Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Myth America Pageant in Sanford, Florida

The development of a Jesus mythology, and fierce arguments about the details, interests today’s public opinion experts who observe the way news is told. Information was relayed by word of mouth in the days of Jesus, and the news anchors of the day were political and religious leaders and story-tellers, social ancestors of today’s journalists and authors.

What did Jesus say about himself? Where was he born? Did he really walk on water?

Even people who knew him well did not remember all of his words and movements the same way.

Public opinion specialists today have no trouble understanding the conflicting stories about Jesus and the earliest Christians, who had no printing presses or word processors or ball point pens, because they also track disagreements about where the president of the United States was born. They study the intellectual and religious feuds of the computer era: does global warming threaten Earth itself? Are scientists right about evolution?

Big and small, facts of the day for some are false for others. How will people a couple of thousand years from now decide between today’s true and false, right and wrong, assuming that people are still here?

The story of Jesus and his followers is accepted by hundreds of millions as a matter of faith. They accept the proofs selected by one of the thousands of Christian church denominations, and shun the claims of others. Should infants be baptized, or only adults? Is Jesus present in the Eucharist? May women be ordained?

Churches are far apart on matters of ministry. They disagree whether ministers should emulate Jesus in simplicity of dress, or project his royal power by wearing princely robes. Did Jesus tell his followers to heal the sick and visit prisoners century after century and day after day, or only while he taught?

Among the great mysteries of the human experience are the limits of communication. When everyone has access to the same information , why does one person fervently believe that a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer was unjustly arrested for the murder of an unarmed teenager, while another person is equally convinced that the arrest was just? A curious world is fascinated by this Myth America Pageant in Sanford, Florida. How the good news and the bad are communicated may be examined for bias, but the prejudice, or pre-judgment, of people hearing or reading the news is more elusive. It separates fundamentalist certainty from the detachment of the shoulder-shruggers.

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