I knew of Alexander Hamilton but not much else – except in the categories of US history and the Constitution. Because we’ve watched the musical Hamilton and I have the musical currently in the background, I can describe more of his biography but only in broad terms and in terms of some key events. I now know of the Caribbean, hurricanes, assisting George Washington, political squabbles, the Reynolds Pamphlets, duels, and some of his legacy. Do I know Alexander Hamilton? Not really. I know about him via a musical based on a biography and for that to be credible – for there not to be an uproar – the messages have to fit within the parameter of truth. If they are factually in error or take a different ‘take’ there will be controversy and then we have to work out what we think. I am not a fan of historical films because I feel that unless I know the subject matter very well, I will accept the film maker’s version less critically because seeing a film is such a powerful medium. I suppose with Hamilton, I might be similarly affected by the energy on stage and the songs (of which there are lots of both!). Or the experience can lead me to ‘dig deeper’ – read more – and get to understand the person of whom I am now aware.
I think this is very much how Christianity continues and grows and resists the attacks made because fundamentally, at its core, it is about getting to know a person, Jesus, whom his followers say is truly human and truly God. Yes, it is a strange message and the more you hear of it the more strange it becomes but the more you hear the more gracious it becomes and the story of Jesus draws people to him – especially when the reality comes home that this is and isn’t history – because the Jesus of history is the Jesus people encounter now.
The disciples of Jesus began their public message about him 53 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. The world doesn’t dispute his death or its method. And it seems to me similarly that if you’re saying something that is patently untrue, absurd, or contrary to accepted wisdom or truth – things that are controversial, you will get responses, you will be noticed, challenged, refuted – and rightly so because we all want truth known and said in our relationships, our politics, or histories, our news, everywhere. So I have often wondered why the authorities simply didn’t produce a rotting corpse to silence the message? The attacks on talking about Jesus – the ‘stop talking about this Jesus’ – seem, to me, to be attacks about the blame for his death rather than on the claim he is alive. And even when the storm clouds of persecution darkened people still follow Jesus!
No matter how the interest happens, when people get to read the accounts of Jesus and hear what it all means – and by that I mean, hearing about who Jesus is, what he has done, and why – rather than Christianity being about what we have to do – then people are drawn – often, I think, even wishing Jesus to be true while they wonder – because Jesus and his story (history) are about rescue, grace, forgiveness, getting us out of the hell we make, and being with us each day. So whenever there are discussions about religion, spirituality, ethics, mysticism, whatever(!) let’s try and introduce Jesus to the mix. That is one reason I often suggest that if you want to read the Bible – especially if you are new to it, just spend the first year reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus is able to take care of himself! GS