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