What We Talk About When We Talk About Jesus

Does it feel good to think of this face as Jesus’s?

Bart D. Ehrman is a fairly liberal theologian, an ex-fundamentalist who calls himself agnostic, who hasn’t been afraid to ruffle some feathers among his fellow scholars of Christian texts, especially among those who used to think of him as of the same flock. For more on his background, read his wikipedia entry. I want to get to his newest book’s argument, which he summarizes on Huffington Post, and which seems designed to ruffle feathers of another of his former flocks, or a “small but growing cadre” of it,  “who call themselves mythicists,” he says.  Continue reading

Letting Go of God

It's Jesus!

If you know her only as “It’s Pat” from Saturday Night Live, then you probably won’t know that Julia Sweeney is also a talented writer and performer of monologues à la Spaulding Gray. Unlike Gray, Sweeney moves around on the stage a lot, but like Gray, her subject is her journey into self-knowledge. Her first show, God Said, Ha! (1998), concerned disease, death and survival: the story centered on her brother Michael’s lymphoma and how it brought her closer to her parents–literally closer; they moved in with her to help her care for her brother.  It’s a surprisingly unsentimental, unselfpitying show, very funny throughout, and, therefore, a much richer experience than the usual hystrionic tales of family dysfunction and disease.

I picked up the Quentin Tarantino-produced film of Sweeney’s show from the library a few weeks ago thinking it would be about Sweeney’s loss of faith. I’m at the age when titles of movies and plays don’t stick in the head the way they used to and I was thinking of her next piece, with the similarly divine title Letting Go of God (2006). But I’m glad I saw her earlier piece first, not only because it was fascinating and beautifully performed, but also because it drops a few clues about how someone with Sweeney’s deeply Catholic background could take the radical spiritual turn she takes in the second monologue, which I finally got to see last night. Continue reading