Rebuffing the religious right


Barack Obama's election win last week was a rebuff to America's ultra-conservatives, including the religious right. Extremists in this camp are motivated by a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation. They see the Second Coming as imminent, and view God as vengeful and violent.

They see God as being on their side, and interpret a range of contemporary events as confirming their militant version of religion. For instance, they welcome conflict in the Middle East as a sign of the impending apocalypse.

The man featured in this video is a leader in countering this sort of militant fundamentalism. John Dominic Crossan is one of the world's best known progressive scripture scholars, and has spent his adult life trying to lead Christians to a more thoughtful and educated view of the Bible.

In this interview he argues that Christianity at heart is a religion of peace. The video also contains excerpts from a talk he gave recently at Sydney's Pitt Street Uniting Church entitled 'Is God violent? How to read the Christian Bible and still be a Christian.'

It was the concluding lecture in a series jointly organised by a number of Australian progressive Christian groups including the Centre for Progressive Religious Thought and the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria.

Crossan was born in Ireland in 1934, and was educated in Ireland and the USA. He trained to become a priest in the Servite order, was ordained in 1957, but left the priesthood in 1969.

He received a Doctorate of Divinity from Maynooth College, Ireland, in 1959, and did post-doctoral research at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1959–1961 and the École Biblique in Jerusalem from 1965–1967.

After leaving the priesthood, he became a lecturer at DePaul University in Chicago and remained there until retirement in 1995. He is now a Professor Emeritus in its Department of Religious Studies.

Perhaps Crossan is most famous for his role as co-founder with Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar which is part of the US based progressive Christian think-tank, the Westar Institute.

The Institute is controversial in the realm of Christian theology as many of its members question traditional orthodox Christian teachings. For instance, they tend to interpret Jesus' miracles, including the resurrection, as symbols of inner spiritual experience of his followers rather than real physical events.

Crossan co-chaired the Jesus Seminar from 1985–1996 when its international gatherings met every six months to debate the historicity of the life of Jesus in the gospels.

He has written some 25 books on the historical Jesus, earliest Christianity, and the historical Paul, a number of which became best-sellers. His most recent are The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer (2010) and The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus became Fiction about Jesus (2012).


Peter Kirkwood headshotPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity. 

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Barack Obama, The Tea Party, religious right, John Dominic Crossan



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For some reason I have always disliked the word "scholar" as it reminds me of the word "scribe".Like John Dominic Crossan, Robert Auhmann has also been referred to as a "scholar".Both read the Bible day & night, But thou readst black where I read white ~ William Blake. Moreover, John Dominc Crossan had not been able to quote,"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"~ John, had it not been written in The Book ~ The Holy Bible.Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out ~ St Paul
Game Theory | 16 November 2012

re. Crossan Jesus Seminar circle It is noted: "One member, Paul Verhoeven, holds no Ph.D. but an M.Sc. in mathematics and physics,[40] not biblical studies, and is best known as a film director. Seminar critic William Lane Craig has argued that the self-selected members of the group do not represent the consensus of New Testament scholars. He writes: Of the 74 [scholars] listed in their publication The Five Gospels, only 14 would be leading figures in the field of New Testament studies. More than half are basically unknowns, who have published only two or three articles. Eighteen of the fellows have published nothing at all in New Testament studies. Most have relatively undistinguished academic positions, for example, teaching at a community college." [Wikipedia]
father john george | 16 November 2012

Tell DJ Crossan the resurrection has been academically shredded and re-shredded for centuries but still survives as a highly credible Infallible dogma of the Christian faith, scripted in blood of martyrs versus 'red/blue/yellow tossed beads reductionisms of armchair academics

NB A 1938 sobering Dr Rumble 'Radio Reply Response' re ex Fr Alfred Loisy great-great grandpa of anti resurrection frenzy!
Q 750. You have said that the greatest of Christ’s miracles was the resurrection, yet Loisy, a progressive Catholic theologian, says that it was not an historical fact, but a spiritual fact only.
Rumble well responded! "Loisy was a Catholic, but is so no longer, having been excommunicated from the Church for heresy. His assertion is worth only the evidence he can give, and he can give absolutely no genuine evidence for his conjecture. If the resurrection is not an historical fact, there is no such thing as an historical fact in existence."

father john george | 16 November 2012

The saints in heaven never dispute, but always praise.
Mark | 17 November 2012


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