Did Jesus have a wife? It’s become quite a meme in the last week, since a tiny scrap of ancient papyrus showed up with the words, “Jesus said, my wife…..” Let’s assume he did have a wife, and ask the question, “What would Jesus wife say?” Here are some of the funnier possibilities I’ve read in the last week.

Honey, could you turn me a glass of wine?

What do you mean you don’t know what day or hour you’ll be coming back?

I think 40 days in the wilderness is long enough. Let’s get the map out.

She would end all their arguments by saying, “well, I’m sorry we can’t all be perfect like you!”

You can feed the masses, but heaven forbid you fix dinner once in a while.

I don’t care if you were born in a barn, close that door!

You can raise Lazarus from the dead! How about lowering the toilet seat?

You have to stop ending every meal with ‘one of you will betray me’ – you’re scaring the kids.

You don’t need to sit there and watch the game all afternoon – you already know who wins!

You disappear for three days, and THAT’S your story!

It’s fun to imagine. But does it really matter if Jesus had a wife or not? On the one hand, YES! It affirms women and humanity and relationships. People seen as heroes by millions experience all the same joys and struggles that we ALL face. This is empowering, not to mention that it will hopefully open up a long closed conversation about celibacy.

On the other hand, NO! We don’t need to have our efforts to live our best lives validated by anyone outside of us. If humanity and relationships are important, let them be important because of deep seated intrinsic value and not because someone or some tradition told you to value them.

Still, it’s good to even have the possibility of Jesus being married out in the open. Even the discussion is healthy. We could do with less “religion as an escape from life”. Life is supposed to be celebrated and lived fully, not feared and avoided. It’s like the old story about the monks working on ancient manuscripts.

A new monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in the basement of the monastery, comparing and copying old texts by hand. Hours into his first shift, the other monks see him quietly sobbing the corner. They ask what’s wrong.

He points to the manuscript. “The word is celebrate not celibate.”

D’oh! (Cue the sound of monks slapping bald heads)

I respect the right of anyone to be celibate, if it feels authentic to them. But I don’t respect institutions forcing people to be celibate because they believe Jesus wasn’t married, or whatever other economic reason is really behind this practice. Spirituality is not about being otherworldly and detached. It’s about experiencing everything with awareness and compassion; being present and fully engaged in ALL parts of life.

The idea of Jesus being married may just be another opportunity for religion to close ranks. I remember when I was starting out in the mainstream church as a 23 year old, being in a discussion group about the resurrection. After some people shared thoughts, I naively dropped this bomb shell into the conversation- “If someone found a bag of bones somewhere in the Middle East and it could be shown conclusively to be the remains of Jesus, I wouldn’t even miss breakfast. It wouldn’t make any difference to me.” A dark silent cloud descended on the group. Within hours I got a call from the Bishop. He said, “I hear that you don’t believe in the resurrection.” I said, “It’s not so much that I do or don’t believe in the resurrection. I just don’t think it matters a whole lot in the scheme of things.” He wasn’t impressed!

I made an independent decision around that time that the path mapped out for me by the church was too narrow, too small, too restrictive, too otherworldly; in short, not me. Then I had a choice; find another path or blaze my own trail. It took a couple of years, but I made the choice to blaze a trail.

I believe this is at the heart of the trend towards being spiritual but not religious; spiritual trail blazing. So many people find their lives uplifted and empowered by non dogmatic practices like yoga and meditation. They read widely, mix in diverse company and feel no need to sign up for institutional religion.

Like the recent revelations that Mother Theresa had dark doubts, this recent meme that Jesus was married is an encouragement to me to live more fully.

When I think about the story of Jesus, married or not, I think of someone who was living the truth that life is beautiful and every person and every experience contains some golden nugget of truth.

Every now and again, a little spark of awareness awakens in each of us. It comes at odd moments, sometimes with thoughts, sometimes in relationships, doing yoga or hiking in nature, but also in spontaneous moments of new awareness. As more and more people have more and more moments of waking up to their true essence, the world becomes a more peaceful place.

Religion is one place that this awakening happens, but it’s not the only place. For many people, it doesn’t happen in religion anymore because religion has failed to move with the times and embrace life as it is. If one religion or another still gets the job done for you, that’s great. If not, or if like me you don’t want to be limited to one perspective alone, then look to the life in front of you for inspiration. It’s all there, all around you, all inside of you, all at your feet. As Franz Kafka wrote,

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

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  1. Keith Laidler says:

    Ian,
    I like the way your mind works. I don’t like the way my printer works trying to print your article. Why doesn’t it print pages 2 & 3? Anyway, I can save this blog and read it anytime. This makes a good discussion depending on who is in the group.

  2. Peter Breuer says:

    It is good to approach religion with humour. It does not have to be seen with a sour face.
    Secondly, you have to live happily within yourself, without institutional oppression, but do not get the idea that you invented your ethical standards for yourself. They were handed down to you, and the means of handing down what is good in them needs an institutional structure, or it will not happen. 

  3. Peter Breuer says:

    The recent revelations that Mother Theresa had dark doubts is interesting.
    That should be seen in the comment attributed to the present Pope by The Times that:-  “Even  Mother Theresa, for all her charity and force of faith suffered from the silence of God.”
    How about a bit of transcendental meditation and “Free Association” ? 

  4. Pauline says:

    I’m so thankful I found your blog! I just read the post about the lights going up in the theater and realizing you were sitting next to a friend. Thats how i feel about you! I read this post and said, You too?! I stopped being a religious person and became a woman of faith. So thankful for both our journeys, and that they’ve finally collided!

  5. ian says:

    Awesome Pauline. You gave me my first smile of the morning.

  6. Let’s pardon the human errors to what should have been a perfect faith not limited by religion. I belong to the “mainstream” religion, but I believe celibacy is not imposed and mandatory really. It is a choice. One can still profess faith whether he is married or not. That is why there are numeraries and supernumeraries for some reasons.

    I laud your stepping forward on this matter. I was once in an institution also and they help me broaden my horizons just like you. Not limited by the rigid walls of religion, but founded on faith itself.

     

  7. Golden says:

    Very interesting read ,  I believe everyone has the freedom of believing what ever they wish as long as they do not push it on others . I myself believe the Bible to be the word of God ….
     

  8. Jeanette says:

    “He said, “I hear that you don’t believe in the resurrection.” I said, “It’s not so much that I do or don’t believe in the resurrection. I just don’t think it matters a whole lot in the scheme of things.””
     
    Ian,  it has to matter.  

    Jesus said he would die and rise and promised us eternal life if we believe.  Either it is true or Jesus is a liar.  He can’t just be a good person that you emulate to bring peace in your life. You can’t take bits and parts of Him to suit you.  Either He was the son of God he claimed to be who died and rose to save us or He was not and a liar.  I believe He was and will continue to spend my life seeking His way, truth and life.  It is the narrow road and the way of the cross that will lead us to what we were made for……everlasting life.  
     
    You write as though you are “using” and creating your own Jesus to suit your needs.  At least be honest with yourself and to Jesus.  Take him at his word and believe or do not believe in him at all.  You can’t have it both ways and live in the Truth.
     
    Check out Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.   Merry Christmas!

  9. Duke says:

    I applaud Ian’s Blog for most importantly livening up the approach and the attitude towards seeking the truth in having faith and living for the word that God is. Yeah alright no one said it’s gonna be a ball,but yet again,he makes for a good reminder that no one said it shouldn’t be fun,and non incriminating to examine squarely in our finite perceptions as human beings.
    I however MOSTLY applaud Jeannette for pointing out and reminding us all including Ian,that while we depart from a rigid(Religious) way of unveiling the meaning of God’s word,and what it means to be faithful,to strictly abide by and not compromise the principles which are the definitional tenets of the very word we seek to understand and live by. That no matter how we seek to understand the word of God,Jesus is Lord. Be blessed.

  10. Great post….I love that you actually incorporate humor into the all-too-often suffocating experience of religion.  Thanks for a great chuckle this morning!