I thought I did once. Now I realize I don’t even like Him. He was one crazy, mixed-up, dangerous megalomaniac, notoriously hung-up about sex and opposed to even heterosexual marriage, a manipulative magician, a deluded religious fanatic, a mixture of sado-masochism, violence, vengeance and xenophobia, with illusions not only of being the Savior of Mankind but of incarnating God Himself. On the other hand, many see Him as a great story-teller, kind to kids, fallen women and even His executioners, a crowd-pleaser, something of a poet, a dreamer, a mystic – in all, these people feel, one really nice dude and probably the Most Unforgettable Character anyone ever met.
If you think I’m exaggerating or just being nasty, take a look at the Gospels. Telling people not to care about tomorrow, where the food and the money are to come from, how to feed the kids, pay the bills and make ends meet, was irresponsible enough to send Christopher Hitchens up the wall. Jesus was a doomsday prophet who thought the world would end some time soon, real soon, so He advised people to down tools, abandon their fishing nets (and presumably their families) and follow Him, though He had nowhere to lay His head or they theirs, knowing they would all have to depend on handouts to survive. (Later St Francis of Assisi would take Him literally and make mendicants of mugs like me.)
He was, no doubt about it, a gifted magician. Those miraculous cures, those resurrections of dead folks, those mass-feedings of 5000 then 4000 hungry people with a few loaves and fishes ! The trick I liked best was walking on the water before conning Peter to do the same and so make a drowning ass of himself – Laurel and Hardy biblical slapstick – and then pulling a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay His and Peter’s taxes (Peter’s Pence ?).
He waxed eloquent, especially when He was scaring the bejeebies out of folks by threatening them, if they refused to believe in Him, with non-stop weeping, gnashing of teeth and the fires of Hell. He was pitifully vulnerable (and, in His own mind, no doubt noble), when He accepted His inevitable arrest, torture and execution, convinced that even if His Dad would not make that damned chalice of pain and distress disappear and rather let Him suffer and suffocate, abandoned on the cross, He would rise from the dead before returning to sit next to His Father, as apparently He had been doing from all eternity until His Old Man sent Him to earth to die so as to pay the debt we owed Him (you work it out !).
As principal character in a gruesome, godawful novel (in serious need of editing, if only to eliminate the embarrassing contradictions and mindless repetitions), He lives out a tear-jerking tragedy with a Happy Ending. His imagined biography became the Best Seller of All Time. The extraordinary thing is that people believe that the story is true, factual, and worse, believe in Him, dedicate their lives to Him and His message, and die convinced they will enjoy the eternal bliss He promised them. The writers of the “Good News”, the Gospels, had no idea how successful they would be. They got billions of people to believe the story, to believe in their Hero, to love Him – while I find it hard even to like the poor guy.