Synopses & Reviews
As the religious rhetoric of the culture wars escalates, New York Times
bestselling author and eminent scholar Garry Wills explores the meaning of Jesus's teachings.
In what are billed as "culture wars," people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the "reign of heaven" Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions that people misrepresent what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. Jesus came from the lower class, the working class, and he spoke to and for that class. This is a book that will challenge the assumptions of almost everyone who brings religion into politics "Christian socialists" as well as biblical theocrats.
But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. Jesus without the Resurrection is simply not the Jesus of the gospels. Wills calls his book a profession of faith in the risen Lord, the Son of the Father, who leads us to the Father. He argues that this does not make people embrace an otherworldliness that ignores the poor or the problems of our time.
What Jesus Meant will no doubt spark debate about our understanding of Jesus and the Scriptures, especially as we head into midterm elections that will certainly prompt many heated discussions on the role of religion in our society.
"Christianity has been twisted and warped to such an extent that not even Jesus would recognize it now. This is Wills's thesis in his stimulating, fresh look into the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth. The now-ubiquitous phrase, 'What Would Jesus Do?' encouraged Wills, professor of history at Northwestern University and prolific writer on contemporary religion, to take a closer look at how the Christian message has been used and abused in recent times. Wills believes that most Christians don't understand Jesus' startlingly radical message, so they should not claim to have knowledge of how he would act today. People of all political persuasions have used Jesus' words to rationalize a domesticated, flaccid Christianity that upholds the status quo, or, worse yet, supports discrimination toward those who are on the margins. This attitude, according to Wills, completely misses the truth that Jesus 'walks through social barriers and taboos as if they were cobwebs.' Readers who are familiar with Wills's writing know that he is not shy about critiquing organized religion, and they will not be disappointed. Although his arguments lean toward hyperbole at times, at its core this book invites Christians toward more honest reflection on the life and message of the one they call 'Savior.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Addressing the meaning of Jesus' teachings in the first century C.E., the book serves as a tool to combat the politicization of Jesus in the modern world....A fresh look at an old topic." Library Journal
"Wills' dissent from certain pro-clerical and exclusivist statements Benedict XVI has made assure him the continued opprobrium of institutional church hardliners, but his portrayal of Jesus the radical is so profoundly familiar as to be irrefutable." Booklist
Garry Wills brings his signature brand of erudite, unorthodox thinking to his latest book of revelations. . . . A tour de force and a profound show of faith.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)
In what are billed culture wars,” people on the political right and the political left cite Jesus as endorsing their views. But in this New York Times-bestselling masterpiece, Garry Wills argues that Jesus subscribed to no political program. He was far more radical than that. In a fresh reading of the gospels, Wills explores the meaning of the reign of heaven” Jesus not only promised for the future but brought with him into this life. It is only by dodges and evasions that people misrepresent what Jesus plainly had to say against power, the wealthy, and religion itself. But Wills is just as critical of those who would make Jesus a mere ethical teacher, ignoring or playing down his divinity. An illuminating analysis for believers and nonbelievers alike, What Jesus Meant is a brilliant addition to our national conversation on religion.
About the Author
Garry Wills is one of the most respected writers on religion today. He is the author of Saint Augustine's Childhood, Saint Augustine's Memory, and Saint Augustine's Sin, the first three volumes in this series, as well as the Penguin Lives biography Saint Augustine. His other books include "Negro President": Jefferson and the Slave Power, Why I Am a Catholic, Papal Sin, and Lincoln at Gettysburg, which won the Pulitzer Prize.