H. ADRIAN OSBORNE: Religion Comes in All Sizes, Shapes
The article by Dusty Rhoades in the March 4 edition of The Pilot regarding the coffin containing the bones of Jesus and the inherent threat to the Christian church is fascinating.
My European relatives perceive U.S. Christians as a monolithic, reactionary voting block. It amazes me what a diverse and in some cases disharmonious factional group they are.
Start with the snake handlers, as compared to the Christian academics, who are sophisticated, contemplative and socially aware. There are monks living in poverty and seclusion, and on the other hand there are the mega-church, TV multimillionaires, too many of whom market miracles for cash.
One Christian faction claims that God doesn't want them to have sex or to marry. Polygamist Christians claim that God wants them to have sex with six wives and to produce any number of children. Some, like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, claim to speak two languages, English and "tongues." Other Christians are disdainful of speaking in tongues.
Many Christians struggle with the basic tenets of the church. An admired Episcopalian, Bishop James Pike, went so far as to state: "The trinity is heavy baggage to carry into the 20th century." Most agree on one point: Christ is divine, and his resurrection gives hope of immortality.
Only one thing decides religious affiliation, and that's geography. If you're born in Pakistan, you're going to be Muslim.
Religious cohesion requires some paranoia. A state of paranoia is automatic if you believe an evil spirit is out to get you, as do the adherents of another religion.
Forty-seven years ago in Africa, I was the education adviser to the commander of a secret Army station of 1,200. I recommended that we establish a college program for the soldiers. I hired a few local European instructors.
The University of Maryland would supply American instructors. I asked for a history professor. They sent Dr. Walt Hohenstein. I went to the airport to pick him up, and he was a no-show. I asked College Park to give me his itinerary. They hadn't sent him commercial. He was on an Air Force cargo plane that stopped everywhere -- Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia.
Paranoid Saudis, believing he was a Jewish agent, had arrested him. Actually, Hohenstein was a German Lutheran from Wisconsin. It took his baptismal certificate to free him.
My next selection, a professor of economics, Dr. Stanley Miller, took the same route. Once he deplaned, he asked "I'm Jewish. Is there a rabbi here?"
Science and religion have always been at odds. Ninety-three percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. Scientists find it difficult to accept that the billions of people who walk this earth are the product of a gene pool consisting of only two people, one made from mud, the second from his rib, and both living in a garden with a talking snake.
Someday we will be no more than a pile of bones. Archaeologists who dig up the bones of hominids will have no interest in our bones. Only one man has been said to have left no bones, Jesus Christ, since he was resurrected in the flesh.
But several years ago, I remember that some fellow claimed that he had dug up an ossuary, a box of bones, in Israel. The box had an inscription, which said "Jesus, Son of Joseph, Brother of James." He asserted that he had found the coffin of Christ. He would have cleaned up on eBay but would've destroyed the church.
But then came science. Archeologists who were experts on antiquities claimed that the box was a fake. They said that the stone box was not made up of the right minerals for that time period, that it didn't date-test appropriately and that the patina on the box was fake.
Now Dusty Rhoades states that the coffin people are back and they bring nine more little coffins, which are supposed to contain the bones of the wife of Jesus and his child's bones, along with other relatives.
Understand one thing: Claims of the authenticity of the first box, which read "Jesus, Son of Joseph, Brother of James" rested only on the fact that the odds against those three names appearing together in the correct relationship were astronomical, and that therefore the bones had to be those of Christ.
I dispute that. I can walk into any bodega in Los Angeles or any pueblo south of the border and find dozens of men named Jesus whose fathers are Jose and with a brother named Jaime. I believe I can do that without leaving Moore County.
H. Adrian Osborne lives in Pinehurst.
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