Are the Hebrews finally getting with the times and joining the Roman Empire? ...This is how I respond to people who are concerned about the Pope's recent comments on atheists.
Many of my Evangelical friends have asked me what I think of the controversy over Pope Francis supposedly saying that atheists can be saved. This is my answer.
The Roman Guardian: Eastern Mediterranean edition
The headlines swirled around the Levant as itinerant preacher Jesus of Nazareth reportedly excuses both prostitutes and the men who frequent them. The latest controversy came when Jesus, whose followers believe is the Son of God, retold the story of a family whose younger son had squandered the family inheritance with prostitutes.
Roman observers speculate that this is a sign of a new openness to Roman social mores.
Lucius Gaius Paterculus, spokesman for the Herod Administration, said, “We have always found these Hebrews amusing, with all their sexual hang-ups. This is the Roman Empire; they need to get with the times. Prostitution is not so bad. Maybe this Jesus preacher will turn the tide and lead these backward people into the modern world.”
Earlier this spring, Jesus created a sensation when he protected an alleged adulteress, and even broke bread with her.
Reuben bar Timeus told the Guardian, “I recognized my father in that story Jesus told. He can’t disguise the characters in his parables enough to hide the fact that he was talking about my putz of a brother and my pathetic father. I’m considering a slander suit. This Jesus guy should keep his mouth shut and show some respect to our family.”
Reuben’s younger brother, Benjamin, spent the last year with prostitutes and the dissolute, living in a “far country” widely supposed to be Babylon. The family’s story was known in the neighborhood but came to prominence this past week, when Jesus made a thinly veiled reference to it in response to questioning by a group of distinguished Pharisees. As Jesus retold the story, the father allegedly saw the boy coming home from a long way off and ran down the road to meet him. The boy allegedly came home in contrition and with a sincere heart, but his brother was skeptical.
“This latest incident was the last straw,” said Reuben. “My father made a fool of himself, running down the road in his white robes, greeting this son of his. He threw a banquet and gave him a new robe and ring. If that is not excusing consorting with prostitutes, I don’t know what is. And now this Jesus guy comes in on the side of my dad at his worst… and my loser brother, too!”
Last spring, Jesus not only ate with prostitutes, but with notorious tax farmer and extortionist, Matthew of Judea, (also known as Levi, son of Alphaeus). All this leaves some wondering whether a new softening is coming in Jewish doctrine across the board.
But the Jewish community continues to be divided between hard-liners and progressives.
Caiphas, current High Priest for the Jews in Jerusalem, denied that any change in Jewish law is in the works. “This Jesus has no authority to change the law, and certainly no authority to forgive sins. People are attracted to him because he makes them feel good – even better than they deserve.”
The Jesus movement has been controversial since its inception last spring, with reports of miraculous healings and exorcisms.
Simon bar Jonah, speaking for the Jesus Movement, said Jesus loves everyone and wants to save everyone.
Marcus Aggripus, reporting from Judea.
Rocky1: I talked to that reporter for an hour and that is the only quote!?!?! And besides, my name is not Simon any more.
SonOfThunder2: Another bit of nonsense by the Roman MSM. You go Pete. These Roman reporters are lame. Why didn’t they interview Jesus himself and see if he is “soft on prostitution?”
SonOfThunder1: No chance, little brother. Those reporters aren’t going to let themselves get chewed up. They’ve seen how Jesus handles the Pharisee law dudes.
MotherOfGod: Mary Magdalene eats with us two or three times a week. I’ve never heard Jesus tell her that her former life was ok, or that she could go back to it. Not that she shows any desire to. LOL.
MattTheTaxGuy: Yea, no kidding MOG. Sin is its own punishment. I should know. I was relieved when he called me. MM is probably relieved too.
MotherOfGod: She is. She was looking for a way out.
JewishPrincess: You eat with prostitutes? EEEWWW!!!
MotherOfGod: Former prostitute.
MattTheTaxGuy: Hey, Pete, BTW, what is this “saved” business?
SonOfThunder2: Whoa. Matty, I know you are new to the Movement, but this is real basic. It means you get to go see God for all eternity.
Rocky1: Right Matty: Eternal life.
MattTheTaxGuy: Wow. I was so relieved to be out of the lifestyle I wasn’t looking that far ahead. Eternal life: awesome.
MotherOfGod: MM is the same way. She wasn’t thinking about eternal life. She had her hands full trying to figure out THIS life. Jesus reached out to her, and made it as easy as possible for her to come to him. That is what he is trying to say with that story. Which BTW, I didn’t know was based on a true story.
SonOfThunder1: Yea, old Reubie should have kept his mouth shut. Nobody would have known it was them. Who is going to remember them one hundred years from now? Haha.
RomanDude: You Heebs are nuts. What is the matter with you? So the kid goes to a few prostitutes, so what? Lighten up all of you. Get with the times.
SonOfThunder1: Uh, RomanDude, you don’t get it. The kid was ready to come home. He was tired of “the times.”
SonOfThunder2: Yo, bro, you’re right there. Lots of people are fed up with “the times.” This Roman Empire deal isn’t all it is cracked up to be. There are a lot of hurting people out there.
Rocky1: You’re so right SOT2. Jesus wants us running down the road to reach the Walking Wounded. I got a pair of new running sandals off some Greek guy from a town called Marathon.
MotherOfGod: Pete, you are so literal! And so impulsive. And endearing. LOL. You don’t LITERALLY have to run after them! Jesus is just trying to say that God’s mercy has no limits.
Rocky1: I know. I just like the image of the Father running out to meet the son, with his robes flying behind him. He isn’t just meeting the kid halfway: he is meeting him all the way. Any sign of contrition or openness, and God is running down the road to meet him. I think that is what I should do too. Especially since I’m now evidently “spokesman for the Jesus Movement.”
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute.