Saturday, October 27, 2012

Confession of a Former Christus-phile

You won't find the word Christus-phile in any standard dictionaries so I'll start by pointing out its construction before writing about how it relates to myself.  Christus is the Latin from which Christ is derived while the suffix phile means love of or passion and/or appreciation for. Basically, the word means a love of or appreciation for Christ.

What does it have to do with an atheist? Even though I never accepted the supernatural elements of what I'd been told about Jesus Christ when I was a child, I had assumed that Jesus was a real person.  I didn't bother to think much about the stories until middle school. At that point I generally admired what I had heard of the Christ figure. I thought of him in terms of a precursor to the hippies. I continued to view Jesus as a teacher and peace activist right through high school and into the first year of college. It was not until college that I really bothered to think about the Christ figure in any serious way. I went through a brief phase where I considered myself a sort of atheist Christian. I considered such a seemingly contradictory label for two main reasons. First I really did think the hippy version of the Christ figure was pretty cool and in the second place I felt my values and high ethical standards more closely fit the ideals that most Christians espoused than those that most Christians actually practiced.

During this brief phase I decided to look into the real history of Jesus. I genuinely wanted to know more about the figure I had come to admire. I was a bit surprised and somewhat disappointed when my research turned up nothing. It was not for a lack of trying. Throughout college I continued to apply the various methods and techniques of historical research I had been learning. I was a double major: English Education and Social Studies Education. It was not until a few years after graduating that I accepted that Jesus was a myth. I always knew that most of the story elements were fabrications but I had thought the basic human aspects were probably based on a real person or, perhaps, a group of people. Even now I am open to any new evidence that may be discovered. I'm not counting on that ever happening and I'm fine with that. Of course, I never had much invested in the Christ figure.

To some degree I can sympathize with the majority of people, Christian and non-Christian, who seem compelled to deny reality. That sympathy, however, only goes so far. I don't take issue with Christians claiming Christ as a religious figure or as their savior. They can believe whatever they want. I definitely now take issue with the insistence that Christ is an historical figure. He is not and never was. There is not only a lack of evidence to support such a claim the few elements in the Christ narratives that can be tested against known history fail. I am no longer a Christus-phile since I have learned way too much about the Christ figure, or more acuurately the Christ figures since there isn't a single version or possible interpretation.

Note: I'm pretty sure the reason a word like christusphile (or christophile) do not appear in any dictionary is due to an ingrained bias. I think many assume that anyone who has a love of or appreciation for Christ would be a Christian, and since that word already exists why bother with another. It is a silly reason, if indeed that is the reson, since there are a number of non-Christinas and non-religious individuals who do admire the Christ figure. Though I am no longer among them I am still fascinated by Christ.

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