Writers Reading: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

“A working class hero is something to fear…”

–John Lennon

As a lapsed Catholic (much to the chagrin of my family) I was drawn to this book for a variety of reasons. Since starting it last Saturday, I’ve been hard pressed to keep my nose out of this book.

I suppose what is most fascinating about this book to me (besides the controversy it inspired) is the historically accurate depiction it portrays. Aslan doesn’t show us the long haired, white-skinned celestial Jesus too many Christians have come to know, but a Palestinian revolutionary looking to free his people.

Aslan’s historical insight into the centuries long occupation of Palestine paints a complex portrait of socioreligious tensions. Through out Aslan’s narrative, we meet myriad false messiahs and read detailed accounts of city-states razed by brutal civil wars.

The historical Jesus of Nazareth was by no means a gentle man, rather, he was a political agitator looking to rebuild Palestine and execute law in the place of god, thus freeing Palestine from occupation.

In a lot of ways, the historical Jesus is very similar to Che Guevara, leading guerrilla attacks and wandering around the countryside picking up followers, looking to do whatever he can to save his oppressed people.

It’s no wonder Zealot elicited a maelstrom of controversy with right-wing Republicans. Republicans don’t want Jesus to be a Palestinian working-class hero because that would challenge their ill-begotten xenophobia and patrician comfort zones. Who could forget Megyn Kelly and Reza Aslan’s “spirited debate” over Jesus’ race?

But really, what does one have to be afraid of regarding this book? In an era dominated by unprecedented xenophobia regarding the unfairly maligned Palestine, Zealot offers vindication through knowledge. One can only hope that readers of Aslan’s book come away from their experience with a new perspective regarding an unjustly oppressed nation and people.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. 

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