Ever get the feeling some people exist just to annoy you with their opinions? Tom Harpur is such a man for me. A former Anglican minister who now claims that in order to find the true meaning of the Gospels we must accept that Christ did not exist.
Not content with just writing books to that effect, his book "The Pagan Christ" (which argues that the roots of Gospel are pagan and polytheistic rather than Hebrew) has been turned into a documentary. On Thursday Canada's national TV channel, the CBC (for "Canadians Boring Canadians") is airing the documentary as part of its "flagship"/rowboat documentary series: "The Doc Zone."
An article in the newspaper for which Harpur used to write gives an outline of what is to come. Denying the existence of Christ is, to Harpur, the "true path to salvation." "Easy" Christianity- read: actual belief- is something with which he has "trouble". The Gospels are all allegory, including the virgin birth, which "symbolizes the awakening of the spark of spirituality in all of us" The article continues: "That's the true gift of Christmas, (Harpur) says, that ultimately has the best chance of bringing peace on earth."
Oh goody. Someone else is once again dismissing the rigors of true belief (it's too "easy" to them) to bring forth a religion that they think is so much better than what has been in the past. What's more, and worse, he is knowingly promoting what he believes to be False- for the reasons of Expediency. I am reminded of the words of Screwtape to Wormwood: "Believe this, not because it's true, but for some other reason. That's the game." To Harpur, we should not believe the gospel because it's true, but we should believe his version because it's false, (you read that correctly) and his version has a better chance of bringing peace than the other versions. That's its virtue.
I read a few of his newspaper columns some time ago. I remember one of them in particular, where he opined that Christian religions were just too blind to understand that some people have bad associations with the word "Father", and he went on to counsel people who had trouble with the Lord's prayer to simply not say it, for that reason. Or to change the wording, to something more comfortable. In "The Pagan Christ" he has done just that with Christianity as a whole: made it into something more comfortable, more palatable, for him. His God, ultimately, is a matter of taste.
Harpur's blind spot, and the blind spot of many like him, is the desire to change the religion into something they can agree with; to believe that in order to believe they must approve of their beliefs. The idea of allowing yourself to be remade, to model yourself into the image of your faith, to undertake a life of faith even if, (or perhaps especially if) it is uncomfortable, is utterly foreign and even anathema to such minds.
All this and more, brought to you courtesy of my tax dollars. It wasn't enough for New Age types to lay down their hard earned dough to buy the book. No. They have to take some of my finest dollars, which I will never see again, and I sure as heck won't see them here, to fund a work offensive to me and mine. Argh.
What a pity I'll be at choir practice that night. It takes a lot of effort to practice my "easy" faith.