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AnonymousDeleted UserSeptember 17, 2020 at 10:21 pm
The person and teachings of Jesus are represented in starkly contrasting terms in Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne and Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. For Du Mez’s litany of North American evangelical leaders, Jesus is the idealized, hyper-masculine figure—a powerful warrior, military commander, star athlete, prize fighter, and rugged cowboy—whose interests are politically conservative, patriarchal, and Euro-centric. The Jesus of Thurman’s work, in contrast, is distinctly first-century Jewish: a racial minority, oppressed by a larger and stronger political nation, who speaks directly to those whose “backs are against the wall,” offering not a future- or heaven-oriented salvation, but one that is inherently political and imminent.
While Scripture itself includes diverse representations of Jesus’s person and teachings (e.g., the suffering lamb and the table over-turner), much of the above opposing interpretations can be explained by the fact that Jesus / Jesus’ teachings are often reduced to little more than a cipher: a convenient and powerful container for others’ views. While I happen to think Thurman’s interpretations are more true to the way of Jesus, be they historical-critical scholar or openly politically conservative evangelical pastor, all read Jesus through their own experience, and, in turn, read their own experience onto Jesus. As Frederick Buechner once wrote, “all theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography.”