Deepak Chopra, in many ways a picture of American religion right next to Oprah and Osteen, has his own Jesus – or so he claims in a recent book of his, The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore (New York: Harmony Books, 2008). He says the first Jesus is the historical one, “and we know next to nothing about him” (p.7-8). “This historical Jesus has been lost… swept away by history” (p. 8).
The second Jesus is the one the early church made up: “He was created by the Church to fulfill its agenda” (Ibid.). In fact, Chopra says, Jesus’ followers put words into his mouth, like the ones that say he is the only way to the Father (p. 10). “The New Testament is an interpretation of Jesus by people who felt reborn but also left behind” (Ibid.). “This is the Jesus built up over thousands of years by theologians and other scholars” (p. 9).
Chopra is ticked off (my words) at these two Jesuses, because they stole something precious from him. What did they steal? The Third Jesus: “The Jesus who taught his followers how to reach God-consciousness” (Ibid.). Chopra summarizes his Jesus’ mission this way: “Jesus intended to save the world by showing others the path to God-consciousness” (p. 10). He then goes on to quote some of Jesus’ more beautiful, harmonizing, and peaceful statements (i.e. consider the lilies, do unto others, seek and ye shall find, etc); Jesus gives people beautiful and carefree existence, Chopra notes.
I get sick in the stomach writing this, honestly. This is utterly inconsistent: Chopra says the NT is the early church’s construction of Jesus, yet he quotes the NT to show the reader his own version of Jesus. Furthermore, if theologians and scholars for 1900 years got Jesus wrong, according to Chopra, isn’t it quite arrogant of him to think hegets Jesus right? I realize “logic” in Eastern religions isn’t always sought after, but this is bizarre.
Of course, this is the Jesus Seminar on steriods married to Eastern religion which flirts with American spirituality – which is why books like this can hit the top of the NYT bestsellers next to Oprah’s stuff. I don’t read these things for fun, but as a way to take the pulse of the religious/spiritual culture in which we live. Also, one could study this book in light of the 2nd commandment, what it means to make an image. This book makes the golden calf look like kindergarten round-up!
In summary, Deepak’s “Christ we cannot ignore,” is a christ we cannot adore because he is a projection of the author’s imagination. This is America’s Eastern jesus: your way, right away!