Beyond the Specialness of Jesus

We always meet Jesus in a context – one that is shaped by our body and our relationships, i.e., the world. And our context is always alien to the historical Jesus’s context. He was a charismatic peasant Jew living in the chokehold of Roman empire, during a phase of human history that was more brutal and stupid than most of us can imagine.

Another Jesus

Our attraction to Jesus always says more about us – our needs, hopes, dreams, biases, et cetera – than it does about him. He’s gone; what remains is a complex narrative skein that transcends religion and history. Out of it we construct a Jesus – we project a Jesus. We dream a Jesus. How could it be otherwise?

The problem arises when we believe that our projection is the right version of Jesus – that it’s not a projection at all, nor even an opinion, but rather the only possible interpretation of the historical Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life Jesus. We all do this, we all conveniently forget that we do it, and then (tragically) forget that we forgot we do it.

But why? Why this incredibly effective internal resistance to just accepting the projection and not making a big deal about it?

Because when we can convince ourselves and others that our Jesus is the real Jesus, then we are no longer responsible for our behavior. We’re doing what Jesus would do, what Jesus would condone doing, and we are not doing what Jesus would not do. It’s out of our hands; we’re just channels.

We make Jesus an idol and then hide behind it. It’s easier.

This “hiding” can look like hyper-aggressive evangelizing – e.g., killing people who refuse to convert. It can look selfish – e.g., Jesus is giving me special messages. Or it can be fatally passive, like waiting for on a healer who never arrives. In the latter case – which is where most of us reading and writing this post are – it’s like looking in a mirror and waiting for the image to tell us what to do with our lives.

This passivity breeds a lot of pain and suffering. It is qualitatively different than aggression and self-centeredness but not quantitatively so.

I tend to see Jesus as both a historical and local advocate for an inclusive, nonviolent collectivism, emphasizing what is common rather than different in us, which tends to cash out in ideas like “be responsible for projection,” “be a servant,” “cooperate, don’t compete,” et cetera, which ideas are only doable and sustainable when one enjoys a serenely confident intimacy with Yahweh.

Am I right about that?

I mean, it’s a coherent argument right? It incorporates theology, anthropology, history, psychology and so forth. It privileges shared happiness over individual satisfaction, which raises the peace-and-joy waterline for all of us. Living in that model is difficult but not impossible. And peace is better than war, joy better than suffering.

But it’s not “right” in an absolute sense, like how non-salt water freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit. It’s “right” in the sense that it’s helpful for me, in the context in which I find myself, like how some people benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy but others prefer a twelve-step group. Others might like my Jesus, too, but others won’t, and this is not a flaw in my projection’s design but rather a light making clear that what is true is what is helpful and what is helpful varies from context to context.

Still, when the conversation moves from “is this the real Jesus” to “does this version of Jesus work,” a lot of us bristle. Suddenly the suggestion is that Jesus is just one more healng modality, no different than psychotherapy, entheogens, yoga or whatever. And for us, Jesus has to be a little different, a little more special than all those other things.

We really do want the Jesus, rather than a Jesus.

Which brings us back to the first paragraph. We always encounter Jesus in a particular context, and part of that context is specialness – ours and Jesus’s. I am using “special” here in the ACIM sense of “different, and better because of those differences,” which always produces violence (e.g., T-24.I.3:1-2).

The very fact that we project a Jesus is proof that we remain invested in his specialness and our own. There is literally no other reason for him to be here.

Again, the projection is not the problem – projecting is just the human brain doing its human thing. If you didn’t project Jesus, you’d project Buddha. Or an angel. Or this or that mode of psychotherapy. And then that would be right; that would be the means by which you double down on specialness and, by extension, on separation.

So a big part of my own Jesus practice is about accepting Jesus not as special but as helpful in the context in which I encounter him. That is my responsibility – to not use Jesus to reinforce my separation from the world and from my brothers and sisters but rather to accept Jesus as a means of remembering that I am not separate from the world and from my brothers and sisters. And then to act accordingly.

This necessarily means shifting the focus from being right to what works, which requires that I be humble, attentive, open-minded, vulnerable, willing et cetera. It means remembering that “what works” has to be inclusive. It has to be a big tent. We go together or we don’t go at all. There is no other way to practice forgiveness and know salvation.

When we want the end of separation more than we want separation (and we should not kid ourselves about how hard it is to reach this juncture, let alone act from it in authentic and sustainable ways), then Jesus becomes the exact helper that we need, helping us to the precise and intimate extent that we need help.

The help is real; the help is not an illusion. Therefore, the one who helps is real, too. He’s just not other than the one who is helped. And as A Course in Miracles says, “herein lies the peace of God” (In.2:4).


  1. Sean I needed this. I’ve been confused about Jesus for a lifetime he was someone above the clouds at times, but mostly distant,never personal to me so I thought I was wrong bad or just insignificant. And from that opinion of me I sought And as you would know it never would succeed. That’s where I’ve been trying desperately to find a Jesus like others had seemed to have. You have cleared it up a lot by this post. Im confessing my ignorance to you knowing that you have an understanding off me thank you Sean

    1. Dear Sean,

      Thank you for sharing. What you describe in the first few sentences of your comment is very consistent with my own experience of Jesus – certainly that was the Jesus I was taught about in the Catholic church and in my family. I’m not complaining – I think most of those people were doing the best they could. But it left me lonely; I felt far away from the Love of God. Too much of my life was spent that way.

      A big part of why I write and share the way I do is just to have friends – truly. I’m glad when it’s helpful, but the real treasure is connecting with others. And you are one of a handful of people who was been reading and sharing with me for a long time. I think of you as a friend and a brother, and I am always lifted a little when I see that you have commented.

      I understand our educational backgrounds are different, but you are not ignorant, Sean. Your honesty and integrity arise from Love, and Love has a knowing that transcends the limitations of our bodies and brains. Your attention and support and kindness means the world to me; it teaches me that Christ is real because YOU are real. You are here always and you are always being real with me.

      I am deeply deeply grateful, Sean. I know an ocean separates us and we may never meet in the body, but our friendship and brotherhood transcend all that. If I am helpful in any way, it is only because you are helping me.


      1. Seann I’m deeply moved that you have me as a friend and brother, not only has Jesus been distant from me but every one else I was afraid to get close to people. Lesson 93 describes me perfectly .when I was given the course book I opened it at that lesson. I lived out of that belief and covered up using a hard man image and drink. It didn’t work.twelve steps helped for awhile but didn’t give me the peace I longed for. I describe my experience with the twelve step program as if I was reading a book a wonderful story and came to the last page and it wasn’t there. For many years I searched for that page and the course was it ,I was over joyed. Yet still searched from the same opinion of myself as I had done all my life. By the way I’m back reading Tara Singh on your advice and can’t believe I missed someone who was the teacher I had been searching for. Thank you Sean

        1. You’re welcome, Sean. I’m always grateful and appreciative for your presence. I’m glad you’re reading Tara Singh! He is such a gift, he had such clarity, and understood so deeply how to “love in a loveless place.” Thanks for being here.


  2. There is something very frightening about this sentence to me: “We really do want the Jesus, rather than a Jesus.” Perhaps that’s because I can hide (down here in the Bible Belt) behind “the Jesus” and feel accepted in society. Recognizing “a Jesus” would get me shunned and scorned. I recognize the splintering that would likely occur, and believe it would be distressful to those who trust me to pray for them, whom I hold space for in love, so I pretend we are talking about and praying to the same Jesus, but I know “my friend and brother” Jesus is not the historical miracle worker in whom they have faith. Still the idea that “my Jesus” is just “a Jesus” is just a bit disturbing to my gut. Don’t get me wrong, Sean, I think you’re right, it just kicks me in the solar plexus a bit. I’m going to keep pondering that specialness and see what comes of it.
    Lately I have been envisioning a chick inside an egg, ready to emerge, with a crack already in the shell that lets in a cold but true light of reality. This idea of “a Jesus” is some cold truth to me – I may not like it – I may prefer my incubated shell of self illusion – but I am beginning to adjust to the light and I know I have been in the shell almost long enough now.

    Thanks again Sean. Since “we go together or not at all,” I am glad you are helping to bring us all along together.

    1. I hear you, Claudia.

      I do think another aspect of this is that when we sort of loosen our grip on Jesus, that Christ comes forth – not as a separate being, but as a way of seeing and being in relationship with others that is premised on remembering our shared interest in happiness, on communication and cooperation, and on forgiveness.

      Maybe the emerging life that you sense coming forth is that – not the loss of Jesus so much as the remembrance of Christ. I have noticed for myself that when I no longer feel a need to insist on MY Jesus, it is easier to just accept and role with everybody’s else’s. It’s just not a big deal.

      Thanks for sharing, Claudia, and for being here. I’m very grateful.


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