April 11, 2020 KELLEY KIDD I was raised by a Methodist Father in the church where I was both he and I had been Christened as infants, and in the Southern Baptist churches my Mother attended at least once weekly. Naturally I heard much about Jesus and often, Although I converted to become a Jew of sorts in my late 30s I never doubted for long that Jesus was the single most important person in my life who I never met. My preschool enthusiasm for religious matters was intense enough to earn the sobriquet “Bishop Kidd” from pleased family adults. No one would have been surprised if I had decided to become a minister. In high school I became a Presbyterian because fitting my service attendance to my beliefs then was that important. to me.
So who Jesus was and who he is for my own personal faith remains terribly important to me. Like Flannery O’Conner’s Hazel Motes, I can’t get that subject out of my head. And I don’t really want to.
My teachers and parents shared the prevailing views of Jesus that emphasized his divinity as both the only begotten son of God and one of three parts or personalities of a trinity. Those views saw Jesus as both a man and God; his human life was said to be perfect and his death to be a sacrifice for the sins of either the entire world or only of those humans who accepted him as their savior from their own sinful nature. These views seemed to me to clash with the simultaneously held views that every believer in this view was to be as perfect as possible, and that sin would always displease God to the point that the sinner would be punished. These views also seemed to clash with each other.
I wondered how a person could be both man and God, about how he could be the Father of himself, and about why God would want to kill his own son. And if anger at another to the point that it was sinful to call him an ugly name, how could God himself say the ugly things about Jews and Pharisees that several of the stories of Jesus attributed to him.
The so-called Old Testament did seem to predict the later coming of the Jesus I was taught to revere. But it also seemed to predict that this savior would save his people, the Jews. Yet they had rejected him as their savior, or so it appeared from both some of the New Testament and from the apparent existence of Jews and their continuing religion, which I was told was based on the same Old Testament that my religion pointed to as the predictor of Jesus.
Within the New Testament itself I found two geneologies of Jesus that ended in Joseph, the husband of Jesus’ Mother and a descendant of King David, from whom the Messiah was predicted to be that messiah’s forebear. Mary, Jesus Mother, was not said to be a descendant of Jesus. The other two gospel stories did not have such geneologies, but then they did not explicitly describe Mary’s Mother as a virgin either. I began to suspect that the historical Jesus had neither claimed to be without a human father, nor subscribed to the view that he was somehow either God or a person with a special divinity unattainable by other devout Jews who heeded what he taught. I was gradually coming to believe that Jesus was a very special Jew, but as Jewish as any modern Rabbi.
The Jesus I admired was the one who preached the Sermon on the MOunt, he of the beautiful appeal to live as much in the present as the bids and flowers, who asked us to forgive and to examine ourselves instead of condemning others, to care for those who needed care instead of ourselves and the fortunate ones. He was poor and the leader of followers who were usually poor too. His storytelling showed the value of looking beyond the ethnic identity and political label to the willingness to actually practice kindness to everyone. He cared about the intention and the motive as well as the act. And he worshipped his Father God, wh taught these values mattered much more than ceremony and worldly success. I later discovered that the Old Testament prophets also taught these values, but I am convinced no one has ever taught them better.