December 10th, 2009 From Laura’s Desk: Burton Mack and 911
As many of my readers know, I spend a LOT of time reading and writing about religion. I have some favored authors: Philip Davies, Giovanni Garbini, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson, John Van Seters, KeithWhitelam (the Copenhagen school), certainly Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Georges Dumezil, and – the subject of today’s post – Burton Mack.
Like others who have read it, when I finished reading Mack’s “The Lost Gospel,” something broke inside me and, in my opinion, it was a good thing. Finally I saw: Duuuuuh! I had been examining religion – everything, for that matter – from inside the Western cultural mindset conditioned by my Christian upbringing.
Just so you know, “The Lost Gospel” is a very matter-of-fact book with some boring patches, so I wasn’t prepared for the effect it had on me, the sudden eye-opening, the jarring awake, the realization that even atheists in Western culture are atheists in the context of Judao-Christianity! It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen when my eyes opened to this contextual problem of our perception. There was a killer passage in “The Lost Gospel” that finally cut the umbilicus:
“Christians seldom assess their world by making a direct comparison with the gospel story. Instead, as with all cultures and their myths, coded formulations reduce the mythic mode to attitudes, gestures, and cliches for negotiating the everyday world. A partial list of adjectives that express Christian mentality can illustrate the point. Christians grant privilege to personal performances and events that are unique, dramatic, original, charismatic, miraculous, radical, transformational, and apocalyptic. All else is considered banal by comparison. [...] With the gospels in place, one might note, the symbols for solving critical problems are a vicarious crucifixion at the beginning and an apocalyptic destruction at the end. Both coalesce in a meditation on destructive violence and creative transformation. The Jesus of Q hardly stands a chance of being recognized within this symbolic world.” [Mack, The Lost Gospel, p. 250]
All our lives we are dominated by a sense of what is “right and true” based on the Bible. That is true even for those who claim they have rejected the Bible as the foundation of religion. Most of them are still crypto-Christians. So, in a world of Fanatical Christians and crypto-Christians where we can’t even accurately analyze where we have been and how we got there, what hope do we have of coming to any sort of objective assessment of where we are and where we need to go? Read the rest of the article »