Saving Jesus, Again

Saving Jesus, Again December 9, 2019

Editor’s Note:  As we near the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it’s good to be reminded of a few facts about him.  Who better to set us straight than a seminary graduate?  True, he’s left the fold, but it makes him more equipped, in my opinion, to sort through the myths, present the facts and ask the right questions.  After all, he learned about this stuff in grad school, not in Sunday school! /Linda LaScola, Editor


By Chris Highland

Jesus was not the founder of the Church or the Religion that calls itself by his name.

He overturned the religious community and continually challenged and contradicted religious leaders.  Why does the Church think he was only concerned about Jewish leadership and not all religious authorities?

So Peter’s “confession of faith” as “the rock” upon which Jesus will “build my ecclesia” has nothing to do with the institution or the religion built in his name (those who think sohave to explain why they do not “give up all your possessions,” esteem the poor and powerless (“theirs is the kingdom of heaven”) above all religious authorities, and why they worship someone who insisted people worship God alone)

We don’t know exactly what he said or did, but the writings we do have do not support the “Religion of Christ”

What we have in the gospels and the writings of Paul are apocalyptic stories and teachings that demanded listeners give up their lives and die with their radical rabbi.  Those who choose to do that are 2000 years too late.

Preaching “the End” and the imminent “Kingdom” does not correlate with creating a religious community that grew to power over centuries through ignoring or denying the most basic teachings of Jesus.

Most of the Bible is either ignored or misused by those who say it is “God’s Holy Word”.

No one in my experience has ever been a “follower of Jesus”

Any follower of the life and lessons of this man would not last long, living a short and painful life, especially in a “Christian culture” where “believing” is central and creeds and theologies are the tests of correct believing.

Jesus was blunt and harsh, as apocalyptic prophets are.  He said he did not come to bring peace and unity but a sword of division.  He instructed any serious disciples to “hate” (turn away, detach and be set against … in other words, to hate) family and any attachments to people or possessions.

My sense is that if Jesus wandered back, he would be deeply disappointed that his message was lost, along with him.

So, it seems the appropriate time for secular freethinkers to Save Jesus (those who actually want to “follow” him can help).  We might even save him from himself, comforting him while helping him see what happened to his whole life’s message:

“Jesus, do you know that what you said and did has been essentially ignored by the majority of people in history who made faith all about worshipping YOU and dreaming of heaven?”

“Jesus, much of what you said doesn’t seem to work out too well in the real world, even Your People are divided, and that’s probably because you thought the end was coming.  Don’t you think it’s time to have a do-over, to update the message for today?  We can all work on that together.  You’re not alone.  We’re here for you.”

He may even “call” us, “commission” us, and “choose” us to save him, and anything salvageable from his life and teachings.  This might begin with placing the bibles in museums, opening sanctuaries for … sanctuary … and for educational discussions about what Religion (and Life itself) could be, following its salvation, and the salvation–the healing and recovery– of the human being once known as Christ.

For heaven’s sake, let’s save Jesus!


Bio:  Chris Highland was a minister and chaplain for many years in the SF Bay Area.  Now teaching courses on Freethought in Asheville, North Carolina, he writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Citizen-Times. His new book, A Freethinker’s Gospel, is now available from Pisgah Press.  Chris has been a member of The Clergy Project since 2012. To learn more, see .  The above post is reprinted with permission from his blog.

>>>>>Photo credits:  By Pietro Perugino –, Public Domain,


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  • Jim Jones

    The gospels tell us nothing about the mythical Jesus. They tell us a lot about the Greeks who wrote them and the times they lived in.

  • Tawreos

    If Jesus is who he said he was then he will get no help from me. If a god can’t keep his own followers following his message then that is his problem to deal with. Besides he comes armed, as he tells us just before he tells us to hate our families.

  • Linda LaScola

    Yeah — Jesus had somewhat of a mixed message. And requires worship — like his Dad. Worship seems to come naturally to a lot of people, but not all.

    Think of all the people who clap and swoon for rock stars and politicians.

  • Tawreos

    Most rock stars and politicians have to perform to get their applause, but god and Jesus expect them because they are god and Jesus.

  • mason

    “mixed” … love adore and worship me OR I’ll burn & torture you forever 🙂 I think for “worship” to come naturally requires psyche of very low self esteem with a dash of masochism.

  • mason

    For Humanity’s sake let’s not try to save the mythical and very twisted Jesus, or his father Jehovah.

  • Anticipating some comments on this, I’m interested in “saving” the Jesus, mythical or not, who has inspired the Freethinkers I admire most: Thomas Paine, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, William Barber, etc, etc. This understanding of the Man also inspired and fired many years of my chaplaincy work among the poorest and most powerless people in our privileged culture. This is one reason I’m not interested in arguments over the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. That rabbit hole would question whether Socrates, Plato and many other figures actually existed. I don’t see the point.

  • Linda LaScola

    I think people are worshipping their reputations, as built up by the people who represent them — e.g., clergy.

  • Brian Shanahan

    “Why does the Church think he was only concerned about Jewish leadership and not all religious authorities?”

    Because the selfsame church wrote his “words”. They know what their predecessors meant when they invented the religion.

  • Linda LaScola

    I think I see the point — in the case of Jesus, there’s a whole cult of worship and punishment. This is not the case in the admiration of the other people you mention, fictional or not.

  • mason

    Interesting points Chris though I don’t think the majority of those named and the unknown etcs., are what could credibly be called freethinkers, maybe religious/social reformers; Freethinker; … “a person who rejects accepted opinions, especially those concerning religious belief.” When I think of “freethinkers” Sagan, Dawkins, Hitchens, Einstein, Dennett, McMurray, Krautz, Ingersoll, W.E. DuBois, R. Frost, Asimov, B. Russell etc, etc. come to mind. Other than Thomas Paine, I find none of the others on any Freethinker Google list.

    When one considers all the division, persecution, war, strife, ignorance, political putrification, & hatred, inspired by the Jesus tale, “Jesus” has been has been a largely toxic element in the history of humanity and continues so today. But then in the tale he did declare humans should not to think of him as an agent or peace nor family values, but of the sword, division, and a creator of enemies, even next of kin.

    “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a son against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter -in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household Matthew 10:34. – mythical Jesus character

    It must have required very careful cherry picking for King, Gandhi, Mott, to find the inspiring words of “Jesus” for their causes that then inspired you. A sure case of separating the dross from the gold.

    I’m not at all interested in saving Jesus because if we save a cherry picked Jesus we save a huge falsehood about what the biblical tale actually records; a story of a totalitarian Hebrew deity who is just as religiously genocidal as his mythological father Jehovah. Jefferson has already done the pruning of all the supernatural BS, the nasty toxic stuff, and created what’s left, a social reformer, with the “Jefferson Bible”

  • And isn’t it interesting that the words the Church preserved contain the very critiques that question its practices, beliefs and existence? A parallel is that Hebrew scriptures have been preserved within Jewish tradition that have prophets challenging the religion itself.

  • We have divergent definitions of freethinkers. Mine is broader and more inclusive (a tendency of freethinkers, in my opinion). We obviously choose to focus on different aspects of religion and its representatives. Might have something to do with our life experience and past ministries.

  • Yes, and yet, also whole strands of social justice and commitment to education. I guess it depends on what we choose to see and hear in the wide field of religious experience.

  • Allen T Coffey

    Jesus never existed. He’s an eclectic fairy tale mixture of mostly preexisting middle eastern deities repurposed for Jewish — later Greco-Roman — consumption. He is no more rooted in reality than Mithra killing the bull, or Helios driving the chariot of the sun.