Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
It’s a common enough thing in our world. People are continually manufacturing Latest Real Jesus to suit the cultural priorities of their age. Albert Schweitzer, the great Social Gospel Protestant, went on a Quest for the Historical Jesus and discovered that Jesus was basically a Social Gospel Protestant. Frank Barton wrote The Man Nobody Knows in the 20s, just as the stock market was soaring and Calvin Coolidge was declaring that “The business of America is business.” Turned out Jesus was the first businessman. In the 30s, the Nazis discovered that Jesus was actually an Aryan with no relation to the Jews, while the Commies discovered Jesus was the first Marxist. In the 60s we got Jesus the Hippie with Godspell and in the 70s we got Jesus the Rock God in Jesus Christ Superstar. In the 80s, Jesus reappeared as a health and wealth preacher in the age of Gordon Gekko. In the 90s, gay playwright Terence McNally discovered he was gay in Corpus Christi. By the early Millennium, he was back to being straight and married off to Mary Magdalene by Dan Brown, who overcame a vast Vatican Conspiracy to hide all this. Any similarities between this scenario and a sex-obsessed, X Files paranoid culture in the grip of a priest scandal is purely coincidental.
This tendency to project our own issues and needs on Jesus tell us a lot about the people claiming (and buying) the Shocking New Discovery—and absolutely nothing new or interesting about Jesus. Remember that as Christmas week passes and the media are full of the Latest Real Jesus profiles with their shocking “new” revelations that will Shake Christianity to Its Very Foundations. They do it every Christmas and Easter.
Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and Happy Feast of the Incarnation. Christ the Lord is born!