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Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Simcha Fisher: Why not worship Zeus instead?

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Paolo Veronese’s Jupiter Hurling Thunderbolts at the Vices (1554). Photo: Wikimedia commons
Paolo Veronese’s Jupiter Hurling Thunderbolts at the Vices (1554). Photo: Wikimedia commons

There is an account on the platform formerly known as Twitter, which shares posts encouraging people to worship Greek gods. For real. At least, it seems to be in earnest. We all know that many social media platforms openly pay contributors who stir up lots of engagement, and an easy way to do this is to post crazy, provocative things.

At the same time, we also all know that people in the year 2024 will really, truly believe anything. People are uneducated in a way we haven’t seen in quite some time, and they are thirsty for meaning and direction in direct proportion to how little truth they are encountering. So it’s plausible that “The Hellenist” is making money on social media, but is also someone who thinks the Greek gods look cool and has decided: Sure, I’ll go with that.

Here is the recent post that got my attention. He wrote: “What if instead of forcing our children to become Christians, we let them choose which gods to worship. Does anyone honestly think they would choose Jesus?” And the image that accompanies it has photos of statues of Zeus, Aphrodite, and Apollo, pointing out that they are the Gods of (respectively), “the sky, lightning, thunder, law, and order,” “love, passion, pleasure, and beauty,” and “oracles, archery, healing, music, light, knowledge, and protection of the young.” And then it has a picture of Jesus hanging limply from a cross, and under him, it says, “God of loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, meekness, and poverty.”

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It matters to God whether or not this fellow is in earnest, or if he’s just yakking about sacred things as a way of earning some cash; but it doesn’t really matter to me. The truth is, he’s asked an excellent question. Why WOULD we chose to worship Jesus, when he puts up such a poor show? It’s easy for comfortably established Catholics to say, “Oh, how ignorant this guy is,” and wave him away, but this is a missed opportunity, especially since he’s specifically talking about children, and what they would do if they had a choice.

Since I do have children, and since they do have a choice about whom to worship, but they also presumably have the advantage of knowing a thing or two about why we follow the man on the cross, I went to my kids, and I showed them the image. I asked, “What would you say, if someone asked me this?”

Full disclosure, their first response was to roll their eyes and say that they would just walk away. And this is understandable. They have grown up using the internet and are sick to death of strangers approaching them with disingenuous personal questions designed to do nothing else besides waste their time and humiliate them. So yeah, if someone dashed up to them at a shoe store and demanded to know why they worship Jesus instead of Zeus, then walking quickly away would probably be the smartest thing to do. And the same is probably true for most internet interactions.

But the question itself is still good, so I said, What would you say if it were a friend? What if it were someone you already knew and liked, who just didn’t know anything at all about Jesus? Because that’s who this question is from. Whatever else you can say about the person who made the meme, he clearly doesn’t know anything about Jesus. If all you know about him is that he died half naked, then it really is hard to say why anyone, a child or otherwise, would give him more than a passing thought, much less worship. So why do we do it?

I told my kids that it says in the Bible: “Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you the reason for your hope.” It could happen, I said. Someone may actually come up and ask you someday! You should have an answer ready. So, why do you worship this Jesus?

I was hoping that one of my kids would be able to say something about—I don’t know, the resurrection, for instance. That they would recall that our faith is about suffering, but also very much about salvation. It’s about death and about triumph over death.

It’s about Good Friday and also always about Easter. Both of those things. Or I was hoping maybe one of them would say that, yes, Jesus is the God of meekness and poverty, and what a good thing that is, because WE are meek and poor, and that means he is a God who is right here with us, and not high up on some cloud-hidden, inaccessible mountain somewhere.

Instead, one of my kids just said, “Well, the Greek gods wanted people to make sacrifices to them. But Jesus sacrificed himself for us.”

So, that’s why. Now you know.

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