In this video excerpt from his appearance at Washington, D.C.'s legendary Politics and Prose bookstore and coffee house, author Reza Aslan talked about the chasm between some Christians' view of Jesus of Nazareth and what the historical record actually shows.
A member of the audience asked, "Is even a small portion of the book's purpose to balance what really is kind of a narrative in the United States -- or at least of the last dozen years -- of comparing a pacifist Jesus to a Mohammed who embraces violence?" Whereas, he noted, in Aslan's book Zealot, Jesus Christ is a brawling, rabble-rousing revolutionary.
"Yeah, that's a really interesting point," said Aslan. "In fact, probably the most offensive review I ever received...I think it was in the Washington Post."
He went on to say that the Post's reviewer said, "'Aslan's Jesus is just a failed Mohammed.' It's just a stupid thing to say because they don't have anything in common with each other."
It's true, Aslan said, that there is no evidence that Christ ever espoused violence, but there is evidence that Jesus "was no fool. He understood that you do not overthrow the world's largest empire with a sit-in."
"What we have to understand," he said, "is that the historical Jesus had a far more complex view of the notion of force than we give him credit for. But, to a larger point...it reminded me of something about why people are upset," he said pointing downward at his book, "about this Jesus."
"It's not that it questions some, kind of, basic foundations of Christian orthodoxy," explained Aslan. "I think it's because a Jesus whose purpose was to overturn the social order, whose purpose was to replace the rich with the poor, this foreign, brown socialist who wanted health care for everyone is a Jesus that doesn't fit the political narrative."
He said that there are "gatekeepers" now to salvation, people and "entire political parties" who claim to speak for Jesus, and yet, "If you listen to them, you'd think all Jesus ever talked about was gays and guns."
"By the way, the two things that Jesus never mentioned," he said, "were gays and guns."
When you look at what Jesus really said, he said, it "overturns everything that the politics of Jesus is based on in this country. And I think that's where the problem comes. That's where the suspicion of this Jesus comes from."
"This is a Jesus that is very uncomfortable for a lot of people who claim to be following him."
Watch the video, embedded below via Politics and Prose:
Watch the full video, here.