24 September, 2009

The Time-Travel-Jesus Argument

Chatting with friends a few weeks ago, we got around to the theme of time travel.

One friend — a successful, I’d say, artist and thinker turned the conversation over to meeting with Jesus, should he travel in time.

He felt that he would be disappointed if he traveled back in time only to discover that "Jesus turned out to be an A-hole." Later, he felt concern that we had the wrong impression, and clarified his thoughts further, sparking off another conversation. I found what followed to be an interesting and personal dialectic between a group of people — some religious, some not — who managed to be humorous while referring to their own beliefs about God and religion. What struck me most, was that genuinely no-one took offense over a topic that has caused endless family feuds and outright war across the centuries.

What my friend (the artist) clarified us with was this:

“What I meant to suggest was the possibility that it might not be that fun to hang out with the son of God. Upon further reflection, I started to realize how much my interactions with people rely on humor. Not necessarily "jokes" per se, but a certain element of surprise — a flouting of expected response. In an interaction with a deity, this would all go out the window. A deity would ostensibly know everything, and though Jesus would probably laugh out of courtesy, it wouldn't be sincere. For me, these ingredients would add up to a pretty awkward interaction. Again, my apologies if anyone was offended.”

And here’s a sample of what followed.

The first one, from a Catholic (Argentinian/ Italian, not a regular church-goer but definitely someone with “faith” in God):

“Well first of all, thank you for your apologies and clarification about your Jesus comments last Saturday. I think now I'll be able to sleep tonight, been praying for you ever since the junk trip for God to forgive your sins and have said 1000 rosaries.

But this morning I got a call from the bearded man himself and he says he thinks you are a bit of an A-hole yourself, but thinks your kinda funny, so he loves you none-the-less and has chosen to forgive you.

Oh he also said I should give you some tips on your art, cos you are lacking some creative inspiration… unlike me, he said.

If you wish, I am available for healing services on the weekends.
Peace be with you.”

What we see there is a very Catholic-yet-humored response — praying for her friend, saying rosaries. On top, she states that God would appreciate the artist’s humor and choose to forgive him — an all embracing God, perhaps? Finally, she admonishes her friend with her own brand of humor.

Not long after, came another response:

“I'm agnostic, cynic and at the same time Italian, that means have the Vatican's boss everyday on the first page of every newspaper giving his opinion (and sometimes he assures to be the will of God Almighty) about political and ethical topics. If you're agnostic that doesn't make feel better...

I believe if Jesus is the guy he should be to have the position he (supposedly) has/ had he should be at least very open minded, charitable and definitely able to make laugh of himself, his family and his friends.

I found your comment of last Sunday interesting, of course you could have it express with other words and in a more politically correct way but I like the idea of thinking on Jesus like a guy with a lot of charisma but with also defects. I could almost believe in him.”

The agnostic raised in a devoutly Catholic place, reasoning that Jesus should, indeed, be the cool guy, the open guy — the guy you’d want him to be. And not the guy that means the neutral or negative things that religion itself has brought him to mean, to so many people. A paradoxical Italian.

And finally, from someone who was brought up in a rectory:

When it comes to a guy like Jesus, there's no way of knowing what he'd be like when you first meet him.

Maybe he's sick of being the serious guy and is waiting for someone to make frat jokes with, or shoot the bull for a while, talking trash about each others mum's (that'd be Mary) like in Stand By Me.

Alternatively, he could just be the cool guy that he was trying to be, before his stories were chronicled and turned into dogma. Maybe King Crimson were right when they sang "Jesus was way cool".

Either way, I took no offense. My step-father is a priest, and I have had my earful of religion.

If I actually did travel in time I would not only use the cat-buttered-toast-paradox to create my own time vortex, but if I bumped into Jeebus (doubt I'd go looking for him) I'd give him the chance to be someone totally different to the person that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John painted him to be.”

So if you could travel in time, and meet Jesus, what would you expect, what would you do?

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