Monday, March 14, 2011

The Power of Myth

I never got around to posting anything about this really wonderful book, which is an interview of Joseph Campbell by Bill Moyers.  I'm pinched for time, so here are a few quotes.

Campbell:  There's nothing militant about Jesus.  I don't read anything like that in any of the gospels.  Peter drew his sword and cut off the servant's ear, and Jesus said, "Put back thy sword, Peter."  But Peter has had his sword out and at work ever since. 

That one resonated with me deeply.  I feel that in the last ten to fifteen years, American Christianity has morphed into something completely different than it was in my childhood.  I feel that for a growing number of the population it's about one third religion, a third Republican politics and a third American patriotism.  To borrow the above metaphor, I've seen this combination cutting people to pieces, and I can't stand it.

Moyers:  Whatever it is we experience we have to express in a language that is just not up to the occasion.

This one resonates as well, but on a positive note.  Life is amazing.  People are wonderful.  There's so much to see and do and create that we can't pack it all in to a lifetime.  Truly--words fail.


  1. Jesus was always problematic for me. He demanded so many things through modern Mormon revelation that just did not seem to matter in the New Testament.

    On Easter Sunday the UU reverend is giving a talk on "the Jesus that no one wants" and I hope it touches on the differences between modern Christianity and Jesus...

    I have been thinking about reading gospels just to refresh my member and see it through new eyes. Somehow I think Jesus is cooler than I remember... (Even if he is not the son of God...)

  2. Your former LDS perspective is really interesting to me. It would be fascinating to study all of the different versions of Jesus--the LDS Jesus, the Catholic one, the Baptist one, etc. They really are quite different, aren't they? I'll be interested to hear about that message at the UU church.

    This book looks at world mythology, and Jesus is just mentioned in a couple of chapters. It's all really wild--it makes me want to re-read Neil Gaiman's fictional American Gods. My favorite! Also, Joseph Campbell has a book called Hero with a Thousand Faces, which deals with all of this stuff.

  3. Interesting. I've long been a fan of Joseph Campbell -- my senior Independent Study was based on his whole concept of the hero's journey -- which I think is so much more appealing than the story pyramid they taught us in school :)

    I also find different aspects of religion interesting in the way you mentioned. I've had the chance to discuss idealogy with a few people, and it's interesting what their impressions/takes on Christianity depending on their upbringing, etc has been.

    I do very much agree with your feelings that religion seems to have changed over the past few years.

  4. I have a bunch of Joseph Campbell dvds in my Netflix queue, including the Power of Myth ones. Hero with a Thousand Faces is on deck to read, too. Good, interesting stuff! Cool--I didn't remember about your I.S.


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