We’ve all heard someone ask the question, “If you could travel back in time and kill one person, who would it be?” This is standard fare for discussion in Reddit threads and on sites like Quora.com. Most people usually respond by identifying a world dictator who executed millions, the inventor of some weapon of mass destruction, or a person who formulated a dangerous ideology or religious faith.
On Twitter, one user asked the question, “If you were dropped 2000 years back in time with nothing but the knowledge you have now – what would you do? Timothy Snediker, a Ph.D. student at USC-Santa Barbara, responded, “Easy, I would find and assassinate Jesus of Nazareth.” He later doubled down on his position with other tweets, saying, “Theologically speaking, it would be really important to get him before is calling and ministry begins, so that gives me roughly a decade to make it to Palestine, locate the man, and make my move. I don’t want to be the heroic Judas Avant la lettre,” and that “murdering him before his baptism” was vital.
Following a firestorm of replies, Snediker deleted his account. Interestingly enough, the statement on the home page of USC-Santa Barbara’s Department of Religious Studies claims the following:
Our expertise lies in the academic study of the world’s religions. Each emphasizes the sanctity of life. In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, human life is holy because God is holy (Lev 19:4; Qur’an 5:32, 6:131; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
Snediker is an intelligent guy. He’s a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant at USC-Santa Barbara (a highly respected university), even if he does pepper everything he writes with French and German expressions (which comes across as posturing braggadocio, but probably standard fare for a young, egotistical graduate student). But he also knows enough to make a back-handed statement like, “The Catholics have convinced me to change course, so, instead of going back to kill Jesus I’m gonna go back and save him from crucifixion.”
Is this any better? Not really. Snediker confessed in another tweet that he did not have a “high Christology,” but I suspect he knows enough to understand just how central the crucifixion of Jesus is to Christian theology. Assuming that the possibility of saving Jesus from execution even existed, he would know that such an event would wreck Christianity. So, his claim of “repentance” was little more than bad comedy.
Snediker’s comment exposes his historical illiteracy. When it appeared, Christianity raised the value of human life. It gave a voice to women and stopped the abominable practice of child exposure. It curtailed the ridiculous sexual license of men and demanded fidelity of both partners. It led to the outlaw of violence and death as sport. It provided a realistic and non-mythological way of looking at the world, which led to the rise of modern science. Christianity also led to the development of the university. All of this, thanks to Jesus.
I wonder if Snediker would care to imagine what his life would be like if he could murder Jesus, and whether our laws and culture would be as draconian as they were 2000 years ago. But I’ve got a couple of other questions for him. He likes to write about the police—I wonder if he thinks his pedantic philosophizing does more to curb for police brutality than would the application of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? If he opposes racism as much as his online materials suggest, does he think that he articles written for the cultural and philosophical elite could do as much to rectify race-relations in our country as applying New Testament teaching on the value of all humanity (Galatians 3:28)?
The New Testament provides a wealth of moral and ethical teaching that demands we respect one another, treat each other with love and concern, help the powerless, and lift the fallen. I doubt Snediker’s individual philosophy will do any of that. Then again, he is just a young, arrogant, 20-something philosophy grad student. Maybe when he gets a little older and wiser, he’ll learn what life is really like outside the echo-chamber of his ivory tower.
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