James Campion’s Books Make Great Gifts!


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SHAMELESS PROMOTION DISGUISED AS HOLIDAY GREETINGS

Below is an unsolicited message from jc for jamescampion.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, theaquarian.com and any Barnes & Noble store nationwide.

This year, for the holidays, I have decided NOT to send anyone anything. I am only doing my part to reduce the chance of mail-related terrorism while smartly reducing the chance of personal poverty. It’s a sound plan for a doomed economy and I propose you do the same.

God damn it! Think of the poor souls getting your meaningless greetings, exposing it to their children and elderly family members, and then contracting some horrible disease that spreads throughout their unsuspecting towns and hamlets. Jesus, the Feds will hunt you down and usher your yuletide ass to a military tribunal that would surely find you guilty by suspicion and shoot you in a pit of your own digging.

But if you are brave enough to use the US Mail or shop in crowded stores with little to no security, then please be so kind as to purchase a copy of my two books at the merchant locations above. They have been great supporters of yours truly, despite the risks in doing so.

Both titles, Deep Tank Jersey and Fear No Art, are chock full of holiday cheer with their inordinate amount of expletives, bizarre rituals and twisted logic. Just what a freethinking mind needs to consume in these trying times. They make great gifts and blah blah, blah blah blah. Copies ordered from my web site can be personally signed to your loved one with sick and threatening messages included, if you provide them. I aim to please.

Also, quite new this year, a charity compendeum of stories surrounding the tragic events of 9/11/01called Glory: A Nation’s Spirit Defeats The Attack On America. It includes two of my most celebrated columns. All proceeds go to a good cause outlined at the American Publishing Network web site.

PEACE

jc

 

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James Campion – Author, Satirist, Lunatic

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A constantly growing collection of articles about, interviews with, and reviews of jc and his work thus far. Also included are promos for Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art and Trailing Jesus.

Interviews


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Promos

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james campion.com


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4/00

TOP TEN RUMORS…About James Campion’s First Three Years At The Helm Of The Reality Check News & Information Desk

10. Campion attended a fund raiser for the George Pataki Campaign for Governor and was forcibly removed for drinking all the wine at the dais.

9. At one particular stretch of two weeks, Campion sent scathing letters to the office of baseball commissioner, Bud Selig signed, “I’ll fight you anytime, anywhere!”

8. Campion attended a gay rally against the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan carrying a sign reading, “Allow Heterosexuals to be Gay!”

7. Campion started a near riot in the press room at Yankee Stadium on opening day with a skewed debate on Elian Gonzalez.

6. In order to procure an interview with an Al Gore supporter dressed as a chicken, who had been heckling Bill Bradley at a Madison Square Garden campaign rally, Campion claimed to be the vice president’s Prozac supplier.

5. Campion spent nearly forty-five minutes of a one-hour radio talk show accusing Continental Airlines employees of beating him “like a war criminal.”

4. Campion paid a Hillary Clinton aid one hundred dollars to run around a diner totally naked, jump on the salad bar, and dip his balls in the French dressing.

3. Accompanyied by his old GOP insider pal, Georgetown, Campion used a bullhorn to distrupt a voting center during the presidential primaries by urging the crowd not to vote.

2. The legendery Gonzo journalist and hero of James Campion, Hunter S. Thompson chased him with a pistol at an Amazon.com conference.

1. Using moles to intercept faxes from the Pat Buchanan camp to the GOP headquarters in Washington challenging George W. Bush’s stance on abortion, Campion added the top secret information to his Reality Check column which led to a speedy exit for Buchanan to the Reform Party.

 

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Fear No Art Interview with James Campion – Gonzo Author and Political Satirist tells all.

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Book World 2/00

NO FEAR: JAMES CAMPION IN AMERICA An Artful Interview With A Wounded Patriot

You have been labeled a satirist and a contarian, but a great deal of your work is vehemently subjective.

jc: True. I hate everything.

But there is a certain direction in which you point in Fear No Art. For example, in the preface for your book one of your editors makes a case for you being equally abrasive in your attacks. But are they really attacks or a soap box for what you believe?

If you’re accusing me of bashing the concept of philosophy in order to espouse another specific philosophy, you are wholly wrong. Because it has been my understanding that anything offered by human thinking is flawed. I honestly don’t believe anyone is ever truly, rigidly correct about anything. And that, I think, is the humor and fun about nonfiction writing, or the very idea of opinion. Who’s to say? And even if one ideology wins over another today, tomorrow you will be embarrassed for even thinking that way. Politics is the great teacher of that theory. These fuckers will change on a dime five minutes after giving the speech of their life in order to plug some other level of bullshit. But, hey, what do I know? By that argument even my theory fails in some way.

Let’s look at your view of the Clinton presidency, which, of course, you cover simply by timeline in Fear No Art. Your depiction of the president is vague.

Vague? I don’t know. I’d choose the word “harsh.” So would some of my more liberal brethren.

So you are liberal, mainly?

No. Again, any theory or ideology has faults. I cannot align myself with any one philosophy. Those things are transient. They evolve, or not so much evolve, as they are never solid. One day you could see something clearly, like, for instance this whole deal with this Cuban kid that we argue day and night on whether to send back to his father or the shooting of that poor guy in New York by the cops. Both sides make salient arguments, but in the end the experience of the child after the final decision, and the effect of the jury’s call will decide, ultimately, what was best, or as I say, not. Nothing is ever concrete.

But don’t you think that is middle-of-the-road thinking?

What the fuck is middle-of-the road thinking?

Don’t you think that it’s your job as a columnist, or even, satirist, to take a position in the debate?

So now I’m not subjective? Make up your mind.

What I’m saying is that you tend to pit both sides of an argument against one another simultaneously. How do you manage this?

Because, as I’ve been pretty consistent in saying, there is never a right answer to the real pertinent questions. People make a damn good living convincing people who don’t have the time, inclination, or the patience to pick apart things like whose fault it is that taxes are too high, or candidates suck, or businesses are corrupt, or even why the hell we happen to be here on this spinning sphere in the first place. Some people, such as myself, find these jerk-offs to be nothing more than snakeoil salesmen who render monumental quandaries to the simplest form, when maybe they’re not so simple. Organized religion, political rhetoric, advertising, therapists…who the hell knows what’s going on?

Including you.

Including me. Correct!

But you do site history a great deal in order to prove that whatever, as you put it, monumental problems there are, it has all been dealt with before.

Yes I do. That’s what is known as reasoning. It is all we have left that keeps us from giving up the act and heading for the trees. Swinging in trees seems like a excellent activity after you’ve spent five minutes with some asshole from an organization that tries to put the universe into a paper cup. I think Lennon said that. You know, John, not Lenin, the poor idiot who thought sharing everything equally would fly. That’s why Lenin rejected the teachings of Christ, you know? He also tried the “share everything equally” thing two thousand years earlier. Backfired, as we know.

It’s extremely frustrating talking to you.

How do you think it feels carrying around this crap every minute of every day? That’s why it’s good to jot it down and sell it to the highest bidder. Can we talk about my book now?

I thought we were.

Sounded to me like psychoanalyzing the author.

Why did you decide to put your e-mails in the book? I liked that.

So did I. Made me laugh, so I put the stuff in there. All real. I get accused of making things up.

While reading Fear No Art I was often reminded of Hunter Thompson’s characters.

Thanks. My hero, the good doctor.

Did you ever meet him?

Once at NYU. A symposium for the Beat writers or something. Met (Allen) Ginsgerg there as well.

Is there any fiction in Fear No Art?

I’m not telling you.

This is your second book, but your first collection of random writings, correct?

Yes.

Do you plan to chronicle your career this way or take breaks from actual book writing?

Are you intimating that Fear No Art is not a real book?

No, but it isn’t like Deep Tank Jersey either?

True. You got me on that one. I am working on something in the style of Deep Tank Jersey, but I thought this book and it’s style would lend it self more to the readers of my first book and to the people who currently read my columns.

You are pretty rough on the music business, politics, especially (Newt) Gingrich and Clinton, and organized religion. Have you received a lot of negative feed back on this? Because it would seem that some of the subjects in Fear No Art are more than a little touchy.

Look, I get more hate mail than most, but that’s because I don’t pander to one side or the other. I think it was Woody Allen who said that he should have tried bisexuality to double his chances of getting a date. Now if I hammer away at the hypocrisy of these people, who all-but guarantee their ideology is the best and the other guy is full of shit, then I’m going to hear from everyone who has an opinion on both sides. I mostly do it for a laugh. I think humor is truly our best defense mechanism against the world’s problems. Freud said something to that effect. He was fucked too, of course.

As a humorist, I think your stuff works on different levels, but doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? You think these issues are too important or difficult to toss aside with a simple theory or philosophy, but to mock or joke them, that’s all right?

That’s all right for me. And anyway, no one ever laughs at the same things. I don’t care if you think you have a great sense of humor or not. No one is going to find the same things funny. I use satire as a way to deal with pressing issues. I think a good aphorism or punch line goes a hell of a lot further then a speech or a philosophy. Words should be like music. You should here them in your head, like a great quote or something easily put so you can see the many sides of the issue. People have a enough problems, they don’t need to listen to lectures crammed into a column space in some newspaper or magazine with no wit or edge.

Is that why you included the Chaos in Motion pages in the book?

I put those in because I used to send one liners to friends to make myself laugh first and foremost, and then sent it along to them. In this age of the ‘quick aside,’ as you say, it’s best to put everything into something worth reading, or hearing.

Is there something in the book you wish you could take back?

Putting my damn name on it. It would be whole lot simpler on the lawyers if it were just anonymous. Primary Colors, that’s the way to go.

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Traveling the Holy Land With James Campion – Ray Ford

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Minneapolis Star-Tribune 6/29/03

IN THE HOLY LAND

by Ray Ford

In the spring of 1996, author James Campion became a “Jesus groupie,” traveling to the Holy Land to write Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books, 585 pages, $18). Campion, raised a Roman Catholic, admits that despite becoming a man of “no faith of any kind,” he still remains a practicing “fan of Jesus.”

Garden of GethsemaneReaders get a detailed, but somewhat rambling, tour of the Holy Land, seen through the eyes of Campion, whose knowledge of the Bible illuminates his prose with the political, social and religious background against which Christ’s travels and ultimate end were set.

The book is an account of Campion’s traipse over most of the places of Christ’s life, including the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the gates of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley and Golgotha, “Place of the Skull,” but Campion shuns large, guided tours, instead doing it pretty much with an experienced guide named Avi.

Campion reveals his own struggle with his beliefs in alternate chapters that speak of an interior “nothing” that he unsuccessfully tries to define, as well as his poignant memories of growing up in New York City, attending St. Dominic’s Grammar School and, later, the evolution of his questioning of all religions.

Campion’s accounts of the geography of Jesus’ public life go from the Jordan River, scene of Christ’s baptism, to the “Via Dolorosa,” the way of his crucifixion. Campion lingers at all 14 defined points of the “Way of the Cross,” which describe Christ’s final hours and death. At one point during this journey, he breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing, which guide Avi calls entirely natural for pilgrims on this journey.

Upon leaving the Holy Land, Campion concludes his book with this: “Indeed, I found Jesus of Nazareth on this soil. He is out there still, burning as brightly as the glistening pearls along the lake of his youth.”

More Info On Trailing Jesus

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“Trailing Jesus” Interview – WKUO, St. Louis


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WKUO LUTHERAN RADIO ST. LOUIS Living Jubilee with Paul Clayton & Diane Summers Interview 6/20/03

jc - Freehold, NJ - 2002Paul Clayton: All right, let’s welcome our next guest.

Diane Summers: James Campion was born in the Bronx, New York to a devoutly Catholic Italian /Irish family. He was raised in the faith and has struggled with organized religion and has decided to make a personal truth quest to Israel, where he spent a month retracing the steps of Christ. His account is contained in Trailing Jesus – A Holy Land Journal published by Gueem Books. Welcome to Living Jubilee, James.

jc: Nice to be with you both.

PC: Good to have you here. Man, this is a big book.

jc: (laughs) It’s a big subject.

PC: Over 500 pages, yeah. Where do you want to begin?

jc: Uh, wherever you guys would like to begin. I would just like to say right off the bat that I’m not a theologian or a scholar, and I don’t, as you said in your intro there, subscribe to any particular faith, but I have always been fascinated with Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus message, the original Jesus movement of the first century. I always wanted to visit Israel and Jerusalem, and it took a long time to map the whole thing out and be able to make the sojourn, so I hope in my own humble view of it as a journalist interested in these stories, I was able to impart some of that fascination in a different way than that of a theologian or a scholar.

PC: It sounds like you started off as a cultural Roman Catholic. You were born into that situation, and then you questions things, and then you decided to go much, much deeper than what your earlier tradition was.

jc: Sure. Much like so many young men and women who go off and learn different aspects and tenets of philosophy and science, and have their own personal enlightenment, so to speak, I did as well. But I found out through having many discussions with people throughout my life, no one could really speak on an intellectual or historical level about these stories. It’s almost as if you were to believe them, then you had to suspend any intellect or understanding of it, or the other way around, you couldn’t have any faith, and I thought that unfair. By studying over the 12 years before taking my trip to Israel in 1996, I realized that many of my contemporaries knew more about the Beatles or the New York Yankees then they knew about their own faith or these actual historical events that framed their religious beliefs. So I thought, I better educate myself on these things if I were to believe them or be inspired by them as strongly as I claimed.

PC: So how did you begin this quest? How did you prepare the make the travel?

jc: That’s a great question.

PC: For instance, what did you read?

jc: Well, I spent about ten-plus years as a labor of love styudying the boom of the late-80s’, early 90s’ of the Jesus scholarly movement begun years ago by Albert Schweitzer with his Quest of the Historical Jesus. I read many of the books by some of the more publically celebrated Jesus scholars like Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and many of the Biblical scholars who made up the controversial, but engaging Jesus Seminar and much of the modern Jesus scholar movement of the 90s’.

PC: So you went beyond the Bible.

jc: Yes I did.

PC: Did you read any of the unpublished gospels?

jc: Yes, in fact there is a wonderful compendium of translated gospels not accepted by any sect of organized Christianity called The Complete Gospels, compiled by the aforementioned Jesus Seminar. These, as you alluded to are known as the apocryphal gospels. Some are merely sayings gospels that are seen among scholars as the foundation for the canonical gospels read today in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Of course, I also included all the material accepted by canon in the New Testament as well. At least everything available in the English language like the King James Bible, the New American version, the Catholic version, which all include, of course, the Letters of Saint Paul, the Acts of the Apostles and so forth. Coupling this with my understanding of what we can derive from the other gospels available to us like the Gospel of Thomas, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and James, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary.

PC: Mary Magdalene?

jc: Right.

DS: Did you think that what was published was not enough? What was the reason for all of that?

jc: Well, firstly, I have to respectively correct you; all these gospels have been published in every language imaginable. Several Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars and theologians have studied them copiously. It’s just that they have never, for one reason or the other, been accepted by the organized minds of the Christian faith. At least not by the structure or hierarchy of the church. But for me, I have always been fascinated in finding out different voices from the past to frame this incredibly complex character of Jesus of Nazareth as an historical figure set against the grandiose notion of the Christ of faith, the religious icon. That is the job, more or less of a historian or storyteller or a journalist, to scour everything. To accept what is given to you – sight unseen – would not be investigating, per se. It is failing the complete quest and it fails the reader as well.

Mainly, I have to say the discoveries of some of these gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas, really my personal favorite, unearthed in 1947 in a cave in Nag Hammadi, Egypt intrigued me greatly. To know that something, like, for instance, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I have also read pretty extensively, exists for us to read today is beyond captivating. And reading them, discovering them for myself truly opened my mind to new aspects of Jesus of Nazareth and his original movement and how it is fully depicted in the four gospels of the New Testament. Only then did a complete story begin to emerge for me. Once I opened my eyes to all the available evidence, and this includes archeological finds as well, this project, for me, and I hope it translates to the reader of Trailing Jesus was to absorb everything available in the English language about Jesus of Nazareth, and by doing so, bring me and the reader closer to the man. There is inspiration there for the believer and non-believer. And there is much to glean on every possible level.

DS: Did you have people in your background, I guess, that showed you confidence in faith as you grew up, and did these people, you know, haunt you, for lack of a better word, and make you wonder if there was that kind of peace for you too?

jc: I was very lucky growing up. My parents, who were devout Catholics and still believe strongly in The Word, and my mom, who edits most of my work – she was an English teacher for many years – of course were a little shocked and put-off by my journeys and some of the resulting theories counter to their deeply held beliefs, but they’ve been very supportive, because they realize through my in-depth studies I keep the hope alive of achieving a greater understanding of existence, of compassion, and humanity, which, of course, Jesus originally taught. So, I think, yes, they were a great influence, but not with conditional boundaries. And I thank them so much for that. Even in my Catechism studies as a kid, it was the late 60s’, early 70s’ after all, and there was a more progressive, liberal movement in the church, wherein we would broach subjects outside the dogma and deconstruct, with respect to them, the icons and beliefs of my predecessors in the faith. And once you are freed to do so, it makes you, or at least it made me yearn to understand more than what I was given, to confidently reject merely receiving information robotically without questioning or better understanding it, and it was a great lesson for other endeavors in life.

People always want to you accept what is their reality, but it might not be, or I should say it rarely is, yours. This, to me, is the very essence of freethinking, and my pursuit of that end of things has forever been my passion. It has more or less framed most, if not all of my work, so a lot of people have asked me if this journey, or if the book breaks down icons and boundaries of the Christian faith, and I answer that it is the opposite. I think the more you know about your supposed faith, if you truly possess it, the more you can grasp the original ideas behind it, because they’re right there. You cannot deny that there is a history there. If you think it made up and not history, then that is another discussion, but if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth and started this movement based on a certain and distinct philosophy and was murdered as a cause and effect of it, then it is incumbent on you to dissect and study it. Ignoring it, or taking an insitiution’s take on it as pure is never the answer for anything. It spits in the face of the intellect we possess and should cherish as humans. And this is true of studying Mohammad, the Buddha or Jesus Christ; how we take these lives, these teachings, and enact them for ourselves right now.

PC: And you wanted to find out for yourself, rather than take somebody else’s word for it, huh?

jc: I guess that’s the way it’s always been for me, and my generation as a whole. Too often we only go halfway with it. I’m still at it. People are motivated to ask me along the way if I know all there is to know, and I answer the way I always do when diving into a subject as a journalist: “the more you know the less you know.” So it just drives me on. In the case of the historical Jesus, there’s always going to be new archeological finds like the ossuary of Ciaphas a few years ago, a stone I saw and actually touched that had Puntius Pilate’s name carved on it. They found ruins and pottery in the House of Saint Peter in Capernaum that I visited along my journey, which is in the book. So there is always this living, breathing, growing history that adds to the faith, I think.

PC: And I guess you not only learned more about Jesus from this quest, but the people around Jesus, huh?

jc: Yes, I did. Absolutely. Another good point. Especially when I went to Israel. When I began Trailing Jesus as a project I learned so much about the cultures of Israel today, as well as 2,000 years ago during the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Whether it’s Islam, Judaism, many sects of Christianity, even Buddhism and Hinduism, and even atheism. I learned so much about humanity and its levels of compassion and hatred and everything in between, how we use concepts of religion to build and destroy, as it continues today in the horrors of the Middle East. I also learned that beneath all of that, which, again, is a foundation of the original Jesus movement, which can apply here, that ordinary people who are harmed by these extremes in faith merely want peace and harmony and crave safety and tolerance. And this has given me a great sense of hope and inspiration for the human race as a whole and ultimately what Jesus’ quest was to discover; the parameters of the will of God on this earth, whatever that interpretation might be.

DS: So did you come up with any solutions to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? (laughs)

jc: None at all. The only thing I can say is, and I just wrote a column about that for a paper I write for here in New Jersey, it will continue the course of mayhem unless we change our views on how we go about our business of negotiating in good faith, and I think, again, this is part of the Jesus message for me. It’s like that old definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” I don’t think that politics, nationality, culture or religion can save those people from their own demise. I think the only thing that can save them is a completely new vision and understanding. They have to put down the flags. They have to release themselves from tradition. They have to destroy these cultural barriers. They have to speak to each other as human beings, cross the lines of Jewish and Arab and Christian. They have to say, “That’s a person who bleeds such as I. That’s a person who weeps and cares for his/her children.” No one on this planet is that different. We all want to pursue happiness, safety and love. They want to go to the grocery to buy a loaf of bread or take a cross-town bus without having to risk being blown up. So I think they have to look at the whole mess from a completely new way, and see what they are doing to others and how it is being done to them in the same, heartless, blind way. Until they do that, and I fear they never will, but until they do, I don’t think they’ll know peace. I’m sad to say.

DS: It sounds to me you’ve gone a whole lot of places here, James, that maybe the places that you’ve ended up would be uncomfortable for a more conservative Christian. Do you think so?

jc: I can’t speak for everyone, certainly, but I would say, not at all. One of the first sayings of the Gospel of Thomas, which is said in a different way in the Gospel of Mark, the first gospel written about 30 to 35 years after the death of Jesus, so many scholars conclude that it is closest to the actual aim of the original Jesus movement and all the other gospels derive from it, but anyway, that first saying in the Gospel of Thomas says, and I paraphrase for the purposes of making this point; “When you come to understand what I’m trying to teach you, at first you’ll be disturbed, but then you’ll marvel, and then you will see.” So I think, and I often say this when I do my speaking engagements and interviews and book signings, that Jesus of Nazareth was a “confusion teacher”. He believed if he could confuse you, and he did it a great deal in his parables, present them half-jokingly like riddles to get the listeners to think for themselves, that they would be forced to see the world through new eyes, through a new perspective. On a simple level it would be to look at blue and consider it green, or look into darkness and see it as light, and then perhaps have new eyes and then new thoughts about how the world should work – “The last first, the first last”, as he is quoted in every gospel. So I think being a tad disturbed, a little shaken in your conservative thought in the world you have fashioned for yourself, a little confused, as it were, is what Jesus intended for his original message. It might even help create a new wisdom in itself. And that’s what drives me to discover more and more about this man, and why I wrote Trailing Jesus. It’s what I admire most about Jesus of Nazareth. He knew how to get to the core of things, and I think that more than anything else has helped his ideas survive for 2,000 years.

DS: When I was working over at our sister station that plays classical music called Classic 99, I asked about a fellow who wrote symphonies by the name of Mahler. Gustaf Mahler writes very cacophonic sort of symphonies, and I asked someone familiar with his style, how can I possibly enjoy Mahler, and why do you like Mahler? And the announcer I asked the question of answered, “Well, do you like to be in pain?” I said, I guess I don’t. I guess I’m more of a Mendelssohn kind of person, you know? He then said I couldn’t appreciate Mahler, because you must enjoy being in pain and being delivered from it. And all of this leads me to a point, that there are a lot of Christians who are very angry about what the Jesus Seminar has done to the way people look at scripture, for example, and don’t appreciate being in pain and delivered from it, to understanding what culture has done to the way we look at scripture, I guess. Is that sort of person going to benefit from your book, Trailing Jesus?

jc: I think they would. I tried to write as universally as I possible could in the book. I did not come away with any steadfast answers. I just threw out all the possibilities that I discovered along my journey, also in my personal experiences, which I think anyone can relate to. We’re all in the same boat, so to speak. We just have different intepretations of that boat. But we’re still in it. That much is for sure.

Speaking of the Jesus of Seminar, I have one thing I’ve been saying in many of the interviews I’ve done this spring, and that the problem with the Jesus Seminar and most historians, per se, is they choose to remove all the mysticism, all the religiosity, all the iconic aspects of the Christ to find Jesus of Nazareth behind it all. And I think that’s not being entirely fair to the story. Now, certainly it’s their parameter as historians and scholars to not play around with conjecture and faith. They have to stay on the course of what can be proven, beyond any doubt, which is nuts when tossing around the life of Jesus of Nazareth, because that would be tantamount to writing about Babe Ruth and never discussing his baseball career. Now you can write a fantastic biography of Babe Ruth and never mention baseball once, but that is leaving the core of his whole story out. We only know about Ruth first as one of or arguably the greatest baseball player ever, and everything from that is how the story evolves. To depict Jesus of Nazareth merely as an ascetic political and social revolutionary, of which he is no doubt a significant one, is the same as simply or narrowly calling him the Son of God, and saying that his only purpose was his death and resurrection. I believe both sides do a disservice and severe injustice to Jesus in their own ways. To leave out the miracles and the resurrection story in the Jesus pantheon is wrong and too convenient, just like leaving out his revolutionary aspects as well. You must formulate the mystic qualities of Jesus of Nazareth to know the full Jesus story. This is true outside the documents of faith like the writings of Jewish historian and contemporary of Jesus, Josephus, who wrote his only description of Jesus as a healer who was believed to have risen from the dead by his followers. Leaving those extremely important elements out are unfair, whether they can be proven without a doubt or not. There is written evidence, however flimsy, that point to its pertinence in the original Jesus movement.

Listen, the hardest part in writing Trailing Jesus for me was to marry the mystical with the historical, the faith with the logical conclusions of history, but I believe sometimes the great things about life and discovering life are illogical. When I fell in love with my wife it made no logical sense at the time, but it is the greatest of my achievements, loving my wife. So I think therein lies my problem, really, with the Jesus Seminar, which I adore on many levels. You can learn a lot from it, which I did, but I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all of a study of the historical Jesus, nor do I think anyone should be threatened by it either.

PC: So would you say you were in pursuit of the historical Jesus, or the Jesus of the Bible? And using these outside works, were they able to fill in the blanks for you?

jc: Sure. Reading the gospels truly is amazing. It’s incredible writing. It’s inspiring and scary all at the same time, just fantastic literature. But the gospels are not, nor were they ever meant to be, historical documents. I say it in the book. Far from it. These writings were never meant to be taken as history. These were men literally writing sonnets to Jesus, especially John’s gospel. If you read the Gospel of John and substitute the words “I” for “We”, it will give you chills, especially that first stanza. I use the word “stanza”, because I see John’s gospel as more poetry than the others. It gets inside the aura, the soul of Jesus, and out comes the Christ figure, wherein with the other gospels a Christ emerges. But getting back to my point, the gospels are not historical documents. You get aspects of history from them, but they’re pimarily spiritual in many, many ways. So you have to get outside of them to clearly see the cultures Jesus was speaking to, the mysteries of his early life, what happened the first 29 years of his life, before his public persona emerged, how he was clearly influenced by his culture. If we still come to conclusions that Jesus was human, and as faith defines it, still fully divine, where does it go from there?

What I also love about the gospels in and of themselves is we get four different Jesuses. Then when you also read the other gospels outside the New Testament, you get still other Jesuses, and then you come to respect them all for what they can give you in your research. They present different sides of one man, just like we all have different sides of our personalities, that we’re never known for just one thing or one personality, even though we have this penchant to take our celebrities and icons of today and in recent history and give them one dimensional personalities. It’s not real.

DS: Now, what your saying is that those people who experienced what Jesus did when he walked this earth had no idea about what they saw, that you can’t get history from the gospels?

jc: No, that’s not true either. As I’ve said, there are moments, glimpses of history in the gospels, and really, as an interested party to the Jesus story, they are the main source, but I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about; this history vs. propoganda or worship writing. If you were to write a biography of Jesus, you certainly would talk about his childhood, his young adult life, his influences and growth, how he became this great and influential person, and how those experiences helped form the man he was from the ages of 30 to 33. You’d want to know and then let your readers know. You don’t get that from the gospels. Mark starts off in the Jordan with the baptism of Jesus by John. Mark gives you no background. Matthew talks about what happened with Herod after the birth of Jesus, how his parents, Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt and all that, but he never broaches an Immaculate Conception or mentions a pre-birth trip to Bethlehem. That was Luke’s story. It’s okay, I guess, to jam them all together to create a story of Jesus, which filmmakers, for instance, have done for decades, and to a great degree the Christian faith has done as well, but it isn’t really a biography or an historical record that can be completely trusted. Also, the gospels, all the gospels are written from one point of view, the point of view that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah of Jerusalem and the first century Jews, and I was always taught as a journalist to get several points of view to form your story. This is simply not available in the gospels, but then again it isn’t supposed to be, so that’s okay. And like I said before, most scholars, or the members of the Jesus Seminar, conviniently take out what they can of history in these documents, and it’s a charade, really. I tried to marry all the elements together for the reader to decide how he/she sees it, but I could not, nor should anyone, pick or choose what they think is history or not.

There is both the peasant, artisan Jewish, ascetic, Jesus of Nazareth of history and also the Christ of faith. He is both represented in the gospels in their own inimitable fashion. That is the fun of extrapolating an historical, living, breathing figure from that. It is a difficult task, and one that took me over a decade to realize, and six years to write as Trailing Jesus, but it was a labor of love. And I honestly think I’m a better person for it, and I hope anyway you lean, religious or historical, you can get something out of my book.

PC: In what way are you a better person for it? What do you think you’ve accomplished now?

jc: I have a better sense of compassion for the people who study and feel very strongly about their faith, any faith. I’ve tried to be tolerant of everyone and whatever they choose to believe all of my life, and I’d like to think that I ‘ve had an open mind about most things. That wasn’t always the case. It’s a process. When you’re younger, you know, you’re defiant. You want your own way. You want to view things through the lens of invincibility. But you skin your knees a few times and you dust yourself off and get back in the ring with a renewed perspective, hopefully more understanding and compassionate of others besides yourself.

People always ask me, “Did Jesus enact miracles? Did he really enact these miracles?” And I tell them to forget all this stuff you’ve read, and all the details of the miracles as depicted in the Bible. If you don’t go for that, or can’t get your mind around that, know this; If one man can take Samaritans and Jews and gentiles and Romans and zealots, and the socially ostracized and the diseased and the thieves and the prostitutes and the tax collectors and get them all together, march them into the heart of Jerusalem brimming with thoughts of love and compassion and a personal understanding of faith and God, then, my friend, that is a miracle, possibly the most important one of all. And, best of all, you don’t need to be the Son of God to enact it. Beyond that I do not discuss anyone’s personal experience with the Christ of faith. For me, that one idea, that one image of Jesus of Nazareth will put you on your head. Period.

DS: Well, you know, James. I’m a little upset with this (laughs) what we’re talking about today. I guess I see a fellow who has been trying to find peace everywhere but where God says you can find peace in this world, in the scriptures, in His holy word, in His inspired documents, and have looked everywhere else to find where God has not declared he can be found. And I wonder sometimes if you write from a deep confusion about God, whether you’re the kind of person that’s still…

PC: Searching?

DS: Searching, yes, and rediscovering the wheel in a way, because scripture is very plain and very easy to understand.

jc: That is true, in many ways. It is also a little naive. What is easy to understand for one, could be an arduous task for another. And one must not forget that faith is not like math. There is no concrete answer. Everything is up for discussion in understanding it intellectually, if you choose to go that route. I chose to go that route. I did not write a book merely about faith. It is a book about understanding that faith. We’re just looking at this from different points of view, which is great.

I see Trailing Jesus as a microcosm for the world. The world does not work in the ways of the scriptures. The world, in many ways, is the complete polar opposite of what you’re talking about. There’s a great line from the film, “Philadelphia”, in which Denzel Washington, who plays a lawyer defending his client, played by Tom Hanks, who is ostensibly depicted as being discriminated against for his homosexuality and the affliction of Aids. In this scene, Denzel’s character begins blurting out vicious terms for the gay community, which, of course, shocks the courtroom, and the judge understandably shouts him down and asks the lawyer why he would do such a thing. Denzel’s character responds that he is pointing out how bigotry and hatred formulate the actions of people and make them decide one way or the other on how they will think. The judge tells him that the courtroom is no place for bigotry, that law is blind to variations in understanding. And the lawyer, Denzel Washington astutely says, “In all due respect, your honor, we don’t live in this courtroom.”

So to me, that says all there needs to be said about the world of God and the scriptures and how they are a part or a reflection of the world we live in, not a fantasy, utopian kingdom of heaven, but the one we are born into. The scriptures, or the understanding of them, as you put it, this “simple as the wheel” as you put you, is only simple when you remove reality out of the equation. I cannot do this. I try to derive a sense of purpose and inner strength and peace, not from a book, or in a theory or philosophy or religion. It’s good for some, but not what truly affects survival on this planet, really.

What I face in Trailing Jesus, what I confront as far as the confusion and mayhem of the world, the natural order of events, and the people, us, all of us who are affected by it all, do not find peace in theory and belief that perhaps yourself or your listeners have. They do not see the scriptures or faith easy or simple. There is death and destruction, political genocide and starvation, racism and hatred rampant upon this world, the real world, the one we live in right now. Their easy way out of it may be pills and booze or sex and easy gratification to take the pain of life away. Their answers are therapy or whatever they do to survive. Now you say the answers are in the scriptures, a lot of people don’t see it that clearly, to accept it as an elixir to the suffering or indecision of existence. I look at my book, if anything, as a bridge, somewhere between your way of seeing the answers of peace in scripture and not seeing it at all. Those people are out there. It would be great if they had a road to be being spiritually pure, but it is not there for them or they do not see it as you do. And I see that, and therefore did not have an agenda in the book, beyond my discoveries.

Everyone has his or her own path. Trailing Jesus is the story of my path and how the discovery about the historical Jesus, a very dear portrait to my heart, has enabled it. One thing I will say about me, personally, is that I am always searching, and through the search I find a kind of peace. It’s the journey, for me. It’s the end game for others. Hey, I always say that I hope I’m on my deathbed and not know what anything is truly about. I want o fight for knowledge to the bitter end. There is so much more to learn. I never want to be complacent in my soul or in my mind.

DS: Well, you know, all of the scriptures were written so all of us would know that Jesus is the savior, that we might know Him. All of it points to Him. When we get to the end of Trailing Jesus are we brought to that same conclusion?

jc: I never like to give away an ending of a book. (laughs) Sorry. I will say that I’ve had Chrisitians, both practicing and wavering on their faith, Born Again Christians, Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Protestants of all kinds, Jews, Muslims, atheists, all different sects and groups reading the book with wildly different backgrounds, and they’ve all come away with something different from reading it. And I would hope that would be the case, because I can’t speak for everyone, or how my personal experience goes. We’re all different, thank goodness, and we all have different views. That’s what makes the core of humanity great, and that’s what makes your show and other shows who think differently so compelling to its audiences, because everyone has a different viewpoint. If they’re honest to that viewpoint, they will see the differences between their own beliefs and others, and hopefully respect those differences and engage in a sane and sober discussion about them, without demanding that only their views be heard, no matter how strongly they feel about them. Of course, as long as those views do not hurt anyone or keep anyone from discovering their own freedom of thought.

I’m not really sure if you can define what it is I’m searching for in Trailing Jesus except that elusive definition of existence of divinity within the human spirit. I’m sorry if you feel I am lost or haven’t found it, because you have found a view that works for you. And I would agree, in part, with you. But I have learned through the journey of my art and my work that there’s something you can get out of it in the journey, as opposed to a conclusion. The conclusion doesn’t always work for me. I like having gone through the experience.

PC: Then you don’t point towards Jesus as being our salvation?

jc: That’s not necessarily true, either. I don’t mean to be elusive with these answers, but I will not be held down to what I feel in my heart as an intellectual concept, like conversation on a radio station. Again, as a rule, I don’t want to give up anything depicted in years of discovery, years of work on a book that’s 600 pages long with a sentence or two. It’s not fair to you, your audience, the work or me. I would say that each and everyone in your audience should read it, as they read all things, with an open mind, and decide for themselves what it is they derive from it.

PC: But you do not identify Jesus as the source of our salvation in your book.

jc: I guess I should ask you to define “source of our salvation” for me.

PC: That’s it. That’s the only way to get there.

jc: I understand, but what is the “source of salvation”?

PC: Jesus Christ.

jc: So, how do you describe…if you would describe to me “salvation”, what does that word mean to you, that emotion? Salvation.

PC: Belief in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins.

jc: Okay, well, I certainly cannot divulge what an entire audience would derive from reading Trailing Jesus, especially in the spiritual realm of the Christ, which I have maintained is a separate entity to that of the Jesus of Nazareth I have spoken about today or who is depicted in Trailing Jesus anymore than I can read the minds of the people listening to this interview. The book states events and the results of those events. It’s really a personal journey to come to conclusions on those events, isn’t it? And you would agree that it is patently unfair to attempt to encapsulate in a sound bite for the purposes of this discussion, those conclusions, or at least explain them. You might as well ask me to describe the Civil War in 30 seconds. I guess you could, but what would that really tell you about the Civil War? You’d have to go through the journey, spend the time to really know about the Civil War to understand it all and what it means to different people of different generations of various political and social beliefs.

All the words in your statement, your testimony, the word “belief”, the phrase “dying for our sins” or just who is defined in the word “our” and what is meant or defined as “sins” is hard to answer with certainty. It is certain for you, obviously, but not so for others, and not so for me.

DS: So in your heart, James, I’m talking about you directly, when you think of the very simple phrase that Jesus said, “I am the way and truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father, but by Me”, does this give you a sense of rightness? Do you understand that in your heart?

jc: I understand it in my way, but I don’t know if necessarily saying it on a radio station at this point to you or whomever is an indictment of whether we are both talking about the same thing, viscerally, because I believe, and I apologize if this is not the case, but I believe what you are offering to me is an absolute emotionally and spiritually. And that is not what I have come to on a personal level. You might understand these statements thoroughly in your way, but a person driving around listening right now might understand it another way.

PC: First of all, James you’re talking to an audience here, the majority of, believe that Jesus is their personal savior.

jc: Right. Sure.

PC: And it doesn’t sound like He’s your personal savior. That’s why we have a little problem here today. Well, a major problem. (laughs)

jc: Right, but what you’re saying is, I guess, is that I threaten your beliefs. Do I threaten your beliefs?

PC: No. No.

jc: Great. So where’s the problem? Your inquiry does nothing to my beliefs, regardless of what I am asked to share, in my work or in my answers on your show today. There really shouldn’t be a problem. It’s all just dialogue. There should not be any problems with that; it should be how you feel as strongly about what it is you are and how you interact with the human race. And that’s the most important thing, right?

DS: Well, you certainly have gotten me thinking here, James.

PC: (laughs)

DS: And we sure do appreciate your time this morning, and thanks.

jc: Thank you, guys.

PC: You keep seeking, thank you, James.

DS: Whew. Wow.

PC: Our producer says, “Hey, I just book ’em”. (laughs)

DS: Well, James is a seeker. And I knew it was not going to be a tidy interview, but I didn’t think it was going to be that messy.

PC: Well, good for us.

DS: Yes it is.

PC: Even though it was Friday, thanks.

DS: Sorry to make you deal with that on Friday.

PC: Next time on a Tuesday, thank you very much.

DS: (laughs)

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On The Trail of Jesus – Wendy Lewis

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Cary News 6/5/03

ON THE TRAIL OF JESUS Author Writes About His Search For History

by Wendy Lewis

At age 33, author and journalist James Campion had never traveled outside the United States. But he always knew that his first journey would be to the Holy Land.

Years of planning led him on a month-long trip to Israel in 1996. His experiences there, combined with years of scholarly research, became the basis for his newest book, Trailing Jesus.

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Also available at Amazon
Also available at Amazon
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Campion – whose parents, Phyllis and James Campion, live in Cary – will be at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 760 S.E. Maynard Road in Cary, on June 10 at 7:30 PM. He will sign copies of his book and discuss his experiences in the Middle East and the current conflicts in that region.

While touring the Upper Galilee and Jerusalem, the author said he “literally tried to map the historical Jesus trail,” following his movements of 2,000 years ago to understand the man whose life and teachings inspired a world-wide religion.

He describes his book as not the work of a scholar or a theologian, but the writings of an inquisitive journalist: part travelogue, personal journey and historical discussion, and part spiritual journey.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Biblical history, or any history and by things unproved,” Campion said during a phone interview from his home in New Jersey.

Raised in a Catholic home, Campion says he began to question certain aspects of the church and could not readily accept some Biblical teachings. He was also fascinated by the idea that a peasant from a nondescript town could still be considered a religious icon some two millennia later.

Trailing Jesus has been described by some reviewers as controversial, but Campion compares his work to that of any writer or artist who takes a well-known figure and “spins a more engaging view.”

“If nothing else, I think the book has opened up several key debates for me across lines of creed and tradition, and that has enriched my experience with the subject,” he said.

His research has led him to believe that the four gospels in the New Testament, which recount Jesus’s life, are largely accurate. “These is little debate that these events actually transpired,” he said. But he adds that many people miss the “instructional nuggets in the Jesus teachings that I cover extensively in the book. Nuggets, I believe, that give humanity a glimpse into the meaning of existence.”

“…From what I’ve come to understand in the critical research of the dozens of gospels attributed to the Jesus story is that every aspect of its message can be utilized here and now with the limitations of our mind and spirits. And I see little to none of that reflected in modern religious thought, particularly Christianity.”

To understand how his research and travels have affected his personal beliefs, Campion says, “It’s an ethereal experience when you go (to Israel) because these places are so ripe with philosophical, religious and traditional meanings…There was definitely a monumental change for me.”

Campion is a freelance journalist and writes a weekly pop-culture column. He is the author of two other books, “Deep Tank JerseyOne Man’s Journey Into The Soul of a New Jersey Club Band and Fear No ArtObservations on the Death of the American Century.

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Author Recounts Journey In “Trailing Jesus”


Press

North County News 4/23/03

AUTHOR RECOUNTS JOURNEY IN “TRAILING JESUS”

by Rita J. King

After six years of academic study and a pilgrimage that carried him to Jerusalem, writer James Campion has already sold out of the first printing of his book, Trailing Jesus.

“It’s very difficult to get past semantics to describe the intangible,” he said last Thursday before a reading and discussion at the Barnes and Noble in Mohegan Lake.

He spoke to students at his old high school earlier that same week, and echoed the words of a man he admires, Joseph Campbell.

“The main thing is to follow your bliss, but insecurities and yearning interfere with the process,” Campion said, encouraging the youngsters to approach obstacles with the same kind of fierce tenacity that landed him in the Holy Land.

Campion, a former Putnam Valley resident, was raised in a devout Catholic family and began to question organized religion at a young age. The image of the crucifixion above the altar disturbed him. “I spent 30 years of my life thinking about the historic Jesus,” he said. “And then I spent 10 years of serious study. It was an intellectual, spiritual and emotional journey.”

Campion said the one way he enjoys having written a book is to give readings, and more chairs had to be brought in at Barnes and Noble last week to accommodate the audience. Theologians and people of all ages asked him questions about his findings and beliefs, and he was cautious about his approach to avoid insulting individual beliefs. He said he differentiates in his mind and his work between Jesus Christ as an icon and as a person. Campion pointed out some of the inconsistencies between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the manner in which the Catholic Church has evolved. The Vatican, with its rare works of art and the luxuries of a palace, is very different from Jesus Christ’s rejection of opulence.

“Jesus Christ preached against owning anything,” Campion said. He pointed out the fact that Jesus lived hand to mouth, wore tattered clothing and had a long beard, unlike many of today’s high level clergy in fancy garb, preaching from pulpits painted with gold. “This journey was about exploring the unexplorable,” he said. “I asked myself what mountain am I trying to scale with very blunt instruments and no rope?”

Trailing JesusThroughout his life, the Holy Land seemed as fictitious to him as the Emerald City of Oz or Atlantis, but he learned how real it is. The mood there is unlike any place he’s ever been, with the solemnity of fervent belief and the historical context of Jesus Christ’s life heavy in the air. “People kill each other over this smallest patch of land,” Campion said. He compared his trip to a lover of the Beatles making the trek to Liverpool or a Civil War historian showing up at Gettysburg to stand on an empty field in order to feel the history that once unfolded there.

Martin Brech leads a class on spirituality at Barnes and Noble. He has a master’s degree in divinity, teaches comparative religion, and said Trailing Jesus is the “best written and most marvelously researched book” he’s ever read about the life of Jesus Christ.

Campion started off by reading the book’s first pages, which describe the time in his life when he first understood who he was, which catalyzed his spirituality. He touches on a “mysterious swirl of events, a place before the light where there is only nothing.” Brech asked what Campion means by his use of the word “nothing.”

“The nothing is everything I was before this day. The nothing is the silence of everything. All that life is, all that life is not,” Campion said. “We’re all here and we’re all afraid of what we’re not going to be, of not existing.”

Campion’s ideas, at their core, are reminiscent of the neurological perspective that the frontal lobe of the brain expanded around the same time the limbic system underwent a metamorphosis. With the expansion of the brain’s frontal lobe, human beings were able to contemplate death, which separated people from animals lacking consciousness. With the new powers of the limbic system, people were able to fantasize and imagine. Some neuroscientists credit these phenomena for the birth of religion.

But many more people believe Jesus Christ is the savior, and some even develop what is commonly known as the Jerusalem Syndrome upon visiting the Holy Land. This is when visitors begin to believe that they are Jesus Christ, John the Baptist or another person from that place and time. This belief underscores a fundamental aspect of Campion’s philosophy. “The present moment is eternal,” he frequently says. The past continues to live in the minds and hearts of those who take the time to study it, and those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. He said the benefit of icons is they can’t “lie, cheat or steal your money,” and consequently people can turn them into whatever they need because they can’t protest.

The book’s prose is tight and luminous, and Campion takes readers on the journey, his first outside the United States. Some books about Jesus Christ make him into a superhero lacking humanity, Campion said, while others strip him of his mysticism. “A book can be written about Babe Ruth’s carousing and drinking, but if the fact that he was a baseball player isn’t mentioned, a large part of his story gets left out,” Campion said.

A woman in the audience asked him the inevitable question about whether he accepts Jesus Christ as the savior and son of God. “Is he the son of God? I ask, who isn’t?” Campion said.

“Live your life,” he said. “This is not a rehearsal. Experience the now. We’re here today. This is an everlasting moment.” Trailing Jesus can be purchased along with Campion’s other two books, Deep Tank Jersey and Fear No Art on his web site, www.jamescampion.com and any Barnes & Noble location nationwide, including its web site and amazon.com..

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The Unspoken Truths of Jesus – Paula Markham

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Union County Advocate 4/22/03

THE UNSPOKEN TRUTHS OF JESUS AND THE HOLY LAND

by Paula Markham

Most of us are raised on our elder’s beliefs. Throughout our maturation those beliefs are reinforced by familial tradition, religious parameters, or perpetuated by superstition. Yet most of us have a vague understanding of their origin or purpose. At what point do we begin to question what has been accepted as truth and seek to discover why we believe?

Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books, 2002, ISBN: 0-9679296-2-8, $18.00) follows the path of one man’s journey to unravel the mystery of faith lost in the fog of history. Author James Campion’s tale of curiosity leads to Israel, where he walks the trail of the Christ on a spiritual hunt to find the real Jesus of Nazareth.

“The important question to ask when investigating someone of Jesus Christ’s caliber in a historical sense is why did this nobody from an impoverished and oppressed society survive all this time?” says Campion. “How did his memory last two years, much less two thousand? And what are we missing when we aim to discover him?”

Filled with vivid descriptions of the landscapes that once framed a radical spiritual movement, while encountering the various 20th century pilgrims along its path, Trailing Jesus parallels Campion’s travels with an interesting twist on the Jesus story. Confronted with the ghosts of Biblical lore, his search peels the layers of the gospels closer to their seductive center. Yet Trailing Jesus does not provide answers, instead it sheds light on the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who he was, what he believed, what he shared with his contemporaries and why his experience has crossed centuries.

Through a search for meaning in this life, Campion uncovers the endearing influence of a Nazarene artisan who dared to envision the impossible, a common thread to all spiritual mavericks of various times and cultures. Trailing Jesus is not the work of a scholar or a theologian, but the travelogue of an inquisitive soul that will inspire readers to follow their instinct and begin a search for their own truth and perhaps find a new world filled with the unexpected.

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“Trailing Jesus” Interview – WMUZ Detroit


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WMUZ CHRISTIAN RADIO DETROIT Bob Dutko Interview 4/17/03

Bob Dutko: How many of you would just love to go over to Israel, to go into Jerusalem, to walk the very same roads, the very same paths that Jesus walked, to run your hands along the very same stone that Jesus probably ran his hands along? How would you like to walk that same Via Delarosa, go to Golgotha? To level with you, I’ve never been there, and that would be a fascinating trip. I would love to do that. This gentleman has, James Campion, is author of the book, “Trailing Jesus”, and we’re going to talk with him about his styory, his experiences. James, thanks for joining us today.

jc in Sea of Galilee The Sea of Galilee

jc: Thanks for having me, Bob.

BD: You bet. First of all, tell us a little bit about the book. It is, man oh, man, this is a big book, about 600 pages. Laughs. What in the world are you telling us in 600 pages?

jc: Well, I should say at the top, and thanks for mentioning the page count, because it was awhile for me to finish it. Six years, in fact.

BD: I know. I read that.

jc: What I tried to do is I tried to make it like a hardcover read, but in paperback for easier carrying and reading. The print though is more like a hardcover, a larger font, easier to read. It probably could have been smaller, but I figured since the subject matter is interesting to so many different people of different ages and levels of understanding, it would be easier for them to read if the print was just a little larger. I talked with the developers of the style of the book, for which I was actively involved, to make it a more pleasant experience whether on a subway or an airplane or lounging in bed reading. I’m a reader, so I’m cognizant of how larger books can be a cumbersome endeavor. I’ve gotten good feedback on that, but that’s why it’s so large in page number. I don’t want to scare anyone away. It’s a heavy subject, but thanks for mentioning it for not only the time spent researching and putting the book together, but also it’s design as well.

Now to answer your question, certainly when you start to delve into not only the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the actual historical person, as you mentioned, who did, in fact, walk the paths I eventually tread, and had interactions with actual historical people of various cultures of those areas, and get into the motivation of the author, myself, and why I decided to make the trip, it starts to build on itself. It was difficult to handle quickly. So I didn’t take the easy road. I tried to hit all the various aspects of all the different religions that are represented in Israel and in the Jesus story, and appreciate the Holy Land istself. Also I wanted to make note of many of the sects of Christianity that revere the Christ of religious faith, even though this is a story about the discovery of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish peasant from a region in ancient Palestine called the Galilee.

BD: Right, the humanity of Jesus. Sure. Now you did this about seven or eight years ago now, when you were 33 years old, right?

jc: Correct. It’s the same age as Jesus was when he was crucified, from what we understand.

DB: Did you deliberately time it that way or was that a coincidence or what?

jc: It was absolutely planned. What I tried to do from the age of 30 to 33, since I’ve always been interested in the historical Jesus, I decided to deeply ensconce myself in not only the accepted gospels of Christian faith and the New Testament and beyond, Luke’s Acts of the Apostles through the Letters of Saint Paul while delving further into my heroes of Jesus scholarly pursuits, people like John Dominic Crossan and Reynolds Price, John P. Meier, Raymond Brown, Robert Funk, and so on. Many historians who have studied and written volumes on the historical Jesus through the years. And because Jesus of Nazareth more or less began his public life as a teacher, ascetic, revolutionary, healer, etc at around 29 or 30, I thought – obviously I could not reach those heights – but I thought I’d try to study as a young man the feelings of what he might have been going through from, as you mentioned, a human standpoint.

Of course, we know at 33, Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, as three of the four canonical gospels state, and the Gospel of John states for the fourth or fifth time, but as we all know, historically, the last time. And I though to travel to a “war zone”, let’s face it, enter a place of political and cultural unrest, religious fervor, and violent overtones would be not unlike 2,000 years ago when Jesus went there. Of course, I hoped it would affect my experience, which it did tremendously, and I hope adds to what the readers get out of the story.

In Trailing Jesus my aim is to bring the reader, as you mentioned – quite eloquently at the top – along the paths of the Jesus story, from the very beginnings in the purported birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, through the Galilee, through towns like Nazareth and Capernaum and Bethany, and those types of places, all the way to Jerusalem and finally his death, and as many Christians around the world believe, his resurrection.

BD: All right, so let’s start with your journey. You hop a plane to Israel. Where do you go from there? Did you go to Bethlehem first?

jc: Actually I flew into Tel Aviv. You fly in there, and you already have the itinerary booked, because these towns are quite a bit of distance apart. Long cab rides. You can imagine the time it took 2,000 years ago when walking or on a camel. But yes, I tried to walk chronologically through the story, and that’s what I do in the book. I take you with me. It’s written in the first person, in journal form. I subtitled it “A Holy Land Journal”, so people could get through it, I believe, without having to be a scholar, because I’m not. You don’t need to be a theologian – I’m not – to enjoy this book, or at least receive a similar experience to mine. But, yes, I did go chronologically through the Jesus story from Bethlehem and also Nazareth, where many scholars and Biblical historians believe Jesus was actually born. But we know pretty much for sure he grew up there and acted as an apprentice for his father as a stonemason.

jc in the Judean DesertI use stonemason rather than the accepted tag of “carpenter” of Jesus’ vocation prior to his movement, because I tried to be true to some of the original Aramaic translations of words later interpreted in Greek or ancient Hebrew as something else. As we know, Aramaic being Jesus of Nazareth’s native language, and I’d come to learn, or suspect that his being known as an artisan in the gospels meant he likely worked with stone rather than wood, which was not only a rarer trade among peasants of the Galilee, of which Jesus has to be counted, but a rare material for construction. Stone was the chosen material for building at the time. One would do better within his community as a mason than a carpenter.

I was amazed to learn how much construction was going on during Jesus’ youth in the Galilee. We know historically that the capitol of the Galilee, Sepphoris was being built at that time, and Jesus could and would have worked on its construction. Also, scholars I respect have broached his vocation as mason. SoI thought it a good way to begin to separate his humanity from the myths and lore about the man.

It should also be noted that Sepphoris is a pretty large city for the country folk of a town like Nazareth, which opens the eyes of many Jesus scholars, because before the archaeological digs of Sepphoris it was always been accepted that Jesus was more or less a country boy, who never got to see larger city life, with all of its strife, crime and human indignation, as well as culture and art of other lands, until he was an adult in Jerusalem. We know that now not to be true. And his experiences in and around a larger town, even a city, and a capitol city at that, could have structured his teachings about the ills of society that still ring true today.

BD: As your walking through Nazareth, and then, of course, to Jerusalem, I mentioned running your hands along stones that have been there for centuries. I could easily see myself stopping at a big stone, sitting down and thinking, “Wow, Jesus very possibly sat on this very same stone, or ran his hand along this very same wall”, but I would not know that for sure. Did you find any place there where your confidence level was at its highest, that I am in the very same place, occupying the very same space that Jesus did?

jc: That’s an excellent question, Bob, and it sounds like you’ve already read Trailing Jesus, and if you haven’t, you nailed it right there. Yeah, absolutely. There were those kinds of places. I was able to walk side by side with one of the most respected tour guides in Israel for most of the trip, a gentleman by the name of Avi, who is well represented in the book. In Israel one of the most lucrative and sought-after jobs is tour guide, since tourism is predominant among Israel’s influx of foreign money. People study for years to become a tour guide in Israel, not only the historical sites, but the religious significance and the combination of the two when looking at what is a shrine or tradition, or an actual site. And in the case of Jesus, it is paramount, because of his historical significance in all three monotheistic faiths. Jesus is a great prophet of Judaism, and Islam and the focal point of Christianity. So I was lucky to have one of these guys at my disposal, even though for most of my trip I was alone.

Having said that, we only really know, historically, certain stories place Jesus of Nazareth in actual venues, attested by the Bible and other sources. Two main sites, which I visited are the Jordan River, with Jesus’ baptism by John, and his crucifixion outside Jerusalem. Now as for the Jordan, I was able to visit several sites along the river that have been discussed and celebrated as the place where Jesus was baptized, and in all cases it was very moving, mainly because you realize how the Jordan is this living, flowing entity. It isn’t like stone or dirt. It’s been moving through the entire country from north to south for thousands of years, back to the time of Moses, long before Jesus of Nazareth. And you realize what a huge significance the Jordan has to the Jewish faith, which Jesus was born into, and the Christian faith following it. And then when you visit Golgotha, Bob, it’s overwhelming emotionally. You feel it. It’s something quite different than anything I experienced before, mostly because of the archeological findings of the past 20 years, there are places like Golgotha where you absolutely know were visited by the historical Jesus.

Finally, I hope you and all your listeners interested can have the good fortune to get to the Garden of Gethsemane.

BD: James, if you could hold it right there in the Garden of Gethsemane, I want to hear about your experience there, but we have to take a commercial break. You are listening to the Bob Dutko Show with our guest today, James Campion, author of the new book, Trailing Jesus, a fascinating read. We’ll be back right after this on The Light, 103.5 FM, WMUZ.

Continuing our discussion with James Campion, author of the book, Trailing Jesus. We’re talking about his adventures walking literally in the footsteps of Jesus and experiencing the culture and all that stuff. Now James, I cut you off, you were saying about the Garden of Gethsemane.

jc: It’s a good thing to cut me off once in awhile, Bob. I tend to get overly excited about the subject. I’ve spent so much time, most of it in solitary confinement, really, the bane of the writer, with this stuff. And this subject and the ensuing trip was dear to my heart, so these interviews give me a chance to frame it more conversationally, and it’s an exciting, but strange venue, so my apologies for getting too in-depth.

jc in GethsemaneBD: Hey, no need. I’d be excited about it too.

jc: Thanks. Yeah, the Garden of Gethsemane, just to finish the thought, is just amazing. Most of the sites in Israel, especially the Christian sites, have these beautiful ornate churches and basilicas built upon them. But, as a result, they kind of take away from the realism of the history of what I was trying to get back to with the trip and the ensuing book. I wanted to be able to see it, you know, be right there and reconstruct the stories as we understand them, as we’ve come to know them. For instance, sitting on the banks of the Sea of Galilee was more like it. You can picture Jesus and his disciples lounging there and discussing, debating, praying. But specifically, to visit the Garden of Gethsemane, with its bucolic splendor, the nature of it, the smell of it, the visuals, like the four hundred year-old massive olive trees, the way its kept its first-century charm and ambience by an order of Franciscan monks, is mind-altering. Really. It takes you somewhere beyond, give you the flavor of the times long ago. Even Jerusalem itself, the sites and smells of the places and foods and the bustle of the people in the tiny cobblestone corridors really bring to life the city’s incredible history. The way the people are garbed in their flowing robes and turbans and the ancient languages of Hebrew and Arabic. It really is quite arresting, and I hope I was able to capture in the book.

BD: Describe for us, if you would, the Garden of Gethsemane. Paint a picture for us. If you were to describe what it looked like. First of all, how large is it? What types of trees? How big are they? How many bushes? What are the paths like when you’re walking along the garden? How large of a geographic area is it? Paint that picture for us.

jc: It’s cut in two spots. One is walled off for the Franciscan order I spoke of who keep the entire garden in shape. You can still see that area very well through black fences, all the different colors and varieties of flowers. The entire garden itself, as it spanned 2000 years ago, I would say is a couple of miles at the bottom of the Kidron Valley, which is a hill that runs down beneath of the Mount of Olives. Most of the photos and videos you’ve probably seen over the years were shot there above and over the Garden of Gethsemane. The little park that they’ve sequestered for visitors to view is only a couple of hundred feet around. It is neatly arranged around the rather sizable and ubiquitous olive trees, with their large branches sinking toward the grass and stony paths winding through. This area is also sequestered behind a modest fence. This keeps people from ruining the atmosphere that, again, seems like it is preserved from the time of Jesus. Finally, in the center of the garden is this incredibly stunning church with a facing mosaic of Christ in the garden praying, and it’s built over this very long smooth rock, which actually juts from the foundation of the church, as if the structure, or any structure would be silly to try and contain it. In Christian tradition, this is the rock upon which Jesus prayed for deliverance from his subsequent arrest and execution, and in Luke’s gospel, he is described as actually sweating blood with fear. So to sit upon this rock and contemplate all that has gone down over the centuries from the night this peasant preacher from Nazareth came to hide away for a few fleeting moments before mayhem broke loose is beyond moving. This is where history really does go beyond faith.

BD: Sure. Where you able to…is it known for sure where the Sermon on the Mount took place?

jc: No. The Sermon on the Mount, according to the best scholarly knowledge or the best historical evidence is really a composite in Matthew’s gospel of the several locations, and a general portrait of how Jesus taught. There may have been one big all-encompassing sermon given in an elevated area, if not a mountainside, there are plenty of those locations in the Galilee, so you can see where the topography meets history meets religious documentation. Chances are Jesus would have taught in many areas such as this to use as a stage, let’s say, to get his message out to as many people as wanted to hear. Jesus, like many of his contemporaries, knew of the Greek practice and tradition of staging an event or a play, and the gospels write about his growing numbers of students and disciples, so this would make sense as a vehicle to teach. But the Sermon on the Mount as far as I understand it is a clever storytelling tool from Matthew, not unlike screenwriters for today’s films that place two or three events depicted either in real life or in a novel into one location with all the elements of those events tied together for time purposes and impact. It’s very clever writing, and obviously amazingly effective, because it is always the great scene depicted in paintings and films about Jesus. In fact, just by you mentioning it as a point of interest, and tying it to a place of origin speaks volumes of its effectiveness.

There is a place in the Galilee called the Mount of the Beatitudes where they commemorate the event with a gorgeous Byzantine church built upon the apex of this floral mountaintop. It really is done right, and you don’t have to imagine what it must have been like to attend one of Jesus of Nazareth’s lectures, as it were. You get to see most of the valley of the greater Galilee, the Sea of Galilee, everything. It’s quite a sight and experience.

BD: As you walk around there, is it possible to place yourself 2,000 years ago, or are you constantly reminded of today? Here’s a telephone poll, here’s a telephone booth, and oh, by the way, here’s a taxicab. Is it possible, even for a few minutes to see everything as it would have appeared 2,000 years ago?

jc: Overall, they do a nice job in preserving a lot of these places, especially in the Galilee, it’s quite pastoral and has a flavor of antiquity. Since I was alone, and I am a journalist, I have learned how to squeeze into forbidden or hidden areas or talk my way into places. So I was able to see things someone else with less pushy skills might not have been able to see. And I hope Trailing Jesus allows the reader to see those special places as well use my maneuvers for themselves to get deeper into the Holy Land. Mostly, I hope the book serves as an experience for those who cannot or would rather not make the trip for whatever reason, the political unrest and dangers resulting from that, or the cost or the time. But yes, you’re constantly reminded of the 20th century, or now the 21st century there. Whether it’s helicopters patrolling the skies or popular music blaring from car windows or McDonald’s sitting on the corner or IDF soldiers perched at bus stations, it pops up from time to time.

It’s funny, there is actually a small garden not too far from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem where people of the Protestant faith believe Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. There is a tomb inside there, very different than that of the Catholic shrine inside the Holy Seplecur witihn the Old City’s walls, but anyway, the grotto where the tomb is preserved rests just outside this huge bus station.

BD: How weird is that?

jc: But through the walls and the deep thicket of trees and shrubbery, they do a nice job of sheiliding the garden and it takes you back. You truly do feel as though it could be Joseph of Aramethia’s garden depicted in the gospels. I tend to favor it as the more likely place for the shrine of Jesus’ burial and not the Holy Seplecur.

BD: Before I get to the tomb, by my little timeline here, let me get back to Golgotha. Are you allowed to climb up on Golgotha and stand where the crosses would have most likely been, and do they have it marked at all, and do we know where physically the crosses where Jesus and the two thieves on either side were placed?

jc at the foot of Golgothajc: Another good question, Bob. Golgotha is, as we know historically, where Jesus was absolutely executed. Period. This is irrefutable in most of the documentation and archeological findings since. So this alone makes it quite a stirring experience to visit. Since so many met there end there, I have likened it, and I believe I write this in the book, it is not unlike someone standing on the grounds of Auschwitz or Dachau, the Nazi death camps. Thousands of souls were released on that mountainside. We know this. We know of Pontius Pilate’s thirst for controlling the populace and his viscous sense of punishment, really the whole of the Roman Empire. And this terrible bloodlust was glaring, more than in any other region, as it is in first century Palestine. The rebellious nature of the people under the yoke of Rome in this relatively insignificant, to Rome anyway, patch of land in the desert, an outpost of sorts, leant itself to this horror show.

Today the rise of the mount known as Golgotha, the hill of skulls, is encased in the enormous church known as the Holy Seplecur, built some 1,700 years ago, and then rebuilt again a few hundred years later during the Crusades. When you walk the trail of the Via Delarosa today, through the cramped city streets, you end up at the foot of the Holy Seplecur and as you go inside you can walk the steps built there along the rise of the mountain. So you are ascending Golgotha, in a sense, inside. Finally, beneath the asp inside, underneath this altar, flanked by monks and burning candles is this thick glass, and there you can see the stones, the cuts of the stones where they would fashion the foothold for the crosses, to pitch them up into the rock and raise the victim up to be displayed at the mountain’s apex for all to see.

BD: Wait a minute; I’m wondering where the actual crosses were put into the rock at the top of the mountain. Isn’t that in a location atop a big hill that’s still outside?

jc: No, the traditional mount called Golgotha, and again, a great deal of the places I visited were not the actual historical places per se, the absolute, no questions asked places, nor can anyone truly know where the traditional places and the history meet. I point this out in the book. There are always questions and mysteries. We know more now than ten years ago, or certainly anytime before, but there is still no exact science to knowing where these events actually took place. We know, as I stated before, that Golgotha is the place, but without actual, physical knowledge, how can we be 100% certain? We can’t. But I believe this site to be almost as certain as it gets without complete certainty. Having said that, of all the argued placed for location of the Golgotha mentioned as the place of execution for Jesus of Nazareth in the gospels and elsewhere, I believe, and many scholars and archeologists agree is housed inside the Church of the Holy Seplecur.

The actual mountainside, that was once outside the original walls of Jerusalem are now inside and you walk inside the church up into a shrine built on the site that I truly believe is the site of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, at least to the best of my research and study.

BD: So they have taken the place where Jesus hung on the cross and what your saying is they basically encompassed that within a building or a structure.

jc: Correct. And when you get to the spot, it is bathed in subtle candlelight with monks on either side of the altar built over the site. It’s very moving to be in there, especially if you, as I do, subscribe to the site’s authenticity and the magnification of the event. People have argued against the location’s veracity for years by correctly stating that it now exists inside the circumference of the walls of the current Old City of Jerusalem, as opposed to the description in the gospels and elsewhere that Golgotha was outside the walls of first-century Jerusalem. But we now know, because of archeological digs and studies in the last 20 to 25 years that it is ever more proven to be historically correct, because it was discovered that the walls were expanded five to six hundred years ago by the Turks when they conquered Jerusalem. So the Jerusalem Jesus of Nazareth trod through upon his donkey on Palm Sunday or entered the Holy Temple within, and eventually was tried and executed outside, is not the same one that exists now. This has influenced the modern description of where Golgotha was/is located, which puts it smack in the middle of the Church of the Holy Sepluca. This is a case where science has helped to back the guesswork of the church for a shrine, wherein many cases, studies and archeology has disproved a traditional site, or at least cast serious doubts to its authenticity.

BD: We’ve got just about a minute or so left.

jc: Sure.

BD: So in this last 60 seconds or so, tell us about the tomb Jesus was buried in, which you mentioned earlier. There’s been a lot of debate on this. Has there been any consensus which tomb today is the one Jesus’ body was in, and which he walked out of?

No, there is not, Bob. History argues against Jesus of Nazareth being buried at all, since that was not the custom for executed criminals of the state, which Jesus, in the end, had to have been to meet his fate. But assuming the gospels are correct and Jesus of Nazareth was buried in the tomb of a apologist for his movement, then the debate rages on.

There have been great strides in Biblical archeology in and around Jerusalem over the past century discovering first century Jewish tombs. There are two that are accepted now, the Catholics worship at their traditional spot inside the Church of the Holy Seplecur, which is conveniently at the foot of Golgotha, which I think is unlikely historically, and the Garden Tomb accepted among Protestants as the site of Christ’s burial and purported resurrection. The Garden Tomb is the one I spoke of earlier just outside the walls of the Old City and near the bus station. But no one knows for sure. However, again, it really is about just being in the area to discover and being moved by the places and framing the events that counts, unless you are bound to the rigors of data and science, which, as a writer, and more of a dreamer in a sense, I am not. Only then can you get the same feeling from visiting several locations, which I did and is depicted in the book.

And if I may, Bob, I’d like to give out my web site address for those who might want to write me with questions or read some of the materials on the book or can even order the book online at jamescampion.com, or they can find it at any Barnes & Noble, Borders or online with the booksellers and amazon.com as well. We have signed copies available through the site, and people, if they read it, and want to ask further questions or discuss points, I’m open for that. I’d love to hear from any of your listeners who might have a thought or two about what we discussed here today as well.

BD: Thanks so much for joining us today, James, it’s a fascinating book, Trailing Jesus, we appreciate the time you spent with us today.

jc: Thanks, Bob, love to come back anytime.

BD: You bet. This is 103.5 FM, WMUZ, The Light, and you’re listening to the Bob Dutko Show. E-mail address is, of course, bob@wmuz.com.

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