If you haven’t heard about Reza Aslan’s jaw-dropping showdown with a Fox News anchor who pressed him on why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus, it’s worth a look.
But Aslan’s new book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” is more than a prop in a weird clash of faith and politics. It hit the bestseller list even before this Fox segment went viral and propelled the book to number one. In it, Aslan argues that Christianity’s early leaders told a story of Jesus that airbrushed out his work as a political revolutionary who challenged Rome’s authority - and the corrupt Jewish elites who collaborated with Rome – and lost his life because of it.
Aslan is the first to acknowledge this is not a new argument, but his gift is to dramatize the tale to make this historical narrative accessible in ways it never was before. If you read the book – which I just did, on vacation, and I highly recommend it -- you’ll see much of the fury and fuss aimed at Aslan has little to do with what he’s actually written. Indeed, I lured Aslan to our show partly by quipping that I’d be the only interview he does with someone who actually read the book (something I know from my own book tours can be surprising and refreshing).
Aslan tells a fascinating tale of a remarkable man at a pivotal moment in history, and raises questions about the nature of religious myth-making, the politics of the church, and the uses and limits of historical analysis. He also talks about what it’s like to be in the eye of a media storm when you write a compelling story about someone whose life is literally the foundation for the faith of millions.
Aslan’s book taught me much I did not know. I hope our conversation will inspire you to dig deeper as well.