Even before reading Muller,
simple reason alone had
discarded church theology
with its virgin birth,
its God risen from the dead,
its empty promise of life everlasting.

But reason hadn’t discarded the Jesus
who took to heart and hand
the little children, the prostitutes,
the unfortunate souls of all sorts,
the Jesus who blessed the poor
and honored the peacemakers,
who taught us to love our enemies,
to forgive and not judge others.

And it hadn’t discarded the Jesus
whose dusty barefoot travels
took him from Jordan to Galilee
to the fateful streets of Jerusalem
where his twisted body hung nailed
to a cross on a hill named Golgotha.

But that was before a fellow soldier
at Germany’s Friedberg Kaserne
led me to the regimental library
where he put into my hands
Muller’s Uses of the Past.

By the time I finished Muller,
I knew more than I wanted to know,
a sweet ignorance lost for good,
the whole text of the Jesus story
reduced to a grudging accord
of clerics at the council of Nicea.

But whatever the story’s origins,
there is yet the truth of it,
not of evidence but of heart,
born of a child’s innocence.

Even now in my late life,
a Jesus with bare feet walks
the unfettered pathways of my mind.

(Chico, March 2014)

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