The Activism of Jesus and the Placebo Effect by Rocket Kirchner

Jesus healing the Blind Man

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

by Rocket Kirchner
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Rocket Kirchner (blog)
Rocket Kirchner (youtube channel)
February 24, 2017

Over the years my conversations with fellow activists that don’t believe in miracles has been an interesting one. In regards to myself and my conversion to Christ in 1974, I have spoken of my experience in this regard as being a miracle. But I do understand those who have not had this encounter to be skeptical of anything about alleged miracles. So this has been the case.

In order to avoid circular arguments they simply asked me to do a miracle. Besides walking on their swimming pool if they own one, I really can’t think of anything. These discussions usually devolve into the burden of proof position for the nonbeliever in question toward me. Nothing more can be said if they can’t see what I was before conversion and after conversion. My conversion happened so long ago that they did not know me before. So there is nothing to compare the before and after to.

Since I cannot bring to the table any burden of proof besides my own life in the before and after conversion context they begin to pontificate in what I consider to be a rather amusing way. If they are literate at all and have taken the time to read the gospels, instead of quoting second hand sources, they will invariably call the so called miracles of Jesus only the placebo effect. Now, I could react and do a fall back and ask them how they know this, but then we are back to the circular argument, since one interpretation is as good as the next. Stalemate. Or so it seems.

What I do instead is a rather creative sort of thing. I state that we should both for discussion sake dispose of any ideas or assumptions of the miracle/no miracle divide and both posit that the activism of Jesus is actually a placebo effect. They always agree to this. OK, so far so good. As we proceed from this position I bring up that this main character in the gospels is pretty impressive to make all these things happen just by people thinking it up in his presence. To which the unbeliever will concede. When epilepsy stops on a dime that ain’t a bad calling card. And that is just for openers.

Next step is a simple question is in regards as to whether for the betterment of the human race is this placebo good. The unbeliever activist concedes that it is good. Is it effective? Another concession. Moving right along. Then I lower the boom: If it’s so effective and you really want to make this present world a better place, then why don’t you practice it? There it is: Why.Don’t.You.Practice.It? That is a fair question.

The unbelieving skeptic activist has just been challenged by a greater skeptical view. What do I mean by that? Simply that I hold suspect those who compliment Jesus’ activism and its effectiveness, but don’t practice it. But you might object and say that they are not followers of Jesus and have no obligation to practice it. That is true. However, there is a caveat to this; if you reject the supernatural and take an anthropological view of the main character of the gospels like Renan and Wrede did, are you not responsible for this knowledge as blueprint for real change?

Not only do I think one is responsible, but the perfect example was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He is proof positive that the blueprint works even if one is a nonbeliever in miracles. The placebo effect depends on a person’s expectations. When one looks at the list of ailments cured that the so called placebo effect has taken on surrounding the character of Jesus when he arrived in a town or place it is staggering.

I am not in the business of questioning people’s motives, but I really can’t help but be suspect of having such an amazing blueprint and not taking full advantage of it. Maybe they’re avoiding the blueprint and choosing some other way to change this present world by violence, politics, sloganeering , etc. is more their style. Or maybe deep down they fear that if they practice it, the full placebo effect will morph into something different, take them by surprise and turn into the miracle they did not expect, namely this: Conversion.

from the archives:

The Crossing: The Event That Changed My Life by Rocket Kirchner

All Politicians Are False Messiahs by Rocket Kirchner

Progressives That Became More Progressive After Their Conversion To Christ by Rocket Kirchner

Why the Christ Story is Not a Copycat of Ancient Religious Myths by Rocket Kirchner


8 thoughts on “The Activism of Jesus and the Placebo Effect by Rocket Kirchner

  1. “Interesting thought … if it’s all placebo, then any really persuasive human ought to be able to do it, and when “it” is a net good, we really all ought to be doing “it.” I like it!”

    • My point of the article is that it is not placebo . But for discussion sake i go there with my fellow activists to sort of corner them and challenge them . Once they really look into the gospel without prejudice , they might see the wonder and miracle of conversion that is not placebo.

      • Oh, no, I totally get what you mean. I think frankly, that you could have made the argument even stronger. If, in fact, Jesus’ miracles are plausible, practical placebo, and if further one acknowledges that the outcome is a net good, then the challenge becomes “well, if you cared, you could do that good too … why aren’t you?” That argument almost compels the naturalist to “go and do thou likewise,” because he’s just said that it’s all good that he could do if he were willing. (and yeah, I’m the original FB commenter #2).

        • I agree Dan . but most of them I know are threatened by the challenge because of the high cost . which is my point .

          I enjoy removing excuses from unbelievers and make them doubt their unbelief .

      • Thank you for your article, expressing your experience and beliefs. You are making good points in on-going disagreements with those who profess to be non-religious. There are many who would say that I am utterly heretical. I am. Considering where I started out as a child my life-journey with that radical Galilean Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth continues to lead me in directions I find helpful, sensible and even Biblically substantive. What matters to me most is that way of living and relating to all ‘others’ that always has the potential of being mutually saving, redemptive, liberating from all oppressions and oppressors, freeing of what holds us in captivities and imprisons us within ourselves and our social/religious orders. That is also mutually healing.

        Even before I did my M.Div. I believed that the miracle stories did not prove anything – as they have been used as proof of Jesus’ “divinity”. It continues to mean a lot that in the Synoptic Gospels, Rabbi Jesus always says: “it was your faith/trust/daring to believe that made you well” or “it was the faith/trust/daring to believe of your friends who brought you here that is healing for you”. I wouldn’t call it “placebo”. It is a trustworthy potential that is not merely ‘self-healing’. Even though the Rabbi did not have a lengthy relationship with those who were ill and distressed in many ways, he was that kind of person with whom there is, immediately, a sense of trust. That happens in everyday life now – if we dare to be trusting of others, starting with the ‘others’ that are myself.

        What is also important is that that Rabbi Jesus, whose historical existence cannot, and does not need to, be proven, is the upsetting, dis-comforting and dis-easing effects of that way of living and relating – especially to those religious folk who believed without any doubt that they were the guardians of the true religion. He did not rebel against the occupying government of the Roman Province of Palestine; he did rebel against all the rules and regulations, the requirements, the doctrine and practices upon which the religious leaders relied as proof of true Judaism, and as measures of acceptabilitly, adequacy, measuring-up to all their laws, rules, regulations.

        Of course he had to be eliminated. He did lead an insurrection against all the marketers, the bankers – all who did their business in the Temple Courtyard. To him, this was another blatant hypocrisy. They were the ones who claimed that their YWWH actually lived in The Temple – and yet they were also eager to profit by profaning their dogmatic beliefs. For him, his Abba, was never to be confined to any place or space. He met ‘the Holy’ in other people and nature – the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, etc.

        The way you are living, I am sure, is the evidence of your conversion experience (which is also on-going throughout life) your continuing healing in mutual, communioning relationships with all living beings and things.

        • Gordon , thank you for your response . Jesus healed people because he loved them and said in the gospel of Mark ”No sign will be given to this evil generation ”. Or as Bob Dylan sings ”What kind of sign do you need when it all comes from within ?”

          To those who are hung up on the whole historical Jesus quest – from Lessing to Crossan , i say that Roman historian Tacitus is the only secular accurate source. Of course it is not in question that he existed and was given the most extreme punishment under Pontus Pilate , but the only question is this : is He who we Christians say he is ?

          However , the specific revelation and why God remains in eclipse is because as Martin Buber says ”Man is in eclipse toward God ”. And if people choose that then they place reason above the Paradox of the God-Man . That is a deliberate act. Not until reason yields to the absolute Paradox is anything gonna happen of eternal reverberation . My job is to make unbelievers doubt their doubt as equal as doubting God . To level the playing field.

  2. “You see it when you are willing to believe it … if one is not willing to believe in the possibility of something, they will not try it. If they do not try it, as a practice, then they will not experience it and not only have no knowledge of it, but no possibility of the knowledge of it.”

    • that is true . but like I said – I hold suspect any one who claims to be an activist and won’t even give it a chance . I think there is bias there in their part .

      and ignoring this blueprint can cause danger to seek and replace it with something that does not get to the core of our problems as a society .

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