L.B.: Buck & Jules

Left Behind, pp. 77-80

Buck Williams was on his way to London when the mass disappearances occurred and his flight returned to Chicago. He had gone to Chicago to "mend fences" with one of his "Global Weekly" colleagues: "… [the]bureau chief there, a fiftyish black woman named Lucinda Washington."

We meet Lucinda in a flashback because she is a Christian and therefore, in the present of the story, she's dead/raptured. She's the first Christian character we meet whose faith seems to have consisted of more than just sitting around, waiting to go to heaven. (She's also the first black character we meet as Jenkins employs the Hollywood-shorthand device of demonstrating the virtue of a white character by showing that he has black friends.) Lucinda seems nice enough, although, like everyone else in the book, she talks funny.

Buck had annoyed Lucinda when he:

… scooped her staff on, of all things, a sports story that was right under their noses. An aging Bears legend had finally found enough partners to help him buy a professional football team, and Buck had somehow sniffed it out, tracked him down, gotten the story, and run with it.

"I admire you Cameron," Lucinda Washington had said, characteristically refusing to use his nickname. "I always have, as irritating as you can be. But the very least you should have done was let me know."

"And let you assign somebody who should have been on top of this anyway?"

"Sports isn't even your gig, Cameron. After doing the Newsmaker of the Year and covering the defeat of Russia by Israel, or I should say by God himself, how can you even get interested in penny-ante stuff like this?"

That reference to the defeat of Russia "by God himself" is the real purpose of this little vignette with Lucinda, in which LaHaye and Jenkins offer a glimpse of the spiritual journey Buck has been on ever since he witnessed that event (see earlier, "The Babel Fish").

You'll recall that sometime before the events of LB begin, L&J explain that Russia launched a full-scale nuclear attack on Israel, unloading its entire nuclear arsenal on a country the size of New Jersey. Buck Williams was there, in Israel, at ground zero in a nuclear war. He witnessed firsthand the explosion of tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, each far more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, without a single injury to himself or to any Israeli. It was an explicit, extravagant miracle — an act of divine intervention signed with a flourish by the hand of the Almighty. Having witnessed such a thing Buck — yet, strangely, only Buck — has come to believe in God.

Buck's spiritual awakening is a lot like that of Jules, Samuel L. Jackson's character in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction." Jules was a professional killer who experiences a revelatory "moment of clarity" after several shots fired at him point-blank failed to harm him. Jules regards this as a divine miracle and a sign that his life must change. Here's how he describes it:

It could be God stopped the bullets, he changed Coke into Pepsi, he found my fuckin' car keys. You don't judge shit like this based on merit. Whether or not what we experienced was an according-to-Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is I felt God's touch, God got involved.

We can envision a kind of chart or scale of the miraculous. On one end of the scale we can place serendipitous quotidian experiences that may or may not be providential — such as the answered prayers for parking spaces that seem to form such an essential element of American evangelical piety. On the other end would be, say, Moses' personal interviews with God atop Mt. Sinai in which the hand of the Almighty reaches down to inscribe God's laws in stone.

Jules' example of the car keys would clearly be toward the lower end of this scale. The transformation of Coke into Pepsi would be slightly more impressive, but still not up there with the raising of Lazarus or the parting of the Red Sea. Jules' partner, Vince, isn't convinced that their not getting shot qualifies as a miracle, but only as a "freak occurence." And Vince may be right — in the grand scheme of things it's closer to car keys than to Sinai.

But what if, instead of a handgun, Vince and Jules had been fired on with a machine gun? Or what if they had been attacked by a military helicopter? The more lethal and devastating the weaponry involved, the more apparently miraculous their salvation would seem.

If the feckless drug dealer who attacked them had leapt out of the kitchen not with a handgun, but with a thermonuclear bomb, and if he had detonated that bomb, incinerating himself and everything for miles around — but not even slightly harming Jules and his partner, then I think even the skeptical Vince would have been persuaded to view this as an according-to-Hoyle miracle.

That, roughly, is what happened to Buck Williams. Multiplied by ten thousand. Buck's experience in Israel was off the charts on our miracle scale. Moses and Elijah never saw anything like it. It was easily, clearly, far and away, the most spectacular, incontrovertible miracle of all time.

Yet no one in LB reacts to this stunning event with even a fraction of the awe that Jules displays in "Pulp Fiction." Lucinda is portrayed as a devout, outspoken Christian. She believes the miracle was the work of God, but even she doesn't convey the reverential wonder that Jules does:

"Come on, Cameron. You know you got your mind right when you saw what God did for Israel."

"Granted, but don't start calling me a Christian. Deist is as much as I'll cop to."

Buck means, I gather, "theist." The uninvolved clockmaker God of Deism is not an intervening show-off. You cannot witness the hand of God swatting aside planes and the laws of nature like King Kong atop the Empire State Building and remain a Deist.

"Stay in town long enough to come to my church, and God'll getcha."

"He's already got me, Lucinda. But Jesus is another thing. The Israelis hate Jesus, but look what God did for them."

"The Lord works in –"

" — mysterious ways, yeah, I know."

Buck believes in God, but he still got "left behind" because — like those Jesus-hating, Christ-killing Jews — he didn't believe in Jesus. LB, in the chapters ahead, has a great deal to say about saving faith. LaHaye and Jenkins are clear that such faith only counts if it includes a very particular content, a very specific formula. For them, to be saved through Christ means to be saved by one's acknowledgment of certain facts about Christ. At times, they seem to say that salvation is possible because of God's mercy. At other times, salvation seems to be something we can compel the genie God to grant us by incanting the "sinner's prayer." There's a magical, gnostic element lurking here we'll get into a bit more down the line.

  • will

    The best discription I have heard about how people like this view the relation between prayer and God is that our prayer is like a great big stick and God is a huge pinata. So if you close your eyes, and swing your prayer just right, you can bust open God and get all that sweet, sweet candy.
    It seems their salvation theology isn’t too different.

  • none

    To drift a bit, Jules’ moment is the kernel of Pulp Fiction. Each vignette has someone who engages in an act of redemptive behavior, and Jules is when he sees his means of earning a living is wrong.
    Vince is the only large character in the film who doesn’t have such a moment.
    TK

  • Chris

    “The Israelis hate Jesus.”
    This is another example of the deranged paranoia of L&J. Just because Jews aren’t prepared to believe that the transcendent G-d of the universe was incarnated in the form of Jesus, that means that they “hate” Jesus. L&J refuse to believe that anyone could be indifferent or interested without joining THEIR faith. If they aren’t members, then they must hate Jesus.
    Which is a major problem among the Christian wingnuts. Live and let live is not something they grasp (at least rhetorically). Either you are a full-blown Dominionist, or you are figuring out where to get some lions.

  • JamesK

    Vince is also the only main character to wind up dead at the end, while in a situation he would’ve been in if he’d followed Jules’ lead.
    Just wanted to extend my thanks for the continuation of the L.B. project. First started following this waaaay back in the day (The teens, I do believe) and it has been the catalist for a well needed change in how I view Christianity as a whole. And for that, I thank you.

  • jonforest

    The deist/theist confusion is telling, and yet another illustration of the black/white world of the authors: the fine distinctions between different kinds of unbelievers holds no interest for them.
    The gnostic element is a good point: note the way in which they have made faith into a kind of work.

  • jonforest

    The deist/theist confusion is telling, and yet another illustration of the black/white world of the authors: the fine distinctions between different kinds of unbelievers holds no interest for them.
    The gnostic element is a good point: note the way in which they have made faith into a kind of work.

  • Thlayli

    L&J refuse to believe that anyone could be indifferent or interested without joining THEIR faith.
    L&J don’t understand the concept of “middle ground”? I am shocked — SHOCKED!

  • Troy

    Hi Fred,
    I’m glad you are providing this service so I don’t have to read the wretched books, but can still comment on them inteligently. I’m certain that you know more about theology than I do, but I don’t see anything resembling gnosticism in what you’ve described. The god in the LB series is much closer to the demi-urge Ialdabaoth than it is to the Divine of the gnostics.
    Just out of curiosity have you read any of the books on gnosticism by Elaine Pagels? I’ve met a few individuals that seem to confuse gnosis with intelectual knowledge. I don’t think that is what the gnostics believed.
    Best wishes

  • julia

    Just, you know, for the record, turning Coke into Pepsi would be more like an abomination before the Lord.
    Pepsi. Blech.

  • Karmakin

    Speaking as a non-theist, at least in the traditional sense, I can see how something of that magnitude might make you a believer, but not necessarly in the Christian sense. Because even though there’s the proof of something, to be honest, it could just as well be some sort of “magic” as the divine.

  • Grimgrin

    Troy: I think he was refering to gnosis because of the way L&J change salvation from being something that’s attainable by all good people, to something that requires a specific secret knowledge to achieve. In that sense it’s gnostic, because unless you know the secret, for the original Gnostics that the world isn’t the world G-d made, for L&J that there’s a very specific Christ that you really really have to believe in, you’re never going to be saved.

  • Dan

    Pepsi an “abomination before the Lord”? HERESY! At the Cola-god’s coming (which is imminent), it’s not hard to see who’ll be left behind to burn!! (Rama rama)

  • Beth

    I can see how something of that magnitude might make you a believer, but not necessarly in the Christian sense.
    I think in L&J’s universe, there is no other sense. Buck must at least have been curious about this amazing supernatural force that intervened so dramatically in world events, but he only considers one possibility, that it was the work of Jesus. He can’t imagine that Jesus would ever save Jewish lives, so he drops the whole thing. It doesn’t even occur to him to consider other religions, much less non-religious explanations.
    It’s strange that Lucinda can come up with no explanation as to why a Christian God would save millions of innocent Jewish lives. Even assuming she agrees with Buck’s assessment of the Jews, doesn’t she know that Jesus said “Love your enemies,” and “Do good to those who hate you”? So He practiced what He preached. What’s so mysterious about that? Why, for that matter, didn’t she just tell Buck about Revelations? As a good Christian, she must have known that the Miracle of the Nukes is described there in stunning detail. It was ironclad proof that Christianity was right, but instead of sharing it with Buck, she just said, “God works in mysterious ways.” I guess she must have still been pissed off about the sports story, and that was her way of getting even.

  • Sandals

    I’m a bit of a knee-jerk skeptic who reads too much scifi. My first inclination would be to attribute it to aliens bent on manipulating Earthmen. It would beggar the imagination that aliens could do that undetectably and also preventing massive damage to the earth’s ecology- the massive heat alone! But protecting people from tens of thousands of massive nuclear blasts with a 0% failure rate is pretty far out already… I just cannot see how anyone could fail to treat it with massive awe [i]whatever their persuasions[/i]. *Particularly* someone who stood there and was saved directly! Only a Skeptic’s Society type Super Skeptic could do otherwise.
    I can see as to how Christianity would become [i]de facto[/i] correct and very probably the official state religion in the U.S. (just imagine if such a thing happened now!). It’s flatly unbelievable that there wouldn’t be an upwelling of fundamentalism both grass-roots and political.
    And the jesus-hating thing. Yeah it’s silly. Reminds me of a an episode of ‘Futurama’ I just watched.
    Fry: “So what’s your take on Robot Jesus?”
    Robo-Rabbi: “We believe he was a built, but very well programmed robot, and he isn’t our messiah.”
    Something close that.

  • Susie from Philly

    Seriously, I’m underinformed. What’s the difference between a Deist and a theist?

  • pharoute

    Theism is basically just belief in a god or gods. There really isn’t a Church of Theism. Anyone who believes in God, Allah, Zeus can be considered to a theist. Deism is a belief in god through reason; your belief isn’t base on a revelation but arrived at by study of the natural world. Take with salt; Western Religions 101 was a long time ago.

  • Troy

    Hi Grimgrin,
    Thanks for the comment/reply.
    I guess my point is that the Gnostics didn’t believe in some sort of “secret knowledge” that was passed on through knowing the right words, like “the sinners prayer”, but was instead passed on through inner contemplation of the myths we create.
    So, Fred, what do you think?
    Troy

  • Fred

    Troy -
    How about “pseudo-gnostic”?
    I was thinking of the way Harold Bloom talks about gnostic tendencies in “The American Religion.” But you’re right that the God of LB is very different from the God of the historic Gnostics or of, say, The Gospel of Thomas.
    (I haven’t read Pagels’ book, but you’ve just pushed it up a notch or two on the reading list.)

  • Andrew Reeves

    You know, I think the best description of this “sinner’s prayer” business is to think of it not as a gnostic big of hidden knowledge, but rather as a mantra or a magical formula. After all, what’s necessary is a very specific recitation of a certain set of words that thus triggers God’s saving power. And yet these folks claim to dislike liturgical languages.

  • Beth

    The word “gnostic” has a variety of meanings, but in it’s most basic sense it’s the idea that God is revealed through direct knowledge (Gnosis). English is unusual among Western languages in that it doesn’t distinguish between intellectual and experential knowledge. A Spaniard may “sabe” Madrid’s size, population, etc., but unless he’s been to Madrid, walked its streets, and soaked in its atmosphere, he won’t claim to “conoce” Madrid. Similarly, a German “weiss” facts, but “kennt” placess and people. In Greek, intellectual knowledge is “episteme” and experiential knowledge is “gnosis”.
    In a way, gnosticism is a twin of deism. Both believe that God and reality can be apprehended by individuals through careful study and exploration, but while deists are concerned primarily with “episteme”, the realm of science and rational knowledge, gnostics concentrate on spiritual, experiential “gnosis.” Deists “know” God intellectually, through examination of the phenomological world and drawing rational conclusions from it. A deist might for instance, look at quantum physics and conclude that God plays dice. Desists can only attain indirect knowledge of God, through examination of facts gained through their five senses. Gnostics explore god directly through the “sixth sense.” Their spiritual and contemplative practice brings them into contact with God, and through these experiences they too can reach conclusions about the nature of God and reality. Theoretically, someone who’s never encountered gnostic teachings could, through their own contemplation and comprehension, gain for themselves all the wisdom it contains, just as, theoretically, someone who’s never heard of physics could, through observation and analysis, discover all of its laws. Of course that would be impractical. No one really has the time or ability to achieve either, but both bodies of knowledge are basically exoteric, available to anyone. Some gnostics keep their advanced teachings hidden from the public, considering their power too dangerous to be trusted to the unenlightened, but the knowledge itself, though subtle is not really hidden. People keep gnostic truths secret, but God does not.
    LB’s “revealed truth” is a different thing altogether. LB posits a sort of Rumpelstiltskin God. Our fate depends on knowing his name, but that knowledge cannot be gained through episteme or gnosis. We could spend our lives examining Rumpelstiltskin scientifically, measuring and weighing him, examining his family history and his DNA, but we’d still have no clue as to his name. We could get to know him as a person, become so close that we shared his deepest hopes and fears and knew intuitively how he was feeling at any given moment, but that wouldn’t help either. The only way we could learn his name would be if Rumpelstiltskin revealed it himself. He might tell it to us, or we might overhear him saying it, or learn it from someone else who had heard it from his lips, but without that revelation, we’d be forever in the dark.
    Believing that your fate depends on revealed truth makes you entirely dependent on your teachers. There is no possibility that you could discover it on your own, and there’s no way to ascertain the truth of their teachings. Granted, there’s not much chance I’d uncover the secrets quantum physics or spiritual evolution by myself, but once someone taught them to me, I’d be able to test them and discover for myself whether their was any truth in what I’d been taught. LB’s truth is impossible to test. There’s no way to know the validity of the teachings until the rapture comes, and by then, it will be too late.

  • Beth

    The word “gnostic” has a variety of meanings, but in it’s most basic sense it’s the idea that God is revealed through direct knowledge (Gnosis). English is unusual among Western languages in that it doesn’t distinguish between intellectual and experential knowledge. A Spaniard may “sabe” Madrid’s size, population, etc., but unless he’s been to Madrid, walked its streets, and soaked in its atmosphere, he won’t claim to “conoce” Madrid. Similarly, a German “weiss” facts, but “kennt” placess and people. In Greek, intellectual knowledge is “episteme” and experiential knowledge is “gnosis”.
    In a way, gnosticism is a twin of deism. Both believe that God and reality can be apprehended by individuals through careful study and exploration, but while deists are concerned primarily with “episteme”, the realm of science and rational knowledge, gnostics concentrate on spiritual, experiential “gnosis.” Deists “know” God intellectually, through examination of the phenomological world and drawing rational conclusions from it. A deist might for instance, look at quantum physics and conclude that God plays dice. Desists can only attain indirect knowledge of God, through examination of facts gained through their five senses. Gnostics explore god directly through the “sixth sense.” Their spiritual and contemplative practice brings them into contact with God, and through these experiences they too can reach conclusions about the nature of God and reality. Theoretically, someone who’s never encountered gnostic teachings could, through their own contemplation and comprehension, gain for themselves all the wisdom it contains, just as, theoretically, someone who’s never heard of physics could, through observation and analysis, discover all of its laws. Of course that would be impractical. No one really has the time or ability to achieve either, but both bodies of knowledge are basically exoteric, available to anyone. Some gnostics keep their advanced teachings hidden from the public, considering their power too dangerous to be trusted to the unenlightened, but the knowledge itself, though subtle is not really hidden. People keep gnostic truths secret, but God does not.
    LB’s “revealed truth” is a different thing altogether. LB posits a sort of Rumpelstiltskin God. Our fate depends on knowing his name, but that knowledge cannot be gained through episteme or gnosis. We could spend our lives examining Rumpelstiltskin scientifically, measuring and weighing him, examining his family history and his DNA, but we’d still have no clue as to his name. We could get to know him as a person, become so close that we shared his deepest hopes and fears and knew intuitively how he was feeling at any given moment, but that wouldn’t help either. The only way we could learn his name would be if Rumpelstiltskin revealed it himself. He might tell it to us, or we might overhear him saying it, or learn it from someone else who had heard it from his lips, but without that revelation, we’d be forever in the dark.
    Believing that your fate depends on revealed truth makes you entirely dependent on your teachers. There is no possibility that you could discover it on your own, and there’s no way to ascertain the truth of their teachings. Granted, there’s not much chance I’d uncover the secrets quantum physics or spiritual evolution by myself, but once someone taught them to me, I’d be able to test them and discover for myself whether their was any truth in what I’d been taught. LB’s truth is impossible to test. There’s no way to know the validity of the teachings until the rapture comes, and by then, it will be too late.

  • none

    To expand a little bit on what Deism is. Basically, Deism is the belief that universe is governed by natural laws (gravity, quantum mechanics, themodynamics, conservation of energy, etc.), and that those laws were put in place by God. Hence the term “clockmaker God”: a clockmaker builds a clock, but once the clock is running the clockmaker doesn’t interfere with its operation.

  • Dan

    Oh yeah, you can really tell how much those durn Israelis hate Jesus (boo! hiss!). Check out some of these blasphemies from genuine Torah-thumping Christ-killers:
    “I regard Jesus of Nazareth as a Jew of Jews, one whom all Jewish people are learning to love. His teachings have been an immense service to the world in bringing Israel’s God to the knowledge of hundreds of millions of mankind … We are all glad to claim Jesus as one of our people.”
    – Isidore Singer
    “From my youth onwards I have found in Jesus my great brother…
    “I am more than ever certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel’s history of faith and that this place cannot be described by any of the usual categories.”
    – Martin Buber
    “Jesus was a Jew – the best of Jews….
    “Jesus was not only a Jew. He was the apex and the acme of Jewish teaching, which began with Moses and ran the entire evolving gamut of kings, teachers, prophets, and rabbis – David and Isaiah and Daniel and Hillel – until their pith and essence was crystallized in this greatest of all Jews….
    “For a Jew, therefore, to forget that Jesus was a Jew, and to deny him, is to forget and to deny all the Jewish teaching that was before Jesus: it is to reject the Jewish heritage, to betray what was best in Israel….
    “I know a number of Jews who believe as I do, who believe it is time that the Jews reclaimed Jesus, and that it is desirable that they should do so.”
    – John Cournos
    “His profound and holy words, and all that is true and heart-appealing in the New Testament, must from now on be heard in our synagogues and taught to our children.”
    – Constantine Brunner
    “In all this Jesus is the most Jewish of Jews…more Jewish even than Hillel.”
    – Joseph Klausner
    “The modern Jew looks upon Jesus as one of the greatest gifts that Israel has given to the world, and he is, therefore, proud to call Jesus his very own: blood of his blood, flesh of his flesh…
    “Without Jesus or Paul, the God of Israel would still have been the God of a handful.”
    – Harris Weinstock
    “The New Testament is also our book, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”
    – Y.C.H. Brenner
    “We see before us a man who according to all the signs of his personality discloses the Jewish character, in whom the purity and worth of Judaism is so specially and so clearly revealed.”
    – Rabbi Leo Baeck (during Kristallnacht, no less)
    “We Jews honor the Nazarene as our brother in faith, sprung from our loins, nurtured at Israel’s knee, a teacher of sweet and beautiful ideals, a preacher whose influence has been and still is among the mightiest spiritualizing factors in the world.”
    – Rabbi Rudolph Grossman
    “I have the suspicion that Jesus was more loyal to the Torah than I am as an Orthodox Jew.”
    – Pinchas Lapide
    “Every Jew should be proud of the fact that Jesus is our brother, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. We desire to put him back where he belongs.”
    – Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky
    “Every act and word of Jesus has value for all of us, wherever we are. He became the Light of the World. Why shouldn’t I, a Jew, be proud of that? No other religious leader, either, has ever become so personal a part of people as the Nazarene. When you understand Jesus, you understand that he came to save you, to come into your personality.”
    – Sholem Asch
    “Without Jesus and without Paul, the God of’ Israel would still have been the God of a handful, the God of a petty, obscure and insignificant tribe…
    “Let the Jew, despite the centuries of persecution and suffering be thankful that there was a Jesus and a Paul. Let him more fully appreciate that, through the wonderful influence of these heroic characters, the mission of the Jew is being fulfilled, and his teachings are being spread to the remotest nooks and corners of the world.”
    – Harris Weinstock
    Scary, eh? You’d think Lahaye (or Buck at least) would be a little more aware of how Israelis think, y’know, considering they’ve both been over there so many times. In fact, Lahaye will be there again not long from now …
    see http://www.discoveryministries.com/ministry/israel.php

  • Keith

    It seems to me Lehay and Jenkins want people to Grok God, in a sort of instantaneous gut level moment but not actually Know God in a Holy Wisdom sort of rational manner.
    I agree, They wouldn’t know a Deist if he clamped his wooden teeth on their dispensationalist asses.

  • Dan Lewis

    Beth:
    “Believing that your fate depends on revealed truth makes you entirely dependent on your teachers.”
    I think this is an interesting definition of Christianity, in the sense that Christians are meant to depend upon Jesus Christ’s self-revelation. I think he also invited testing of himself and all he said; again, sadly, not the God of LB.
    On another note, as I read Left Behind (up through about 9) I wished it would be more gritty and realistic, like a cyberpunk novel. The edges of these theological ideas would have been so much more interesting than the hamfisted explorations of the centers of power in the end times. I ended up reading them more for a detailed definition of dispensationalism than any supposed literary merit.

  • R. Mildred

    There’s a huge opportunity missed with the destruction of Russias entire nuclear arsenal.
    a single thermonuclear device is essentially a small extremely shortlived Sun, and while God could protect isreal in such a way that anyone who was looking in the vague direction of several hundred thermonuclear devices wasn’t at, least temporarily, blinded, not having a chracter that was a non-evangelical before the explosion, was blinded as he or she stared at the explosions and then converted to christianity afterwards is a waste, a symbolic “I am Blind but now I see” type who everone ignores because he speaks The Truth, is that so much to ask for?
    Hell, if LB was written even semi-competantly that blind guy would be a different type of christian than the book is trying to sell, and so he’d be a really quite crazed, pushy, judgemental guy who has all these other non-christ like traits but is loudly convinced of his own piety, thus showing the folley of anyone presuming they are able to judge whether they’re saved or not.
    If it was written well of course. Having a huge series of nuclear explosions and not getting a single blind prophet type person out of it is a real waste of a perfectly good nuclear arsenal

  • matt

    Seems to me that the “Miracle of the Nukes” shows that the g-d of the Jews is the one the back; after all he saved Israel, not Kentucky.

  • aunursa

    Speaking as a Jew, I would have to say that Chris’ statement about Jewish attitudes toward Jesus (indifference) is closer to the truth than Dan’s quotes.
    By cherry-picking you can take selected quotes from Democrats praising Republicans and vice-versa. You can find quotes from Jews opposing the state of Israel, circumcision, or anything under the sun.
    The fact of the matter is, however, that overwhelmingly Jesus is irrelevant to the Jews. Practically the only time Jesus or Christianity are mentioned is in discussions with our Christian neighbors. Visit any synagogue if you don’t believe me.
    Many Christians — and especially L&J — can’t seem to comprehend that the central figure of their religion is not relevant to non-Christians.

  • Beth

    I think this is an interesting definition of Christianity
    Dan, I didn’t mean it to be a definition of Christianity. I thought I’d made it clear that I was referring specifically to LB-style Christianity.
    in the sense that Christians are meant to depend upon Jesus Christ’s self-revelation.
    Are you saying that Christians are supposed to believe in Christ’s divinity based solely on Jesus’ assertion that he was the son of God? I don’t think that’s true at all. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t just take his word for it. Even after experiencing his love, wisdom, and all those miracles firsthand , some still didn’t believe it until they saw him risen from the grave (and IIRC, Thomas didn’t believe that until he’d checked the nailholes himself). Of course modern Christians don’t have that firsthand evidence, but many do have personal gnostic experience of Christ and find evidence of his divinity in their hearts and lives. More to the point, many Christians (many of the ones I know at any rate) don’t think the bald fact of believing or not believing in Jesus’ divinity determines our fate.
    That’s what distinguishes LB Christianity from Christianity in general, and indeed from most religions. There are things in many religions that we just have to take “on faith,” but in most cases, our fate doesn’t rest entirely on those things. Orthodox Jews for instance, believe in all sorts of laws and restrictions that are “revealed truths” (nobody would figure out on their own, for instance, that it’s a sin to wear blended fabrics), but they don’t think following those laws alone determines how we’ll spend eternity. There’s not much emphasis on the afterlife in Judaism, but it’s generally believed that anyone who is “righteous” will gain eternal life, regargless of whether they follow Jewish rituals, or even whether they’re Jewish or not. With LB, it seems to be a simple binary: if you believe in Jesus, you go to heaven; if you don’t, you go to Hell.
    Matt, That occurred to me as well. Since Buck placed so much importance on the fact that God has saved the Jews, why wouldn’t he assume the author of the miracle was the Jewish God?
    aunursa,
    I don’t think Dan was cherry-picking so much as quoting Jews who had seriously studied and thought about Jesus. I suppose to be truly representive, for each of those famous thinkers he quoted, he would have included hundreds of anonymous quotes like, “Whatever,” but that would have been kind of boring. And while indifference may be the norm for Jews in America where being a Jew is generally defined as not believing in Jesus, I’m not sure the same is true in Israel. I read that at one time at least, Jesus became rather popular among Israeli youth who saw him as a rebel against authority along the lines of Marlon Brando or James Dean. I also think that most Jews, if they read the Gospels instead of only knowing of Jesus as “the Christian God,” would recognize him as a coreligionist, and probably a very admirable one at that.

  • Emma Goldman

    Beth, that was a fascinating seminarette; thank you. What I find most interesting about it is the “dependent on your teachers” thing, especially given that the point of the Reformation, or one of them, so far as I can tell, is that one is supposed to rely on one’s own interactions w/ a deity rather than rely on a priest or other intermediary. Throwing teachers/teachings back in, especially in that back-door fashion, merely reintroduces priests–it just allows for more popes, it seems to me. So one must accept Jesus as one’s personal savior, but one must do so in the manner prescribed by one’s own church rather than in whatever way happens to occur to one.

  • Dan

    thanx, beth.
    aunursa, I fully agree with you (I’m a Jew myself). My point earlier was not to prove that Jesus is some sort of pin-up boy for the Israeli masses (which he isn’t), but that Jewish attitudes towards Jesus are considerably more complex and nuanced than LB would have us believe.
    Even the “fact of the matter … that overwhelmingly Jesus is irrelevant to the Jews” is a far cry from the blanket all-the-Jews-hate-Jesus line. Historically, pretty much all anti-Jesus sentiment has derived from anger over their mistreatment at the hands of his ‘followers’, and thus has been haphazard, rising and falling depending on the circumstances of the time.
    The main propagators of the belief were in fact Christians of the L&J brand – as Chris said:
    “Just because Jews aren’t prepared to believe that the transcendent G-d of the universe was incarnated in the form of Jesus, that means that they “hate” Jesus.” Or in other words, if you’re not for us, you’re against us, therefore you hate everything about us, therefore your hatred of us is a cardinal tenet of your religion.
    What is worrying is not so much the content of the statement, but the offhand way it’s delivered: of course the Jews hate Jesus, its so utterly self-evident that we needn’t bother checking into it, even when we’re actually IN Israel and can just, y’know, go up and ask people directly. Sheesh. (Or maybe he was afraid of being stoned for uttering the forbidden J-word among the unbelievers?)
    Incidentally, Israel has its own rough equivalent of the red-blue divide, between the orthodox and non-orthodox (secular) communities (though the analogy shouldn’t be pushed too far). Generally speaking, secular Israelis, especially the youth are involved in considerable religious experimentation. Remember the Hin-jews and Bu-jews? (I also think I heard something awhile back about Christian crosses being handed out during some heavy metal concert)

  • aunursa

    Thanks for clarifying.

  • aunursa

    Thanks for clarifying.

  • Scott

    It’s Friday – know what that means??? :-)

  • Hipocrite

    Actually, Dan was just getting quotes cherry-picked and fabricated by Jews duped by Southern Baptists to join a cult, aka Jews for Jesus. Ignore him.

  • Dan

    Perhaps I should point out that none of those Jews were ever part of Jews for Jesus, or ever Christian. Oy vey! This is the exact mirror to the LB mentality: every Jew who doesn’t despise Jesus is automatically a card-carrying Jews-for-Jesus fundie!
    This may be a shock, but the world isn’t quite so zero-sum.

  • TheRequisiteJew

    Adding my own Jewy comment, I will say that although those quotes certainly don’t stand for every Jew, the idea of ambivalence is also not always true. At least in my community, we see Jesus as an example of how to be a good Jew by good acts and brotherly love. We just don’t think he’s the “Messiah.”
    I like Jesus. He follows G-d’s idea of love. I certainly don’t hate him. He’s just not G-d to me.
    But I’m one of dem crazy liberal Jews. A Jewnicorn, if you will.

  • Bob the Generic Guy

    not really relevant to the topic at hand I suppose, but I think vince’s moment was when he realizes that his means of storing his SMG was wrong when Bruce Willis hoses him with it as he steps out of the bathroom (spoiler alert)


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