Jesus Christ: Super-hippie?

Was Jesus Christ the original hippie?

It annoys me when modern people, usually atheist modern people, talk about Jesus. Take this commentary from a book I recently read called Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. The book is about the author’s foray into the minimum wage world in month-long stints (you can read my review of the book here). During one of these episodes, she makes a visit to a local church and describes the service this way:

The preaching goes on, interrupted with dutiful “amens.” It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say.

Never mind the bad economics of raising the minimum wage; Jesus Christ was a “wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist”? It’s as if Ms. Ehrenreich and others like her (I have heard these types of descriptions many times before but, sadly, have not collected them all. I’d love to hear some of the doosies that you’ve heard in the comments) think that Jesus was the original hippie, that he just sat around all day getting high, talking about free love, and sticking it to “the man.” It makes me wonder if any of these people have ever read the New Testament.

It is true that Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” (John 14:27)and it is true that hippies talk about peace a lot, but Jesus also said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I am not come to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Clearly, Jesus was talking about something more complicated than the hippie ideal of peace and love.

And what about Jesus being a socialist? Besides the absurdity of ascribing a political ideology to someone centuries before that ideology existed, (I also don’t think that Jesus was a capitalist, or any other kind of -ist) can Jesus’ words and actions be fit into what we know as socialist ideology today? True, he did tell at least one rich guy to “sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Luke 18:22). That sounds kind of socialist, but if you consider who he is talking to and what he is actually saying, you realize that it isn’t socialist at all.

First, he is talking to an individual. Christ was more concerned with individual morality than he was with “social justice.” In fact, there is evidence that this council was specific for that individual and not even all rich people. Christ dined in the home of Levi, a publican (they were rich), and there is no record of him saying anything like what he said to the other rich guy (see Luke 5:27-32), and when Judas suggested that the pound of ointment that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet should be sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus said, “The poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (John 12: 8). Clearly, Christ’s admonishment is individual and not universal.

Second, what exactly is he saying to this individual? He is saying that that individual should give away his money and riches to the poor. A socialist wouldn’t bother with that. A socialist would not be talking to one rich man with only authority over his own possessions. A socialist would be talking to the political leaders, to King Herod, to Pilate, to someone with some authority. And a socialist wouldn’t tell these people to give away all of their money. A socialist would tell these people to take away the other rich people’s money and give it to the poor. Christ, though, was not interested in politics or political power. Have you noticed how little time he spent trying to get the attention of the governing bodies of his day? Did Christ ever try to gain an audience with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body? King Herod? Pilate? He was dragged to them, but he didn’t seek an audience with them. And one of the only things he said to one of these political leaders was that his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).

Jesus was not a hippie.

He was not a political activist. He was not “wine-guzzling vagrant.”

He was and is the Son of God. You can’t hope to understand Jesus without accepting that, and there is no better time to accept it than Easter, when we celebrate the event that made his life meaningful for all of humanity.

It is this time when we celebrate his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people welcomed their true king with shouts of, “Hosanna.” We celebrate his infinite Atonement, when he suffered for the world’s sins, and gave life meaning for all of us. And we celebrate his victory over death in his glorious resurrection.

We only have two options when confronting Christ and his teachings. Accepting him as the Son of God and his teachings as the word of God, or dismiss him and them as mad. To quote C.S. Lewis, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him, and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity , 52).

Jesus Christ was more than a man. He was more than anything we could ever imagine to categorize him. Which is why our pathetic attempts to ascribe our shallow, human social categorizations to him will always fail.

Note: The misspellings of the name “Pilate,” misspelled in the original post as “Pilot,” was corrected on April 25 at 1:45 Eastern Time.

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14 Responses to Jesus Christ: Super-hippie?

  1. SP says:

    So, normally I really enjoy this weblog, and I agree with you about Ehrenreich and others who try to force Jesus to conform to constructs nonexistent in His day. I can also understand your frustration about someone you love and worship being described as a “wine-guzzling vagrant.”

    But: this post comes across more as a rant about the evils of socialism and the stupidity of certain people than a discussion of either Jesus’ loving, if occasionally divisive, nature or His lack of political affiliation. You can disagree with someone without calling their arguments “pathetic” or “shallow” or condescendingly saying “You can’t hope to understand Jesus without [subscribing to my beliefs].” (Note that I agree that one can’t fully understand Jesus without accepting Him as the Son of God, but I wouldn’t say it this way, especially in this forum.) What of showing respect for others’ opinions, even if we disagree?

    “A socialist would be talking to the political leaders, to King Herod, to Pilot [sic]…”

    “Did Christ ever try to gain an audience with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body? King Herod? Pilot [sic]?”

    … I do believe you mean “Pilate.”

    • M. E. Pickett says:

      Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment. I like the feedback.

      To respond to some of the things you mentioned, I chose the words “pathetic” and “shallow” purposefully to express how strongly I feel about this topic. I find it condescending for an areligious person to try to tell a religious person how to worship their God, or to claim to understand his words better than people who have dedicated their lives to studying them. This gets me riled up and makes me want to respond in kind. Also, I think that I can declare my thoughts and opinions strongly, without apology. I have no problem telling people that I don’t agree with them and that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect them.

      Lastly, thank you for catching my typo. Apparently, we at mormonperspectives.com could use a copy editor. If you’d like to fill this position, let me know.

  2. The best Easter post I read this year.

    Good to see you’re riling up people with this blog. Jesus pissed people off too. It’s just fine to disrespect stupid opinions. It’s better rhetoric (and more Christ-like) to show love to the people who hold them. But it’s perfectly okay to demolish a bad argument, especially when those bad arguments can lead to the enslavement and death of millions (think U.S.S.R.). I think you did a fine job.

    • Teppo says:

      Christopher,

      I must disagree with you. I think that as followers of Jesus, our goal should always be to build people up, to help them feel God’s love, and to come closer to Him. Very rarely is it helpful to create negative feelings by disrespecting others opinions. It is mighty hard to help people feel your love that way. I’ve always had more success in inviting the Spirit to my conversations with others when I’ve done my best to show love and then included some comments that open the door for them to reconsider their views. If you push someone to a corner, they are more likely to fight than to reconsider their views.

      We must not shy away from teaching true doctrines and sometimes this should be done with great energy. But I believe it is counterproductive to focus on the incorrect opinions of others. Preaching truth brings the Spirit must more easily than tearing down falsehood.

      • Good point. It is especially pointless to tear something down when you don’t have anything to replace it with.

        Nice Finnish name. You still living in Finland? I hear they’re having some disagreements with the E.U.

        • M. E. Pickett says:

          My views on the issue are as follows: the point of preaching the gospel is to bring people to Christ. That means doing our best to show those people the love that Christ has for them. It also means teaching them correct doctrine because Christ didn’t just go around telling people that he loves them and that they should love one another. He also taught doctrine and sometimes that doctrine wasn’t what people wanted to hear. In fact, it infuriated so many people that they killed him for it (he said that he was the Messiah and the Jewish leaders of that time wanted him to be killed for blasphemy).

          One of my problems with modern popular religious discourse is that it seems to focus exclusively on the love parts of Jesus’ message and ignores the doctrine parts. I suspect this is because the doctrine part tends to rub people the wrong way. The result is a watered down spirituality. No one disagrees with anyone else because there is nothing to disagree with. We all know that we should love one another. But we don’t all agree on how to be “saved,” to cite one example.

          Furthermore, I don’t think that disagreeing is a bad thing. Here is an example: I once had a roommate from Nepal. He was raised Buddhist, but was investigating the church. I would sometimes join in his missionary lessons and would be astonished that he would say things like, “I think that God is an energy or a force,” something that is directly opposed to Latter-day Saint doctrine, and the missionaries would mutter, “Yeah, that’s true.” Eventually, a baptismal date was set for him and in talking to him it became clear that he didn’t even really believe in God. One day, I sat down with him and asked him what he did believe. After hearing what he had to say, I said, “I don’t agree with that. Here is what I believe.” After that, he progressed well and eventually got baptized. All of us involved were confident that he was ready to make that covenant with God.

          I don’t take credit for his ultimate baptism, but I do think that it was healthy to confront a dissenting voice. Why would he join a new religion if it allowed him to believe what he believed as a Buddhist? Of course, our religion doesn’t allow that, but, for fear of offending him, the missionaries were not showing him that. If he hadn’t gotten baptized I still would have treated him the same, with respect, but at least he would have known what difference between us was and that he had made a conscious decision between those two positions. That is what I think Christ demands. That we evaluate his gospel in relation to everything else, every other system of belief or non-belief, and that we choose Christ. That, I think, is learning to choose between good and evil, which is one of the main points of this life.

          P.S. Chris, Teppo is from Finland. Teppo, Chris served his mission in Finland. You two should be friends.

          • SP says:

            Kiitos paljon, Teppo ja Chris, for saying what I wanted to say better than I could.

            Speaking of which: Nobody here has said or even implied that disagreeing is a bad thing. In fact, Teppo specifically said “We must not shy away from teaching true doctrines and sometimes this should be done with great energy.” But there’s a big difference between saying “I disagree with your ideas” and “Your ideas are stupid.” This forum is meant for Latter-day Saints to share beliefs in a positive way; its purpose is not to “[rile] up”/“[piss] people off,” insult people (“[I] wonder if these people have ever read the New Testament”), or ridicule their ideas (“I’d love to hear some of the doo[z]ies that you’ve heard” is a request for ideas to scorn, not discuss, as is clear both from the tone of the rest of the post and the word “doozies”). What if you read a similar request directed against Mormons? It would be obvious that the writer had no interest in engaging in respectful discussion–and that writer would probably say, as you imply, that he was just responding “in kind” to some offensive comments a Mormon had made.

            But I can’t find any scriptural instruction to denigrate anyone’s ideas even if we find them offensive. Jesus did criticize some peoples’ ideas and actions, and that very strongly; however, I don’t remember Him telling His followers anything like “If someone offends you, respond in kind” or “It’s just fine to disrespect stupid opinions.” Responding in kind negatively is always detrimental and destroys the Spirit, as any missionary who has ever Bible bashed has learned the hard way.

            Finally, I think it was very important for you to help your friend examine his beliefs and educate him about Mormon doctrine–but I think his response would have been somewhat different had you opened with “I think your ideas about God are pathetic and shallow” instead of a respectful “I don’t agree with that.”

          • Christopher says:

            Well said.

            I think I need to repent for being a jerk.

  3. M. E. Pickett says:

    Here’s another addition to this discussion: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/was-jesus-a-socialist-msnbcs-lawrence-odonnell-thinks-so/

    One of the main problems here is equating giving to the government with giving to charity. Those two actions are not one and the same.

    • Brigham says:

      I like your distinction between voluntarily giving to the poor and compulsory giving to the poor. I think for many people it doesn’t make too much of a difference–whatever works, as long as the poor are taken care of. But for Mormons, whether the giving is voluntary or compulsory makes a big difference. However, if we insist on having all charity being voluntary, we have to be OK with the possibility that not all the poor will be taken care of.

  4. M. E. Pickett says:

    I’ve been trying to post this comment for a while, but it hasn’t worked up to this point as far as I can see. Sorry if you’ve read this already.

    SP, you are right that my roommate would have reacted differently if I had opened with “I think that your ideas about God are pathetic and shallow,” but I wouldn’t have opened with that because I didn’t and don’t think that. Anyone has the right to have any opinions that they want. They start to run into trouble, though, when they start to project opinions on other people, especially Jesus, which is what I am responding to here.

    Ms. Ehrenreich calls Jesus a socialist. Since she doesn’t support that claim with any evidence, I will discuss here another doozie that I found recently. I added a link below with a video in which Lawrence O’Donnell declares that Jesus supports the progressive tax brackets and would support a 100% tax. What is his evidence for this? The story of the widow’s mite found in Mark 12:43-44. Regardless of personal opinions about the progressive tax brackets, to say that this story “obviously” supports a “clear, Christian, philosophical basis for a progressive income tax” is just plain ridiculous. Jesus wasn’t talking about taxes. He was talking about donations to the temple and the money given wasn’t taken by force, but given by the widow’s own free will. It is ridiculous to say that this story is evidence that Jesus supports a progressive income tax because Jesus isn’t talking about taxes here at all.

    I call these statements doozies for two reasons. First, the word doozie is fun to say, read, and write. Second, it is derogatory and these statements deserve to be derided, not because I disagree with the politics, but because they are adulterating the words of Christ to support a political platform (I also don’t think that Rush Limbaugh has any Biblical evidence that Jesus would support no income tax, even though I think that there should be no income tax).

    I don’t claim to be perfect and I know that there are many ways that I need to improve, but I will not be silent when people twist Christ’s words to support their politics, especially when it has been done in a public forum. In response, I will use the most public forum I have at my disposal and state what I think as clearly, and as strongly as I can (and I hope that my posts can be lively and fun to read). I will continue to try to be Christ-like in my future posts. I am sorry if that doesn’t satisfy you, but there are many other great writers on this blog and I suggest that you continue to read their posts. I will not be offended if you choose to skip over mine.

  5. Sargeant Kootliss says:

    Why are you guys debating over a mythological creature, no more real than the Hydra?????

  6. bubblers says:

    We will see what he is like when he comes back, thank you for sharing!

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