The Jesus Seminar, founded in 1985 to adjudicate over which Scriptures were historically accurate, and which always excluded any talk about miracles, once gained widespread attention for its routine objections to traditional Christian belief. “Christ’s Body Actually Eaten by Wild Dogs!” was a typical headline from a Jesus Seminar gathering, where liberal scholars would vote with color marbles over which biblical verses were valid.
Eventually these self-selected academics ran out of incendiary claims, and the media mostly stopped heeding their pronouncements after founder Robert Funk died in 2005, if not well before. Co-founder and former Roman Catholic priest John Dominic Crossan, now about 76 years old, still soldiers on. He and other kindred academics routinely speak around the nation, gathering usually small audiences of gray-headed, mostly retired clergy.
. . . Another aging survivor of the Jesus Seminar is nearly 80 year old retired Episcopal Church Bishop John Shelby Spong, though his fame preceded his induction. In the 1980s and 1990s, while Bishop of Newark, Spong penned books speculating that the Virgin Mary was a prostitute impregnated by a Roman soldier, and that St. Paul was a self-hating homosexual, among other saucy assertions that once gained headlines but now excite yawns. He earned audiences with Phil Donahue and other breathless talk show hosts, most of whom are now themselves faded from view.
Spong always claimed that “fundamentalist,” i.e. orthodox Christianity, was dying, and he was its savior. That his New Jersey diocese lost 40 percent of its members while he was providing enlightened leadership as bishop never seemed to provoke self-reflection. One bemused observer who recently went to hear him speak at a New Jersey college campus remarked he was able to locate the event by following the trail of “old people.”
Liberal revisionism was always mainly the project of upper middle class, white Mainline Protestants, with advanced degrees and a certain disdain for the ostensibly superstitious masses who heed a more literal version of Christianity. The evangelical mega-churches of today’s America, not to mention the surging faith of Global South Christianity, especially in Africa, usually befuddle and irritate this audience, most of whom are now long retired.
. . . These “intellectual tyrants” were long ascendant in liberal Protestant academia for over a century. Despite their decades of turgid exertions, the fully resurrected Jesus remains as captivating as ever. Happy Easter!
In retrospect, it was all just an exercise in self-promotion, wasn’t it? They were a small group of people, who found themselves in jobs where their personal beliefs were at odds with what they ought to believe. They resented those who did believe it. Feeling inferior, they decided to make themselves superior. They decided to make money and have fun, in baiting those they resented. They were trolls, in truth. Now they’re all old, and tired, and washed-up. And now what? The TV news has moved on. The excitment has gone. They sit alone at home, wondering what happened.
To say “Darkness, be thou my Light”, for whatever reason, even frivolously, becomes a choice. It involves taking a road which proves psychologically irreversible.
Is it really possible for a man to throw away a life of mocking something and embrace it, submit to it? I do not think so. And so a choice, made perhaps lightly, determines a life, and, of course, a death. The wrong choice can empty that life of value.
They sold themselves for the bright lights and the flattery. The flatterers despised them, of course, even as they interviewed them; but Crossan and co never realised that. As with all such bargains, they found that the sale was binding, but the money they received for their souls has just evapourated from their hands. The damned get nothing for their self-betrayal.
For all of them knew what they were doing was wrong. How could they not? Their consciences told them that it violated, in the simplest terms, the moral golden rule.
They chose not to listen. They told themselves and others that it was not so. But of course it was, and such choices have consequences.
May God have mercy on them.