Is it a surprise that Mr. Ross Douthat begins his New York Times essay of August 3, 2013 titled Return of the Jesus Wars with the titles of American movies as reference points? The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas, The Passion of Christ and The Last Temptation of Christ, he appeals not to an audience of readers but to movie fans, being a movie reviewer has it’s advantages. The fact that movies rule American lives and thought is a sobering thought. Although he quickly regains his intellectual footing with a mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls,the Gnostic gospels, aided by a reference to the German scholar Hermann Samuel Reimarus, the first intellectual to seek the ‘historical Jesus’, as his posthumously published writing reveals. Recall that he, David Strauss and Albert Sweitzer, prominent German intellectuals, were the leaders of the quest for that historical personage.
Of course, Mr. Douthat, being a devout Catholic, is skeptical of such a task, it is a misbegotten attempt from the start. But he is a resourceful writer and knows how to fill the page with tolerable arguments, or something akin to that. The impetus for his essay was the ‘Fox News’ interview of ‘the Iranian-born academic and author’ Reza Aslan by Lauren Green. An interview that begat a scandal, and catapulted Mr. Aslan’s Zealot to the top of the Bestseller list. Mr. D. hints at the self-promotional savvy of Mr. A. as ‘the Iranian-born academic and author’. This reference to Mr. Aslan’s place of birth takes on both a sinister and a comic dimension. One might view this reference as part and parcel of Mr. D.’s attempt to discredit Mr. Aslan, still trading on the same currency as Ms. Green, yet in a more tolerable key?
Mr. Douthat’s essay is exemplary of Conservative thought and it’s obsession with itself as political and religious singularity, and it’s inevitable confrontation/conflict with the otherness that is the world.