I suppose it's rare in this day and age to have enlightening, intellectually stimulating conversations with people who hold different beliefs than you. But it happened. And it has stuck with me.
The person I was talking to is a Christian, a liberal Christian, who was raised in the faith and who has built her life around it. She is the real deal. She was talking to me about how she got through some hard times in her life.
She mentioned that, for her, Jesus is the embodiment of God's love, and since fear is the opposite of love, living in fear means moving away from God. Since she wanted to live with God, she regularly chooses to reject fear and embrace love.
Her roommate in college was a religious studies major and she kind of implied something even more interesting: that Jesus was the idea of love, a concept given physical form.
This fascinates me.
I'm not Christian and, for the record, I don't think Jesus ever existed. The few documents that would "verify" such a thing were very clearly written well after Christianity was established, inserted into older texts in an effort to legitimize what the Roman government was trying to install.
But what if that didn't matter?
Let's consider Jesus as the idea of love, an idea that is often too abstract for people to grasp, so someone, somewhere, decided to create an embodiment of love, a person for those who have trouble with the idea of love. He's an avatar. He's only real in the sense that some people need him to be real to translate a language that is normally foreign to them -- that language being love.
Love isn't exactly an easy concept to accept or even understand, particularly these days. It's not a priority, not for the majority of us. I can't imagine it's ever been, given that humans have been fighting for centuries just to survive. What good is love when you're struggling to get by? Can you eat it? Can it buy you a warm bed? Will it protect you from bullets?
Hell, I have lived an incredibly privileged life and for most of that love was for hippies and people who didn't know any better. The idea of love as a powerful force in the universe that could alter our entire reality? Smoke another bowl, hippie.
But it's true. I realize that love still doesn't help people who are hungry or homeless or bombarded by bombs. But it would if it convinced others to love. Love would help them if the rest of society took care of each other, if we stopped making war and started building a world. And that's the thing with love; its impact isn't always direct, so it's often easy to dismiss.
Love is an abstract concept, yet we all have an idea of what it is. It is often not the same idea and that can be a problem.
And so we have Jesus, ostensibly created not just to give people a manifestation of love that they can believe in, but to also create a universal definition for love.
I think that's great.
I have no problems with people choosing to believe in something that I don't. I am the last person who will ever question belief, who will ever condemn faith. My entire life has revolved around having blind faith in myself, even when I shouldn't.
I have my concerns about the foundations of Christianity and I have many, many issues with how it currently operates, but I am all for a central concept of love that is actually love. I'm all for people being able to embrace that even if it requires a magical being.
I just wish that concept of universal love was actually universal.