There have been many religious and historical figures over the years and over the centuries that people often still look to for guidance in their every day lives Martin Luther King Jr.
and Gandhi are often quoted in modern times; however, Jesus seems to be a religious figure that people still look to for strength and guidance in times of trouble. That being said, it also seems as if today’s youth are finding it difficult to think of Jesus as a modern example of someone to look to when making moral choices. In short, it is hard to ask what Jesus would do in regard to a modern moral issue such as teenage pregnancy when Jesus has been dead for many centuries. The book When Jesus Came to Harvard attempts to bring Jesus’ moral wisdom into the 21st century.
The purpose of this paper is to present a book report about When Jesus came to Harvard. I will also provide my opinions on this book. I will give an over view of about five chapters of this book. I will begin with He was Then, We are Now.He was Then, We are NowJesus lived a long time ago. But, many people pray to him on a daily basis; however, these same people often ask themselves how Jesus fits into today’s modern world.
They also ask how does what Jesus said help to solve today’s moral issues. In fact, in When Jesus Came to Harvard, Cox said that some of his students prayed to Jesus for guidance about their moral choices; however his students found it very difficult, if not impossible to view Jesus as a living example of how to make moral choices. They were often puzzled (2004:15). In other words, Cox’s students found Jesus’ words powerful, but they couldn’t morally relate to them for their own lives.I found it interesting that Fredrick Nietzsche speculated that had Jesus lived longer he probably would have outgrown his youthful exuberance.
He would have calmed down and became a different person (Cox, 2004: 16). It does seem as people get older they do get mellower. However, there is something to be said for retaining one’s youthful exuberance throughout their life. I think it be a shame to loose youthful exuberance as people age. In fact, I tend to disagree with Fredrick Nietzsche about Jesus losing his youthful exuberance as he got older and thus becoming a different person. I think that Jesus would have retained much of his youthful exuberance as an older adult. It would have been due to Jesus’ youthful spirit that people who used his moral teachings as a guide in making moral decisions in their 20s and 30s would feel secure in looking to Jesus for moral guidance in their 50s, 60s, and beyond.World Full of StoriesThis chapter focuses on the reason it is thought that Jesus isn’t considered morally relevant today.
According to Cox, the reason that Jesus isn’t considered morally relevant today is due to the fact that all of his stories are Bible narratives. In other words, Jesus’ words are only stories. Cox wonders why people use the phrase “only a story.” He wants us to realize that biblical narratives are not just churned out like ice cream or like advertising slogans Biblical narratives represent the imaginative and selective approximation of the past; the people who are retelling biblical narratives are trying to make sense of the past while living in the present and going toward the future (2004:34-35).It seems as if Cox wants people to hold narratives in higher regard that they do now. It is very important to understand that everything in the world has its own value. In addition, even if biblical narratives are seen as “only stories”, there is nothing wrong with good stories. Moreover, a good narrative might just have a bit of a moral morsel in it that can be carried with us throughout of lives.
Cox goes on to claim that the problem with narratives like Jesus’ today is that the importance of storytelling has been unfairly demoted. Another problem with narratives is that there are just too many of them in the world. In addition, there is the problem of how to tell stories that are uniquely our own. Relax because Cox claims that he has a three step process to stop narratives like Jesus’ from become extinct like dinosaurs. First, we must stop downing the role of the narrative and view it as an essential part of being human.
Second, we must understand that the art of storytelling isn’t dead. Third, we need places where storytelling can become a priority again (2004:45).Dinner tables are one of the places where storytelling could become a priority again. This could become the case if families took the time to take the time to catch up with other each night. Coffee houses could be places where storytelling could become a priority again, especially if poetry is being read by poets in coffeehouses. The problem with storytelling becoming a priority in our lives again is that we live in a world of instant gratification.
In short, we are used to getting a bunch of information very quickly and we don’t stop to take it all in. Storytelling demands that we stop and absorb the stories that we are being told.Salt and LampsThis chapter main focus involves the relationship between religion and the rest of what happens in the world.
In other words, we must see what Jesus’ religious teachings have to do with the state of the world today. We must ask ourselves if Christianity is going away; Cox claims that the answer to that question should be no. He uses the metaphors of salt and light to explain the answer to the above question. There has to be a balance between too much light and too much salt. It makes no sense to use a lamp if the sun is out and shining. Moreover, a bit of salt is necessary to season a rack of lamb or a pot of chicken soup; however too much salt will cause the food to be spit out (2004:132). I think Cox’s message is that religion has its place in the world as long as we are not bombarded with it.
The CEO and the Spoiled BratThis chapter seems to illustrate that some of Jesus’ narratives were ahead of their time. Moreover, this chapter does help the reader see that Jesus’ narratives are relevant for using to make moral choices today. His parable about the crooked CEO certainty reminds me of Enron and Kenneth Lay.
Also, this parable should remind us of all current crooked business schemes. Moreover, the moral lesson of once dishonest always dishonest and once honest is a lesson that is relevant today.Also, I believe that Jesus’ parable concerning the spoiled brat and the good son are very relevant to today’s moral landscape. I believe that parable lesson is that it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. In addition, this narrative seems to say that no matter what you do in life your parents will also love you.
Plus, the fact that some of Jesus’ narratives don’t come with a satisfying ending for everyone makes him a perfect person to look to as we go down the moral road of life; according to Cox, growing up means learning to live with unsatisfying and incomplete endings (2004: 168). In short, the lesson that Jesus can and does teach us today is that moral choices have no right answers. Also, Jesus’ narratives also can teach us today that we will always be making moral choices that will both be messy and puzzling to make.Cox goes on to state that Jesus purpose in life was to shake people up with his narratives and since many of them didn’t come with a nice tidy ending; that is exactly what they did (2004: 168). Jesus’ big moral lesson is that there is often no moral to the story.
It is very important that we can write the end to our own morality story ourselves. In short, we can use the lessons of Jesus’ unfinished narratives to learn to think for ourselves.Reason, Emotion, and TortureWe must now ask the question what role emotions should play in making moral decisions.
Many philosophers such as Plato and Immanuel Kant believe that emotions have no place in making moral choices. According to Cox, the reason that many philosophers believe this is because emotions cloud our thinking and stunt our ability to make sound moral judgments (2004: 237). However, emotions should be a vital part in making moral choices. In fact, having emotions play an essential role in people making moral choices is sorely needed especially in today’s fast paced world. Our modern world has given us some wonderful technological advances like computers and better transportation; however because we live in an instant message world, we don’t realize that there is pain in others to a high degree. Moreover, we are losing the ability to understand that our actions affect others deeply.
Therefore, Cox suggests that Jesus’ narratives are just what we need to bring emotions into making moral choices. The life of Jesus was both rich with history and emotions ranging from joy to pathos and from hope to despair (2004: 244). Jesus narratives are relevant for making today’s moral choices because his story stirs both our emotions and our imagination so that we make solid moral choices. Making good and sound moral choices evolves both reason and emotion.ConclusionJesus lived a long time ago. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that while people would pray to Jesus for guidance but not see where he current enough to help them make moral choices today.
However, When Jesus Came to Harvard sheds some light on Jesus’ narratives and how they are useful when wrestling with today’s difficult moral choices. I didn’t know if I would like this book due to its title; however after reading this book I would recommend it.