I was thinking about something as I was driving to my family’s house on Christmas Day. I was thinking about Christmas Carols, and that most Christmas Carols are really about the birth narrative of Jesus. That birth narrative (of course) is only part of Matthew and Luke’s gospels, and non-existent in Mark and John’s. In addition, the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are inconsistent.
- In Matthew’s narrative Jesus is born in Bethlehem, followed shortly by the three wise men. Having been tipped off by the wise men’s arrival and informed that the “King of the Jews” has been born, King Herod orders the slaughter of baby’s in and around Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt, and then go to Nazareth in the Galilee, after they hear that Herod has died. That’s where Jesus grows up.
- In Luke, Joseph and Mary travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census that has been ordered by the Roman emperor Augustus. When they arrive in Bethlehem there is no room at the inn, so Jesus is born in a manger. Shepherds come to visit Jesus having been informed by angelic hosts that he has been born. Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth after Jesus has been recognized as the Messiah in the Temple.
The two narratives are, obviously, quite different. They have almost nothing in common. All these distinctions are ignored and commingled (of course) in the various Christmas carols, which mostly paint a moving portrait of the precious baby being born and anointed. (Nothing happens for the next three decades in the Biblical narratives until Jesus reappears as a disciple of John the Baptist.)
I also have some affection for the adult Jesus, with his placid blue eyes (as depicted in countless paintings), his enunciation of the “Golden Rule” during the Sermon on the Mount, as well as his many parables and teachings.
And then something occurred to me: if you’re familiar with George Lakoff’s “Moral Politics,” then you are familiar with the idea that some people are attracted to the “strict father” model of political leadership, while other people are more attracted to the “nurturant mother” model of political leadership.
In the Bible it is clear that Yahweh, the traditional war God of the Israelites, is the “strict father.” He’s only a “loving” God if you ignore about 90% of the text in the Old Testament. On the other hand, he barely makes an appearance in the New Testament. Those books are all about Jesus.
And here, finally is my insight: Jesus is the “nurturant mother” of the Bible. I mean, Jesus is obviously a man. He is not a Mother Goddess. But the role that he plays is that of the nurturant mother. He’s the one who is advocating for the oppressed, he’s the one saying we all can be saved, he’s the one saying that in the end it’s all going to be alright.
Yes. Jesus is the “nurturing mother” of the Bible.
Maybe that’s why a lot of progressives are attracted to the message of Jesus, notwithstanding that both the Old and New Testament are an unrestrained chaparral of inconsistencies, contradictions, and incongruities.