Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

James Jesus Jeffords - Independent, Vt.

Vermont Senator James Jeffords has been catching a lot of flak recently for his recent New York Times Magazine interview

Interviewer: Some on the right have likened you to Judas. Is there a Biblical figure that you identify with?

Jeffords: Jesus.

Interviewer: You're going to catch hell for that one.

Jeffords: I see myself as a very frank, open person who lets everybody know where they are and works for compromise. I'm a mediator, and my talents have been in pulling together people to get things enacted. There are two types of political power -- power that you see, and power that you don't see. The power that you see mostly comes from party leaders who help set agendas and engage in rhetorical political battles. The power the public usually doesn't see comes from those who work behind the scenes to reach compromise and move good, sound public policy forward. I have always worked to be the quiet, behind-the-scenes worker.

Now, the Man Without Qualities views all the recent criticism of Mr. Jeffords as just picking. It is true that historically not many people seem to have viewed Jesus as the quiet, Senate cloakroom wheelerdealer type as Mr. Jeffords does. The traditional view of Jesus has been rather more forthcoming – more “evangelical,” if you will. But that is his right. And, yes, one does not usually think of a person who actually “identifies” with Jesus - as opposed to traditional Christians, who usually describe themselves as “inspired” by Jesus or aspire to be like Jesus to the extent the flesh will allow – as likely to be a United States Senator. Instead we tend to picture such a person as more likely having a rather high dosage regimen that should, perhaps, nevertheless be just a little bit higher than it is.

But these views are all so misleading because they turn on Jesus being God, and only Christians think that Jesus is God. So Mr. Jeffords’ critics are missing the subtle signs that the Senator – as nominally a Congregationalist and Christian as he was previously nominally a Republican - is once again signaling that he is willing to bolt for Independence, this time bolting from Christianity, if the old affiliations don’t come around to his demands.

It is not hard to imagine the frustration on Mr. Jeffords part that the church of his family has no more delivered on what he must see as its long litany of hollow promises than did the Republican Party. If his statements concerning his former Party are a good indication, this Green Mountain Boy likely believes that for two millennia Christianity has been making a lot of noise about things like feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and prisoners and burying the dead. But aside from the church graveyards, the outspoken Vermonter probably views the traditional church’s performance as pathetic and increasingly out of touch. One can easily imagine Mr. Jeffords, spurred on by not more than three Vermont apple martinis, demanding: “Where is the funding? Where is the commitment? Where is the divine intercession? It’s time for Christianity to put or shut up. Or maybe it’s time to give Jesus a demotion!”

Yes, the quiet, back-room dealing Jesus that Senator Jeffords is identifying with in his New York Times Magazine interview does not seem to be God – a view of the so-called “Second Person of the Holy Trinity” that Mr. Jeffords surely regards as “arrogant” and “overly conservative.” Senator Jeffords is reported to be particularly annoyed that almost 80 percent of evangelical Christians – who obsess on what the Senator must think of as the ultra-conservative position that Jesus is God – voted for George W. Bush. Of course, always the independent eclectic, judging by the New York Times interview Senator Jeffords does not seem to view “forgiving injuries done to us” as central to his understand of politics, religion or personal relationships, whatever focus he may have on Christianity’s inability to deliver on its other “Acts of Mercy.”

While still a Republican, Mr. Jeffords had already quietly signaled his disapproval of the divine status of Jesus by omitting any mention of Jesus in messages delivered on Christmas Day itself: “We are thankful for the roofs over our heads, for the food on our tables, for the health and happiness of our families and friends,” Jeffords said. “We are thankful for living in a land of peace and prosperity, and for living in a nation that protects our basic rights and freedoms.”

But Mr. Jeffords’ rethinking of the divine status of Jesus may have really picked up momentum when he and then Senators. Al Gore and Timothy Wirth started to work with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE). One article on the NRPE says, in part:

“In a March 26 story by John Fialka, the Wall Street Journal reported that churches in 21 states were mounting an all-out attack against the Bush administration's proposal to open the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. This campaign is coordinated by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.” …

“[T]he NRPE is the outgrowth of extreme ecologists who believe the Bible is obsolete, that the earth – gaia – is the giver of life, that human beings are but individual cells in the gaia organism, and that the United Nations is the evolving ‘brain’ of gaia.”

“Paul Gorman, director of the NRPE, was director of the Temple of Understanding, housed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. He organized a ‘Joint Appeal,’ consisting of 22 scientists and 100 religious leaders that became the NRPE. Mikhail Gorbachev hosted a conference for the group in Moscow, where James Lovelock, author of ‘The Ages of Gaia,’ was the featured speaker. Dr. Robert Muller, 30-year deputy secretary general of the U.N., and Thomas Berry, served on the Temple's board of directors.”

“Writing for World Goodwill, in Oct. 1989, Robert Muller said: ‘We are part and parcel of a living planetary organism. Each of us is a cell, a perceptive nervous unit of the Earth. You, as cosmic and earth cells, are part of a vast biological and evolutionary phenomenon ... We have now a world brain which determines what can be dangerous or mortal for the planet: the United Nations and its agencies, and innumberable [sic] groups and networks around the world, are part of the brain.”

“Muller readily admits that his beliefs are based largely on the writings of Alice Baily, who founded the Lucifer Publishing Company, and whose works are said to be transmitted by an ‘ascended master,’ called Djwhal Khul.”

“Thomas Berry's belief system, called "Cosmolatry," is even more bizarre. In his ‘Dream of the Earth,’ he says: ‘This re-enchantment with the earth as a living reality is the condition for our rescue of the earth from the impending destruction that we are imposing upon it. To carry this out effectively, we must now, in a sense, reinvent the human as species within the community of life species. Our sense of reality and of value must consciously shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of reference.

“Berry compares man's belief that God created the earth to the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth. He says both beliefs are wrong, and the truth is only now being discovered through what he calls ‘enlightenment.’" …

“Al Gore delivered a sermon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, [on a day] which is reported in Cathedral literature this way:”

“I saw children lying in the laps of large dogs and a boy bringing his stuffed animals to be blessed. I saw the not-yet famous elephant and camel march up the aisle; a lawyer who scoops the poop and enjoys being clown-for-a-day; a priest who finds himself covered with wriggling ferrets; a man and a woman who meet when their leashes become enmeshed; a volunteer gardener marching to the altar with a bowl full of compost and worms; a sermon by Al Gore, in which he called on the congregants to recognize that 'God is not separate from the Earth.'"

Doesn't that sound nice?

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