Political Jesus

Political Jesus by Pepe Escobar for UNZ Review

Let’s hit the road in the search for the real Jesus.

Galilee, Year 27: baptized by an itinerant preacher, John the Baptist. That’s when the story really begins. We know virtually nothing of his life till then.

Galilee is ruled by shabby client kings of the Roman empire – first Herod, then his son Herod Antipas. Jesus only enters imperial jurisdiction later, when he moves to Judaea, a Roman province since Year 6.

Galilee is all about agricultural and fishing land, surrounded by way more sophisticated Greeks and Phoenicians. Jesus grows up in a context of simple peasant life; increasing taxes; population explosion; and then non-stop fragmentation of peasant land, causing the proverbial pressures on traditional family life.

Social oppression inevitably had to engender resistance – in the form of budding peasant unrest. Talk about quite fertile ground for the proliferation of charismatic spiritual leaders.

Yet who was Jesus The Man, really? A Jewish holy man? A prophet? A magician? A miracle man? A peasant leader? A revolutionary? Prefiguring Walt Withman, he did “contain multitudes”. He was indeed all things to all men.

What we seem to know for sure is that he had charisma in spades – and exuded natural authority.

The Synoptic Gospels point to problems with Mom and his brothers. Yet he never abandoned his followers – those twelve specials, all from very humble backgrounds, except Matthew (a tax collector).

He lived on the (dusty) road – full time, and that was not exactly comfortable. He was at ease with everyone – prostitutes included.

As a preacher, he was a master of P.R. He talked in parables – easily grasped by small agricultural communities. That’s where he felt really at home.

So Jesus was a rural, not urban, phenomenon. He specially appealed to those who were ill – mentally and physically. He built up a solid reputation as a healer: all those miracle cures – especially exorcisms. And the whole lot interpreted as a sign of holiness.

Jesus was a Palestinian Jew. His followers were overwhelmingly Jews – those peasants destabilized by heavy taxation of their lands and ingloriously clashing with the corruption of Herod’s political machine.

Jesus focused on the imminence of God’s kingdom. But what did he really mean? The Gospels don’t make it easier. Much of his preaching is inclusive. Yet sometimes he would refer to a “Last Judgment” in which the wicked will be punished and the good will be rewarded.

Essentially, he was a millenarian prophet. But as much as he was striving for moral renewal, he was delivering a social message – where the “kingdom” to come represented the Triumph of the Outcast. What that really mean, in practice, was possibly a renewal of family and village community life.

Whatever he was really up to, the Powers That Be feared Jesus. After all he was way too popular. And even if he did not advise armed resistance, Power could not but be very worried by a charismatic leader with miraculous attributes dazzling the crowds.

Jesus may have sensed he was a target. And that’s what may have provoked the move to Judaea – possibly in Year 30. And then to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem may have been the Holy Grail. The apex of his mission – as he finally sensed he was ready to confront the powers behind the Temple.

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For decades I have spent a couple of hours every morning carefully reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and several other major newspapers. But although such a detailed study of the American mainstream media is a necessary condition for remaining informed about our world, it is not sufficient. With the rise of the Internet and the alternative media, every thinking individual has increasingly recognized that there exist enormous lacunae in what our media tells us and disturbing patterns in what is regularly ignored or concealed. In April 2013 I published “Our American Pravda,” a major article highlighting some of the most disturbing omissions of our national media in issues of the greatest national importance. The considerable attention it attracted from The Atlantic, Forbes, and a New York Times economics columnist demonstrated that the mainstream journalists themselves were often all too aware of these problems, but perhaps found them too difficult to address within the confining structure of large media organizations. This reinforced my belief in the reality of the serious condition I had diagnosed.