If Jesus Gave a TED Talk (#1)

If Jesus Gave a TED Talk (#1) March 6, 2014

This is the first of a series of posts where I re-imagine Jesus’ five big sermons as TED Talks, in which he Educates people in God’s new Design for a world that runs on the Technology called love. While Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God is a positive one, I’ve strived to preserve his apocalyptic flavor.

Blessed are the poor, because this oppressive political-economic system is going down in flames.

Woe to you who are rich.  Same reason.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, because a big plate full of that is on its way.

Blessed are those at the bottom of the heap, because the heap’s about to get turned.

You are the salt of the earth; and from the ashes of this civilization, we are going to cook up something really tasty.

Do not think I am a doomer.  I have not come to abolish your hopes but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth:  Not the smallest good dream from the most obscure sage, seer, or prophet shall by any means go unaccomplished.

Humans have a long history of trying to build good and just civilizations, which have an equally long history of destroying themselves. Some among us today are experts in civilization design, but the new kind of society God is building in the world right now—it’s going to leave the experts in the dust.  What we’re creating will transcend the inevitable rise and fall of civilizations.

It’s time to re-think everything you thought you knew about designing human communities:

1. Re-think POWER. You have heard it said: “Thou shalt not murder,” but I say we can do better than that. Imagine a society that resists all kinds of violence, even its “soft” forms where we dehumanize one another through language, litigation, and scapegoating.  If someone slaps you on the right cheek, don’t take to fighting; don’t take to flight; instead, take a stand.  Wage peace aggressively.  Love thy enemy. For real.

2. Re-think SEX. You have heard it said: “Thou shalt not cheat on your partner,” but I say we can do better than that. Imagine a society that resists all kinds of sexual dehumanization and exploitation.  People are not sexual objects for us to acquire and then discard.  It’s time for our species to explore the frontiers of what it means to be faithful to one another.

3. Re-think MONEY.  Imagine a society that resists all fear-based instincts for hoarding and devouring resources.  We haven’t yet learned from the birds—they don’t even have jobs, but they are well taken care of.  You matter at least as much as birds; try to believe that. The only wealth worth anything is relationships and trust between people.

4. Re-think CULTURE.  Every society in history has enforced it rules and norms through the manipulations of shame, holding grudges, and public-relations campaigns disguised as religious observance.  But I say: Don’t be religiously impressive.  Don’t try to control others by shaming them and giving them your un-asked-for pearls of wisdom.  If you want a door opened, knock on it; if you want something, ask for it.  A healthy culture can be built only by people with healthy boundaries.

Whether you feel fine about it or not, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to collapse.  Most people right now are choosing to go down with that ship.  A storm is coming, but they continue to build their mansions on sand.

Those who hear my words and put them into practice will be like those little mammals who watched from the shadows as the meteorite landed on the dinosaurs.

The question remains:  How do we get this new society started?  What’s our strategy?  Stay tuned.  We’ll talk about that next week.


John Stonecypher is a theologian/blogger/speaker living in Denver with his wife and 3 sons.  His other writing projects include The Jesus Benyosef Project and Geeked-Out Soul, where he blogs about geek spirituality.



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132 responses to “If Jesus Gave a TED Talk (#1)”

  1. This is a good thought experiment. Gave me some new appreciation for the Sermon on the Mount. Some good things to meditate on.

    One thing that I have a question about: your presentation here seems to assume that Jesus’ understanding of the Torah and his Judaism (or perhaps more accurately his Pharisaism) are simply his cultural context from which Jesus is calling people out of and not part and parcel of the spiritual truths of his teaching. I would think that in a TED talk Jesus wouldn’t simply speak to our context but show how through his (re)interpretation the Torah remains part of the basis of “God’s new Design that runs on the Technology of Love”. To be clearer, i don’t know that we truly understand Jesus if we treat the religion of the Hebrews and the Torah as mostly cultural context like our cultural context. Rather, Jesus was teaching out of the Torah and Prophets not as mere cultural background but out of their Spiritual truth and value, as God’s revelation that other cultures do not have in the same way as the Israelites did.

  2. Hi Larry! That is definitely something I thought about a lot as I wrote this; it’s the challenge (and hubris) of trying to communicate in our culture something spoken to another. I would agree that Jesus’ Jewishness is important in itself, and that we miss something without it. In the end, though, I decided it would be worth the cost to speak these TED talks to as universal an audience as possible. But I do certainly hope people will go beyond this and read the real Sermon on the Mount! 🙂

  3. “A storm is coming”

    Reminds me of the movie Take Shelter. 😉

    “Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it….Sleep well in your beds. ‘Cause if this thing comes true, there ain’t gonna be no more.”


  4. Thought, you were probably making a choice along those lines. I’m a bit sensitive on this issue, due to friendship and dialogue with Jews. Many think that we Christians don’t realise that Jesus was a Jew, because other Christians they know have so appropriated Jesus or translated Jesus into a universal context such that it’s news to those Christians that Jesus was Jewish and that much of his teaching is very similar to early Rabbinic teaching.

  5. Yeah, we agree on that. But what I also want to affirm is that the God I believe in has been active in all cultures among all peoples. But I would definitely agree that Israel’s role in this is unique.

  6. I’m curious to hear more about what people think about the apocalyptic angle I’m emphasizing here. Since I started paying attention to it, I’ve begun seeing how central to Jesus’ teachings is the impending collapse of Jewish civilization; it’s absolutely everywhere. Also, by so often referring to himself as “the Son of Man,” Jesus is describing himself in terms of Daniel’s vision of the incessant rising and falling of civilizations, and how God’s intention is to make a Way which transcends that.

  7. Well, Ran Prieur famously canceled the apocalypse last year.

    We fantasize about apocalypse because we want the world to get looser, but I see it getting crappier and tighter.
    ~Ran Prieur

    So grab some land or a boat on a canal or an inner city garden, make your own T.A.Z. hermetic.com/bey/taz3.html#labelTAZ

    My eschatology:

    We humans are so adaptable—too adaptable, we’re a superweed specie—that the majority of humans in the fabled lake of fire will have made themselves a society worth visiting in 100 years, probably better than heaven, which will be in internecine war and collapse.

  8. I think we’re looking at the “apocalypse” all wrong! Every verse that I’ve read talks about the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. I believe quite strongly that Jesus called us to create this Kingdom, not wait for it.

    Think about it: Either Jesus is wrong for saying “this generation will not pass away before the Kingdom comes” or he was right and the Kingdom of God is potentially among us and all around us.

    It’s a viewpoint that is at once triumphant and frightening. Praise God that He put the Kingdom in our hands! I hope He knows what he’s doing…