Mark Goldman makes observations in his letter that are valuable (“Jesus made a difference,” Dec. 27), but errs, I believe, in some key areas.
First, a myth is not untrue. In his opening sentence, Mr. Goldman implies that myth is somehow just that — a common misunderstanding. In truth, a myth is a metaphor, used to “point the way” toward something that is difficult or impossible to state directly. All our lives contain myth.
Secondly, Goldman states, “[Jesus]… valued personal freedom more than anything.” This assumes the existence of individuals who might be actively concerned with their “personal freedom.” There was no such thing as an individual of that stripe — not in Jesus’ time, nor for many years hence. There were, of course, individual humans, but what Mr. Goldman alludes to — an autonomous, self-directed person concerned with such matters as “personal freedom” — is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging toward the end of the Middle Ages.
I think it more accurate to say that Jesus valued the love of God and the love of neighbor above all else. He made a point of saying so: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
In other words, love everything, and love everybody. Nothing is more important.
I felt compelled to address these issues only because Jesus’ teachings (and the Christian tradition) have been badly represented, willfully misrepresented and horribly distorted for diabolical purposes for millennia, and that really is a shame. It’s a wonderfully rich, deep and beautiful tradition revolving around, and always returning to, love.
— Michael Shook