I remember a time in my childhood when I thought the Founding Fathers weren’t real. I kept hearing about them and reading about them and seeing pictures of them and they didn’t seem real. They didn’t look like any of the people in my life. They dressed funny; they had weird hairdos; and they spoke very strangely.
Then – and I remember the moment well – I came to the realization that George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the others really lived. They were just dead, like my grandfathers. I never knew my grandfathers but I never questioned the veracity of their existence.
Yet, it was hard to relate to Washington & Co. They were legends, larger than life. I heard more about them than my own grandfathers. I saw more pictures of them and learned more about their lives than my own flesh and blood. They were heroes, according to the stories. Maybe I figured they were too good to be true, that such brave and wonderful men don’t really exist.
But, on that same day, at that same moment, another group of old, famous, dead men popped into my head. And I used that group as a comparison.
“Oh! George Washington and his friends used to really be alive,” I accepted aloud. “It’s just that they’re dead now because they lived so long ago.”
My mind was still processing this information. “But,” I continued, “Jesus and the apostles…. they didn’t really exist. Those are just stories, right?”
I was at home, chatting with an older sibling. I would never have been so bold as to question a nun.
No, I was told. They were real, too. But they lived thousands of years ago and George Washington lived just hundreds of years ago. (This conversation was well before the big Bicentennial celebrations of 1976.) And, Jesus never lived in America like the Founding Fathers. That’s why Jesus and the apostles looked even more different than the Founders. At least the Americans wore pants and shoes!
It was hard for me, as a child, to believe all of those men were real and, at one point, walked and talked and laughed and engaged in other typical human activities. History did not interest me because it was so hard for me to wrap my head around. The little stories, parables, and biographies were interesting but so were a lot of the other stories I was reading at the time – tales of fiction.
Chopping down cherry trees, crossing the Potomac, raising Lazarus from the dead, and turning a few loaves and fishes into a feast for all. Exciting stuff. But, was it real?
I was told it was. All of it. So, I believed. All of it. It boggled my mind but I had no proof to the contrary. So, I accepted it. “Amen,” I said – to the creed, to the stories, and to “the Body of Christ.” Amen. Yes. I accept that. I believe it.
And, for the next forty years, I did.
What do you think? Was Jesus human like George Washington or is he the most popular fictional character of all time? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.