E. Leete
    March 25, 2018 at 12:12

    I really enjoyed the essay. All attempts to get those who profess to be Christians to become active in pursuit of justice for all should be applauded imo. I once had a teacher who thought that if Christ Jesus was speaking today at the UN he would tell us all not to follow a Christ but to go out and BE a Christ. I hope saying it that way does not offend Rev. Bess or any other Christian.

    If our goal is to move the world to justice and peace I think we must re-member that we are playing a numbers game: we absolutely need a majority in agreement through education, so we have to create the biggest tent we can, one under which as many humans as possible fit. So imo bashing a person’s religion is bad on a practical, strategic level – it just says to so many people ‘you aren’t wanted here’. Not a good move for trying to unite a majority behind seeking to rid the world of extremes of wealthpower, is it? just my 2cents there – but now I want to offer some of what I think humankind desperately needs to hear from inside or from outside the churches:

    • Now we have discovered war to be derived from the unlimited accumulation of wealth which is also the cause of almost all the evils in states. Injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship. – Plato

    • The love of money is the root of all evils. – the Bible

    This Biblical statement is at best an inaccurate statement of a truth. At worst, an error. The love of self-earned money is the root of all good: it is the love of other-earned money that is the root of virtually all evils. Nowhere in the dialogue through history has the vital distinction been made between self-earned and other-earned money. Nowhere in economics or philosophy or theology have the true and false meanings of this famous statement ever been clarified. To work twice as hard and thus create twice as much wealth and then to take out twice as much from the social pool of products of work is entirely good and harmless.

    Why is it that after realizing that wealth, that is, other-earned money or overpay, is the root of virtually all problems and troubles in society, did Plato and the Bible and Christianity not make this the central subject of ethics and philosophy?

    What is more important than the diminishment of the root of all evils? How did they manage to overlook the subject that would have paid the highest dividends to clearly understand? Christianity has strained at the gnats of faith versus works, homosexuality, masturbation, adultery, is Jesus the same or only similar to God, etc, etc, and swallowed the camel of not fighting the root of all evils. False religion has made false evils to hide real evils. Christianity has been from early times usurped and hoodwinked by the greedy, the overpaid and overpowerful. Just as communism, the dream of justice, was hijacked five months after the revolution. So education against the root of all evils has been suppressed, except by occasional genuine reformers like St Francis, who have often been looked on with suspicion by the church. Of course it was the church of the time that put Jesus to death. The usurping of Christianity and other religions has prevented humanity from reaping the huge benefits from conquering the root of all evils. I cannot recall one book that explains in detail what ought to be understood by love of money is the root of all evils, and why and how it is true, and why and how it is false. 2000 years’ opportunity to avoid the pitfall of money has been wasted, 99% of human happiness destroyed.

    The inaccuracy of the statement, the obvious untruth of the statement, has made humanity miss the truth in the statement. Love of self-earned money is wholly good, wholly natural, wholly proper and innocent and noble. Love of self-earned money is the root of virtually all good. Love of self-earned money is exactly as good as growing vegetables and eating them. It is the love of having the chance to also get other-earned wealth, aka overpay, that is the root of all evils.

    The arguments against overpay are simple, and yet the ethical leaders have never taught them. The ethical leaders have often been false ethical leaders. They have been the greatest victims of the root of all evil, they have been those who have fallen hardest for the apparent goodness of unlimited fortune. It is they who have conspired to prevent the teaching against overfortune, so that they might attain unlimited fortune, mistakenly thinking that unlimited fortune would be unlimited happiness.

    • When our Fathers [the American founding fathers] prevented entail [and primogeniture, and fixed clergy salaries], when they thus provided for the distribution of estates, they thought they had erected a bulwark against the money power that had killed Britain [and every other state]. They forgot that money could combine, that a moneyed corporation was like the Papacy, a succession of persons with a unity of purpose, that it never died, that it never became imbecile. -Wendell Phillips

    Lincoln warned against the corporations. Even Jefferson, at the beginning of the 19th century, warned against the corporations, which did not really get away till the end of the 19th century. It is not only the corporations that have brought America and the world from the American dream of freedom from tyranny, to tyranny in 200 years. It is the general belief that unlimited fortunes are innocent, are harmless, are even good.

    • By abolishing covetousness, Lycurgus removed all motive for civil broil and contest. -Polybius

    Covetousness is the love of other-earned money. Covetousness, otherwise known as greed, avarice, pleonexia, theft, injustice, taking out more than you put in.

    • Inequalities between rich and poor had come to a head, Athens stood on the brink of revolution. Equality breeds no strife, was widely repeated. -Plutarch

    Where are these quotes in schools? The first duty, the prime duty of education is to teach the existence of overpay, and how overpay destroys 99% of happiness of 100% of people. If education taught only this, it would teach something of far more value to humans than all it teaches now. If people were as convinced of the evil of overpay as they are of the ‘evil’ of genital exposure, they would be 100 times happier, safer and less self-destructive than they now are. False education teaches things. True education teaches the most important and valuable things for happiness.

    • mike k
      March 25, 2018 at 15:42

      My ideal society is like the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Everyone is paid the same amount regardless of what kind of work they do, or if they work at all. Every person is given an equal share of the goods produced in our world. Of course this will only work in the context of a world practicing unconditional love in all our affairs. But you will say, that could never happen. But I would then say, how do you know? And we could begin a dialog about how a better world might function and come into being…………….

      The disease of more is killing our world. Only a philosophy and practice of less will save us now. Unlikely, but not impossible – some folks already practice it.

    • HpO
      March 25, 2018 at 19:45

      So, if “Christ Jesus was speaking today at the UN he would tell us all not to follow a Christ but to go out and BE a Christ”, that means He’d want us “not to follow [Him as THE] Christ but … go … and BE [an Anti-]Christ”?!


      You’re funny.

  12. mike k
    March 25, 2018 at 10:22

    Any “religion” that encourages you to put up with, or actually endorse the evil government of your country is manifestly false. True religion is always revolutionary and radically true. Just as is every other institution of an authentic culture.

    • March 25, 2018 at 12:58

      Mike, reminds me of the movie, based on true events, where the Germans and British soldiers fraternized on Christmas. The British sent out an Anglican bishop to chastise the British chaplain for encouraging fraternization.

      Yes, major religious leaders often wave the flag during wars, and where they are clearly unjust, concentrate on ministering to the soldiers to save their souls and don’t take on the injustice of the war. So many instances where religious leaders might have saved us from disaster but were silent. Perhaps we expect too much of religious leaders who know they can expect punitive action if they do so. It is complicated and easy to see the defense churches would raise, which I have to admit have a great deal of validity.

  13. mike k
    March 25, 2018 at 10:15

    Money and war are the main business of America, and have rendered religion irrelevant. Except of course for all the faux religion that unsuccessfully tries to pass for the real thing – it’s all about money too.

  14. mike k
    March 25, 2018 at 09:55

    Excellent article on how the military dictatorship of America works:

    • mike k
      March 25, 2018 at 10:00

      And BTW don’t expect the very real Military Dictatorship of America to ever call itself by it’s real name – it much prefers “land of the free”, “true democracy”, and other soothing and self-congratulatory titles. Most people in the USA have very little awareness of where they actually live, what their country really is.

  15. godenich
    March 25, 2018 at 09:09

    To: Independent Comment

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight… – I’ll settle for using ethics and reason to promote legislation for the repeal of the Imperial tax(replaced by a decentralized APT tax) and restoration of the Bill of Rights(nixing the AUMF, NDAA…). The church’s flock would then have more to voluntarily tithe for charitable causes. That would be something to passionately celebrate.

  16. March 25, 2018 at 08:56

    Not the forum to argue who Jesus was but it is clear that his teachings were communistic in the best sense, and a model to aspire to and that human nature, whatever it is, tends to move us toward the creation of inequality. In our history we have witnessed movements to create greater equality only to be perverted by its advocates or captured by their followers to suit their own selfish purposes.

    • March 25, 2018 at 11:44

      Well said, …but I wish such a sermon was preached more often in the wealthy communities of America!

    • HpO
      March 25, 2018 at 20:40

      So, if “[Jesus’] teachings were communistic in the best sense”, then where or how does this gospel truth fit in? That together with His beloved Son, Christ Jesus, at His right hand and on His throne next to His, God is the King of kings with Jesus the Lord of lords – reigning over His kingdom on earth and in heaven and for eternity in the new heaven and earth – because of His ransoming Fatherly love through the crucifuxion, burial and resurrection of His beloved Son, Christ Jesus.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 26, 2018 at 01:36

      Not the forum to argue who Jesus was but it is clear that his teachings were communistic in the best sense, and a model to aspire to and that human nature, whatever it is, tends to move us toward the creation of inequality.

      As Romanus notes in his post, the “communism” you speak of was in response to a very special situation – the imminent intervention of God in worldly affairs to set things right for the only people who worshiped Him. According to the Old Testament, an earlier such action had taken place with the Flood – a response to nearly universal evil of humans. Now though, there were an awful lot of people who were doing their level best to behave according to the God Rules. All the many sects throughout Judea showed that opinions varied a lot about what those rules were, but most of the local Jews were trying hard to do what THEY thought was right. The group led by Jesus became – after many meanders – a worldwide religion. Needless to say, the “communism” part is almost entirely ignored in 2018 Sunday Schools and Sermons.

      • Zachary Smith
        March 26, 2018 at 01:41

        I was going to “tweak” this post, but when I hit the Edit button the text of the previous post was sitting there. Probably some more software issues.

  17. David G
    March 25, 2018 at 08:13

    Howard Bess only takes the analogy between the historical Jesus as he sees him (I basically concur, fwiw) and M.L. King Jr. part way: they also share the fact that once they were killed, the existing, oppressive power structure rapidly co-opted their images and popularity to serve its own ends.

    • Guest
      March 26, 2018 at 10:37

      Did Jesus also plagiarize, frequent prostitutes and beat women?

      • David G
        March 26, 2018 at 14:30


  18. Romanus
    March 25, 2018 at 07:26

    Jesus was a faith healer who attracted a large following among the unsophisticated rustics of rural, impoverished Galilee. He used magic to appear to cure the sick and raise the dead. In our world, the dynamics of the faith healing phenomenon are understood. To Jesus’ superstitious contemporaries, it appeared this extraordinarily charismatic man was able to harness the supernatural powers that they wrongly imagined controlled every event on earth.

    Jesus was not a reformer or a champion of social justice. It is a mistake to project twenty-first century American political and social values onto first century Palestine. Jesus lived in a haunted world controlled by invisible spirits, in which the concepts of freedom and individuality as we know them in America today simply did not exist. Jesus’ mission was to prepare his reluctant people for the end of times and the triumphant return of Yahweh, which he repeatedly stated would occur “before this generation has passed away.” We know today that his allegedly great moral principles were not original with him, but were adaptations or paraphrases of contemporary Jewish thought cobbled together for the end times emergency. His unrealistic exhortations to “turn the other cheek”, to love one’s enemies, to give away all one’s possessions and so on, clearly show his perspective that this world was about to pass away, so that practical strategies for daily living were no longer important.

    Jesus was wrong in his unique core belief and he suffered a gruesome fate on the cross for his delusion. As his poignant story was told and retold in the larger world, it became mixed with classic pagan religious motifs – divine paternity, virgin birth, a three-day stay in the underworld followed by a universally redeeming return to life, and more. These things would have been most abominable heresies to the pious Jew who Jesus actually was.

    It might be useful to remember that the Jewish peasantry was far more heavily taxed by the luxury-loving Temple priesthood than by the Roman occupiers, and that many Jews happily embraced the values of the vibrant, multiethnic Graeco-Roman world. Judea’s chief value to Rome was not its wealth –it had barely a subsistence economy- but its doubly strategic location, on the main overland route to the immense riches of Africa, and as a border state to Rome’s most dangerous military rival, the powerful Parthian Empire to the east.

    • David G
      March 25, 2018 at 08:05

      Well, that’s what I’d expect a “civis romanus” to say.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 26, 2018 at 01:08

      In our world, the dynamics of the faith healing phenomenon are understood. To Jesus’ superstitious contemporaries, it appeared this extraordinarily charismatic man was able to harness the supernatural powers that they wrongly imagined controlled every event on earth.

      In a mostly excellent post I think you got carried away here. Back in those days “faith healing” was perfectly rational, Holy men were expected to do miracles – everybody understood that. What you forget is we’re not all that advanced over the old beliefs. Science is not universally accepted in 2018. Although Texas isn’t a place I’d care to live, the state seems to be a marvelous source of great quotations, and one of them is this:
      “You buy ’em books and you buy ’em books, and they just chew on the covers.”
      Most students don’t give a hoot about their science classes, and many of them quickly shed what little they learn in short order. Their preacher down at the church tells them Evolution is a lie, and they accept it. Exxon tells them Climate Science is an invention of Al Gore, and they accept it. Some idiot on the TV tells them that vaccinations cause autism and other horrors, and they accept it.

      Some of the crazy stuff happens to others besides badly educated Americans.

      Vatican trains exorcists as demonic possession claims rise

      Rome, Italy, Feb 28, 2018 / 02:04 pm (CNA).- With reported demonic possessions on the rise in Italy, the Vatican is hosting a weeklong training to better prepare exorcists for ministry. Catholic leaders have said that the country needs more exorcists, and better training.

      “Today we are at a stage crucial in history: many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence, few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn,” said one of the event’s speakers, exorcist Father Cesare Truqui, according to Vatican News.

      Jesus had a perfectly good excuse for his actions – he lived 2000 years ago. The current bunch at the Vatican – not so much so. On a side note, they’re the same ones who cling to their invented-out-of-thin-air doctrine about contraception, to the misery of too many hundreds of millions of humans. And they’re the same bunch who trained American Fundamentals to hate abortion enough to murder doctors.

      His unrealistic exhortations to “turn the other cheek”, to love one’s enemies, to give away all one’s possessions and so on, clearly show his perspective that this world was about to pass away, so that practical strategies for daily living were no longer important.

      I’d have worded this differently. Jesus was positive God was going to save his homeland if the people proved they deserved such a salvation. Going all-out in that drive to impress wasn’t unreasonable, IMO.

  19. john wilson
    March 25, 2018 at 05:46

    In case the author doesn’t know it, religion is a fairy story from beginning to end and any attempt to give it some kind of historical perspective, is futile. Whilst the horrors of the anti Christ (America) perpetrates endless horrors all over the world today, the US still has some ways to go to be on par with the horrors of religious fanatics of times gone by.

    • Annie
      March 25, 2018 at 13:03

      “…the US still has some ways to go to be on par with the horrors of religious fanatics of times gone by.” Really? Why don’t you elaborate on that one. Can you name religious fanatics who dropped atomic bombs killing well over a hundred thousand people, and hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan using carpet bombings to do it?. Name religious fanatics who killed some 6 million people world wide to extend corporate interest globally, and used the fear of communism to do it. Name those who caused multiple wars in the Middle East, no doubt killing millions. One can commit atrocities in the name of religion, use it to be destructive, in the same way we used communism which killed some 3 million in Vietnam, but that’s a different story.

      • Broompilot
        March 26, 2018 at 14:55

        Yes Annie. I have asked these same questions, in person, of people propagating the same nonsense as John Wilson. Remarkably, that nonsense dies quickly when people start challenging it.

  20. Annie
    March 25, 2018 at 05:35

    Not only would I love to see Christians mobilize to protest the many injustices here, but also awaken to the multiple atrocities perpetrated by the state of Israel who have become as oppressive and blood thirsty as were there former overlords,

    • Gregory Kruse
      March 26, 2018 at 17:42

      Yes, where is the Jesus in Israel?

  21. irina
    March 25, 2018 at 03:19

    We can march as much as we want. But what we really need to do,
    is redirect our taxes into escrow accounts, where they can be held
    until such time as they are used for human and societal needs
    rather than to fund endless warmongering and overbuilt bureaucracies.

    Our only real vote is the one we involuntarily make on April 15th.

    • irina
      March 28, 2018 at 00:08

      Why is no one interested in discussing tax redirection ?
      (Not tax avoidance !) It is the ‘christian’ thing to do,
      in fact it’s the pragmatic thing to do. For people of all,
      or no, faith. Imagine how different things could be !

      There is a link on the above page to a scan of an EZ Peace Income Tax Return Form. From the
      early 1990’s, before Gulf War Syndrome turned us all into zombies and the t-shirts which said,
      “It will be a Great Day when our Schools have all the money they need
      And the Navy has to hold a Bake Sale to Buy A Bomber” could still be found.

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