Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fox-ite Dummy Lauren Green Gets Schooled by Reza Aslan

Lauren Green may well be a charming lady, and perhaps educated in some areas for which she might aspire to be a competent interviewer. But alas, religious history and textual analysis is not one of them - as she learned when confronting author and religious scholar Reza Aslan a few days ago. (According to Buzzfeed, it "was the most embarrassing interview FOX has ever done") After watching clips from Chris Hayes' show last night, I believe it.

Her first question:

"You're a Muslim so why did you write a book about the Founder of Christianity?"

is dumbo out of the block, and thus Aslan began his tutorial for her, as if she were a kindergartener.

He noted being a "scholar of religion with four degrees, including the New Testament with fluency in Biblical Greek- and studied the origins of Christianity for two decades"

Aslan added that he just happened to be a Muslim, but the Fox dope-ite couldn't or wouldn't let it go, asking an even dumber question:

"It still begs the question, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?"

But clearly she doesn't grasp what the fallacy of begging the question means, i.e. it  is committed "when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof." In other words, it is actually Ms. Green who was doing the question begging by assuming because Aslan is Muslim he can't be a competent scholar of Christianity or Yeshua.  Thus, her de facto proposition, that Aslan is incompetent to do research into Jesus because of being Muslim, requires proof that she doesn't provide but which charge she expects Aslan to defend! She thereby foists the burden of question "begging" onto Aslan for showing WHY he is qualified to do a scholarly study of Yeshua.

Aslan, looking as if trying to take pity on a regressive, backward toddler, replied:

"Because it's my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament, That is what I do for a living. I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religion .  This isn't a 'Muslim opinion'. I'm not sure what my faith happens to do with my twenty years of academic study of the New Testament. I do think perhaps it's a little bit strange that instead of debating the arguments of the book we are debating the rights of the scholar to actually write it. My job as a scholar of religions is to write about religions."

But you see, Prof. Aslan, in Dumbo-ville  'Murica, this is not seen as irony. It happens all the time.  But to reinforce this, Green digs herself in deeper approaching moron territory:

"You're quoting yourself as a scholar. I have interviewed scholars who have written books on the resurrection, on the real Jesus, and looking at the same information that you're saying but which is somehow different from theirs, is really not being honest here."

Aslan tried to be empathetic at this point, what else can you be with a recalcitrant dummy masquerading as a prime time network interviewer? He replied:

"M'am, my information is not different from the others at all. It sounds like you haven't actually read my book to see what I've said about the resurrection, or about Jesus or about his claims. I think you might be surprised in what I say."

Ouch!  The book that's elicited such consternation from the reality-challenged is
"Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."

The book excavates what can really be known about Jesus the person and the context in which he lived. Aslan feels passionate about why that kind of knowledge is so important, as he noted in a recent interview:

"Unless you believe that Jesus lived in some kind of a cultural and political vacuum, that the context of the world in which he lived played no role in his actions or his motivations, then you have to take seriously that he lived in a specific time and place and the things that he said were directed to a specific audience in one of the most tumultuous periods of the history of the Holy Land."

Earlier, actually a week ago,  in another appearance on "Morning Joe", Aslan  noted a typical American tendency to think of Jesus as "some kind of pacifist, a celestial spirit in the world in which he lived",  which is completely at odds from the picture which emerges from the historical study of him.  Aslan noted how Yeshua likely lived in the most tumultuous era for the Holy Land ever known, and also took on the hitherto greatest Empire the world had ever known.

Because he took on that Empire, he was executed as a state criminal. Aslan emphasized that he "was a deeply political figure".

At this point, guest Steve Rattner blurted out:  "So, he was a Terrorist?"

Aslan replied: "No. I mean a terrorist is someone who takes up arms against citizens. There were certainly a lot of Jewish terrorists in 1st century Palestine but he himself wasn't one of those. He was a nationalist revolutionary."

At that point, I immediately thought of the late Hugo Chavez who the U.S. Neoliberal media and associated imps  tried to paint as the biggest villain since Stalin. But as I noted, Chavez walked the walk doing far more to help his downtrodden countrymen than Obama has done for ours (even now Obama's WH  is conducting secret talks with the Repukes on a "Grand Bargain" to  cut Medicare - according to Daily Kos).

It was funny when Morning Joe himself tried to interject his own biblical knowledge by asserting Yeshua had to be a pacifist since he said "turn the other cheek" among other statements. But Aslan responded he also said: "I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.." and also the same man who said, "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Aslan followed up, noting that just by his saying the words, "I am the Messiah" he was committing a treasonable offense, since the imputation was that the kingdom of God would replace the kingdom of Caesar, i.e. the Romans. Thus, he wasn't killed for his spiritual teachings but his political actions.

Aslan, like Oxford scholar Geza Vermes before him ('The Authentic Gospel of Jesus') noted that crucifixion was a punishment  "reserved solely for crimes against the state".

Scarborough tried to pooh pooh this by asserting the Romans were "ambivalent at best when you read about the final week of Jesus' life".

But Aslan slapped that down in concert with many other true scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, noting: "that's not correct either". Scarborough snarked: "So what is it then, a fable?" and Aslan replied (correctly according to textual analysis):

"Never happened! It's an absolute fable. What you have to understand is the very first words written about Jesus in the gospels were written after the Jewish revolt, after the destruction of Jerusalem, after the very movement which Jesus embodied led to the insurrection against the Roman Empire, And the words were written in Greek, not in Hebrew, not in Aramaic - the language of the Jews. They were written specifically for a Roman audience at a time when Judaism had become pariah".

He emphasized:

"If that's the case, if you're writing for a Roman audience and not a Jewish audience then you have to do two things: one, you have to make him just a little bit less Jewish and a little bit less revolutionary and two, you have to remove all blame for his death from Rome.."

Pilate himself was no ambivalent wuss, but a "brutal, bloodthirsty man who sent his troops out onto the streets to slaughter Jews on the slightest pretext".

Scarborough interrupted at this point, yelping as if bitten by a large red ant on the butt: "S-so, so, so ....y-y-you're suggesting...that basically the New Testament is fiction."

Aslan replied coolly and calmly as with the Fox moron:

"No, what I'm saying is the New Testament is myth and myth isn't fiction. You have to understand that what we differentiate between facts and truth is a differentiation the ancient mind would have no conception of.  For them what was important wasn't the actual facts of the event - they wouldn't even know what you're talking about. For them the importance was the truth. So what they wanted to do was create a narrative of Jesus that revealed the truth that they wanted to reveal about him,"

One of the truths the writers wanted to reveal is that it wasn't Rome's fault but the Jews. At which point Scarborough began a prolonged, know-nothing interruption in which he tried to portray himself on an equal scholastic footing as Aslan, but he fell flat. Anyone who knew anything of textual analysis and its role in rendering the NT a myth would peg Joe as at least as big a moron as Lauren Green.

The bottom line in all this is too many religious Americans can't handle the truth: that their "good Book"  is not based on facts or real history, but ancient myths re-told in a certain context. Or s Reza Aslan put it in his interview:

"The historical Jesus: he was an illiterate, day laborer, peasant from the country side of Galilee who hung around with the most dispossessed, poor, weak, outcasts of his society -- people whom the temple rejected".

In  other words, exactly the fitting picture of the "Augustan Hippie" that scholar John Dominic Crossan portrayed in his masterful work: 'The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant'.

Will fundies and the Christian Right reject this? Of course! But these are the same twits who reject Darwinian evolution and claim the Earth is 6, 000 years old!

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