The Washington Post is promoting Amazon.com today – a new series of “trim biographies” called “Icons.” The list of subjects includes Stalin and Hemingway, Poe and Van Gogh.
The Post is also bashing Fox News again today. The first “Icon” biography is about Jesus Christ. Post book reviewer Ron Charles surely caused a few coffee spews by suggesting that Christians typically threaten the lives of people who write about Jesus in a bad light:
[Jay] Parini is a poet and novelist who’s also written well-regarded biographies of Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck. They’re important figures, for sure, but place them in a bad light, and nobody will threaten your life. That’s not the case with the central figure of Christianity.
Charles began by referring to Muslim author Reza Aslan: “Last month, a clueless interview on a FoxNews webcast made Reza Aslan‘s biography of Jesus, a sensational bestseller. This month, comes word of a less zealous take on the man from Galilee.”
Later, he touted Parini’s Christian background: “At the very least, he won’t suffer the kind of silly criticism that Aslan endured from Fox News for not being a Christian. Parini’s father was a Baptist minister. He grew up in a home infused with the Old and New Testaments, and he’s been a church-going Episcopalian throughout his adult life."
While Parini doesn’t agree with Aslan’s unfounded take on Jesus as some sort of violent anti-Roman revolutionary, he also believes that Jesus somehow didn’t know he was creating a “new religion,” a turning point in salvation history:
“Aslan’s Jesus is not mine,” he says. “I draw on the four Gospels and some of the Gnostic Gospels as well as centuries of Biblical scholarship to offer a clear, simple picture of Jesus as a great ethical teacher and a religious genius, a man born on the Silk Road and able to draw on Western ideas about body and soul and eastern ideas of karma and spirituality to create a major new synthesis — although always rooted in Judaism. My view is that Jesus never thought he would create a new religion. He offered, instead, his own modifications and extensions (and radical re-interpretations) of Judaic ideas.”
So Parini and his Post promoter believe in both a clueless Fox News and in a clueless Christ. Parini elaborated last Christmas in a CNN.com essay: "I suspect that Jesus himself would have been startled to think that, many centuries after his death, more than 2 billion people would celebrate his coming into the world, find his message of a gradually realizing kingdom an inspiring challenge, worthy of serious pursuit, devotion and emulation."
PS: Brent Bozell found a different Ron Charles take on Christians and their tolerance last November: Colm Toibin's novella The Testament of Mary “hasn’t sparked outrage or boycotts — a reassuring testament to the West’s tolerance for such artistic license and Toibin’s prominence. Some of us are a lot calmer nowadays about creative re-imaginings of sacred figures.”