Losing Sacred Stories

Over the past decade most major daily newspapers added a religious section. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) calls theirs “Faith & Values”. Its primary goal seems to be defending the faith — or at least the various faiths — of the newspaper’s readers. Last month the AJC even used that phrase for its lead article: “Defending the Faith” by John Blake.*

“Millions of Christians read the Easter story through the lens of faith,”* the author tells us. This is supposed to be a good thing. Problem is, Blake continues, popular culture is interfering with that faith by presenting alternate mythologies about Jesus: The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Papers, Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, and to top it off now scholars have discovered the long-lost Gospel of Judas according to the May issue of National Geographic.

It’s enough to prompt Bob Hodgson with the American Bible Society (he’s actually dean of the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship with ABS) to complain, “we’re losing control of our sacred stories.”*

But Bob, it’s your own fault for insisting that your sacred stories are historically true — for that means that they are not “your” stories but everyone’s. Stick with Christianity’s sacred stories as just that: mythologies belonging to Christianity alone, and Christians have some emotional right to claim proprietorship. But once you insist on historical truth for your myths that right dissipates. History belongs to us all, even if only to be mythologized anew, as a book like The Da Vinci Code attempts to do.

So Hodgson and other Christians need to make a choice: is Jesus a sacred story belonging to the Christian religion, or is Jesus historical and therefore a story which belongs to everyone?

And if you choose the latter, remember: history is no respecter of mythology.

* John Blake, “Defending the Faith”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 15, 2006, Faith & Values section, page 1

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