Local Author Presents Yet Another ‘Jesus’

February 12, 2011

This story was posted on AnnArbor.Com. Jim Stacey, an Ann Arbor resident, has written a book that he says shows us who Jesus really was. He has given the book the catchy title, “Jesus was not a Christian: Discovering the Jesus Who was Replaced by Theology.” He has analyzed some Aramaic texts and determined that the historic Christian understanding of Jesus is all wrong. More than being wrong, Stacey argues, Christianity has been a downright evil force in the world. From annarbor.com,

In a nutshell, Stacey’s book says “Christianity has been lying to us for 1,700 years, teaching us what Jesus didn’t teach … that it is the wounds of Christianity that have caused the human spirit more pain and more anguish than any other energy on the planet.”

“Any other energy on the planet.” That is a strong statement. That comes from the Aramaic text? Well…. not exactly. Although in the article it appears that Stacey start his journey by discovering these truths via, “years of studying the words of the Aramaic Jesus” and from eight years of “workshops,” a continued reading the article makes it apparent that much of his animosity toward historic Christianity comes more from Stacey’s own background and upbringing.

“However, Stacey was dealing with a lifetime of pain he says he suffered “at the hands of fundamentalist parents and the church structures that were abusive, condescending and wounding.”

Later the article quotes Stacey saying,

“It gave me hope … Christianity never gave me any answers to my pain, Christianity had no answer to bring healing to my victim, wounded spirit that I carried for over 50 years,” Stacey said.

So, it is clear that Stacey is no impartial scholar who discovered some truth in the course of study. He is someone who had a very bad experience within a fundamentalist environment and this led him to exit the faith and look for something different.

I commented on the article and addressed the scholarship of Stacey’s arguments. I argued that Christianity was not an evil ‘force’ in the world. I argued that Christianity was not oppressive to women. I then addressed the error of Stacey’s conclusions on who the ‘historical Jesus’ was. You can read my comments there (user name ‘Will”). Bottom line is that Stacey’s arguments are not new and take an approach that has long been shown to be fraught with error.

But I think there is an important principle that Christians can learn from this article. Sometimes people initially cloak their objections to Christianity in logic and scholarly arguments when, in fact, the intellectual issues are not what is keeping them away. Someone, for example, might say that she can’t accept God because of the philosophical “problem of evil” argument, in reality the reason she objects is that she had an abusive pastor growing up. The well meaning Christian might attempt to explain why evil is not a problem, philosophically, while missing the real issue preventing faith in that individual. We might even drive her further away. So we need to be sensitive to what the real objections of the person are. This is where it really helps to have a relationship with the person we are sharing our faith with. If Stacey was a friend of mine, I would attempt to show him that not all Christians are angry and oppressive fundamentalists. The true Christian religion is one that has a freeing effect on all who adhere to it. It gives us peace with God and humanity. This fact is something that is missed on many non Christians and, unfortunately, is also missed by many Christians.

The above is an important principle for Christians to consider when dealing with private interactions (e.g. when a friend says something like Stacey is saying). Public attacks on Christianity require public responses because the accusations may affect people who really do struggle with the problem of evil (or the historicity of scripture or whatever). In response to Stacey, it is important to note that it is quite wrong to say that Christianity has been an evil force in the world (Christians are responsible for ending widespread infanticide, the gladiator games – the sport of murder, and a whole host of other historical good things) and we, as Christians, need to remind people of all the good that Christianity has done. And Stacey’s argument from the Aramaic is simply untenable from a scholarly perspective. The original texts were written in Greek and translated to Aramaic not vice versa. There is almost nothing that can be learned about Jesus or the Apostles from the study of texts that were translated many years after their time on earth.

This article is much more interesting for a case study on the very complicated subject of why individual people object to Christianity than the substance of the arguments. It is something that every Christian should consider.

8 Responses to “Local Author Presents Yet Another ‘Jesus’”

  1. Gemma Says:

    Mr. Vida, I have actually read Mr. Stacey’s book and have seen him speak at a local bookstore. Mr. Stacey stessed several times that he takes issue with the theological structure and not individual Christians, many of whom have found a path of love on their journey. Surely you and I can both find examples of how Christains have done great things and awful things in the name of “God”. This is not unique to Christianity, but a characteristic of monotheistic religions and followers who need their God to be right at the cost of putting down others.

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi Gemma,

      Thank you for the comment. I don’t know Mr. Stacey and have not read the book. I made some observations based on the article. But the statements in the article include some pretty wild statements about the historicity of the Bible and then make some pretty big negative generalizations about the historic Christian faith. Such sweeping negative generalizations are usually considered bigotry.

      Would you not agree that his statement that Christianity has “caused the human spirit more pain and more anguish than any other energy on the planet” is an extreme and hurtful statement? Can you imagine the outrage if that was said about any other religion? Imagine if ANNARBOR.com profiled a Christian author who wrote one of the following statements:

      Islam has caused more pain and anguish than any other energy on the planet.
      Hinduism has caused more pain and anguish than any other energy on the planet.
      Atheism has caused more pain and anguish than any other energy on the planet.
      Judaism has caused more pain and anguish than any other energy on the planet.

      Any one of these statements would probably never make it past the annarbor.com editor and if it did it would receive hundreds of comments condemning it as hate speech.

      Consider the sweeping statement, “The church never has [honored women or treated them as equals].” This statement is denied by almost every Christian alive in America and yet it is stated as uncontroversial fact. You don’t agree that this statement is rash and, dare we say, bigoted?

      The whole point of my post here was not to get into a debate. I wanted to note some of the interesting pieces of human nature and how we (as very complicated human beings) often list reasons for unbelief that are not actually the issue at all.

      I would love to speak with Mr Stacey or anyone else who has questions about Christian history or the historicity of the Bible. These are issues that I have studied in depth and I am quite confident are not being accurately described in this article (and I think I am on safe ground to say in his book).

      • Gemma Says:

        Hello again. It’s nice to see that a health conversation is taking place. I respectfully wouldn’t agree that Mr. Stacey’s comment was extreme and hurtful. I understand that a small article in AnnArbor.com couldn’t convey everything that I’ve experienced with Mr. Stacey’s book, but I agree with him that being born into a religion that tells you your are worthless and sinful may not be the healthiest environment. I know what kind of dammage that causes children when their parents say that to them. If a Muslin or Hindu, after growing up in their faith, studying and preaching their theology made similar statements about their faith, I would not be upset, rather I’d wonder what it was that lead them to that conclusion.
        On women, ah that would take a lot of time. Let me assure you that as a woman, I have experienced first hand the patriarcal energy of Christianity and have also experienced a beautiful balance of the feminie and masculine energies that are possible when we walk a loving path as Jesus taught. Which is more prevalent? The patriarchal energy. I’ve often wondered how to process the line from Genesis (paraphrased) when we are told that God created us in His image. As a young girl in a patriarchal church, I did not understand how a blue-eyed, blonde girl looked like a male god. Now of course I understand it much differently and found a deep knowing that finally resolved those questions. How delightful it was when I heard Mr. Stacey mention something similar in one of his talks at the book store. A balance of the energies is much healthier for both men and women. Thank you again for the healthy conversation. I appreciate a dialogue that isn’t coming from a place of fear and judgement. Be well. Namaste.

      • W. Vida Says:

        Hi Gemma,

        Historic Christianity never says that you are “worthless”. To the contrary, it says that humanity is so important to God that he sacrificed greatly of himself for us. Regarding ‘patriarchy’, I would like to know your definition. If you mean that Christians have belittled, abused, or dismissed women as inferior that is not a Biblical notion. Keep in mind what I said to Jim – being a “jerk” comes naturally for human beings. Christianity doesn’t tell people to be jerks. There is not a society (pagan, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim or etc) in the history of the world that has not belittled, abused, or dismissed someone (if not women some other group). Christianity does the opposite. It commands people to stop being belittling. Stop abusing. Stop being dismissive. And if the people you have met were rude and dismissive to you, that is not the result of too much Christianity. It is the result of not enough Christianity.

  2. Jim Stacey Says:

    Anyone who thinks that the Aramaic is a translation from the Greek simply doesn’t know history. I commonly find that people make a fixation on something they read, they distort what was said in order to divert their comments to suit their own agenda. I feel you have done this too, and you have distorted my words in order to label me. Your projections are obvious. You are attacking me just like history shows that Christians do so often, and you haven’t even read the 400 pages of my book. Sure there are loving Christians, and many of them are my friends. I honor those who are practicing what Jesus taught. It’s not a “bad experience” that I had. I studied the christian theology for over 8 years. Theology replaces Love. Christianity is not known for practicing “loving neighbors” as themselves. They are not known for “loving their enemies.” When will it become known for simply practicing the English? You can defend Christianity if you like. Jesus would disagree with you. The structures of patriarchal control are the problem. Have you not read what Jesus said about that? Your bias is showing through. Would you like to meet sometime? I’d welcome that. Bless you on your path.

    • W. Vida Says:

      Hi Jim,

      I am sorry you didn’t like my post. I am pretty sure that everything I said rests on solid scholarship.

      Please keep in mind that it is not fair to compare Christianity to a perfect utopia. There are some jerks who call themselves Christians. That is undeniable. Christian history has all sorts of warts and bruises.

      But if you look at the history of every society that ever existed (Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, Hindu etc), you will also see some pretty nasty things. You cannot blame Christianity for the fact that people are not perfect. You have to blame people for the fact that people are not perfect.

      Instead the question must be: ‘Does Christianity make people better than they would be without it?” That answer is undoubtedly yes. When I ministered to prison inmates, I saw the impact it made when hardened criminals converted. When I served the homeless, I saw the impact Christianity made people converted. Most of all I saw the impact that Christianity has made on my own life.

      Are big jerks who become Christian still jerks? In many cases, yes. But hopefully, they are a little better. Maybe a little less mean. Maybe a little more merciful. Not perfect….but better.

      Christianity makes individuals better and society is simply made of a bunch of individuals. So, did Christianity make the societies that converted better? In almost all known cases, yes. The Roman Empire used to kill almost half its baby girls. That stopped thanks to Christianity. The Roman Empire used to gather together in stadiums but instead of watching people kick a ball around they would watch lions eat people as they screamed in pain. That stopped largely due to Christianity.

      Jim, I know that you have experienced some mean and hurtful jerks who called themselves Christians. I am very sorry for that. I am not here to defend them or their actions. But I do not believe that it is Christianity that made them jerks. I have met jerks who were irreligious, jerks who were Muslim, jerks who were neo-pagans. Jerkiness happens. “Mean people suck.” It is a sad fact of life.

      But Christianity doesn’t tell people to be jerks. It tells people to be kind and gentle and good. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

      If the people you know were not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self controlled then they did not suffer from too much Christian theology but not enough.

      Peace be with you Jim. I would be happy to discuss further if you would like. God bless you.

      • Jim Stacey Says:

        Hi again, Thank you for responding. We certainly do agree on some issues and that being the case doesn’t solve the dilemma that millions of people find deep within themselves when faced with the damnation, judgment oriented, and shame inducing theology of Christianity that is not at all what we find coming from Jesus. This is what I have in mind when I say that it is Christianity (not Christians) that has caused more pain and suffering for the human spirit than any other entity on the planet. I cannot speak about any other religion since I was not raised within any of them. I have Muslim friends, Jewish friends, Buddhist friends and Christian friends. I do not judge people for that would only be a projection of my own inner self. I certainly have done that but I continue to work on myself to not do that. I am not completely free of that yet, but I want to be. My whole premise is that Jesus taught that “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” That was his message and has never been the message of Christianity unless you “repent” and “believe” their doctrines. I am just responding to so many years of experience within the patriarchal structures of the religion of Christianity. I preached that nonsense too, years ago, and I had to “repent” of doing so. Bless you, my friend. I appreciate healthy discussion without labeling, accusing and anger. I sincerely would love to sit down with you sometime. I can learn more from everyone. You can reach me via email. I’ll buy lunch.

      • W. Vida Says:

        Hi Jim, I am convinced that Christianity has made and continues to make a positive impact in the world. I am also convinced that justice is required for true mercy to exist. I think that the two are different sides of the same coin.

        I would love to talk further. I would love to take you up on your kind lunch offer. I will contact you via email.

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