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A Pope that a Unitarian Can Love ? Part One of a Series

Uploaded: Dec 8, 2013
I just finished reading Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM (stay with me, here), which I understand to be a sort of State of the Union address to frame his papacy. Perhaps I was inspired by my confession last time out. I had also seen commentary on this document that didn't ring true, so I wanted to get to the first source. As a semi-dormant Unitarian Universalist by creed, I came to it with an abiding distrust of rigid organized religious institutions (UUism being a blessedly flexible foundational approach to spirituality).

It is a fascinating document ? by turns ethereal and mundane, remarkably colloquial (I never expected to read the term "sourpusses"), dealing with subjects as weighty as world economic doctrine, and as specifically remedial as how to write a better sermon. It was also organized in what seemed to my linear brain to be haphazard fashion, but there are linkable passages of great power and import. If it is to be his lodestar ? the principles that will direct his time leading the Vatican -- it points a very true north. He is this UU's kind of Pope.

There's too much in its 225 pages to summarize in one blog. This being a relatively religious month, (whether your worship takes you to the sanctuary or the mall), kindly indulge a series of reflections on various elements of that text. I'll address bold, interrelated themes this time, next the Catholic Church institution and its role in the world, and finally his remarkable endorsement of a kind of Liberation Theology that has received most of the ink, to-date. I'm no theologian, and occasionally fallible, so any mistakes in understanding and interpretation are mine.

The first of his great themes I'll call Integration. Francis views societies around the world as increasingly stratified, with too little contact among people of different ethnicities, incomes and viewpoints. Isolation both virtual and real, he writes, may contribute to the many pleasures available in a contemporary consumerist economy, but it saps the joy that comes with human contact and community. It is an interesting contrast ? pleasure vs. joy. He envisions a world in which people's joy is enriched by empathic sharing of the passions of life ? both delights and tribulations. He writes:

"If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good?. Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore, and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others." (9)

Second, as opposed to a monolithic Church of static dogma and unquestioning obedience, Francis calls for Decentralization of power and encouragement of diverse viewpoints. Perhaps seasoned by his experience as a Southern Hemisphere cleric in a Eurocentric sect, the text reflects an appreciation of deep cultural differences among the global flock, and an acceptance of various liturgical interpretations ? and specific social solutions. He wants a living, breathing, and yes, evolving Church. This theme makes ample reference to the Second Vatican Council of Pope John 23rd, and he writes:

"Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God's word." (35)

No all of the flock will appreciate this course correction -- some sheep simply prefer to be led. And he is careful to note that he recognizes his Church's role as a bulwark against modern relativism. There are baseline absolutes in that faith that he considers timeless, and will remain in-place. He mentions the uncompromising Catholic opposition to abortion specifically.

"? in Catholic doctrine there is a hierarchy of truths, since they vary in relation to the foundation of the Christian faith...What counts above all else is faith working through Love." (32)

I can almost hear The Beatles.

The third theme I'll call Humility and Service. Here, I'm taking a few liberties with the term evangelism. From my sense of the document, it has both its traditional meaning of spreading The Word and recruiting new members -- and especially a call for social activism: an institutional emphasis on The Good that his Church can do in the world. As opposed to a focus on the majesty, pomp and ceremonies of the Church traditions, he sees it as a vehicle to serve the most basic needs of its people. He exhorts
Catholics to live it to the point of "taking on the smell of the sheep," (22) and to celebrate incremental successes.

This is a Pope who has washed the feet of prisoners, and who is said to sneak out occasionally to minister directly to folks in-need. It is leadership by example, and a clarion call to emulate his actions. It's a remarkable and welcome contrast with his predecessor of the ruby red slippers.

"Sometimes we are tempted to ? keep the Lord's wounds at arm's length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those ? riches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune, and instead enter into the reality of other people's lives, and know the power of tenderness." (201)

Finally comes Francis' call for Ecumenism among various religious traditions specifically, and active engagement in conflict resolution generally. He wants Christians of every stripe, as well as Jews, Muslims and followers of other traditions, to focus on their commonalities as a foundation for dialogue -- and joint action. People can always find ways to split hairs of difference ? which tends to create barriers and tension, paralyze the conversation in the name of purity, and prevent joint accomplishments.

In keeping with Service and Humility, this Pope calls for combined engagement by followers of religion in solving society's problems ? based on their shared commitment to ethical living. To be sure, there Are elements of the different traditions that matter deeply to their adherents, and that are antithetical to each other ? but that is not the point. If the religious communities are to maximize their influence against worldly conflicts and oppressions, they will do it better, together.

"We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must ? put aside suspicion and mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God's face. Trusting others is an art and peace is an art. Jesus told us: Blessed are the peacemakers." (183)

In summary, I believe this Pope has decided to take the New Testament at its Word, and seriously. There are ways of convoluting Scriptures to justify many things ? generally, the more complex the argument, the more likely it is to serve ulterior motivations. Francis appears to have little patience for complexities in directing the Church away from the latter-day scribes and Pharisees and toward simple, direct and timeless interpretations of ethical precepts attributed to Jesus of Nazareth.

We know precious little about the actual, historical Jesus, but readers of the recent book Zealot get a pretty good sense of the context in which he lived and preached. Francis appears to be informed by that context, if not that book. His back-to-the-basics-of-why-we're-here approach, regarding especially the plight and blessings of the poor, seems to make him a very true disciple for our time.
Local Journalism.
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Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 8:59 am

What a bunch of hooey.

The pope says, ?Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others.? Have you ever had someone touch your wound? It hurts. I doubt most people want us gawking at their misery. I certainly don?t need someone with a Messiah complex poking at me.

He says, ?Too little contact among people of different?incomes?saps the joy that comes with human contact. Life?weakens in isolation and comfort.?

I don?t want to be in contact with people of different incomes. I had to fly coach a few years ago. What a nightmare. Smelly people yapping away, disturbing me, asking me annoying questions like, ?Where are you from?? as if it matters. No thank you.

I?m pretty happy in my isolation and comfort, thanks. I don?t believe my joy is getting sapped, at all.

I do have a heart, though. Years ago, I was flipping through a magazine and saw a picture of some kid with a harelip. His parents were too poor to fix it. If I donated $250 bucks they?d fix this poor sucker?s face. So I did it. I?m not completely altruistic. I did get a tax deduction for it. I wouldn?t want that kid coming to my house and bothering me or anything. But I felt good about it. So that?s what I do.

On balance, I think the Catholic church has done more harm than good. I don?t believe in Jesus. Walking on water, turning water into wine, etc., it?s all nonsense.

I do believe in Christmas, however. When someone says, ?Happy Holidays? I say, ?Merry Christmas.? I?m glad if it offends them. I like Rudolph, Frosty, Santa, etc., with no apologies.

Merry Christmas, suckers.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 10:25 am

Bah. Humbug. Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I don't dislike Pope Francis but I must admit that I don't like any religious organization that allows its clergy, male & female to sexually abuse children.

The record of the Roman Catholic church is horrific. Thousands upon thousands of children/vulnerable adults been raped and physically assaulted BY ORDAINED CLERGY.

Harm to children at the hands of trusted RCC clergy has been continuous for centuries.

Bishop Accountability: Web Link is an organization that I greatly admired for holding the RCC accountable for its crimes against humanity.



Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

SNAP: Web Link

Please review their web page. The section news cites stories world-wide re: RCC sex abuse.

It is shocking to say the least.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

PLEASE click on the News section above and international reports of child sexual abuse by RCC priest/nuns comes up. It is shocking.

Web Link

very very tragic news...

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I don't believe that it's entirely possible to eradicate child sexual abuse in any society.

It's very disappointing to realize that "civilized" societies tolerate such an abuse of power.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I've been cholo'd. Would you kindly consolidate your thoughts into fewer separate posts?

Thanks, though. I plan to deal with that issue in the next installment.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi Tom...I'll try to consolidate. I don't disagree with what you have stated. There is much to admire in Pope Francis and he is attempting to make POSITIVE changes. MOSTLY, I admire him.

Things get triggered for me, especially his close relationship with General Videla during the Bloody War in Argentina. Thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent patriots lost their lives, most were innocent, and the mothers in Buenos Aires are still mourning and protesting their losses in the Plaza de las Madres.

The mass graves cannot be denied and children that were stolen by nuns and given to Videla's supporters are now searching for their families.

Pope Francis at the time held private masses for the Generals and their families and turned over 2 dissident priests who imprisoned and tortured.

Pope Francis at the time remained SILENT. I take his efforts at present to do penance for his part in the CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. Incidentally, there was a disproportionate number of artists, intellectual, and Jews who were tortured and murdered. My father took us to Costa Rica, and then we went directly to Madrid, Spain. We got out of Madrid quickly and fled to the Basque Country where it was safer. Then, we eventually made our way to the UK. I have a great love for the Brits!

I look forward to reading your second article.


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Certainly Francis seems to be a much nicer man than most of his predecessors. And probably quite genuinely. On the other hand, I suspect that he has seen the handwriting on the wall and knows that the church must change to survive. He is trying to save an institution that knows it to be absolutely right that women should never be ordained priests and that artificial birth control is forever forbidden, never mind that it is necessary for a peaceful future of mankind. He knows that he is the sole ambassador of the creator of at least 100 billion galaxies of 100 billion stars each (actually I'm not sure about this: do Christians still believe that the tribal god of the ancient Jews created the whole universe as revealed by modern science?) Only he and his brothers in Christ know what is right. Maybe Francis will still turn out to be the Pope who institutes real reform in the Catholic Church, but I doubt it. That might destroy it.

Cholo seems to make some good points.

spcwt: Your post was so vile I wonder whether it was supposed to be a joke? I suspect not, so I will be happy sitting in the smelly section of airplanes to be sure I am not next to you.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

As a Jew, I am compelled to disclose the following:

Web Link

Babies were harvested from Jewish mothers by Catholic nuns and sold for profit to many childless Catholic couples. Their Jewish identities were erased and they were raised from infancy as Catholics.

The children who were stolen and sold for profit by nuns are still trying to locate their biological families.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 10:22 am


Just eat a Tic Tac, don?t put your arm on my armrest and we?ll call it even, ok?

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Zealot was written by a Muslim who became a Christian and then became a Muslim again. Mr. Aslan spews fourth his current religious views that run parallel the same views Muslims have had of Christ over the centuries. It's nothing new.

What I find shocking Mr. Cushing is that you stated the Pope may have got "that context" from Aslan's book. Wrong! But then again, I would not expect you to understand because you are not Catholic, nor are you Orthodox Christian. Aslan's book is garbage. He and the rest of that part of the world see Christ as a prophet, not the Son of God. Want more clarification?

The Bible clearly states that it was Issac who was to be sacrificed before God. The Muslims believe that it was Ishmael. Aslan offers nothing on the subject of Christ because he is too busy trying to convince readers that Christ is not the Son of God.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi BT: thanks for commenting. I included a link to a review of the book "Zealot" from a Yale divinity scholar, who IS a theologian. I do happen to agree with his statement that "A real strength of the book is that it provides an introduction to first-century Palestine, including economics, politics and religion ... describ[ing] the precarious existence of Jewish peasants and the lower classes, and how the Romans and the Jewish upper class exploited the land and the people." That's valuable context for Jesus' ministry.

I did not find the book objectionable simply as written by a non-believer, any more than I would find a book about Islam by a Christian scholar to be Necessarily suspect. Nor does it cheapen Jesus' message for me. It does call into question various historical details, so if you require every Biblical word to be unquestioningly true, that will be disappointing. If that is your approach, however, I don't think you are going to appreciate this Pope\'s ministry (see theme 2).

One correction: I obviously have no idea whether Pope Francis has read Aslan's book, and said so ("if not"). I do believe that his primary emphasis on relief for the poor is informed by knowledge of the historical context provided in many sources, including "Zealot." I just thought that anyone who got that far into the blog might want to explore further; hence the reference.

Finally, I would note your apparent intolerance of people of goodwill, who follow other traditions. I'm not sure that attitude reflects the broad ecumenical approach favored by this prelate (theme 4).

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

Dr. Aslan is a highly educated biblical scholar, scroll down to his credentials:

Web Link

Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:02 am

I must say, briefly turning to this so-called "conversation" (I make a concerted attempt most weeks, to avoid Tom's very verbose opinions on ANY THING, like the "plague" here in the SRE) This one on Pope Francis has given me a huge laugh for this day if not a moment to pause in sadness at both the "doom and gloom" and vilification(s)...Eclectic bunch of writings, I'll grant you that.

It's a beautiful day...Warmer temps. than we've had...Blue sky. I choose to start my day far more positively than, well...You kids.

(head shaking - eye roll)

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hiya, Bunns! Where've you been? Just guessing from your message -- did the positive start to your day involve a snort? I simply have no idea what you are trying to convey (I'm pretty sure it was negative, but beyond that I'm stumped).

Is anyone fluent in Rodent, and willing to translate the text?

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

Tom is always so mean to people like Ms. Bunny. They?re just trying to help.

Just heard Pope Francis is Time magazine?s Person of the Year. I had hoped it would?ve been Snowden.

I don?t care much for the Catholic Church, but I?m glad to see they?re suing to stop Obamacare. Every little bit helps. Their opposition to birth control is ridiculous. But whatever it takes. Last week, Notre Dame joined the fight. One of 86 lawsuits attacking Obamacare on religious grounds.

Probably can?t rely on religious folk arguments to kill Obamacare. My hope is Obamacare will fail based on court cases challenging the federal government's authority to offer health insurance tax credits to people who buy insurance on the federal exchange. The Obamacare statute clearly states the tax credit is available only to people who purchase insurance on an exchange ?established by the state.? It doesn?t say, ?established by the state or federal government.? And it wasn?t a drafting error either. There?s ample evidence that Congress wanted to incentivize states to create these exchanges. No doubt Democrats were shocked that 33 states chose not to set up the beloved exchanges. That would be so sweet if this is what ultimately kills Obamacare. Hopefully John Roberts won?t find a way to weasel out of it again.

Notice my obsession with Obamacare? No matter what topic you post, I will find a way to annoy you.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

Web Link

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

Ha ha. I am totally going to use that picture to annoy my liberal friends.

See, you can?t win!

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Tom: I actually really enjoyed your column, which made me think perhaps I drank too much eggnog last night. But seriously, as an active parishioner at St.Isidore, and life long Catholic, I think Pope Francis is exactly what our religion needed more than ever. It is not a coincidence that he is the first Jesuit Pope ever. When Cardinal, he refused the expensive car service provided, and insisted on walking, and has a reputation as a frugal, down to earth, humble, and approachable individual.

Instead of just focusing on opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and other issues that divide people, his focus is on community service, forgiveness ,and respect for all religions and all points of view and ideologies. The one word that seems to define him is inclusiveness.

Under his watch, I expect more parish priests to take his example, and give sermons that inspire people to be loving, caring, humble individuals, and less fire and brimstone sermons telling us who is going to hell and why. Church attendance historically is down nationwide, and we need to reward those who attend mass by being inspired, and leave feeling good about themselves and their neighbors, rather than feel like they just got called into the Principal's Office and are in trouble.

I know a lot of critics will attack him, for not being conservative enough, for being "Catholic-lite", but that is exactly what my church needs to survive and prosper.

Father Gerry at St. Isidore seems very similar to our new pope, in his dealings with his flock, and his sermons about hope, faith, and forgiveness do inspire.

Anyway, Tom, I got my Christmas present early this year, a column from you that I enjoyed!! Merry Christmas to my Unitarian friend!!

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi American: now YOU're in trouble with Ms Bunny, too. Glad you liked the column -- this will truly be a bountiful year, because there are two more coming on similar subjects! Not sure you'll like the next ones as well, so maybe stock up on eggnog?

I do like this Pope's emphases toward the external world very much, although we seem to be getting some more-of-the-same on important internal matters (teaser).

Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Okay Tommy-boy, once again? You've asked for it...

It has often been said
there's so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.
So the writer (that would be you tom) who breeds
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That's why my belief is
the briefer the brief is?
the greater the sigh
of the reader's relief is!

Are you getting a clue now Tommy? You can thank Dr. Seuss for this "ism" - Too bad you fail to see your worst flaw in journalistic attempts...(all of them, I'm afraid)

Posted by Chris Connor, a resident of another community,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for this thoughtfully written article Tom. I am very impressed by so much of what their Pope has said and I did not read this document he put out and so grateful you did so that I can understand some of it. I didn\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'t get a chance to read all the responses from spcwts(whatever they might be) and bunnies (I DO know what bunnies are), ...though I am sure they were highly intelligent , well though out and informed responses, I did however take note of the one about child abuse. I think I read somewhere that this Pope is actually the first to take a strong stand against it?hope that\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s true.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

'Atta girl, Buns -- you do Much better using other people's words. And I raised my kids on Dr. Seuss, from the Sneetches, to the Lorax, Horton, and the Pale Green Pants.

But as you may know, we barristers get paid by the word, and as my old Daddy used to tell me, as I sat upon his knee, he'd say: "Son, don't write so you can be understood -- write so you can't be misunderstood." Or, if that meaning eludes you, just consider me a south-going Zax. Web Link

Posted by Dirka_Dirka_Bakala, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm

TC is a legend in his own mind. My goats fart more cohesive thoughts. He is nothing but a socialist buffoon. He is a bait and snap weasel that has lost his man card. His ego is so huge, he is oblivious to how much people despise him. Folks run the other way when he is out in town. Ignore the smarmy conceited, limp wrist-ed, fat old man. Murder she wrote will be on in a few minuets Tommy, why don't you DVR it so you can get the early bird special at Marie Calender's.

Dirka Dirka Bakala

Posted by John, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Tom, you aren't moonlighting on the Time staff these days are you? What great timing for this piece!

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Really Dirka, serving up the same old leftover crap, again -- try to keep up, son. What do you think about the Pope?

John: I'd have probably voted for Snowden in terms of impact, but I'll take it!

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:29 am

Quick response to the person who flagged Dirka's post as objectionable: easy to agree with you, but if I censor it, I feed the hostility and spawn many more such posts on the topic of the censoring. He's already way off-topic for the blog -- I'm hoping, without much expectation, instead to hear what he thinks about the Pope.

Please bear with me.

Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

Funny. You're a fine one to talk: forever seeking the need to focus merely on my "pen name" in writing online. How trite is that? The very thing you would accuse others of? You seem to be proficient at.

Time to reconsider your obviously, second career Tom. Seriously...You never seem to "see the forest for the trees" and take heart not to bore with your ridiculous tirades as opposed to worthwhile stories. Can't you just learn to write a column of substance without all the fluff and far more succinctly than you do? One would think at your age? You'd understand? That it truly doesn't take THAT MANY WORDS to get your point across? I think you just like to hear yourself talk as opposed to generating anything thought provoking or meaningful. Even during the holidays (sigh) You "Grinch" it up with your "over the top" rhetoric...You need to think about that this season.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 9:22 am

I'm looking forward to reading about il papa again. He is an interesting individual. What will it take to focus his mind on child sexual abuse? He's no dummy and is certainly capable of speaking out about his renegade child molesting clergy. I don't know what he has up his sleeve but I'm getting impatient and I'm curious if he will actually do anything?

At least publish all of their names. They can run but they can't hide.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Bunns: I try to take your critique seriously, I really do, but it is mostly unsupported scolding and cliche-ed claims, with very little actual evidence. And then there are all the data points to the contrary. It's just not convincing, on balance. Sorry. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes -- maybe you could seek his intercession?

On the bright side, today's missile from you was reasonably coherent, and a nice contrast -- so there's that, at least.

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 14, 2013 at 1:05 am

Mr. Cushing, you are influenced buy Aslan's book. All I did was say my piece about him and you call me intolerant. I'm tolerant of all religions, sir. I'm not tolerant about someone who makes up history in order for people to follow him. Check out the way he handled his Tweets when his book came out. The guy has no class whatsoever. Challenge him and he becomes unglued. And by what source do you cite that the Pope may have been influenced by this book? Hmm? The lawyerly clips and phrases you so uneloquently use to get your points across are pretty weak. In fact, here is what you said:

"Francis appears to be informed by that context, if not that book." (Aslan's book).

What you don't know Tommy boy is that the book reprises one of the familiar narratives about the historical Jesus, which is that Jesus was not a religious preacher but a political rebel against Roman rule. Yeah right. This is what Aslan believes. As I stated before, the Catholic and Orthodox Church believe Jesus was a preacher. Jesus was all about faith. He was not concerned with politics. But hey, believe what you want Tom. Or I should say, believe what Aslan wants you to believe.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 14, 2013 at 7:29 am

BT: your writing drips with scorn, for Aslan, and for anyone not your kind of Christian -- wear it.

Further, it's pretty clear that you either haven't read or understood Zealot, or even the brief review of it that I linked from an authoritative source. I Have read it, and Jesus IS presented as a religious teacher, as well as a political activist against Rome and the corrupted establishment upper ranks of Judaism. Politics and religion were deeply intertwined, much more so than here and now. Even now, would you call the Papacy a strictly religious institution and influence?

My point, again, in linking the book was because I found it interesting for precisely the historical context it presents, that I believe informs this Pope, whether he's read it or not. The sentence you quote was in there to AVOID any implication that the Pope necessarily has read it. That's what "if not" does. Your mis-comprehension is not made better by repetition.

Finally, suffice it to say that I did not arrive at Zealot as an empty vessel, just waiting to be filled with poison from the infidel. Oh, and the only way you can call me "Tommy Boy" and not sound silly is if you are 85 or older.

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 14, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hey Tom, just keep following the guy with no history degree. Aslan has a PHd in sociology. Checkmate.

Posted by Ramjet, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Dec 14, 2013 at 11:30 am

Fuel to the fire...

Aslan does have four degrees, as Joe Carter has noted: a 1995 B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and wrote his senior thesis on ?The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark?; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

None of these degrees is in history, so Aslan?s repeated claims that he has ?a Ph.D. in the history of religions? and that he is ?a historian? are false.  Nor is ?professor of religions? what he does ?for a living.? He is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside, where his terminal MFA in fiction from Iowa is his relevant academic credential. It appears he has taught some courses on Islam in the past, and he may do so now, moonlighting from his creative writing duties at Riverside. Aslan has been a busy popular writer, and he is certainly a tireless self-promoter, but he is nowhere known in the academic world as a scholar of the history of religion. And a scholarly historian of early Christianity? Nope.

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

I love facts Mr. Cushing. If you research Mr. Aslan\'s views of atheists, I think you will find that he is very intolerant on non-believers. LOL, and you call me intolerant! Check out what the Koran states about non-believers:

Quran (3:56) - "As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help."

Aslan teaches creative writing for a living Tom. Please don\'t let a creative writer influence your perception of historical fact.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

At this risk, Web Link the posts above seek to discredit Aslan's book, not on its content, but solely on the basis of trying to attack the author. Frankly, I do not care if Dr. Aslan beats his children and kicks his dog. Kindly recall that the link was there to provide a basis for seeking Context of the type I believe the Pope understands.

Let's look again at the review by a distinguished theologian, that was linked in the blog:

"Mr. Aslan?s book has been greeted with unwarranted controversy. Some conservatives seem offended by merely the idea that a Muslim scholar would write a book about Jesus.... Nor is Mr. Aslan?s thesis controversial, at least among scholars of early Christianity."

"Mr. Aslan?s thesis is not startling, original or entirely new... Nor is it as outlandish as described by his detractors. That Jesus was a Jewish peasant who attempted to foment a rebellion against the Romans and their Jewish clients has been suggested at least since the posthumous publication of Hermann Samuel Reimarus?s ?Fragments? (1774-78). The most famous case for the thesis is the 1967 book by S. G. F. Brandon, ?Jesus and the Zealots.? .... And the basic premise that Jesus was zealous for the political future of Israel as the kingdom of God on earth is neither new nor controversial."

And, as to CONTEXT: "A real strength of the book is that it provides an introduction to first-century Palestine, including economics, politics and religion. Mr. Aslan uses previous scholarship to describe the precarious existence of Jewish peasants and the lower classes, and how the Romans and the Jewish upper class exploited the land and the people."

Now, whom shall I 'believe' -- a distinguished scholar in religious studies from Yale, or two anonymous guys on the internet -- with a very clear ax to grind, who haven't even read the book in Q? Decisions, decisions.

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Anonymous guys on the Internet + a creative writer who makes up history = pretty much the same thing I guess. What's your point? LOL!!!

Your problem is that you don't inform the reader. Instead, you attempt to make us see things your way. We are not part of a jury. Stop trying to plead your case. It's boring.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 6:57 am

Ah, so you've continued this ad hominem crusade because it's "boring?" Whodathunkit? Any thoughts about the Pope, you know, the actual subject of this article?

Posted by BT, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 8:22 pm

You keep avoiding the obvious. Boring.

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