Taft, harbored reservations about Acheson.rnUnlike Chace, they did not considerrnhim a “pragmatist” or a “reahst” butrnsomeone who carried compromisingrnbaggage. Like Chace, I admire Acheson’srndiplomatic skills, but I believe thatrnthe baggage was real. Though Achesonrnwas clearly more engaging than therndough-faced Taft, the senator from Ohiornwas by far the greater defender of constitutionalrngovernment, and may havernbeen the better patriot as well.rnPaul Gottfried is a professor of humanitiesrnat Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown,rnPennsylvania, and the author,rnmost recently, of After Liberalism: MassrnDemocracy in the Managerial Statern(Princeton).rnIn Our Own Imagernby George McCartneyrnThe Human Christ: The Searchrnfor the Historical Jesusrnby Charlotte AllenrnNew York: The Free Press;rn383 pp., $26.00rnReading Charlotte Allen’s study, ThernHuman Christ: The Search for thernHistorical Jesus, I was reminded of Kingrnof Kings, the Technicolor treatment ofrnthe New Testament I saw with somernfriends when it opened in 1961. Onrnscreen, Jesus turned out to be blue-eyed,rnsquare-jawed, and indisputably Californian.rnThis was worth a smile. But it gotrnbetter. When this poster-boy savior wasrnfinally stretched for the nailing, he displayedrnarmpits remarkably innocent ofrnhair. We were quite moved, as I recall.rnIn fact, the balcony so shook with ourrnlaughter that people in the orchestra feltrnobliged to hiss our reckless impiety. Irncannot blame them: It was a time whenrngood citizens still wanted to trust popularrnculture.rnWhy do I mention this? Because in itsrnsmall way it confirms Allen’s thesis: Imagesrnof Jesus all too often say more aboutrnthe people making them than about thernSavior. This is not exactly revelation, ofrncourse. What makes Allen’s book worthrnattention is her demonstration that thisrntheological narcissism afflicts not onlyrnHollywood vulgarians but serious intellectualsrnand scholars as well. She arguesrnpersuasively and, I might add, very amusinglyrnthat many of those who most pridernthemselves on being rigorously scienfificrnin their pursuit of the historical Jesus arernnothing of the sort. They too have shornrnHis underarms, albeit in the cause of ideologicalrnpurity rather than wide-screenrnhygiene. “The deists,” Allen contends,rn”found a deist, the Romantics a Romantic,rnthe existentialists an existentialist,rnand the liberationists a Jesus of classrnstruggle.”rnAlthough Allen says her purpose is torntrace “the way in which the image of Jesusrnhas funcfioned as a vehicle for somernof the best and worst ideas of Westernrncivilization over the last 2000 years,” herrnfocus is primarily on the past 300. Shernquickly—perhaps a little too quickly forrnthe uninifiated—surveys the period fromrnfirst-century Palestine to the reign ofrnConstantine, touching on the theologicalrnwrangles over Jesus’s nature—divine,rnhuman, or some sort of amalgam.rnHeresy was in the air as bishops freelyrnhurled anathemas (and worse) at one another.rnAs orthodoxy battled orthodoxy,rnthe less scholarly faithful were no doubtrnhappy to cling to the hope that arnGalilean carpenter had somehow builtrnthem an escape hatch from history’srnnightmare.rnIt is not until Allen reaches the 18thrncentury, however, that she settles downrnto her real business. This is when therndeists began to debunk the Jesus of organizedrnreligion. What interests her aboutrnthese debunkers is how many soughtrnto rescue what they conceived to be thernreal Jesus from the distortions of institutionalrnChristianity. Rousseau, Kant, andrnJefferson, among other Enlightenmentrnthinkers, wanted to “make Jesus presentablernto the modern age.” Theyrnthought they could do this “by clothingrnhim in philosophical garments.” Jeffersonrncame up with a simple expedient.rnHe edited the New Testament, tearingrnout all its offensive supernatural claims.rnThe result, according to Allen, was a palernversion of his own democratic wishfulness.rnThen, in the 19th century, the demythologizersrnwent to work. Applyingrnsophisticated textual analysis to thernBible, German scholars also sought tornrescue Jesus, turning Him into “a moralrnhero… who preached a noble 19th-centuryrnethic.” Taking this formula a steprnfurther, Hegel argued that Christ was notrnan individual man at all but rather “thernsymbolic embodiment of a moment inrnhistory in which mankind was made consciousrnof its unity with God.” When itrncomes to the abstract, you cannot do betterrnthan German philosophy.rnIn France, of course, the search for thernhistorical Jesus turned from the etherealrnto the carnal. In his Life of Jesus (1864),rnErnest Renan, an erstwhile seminarian,rnprojected his own erofic longings ontornhis subject. Fastening on Mary Magdalene’srnfew fleeting appearances in thernGospels, he gave Jesus’s story all thernurgency of unrequited passion that wasrnto prove irresistible to filmmakers. InrnCecil B. DeMille’s 1927 The King ofrnKings, Magdalene becomes a first-centuryrngroupie desperate to seduce an aloofrnmatinee idol who goes by the name of Jesus.rnAllen argues that Renan’s Christ ledrnnot only to DeMille’s vulgarity but alsornto many other embarrassments, such asrnOscar Wilde’s identification of Christrnwith his own aestheticism. (“Thosernwhom he saved from their sins are savedrnsimply for beautiful moments in theirrnlives,” he wrote hopefully in De Profundis.)rnFinally, 20th-century theologianrnRudolf Bultmann had had enough,rndeclaring in 1941 that it was quite impossiblernto use electricity and believe inrnthe supernatural. (I find this reasoningrnodd, having always thought of electricityrnas one of the clearer indications of the supernatural.)rnIt followed that any atiiemptrnto reconcile the historical with the divinernJesus was quite pointless; instead, wernmust commit ourselves to the Christ ofrnfaith alone, a bloodless, fleshless idealrnthat would somehow make us better people.rnToday, fashionable theologians continuernto appropriate Jesus to their ownrnuses. For some, He is a sandalled 60’srnhippie; for others, a Marxist revolutionary.rnAn African-American theologianrnhas concluded that “Christ is blackrnbecause he is oppressed, and oppressedrnbecause he is black.” A feminist theologianrnof some distinction has dismissedrnthe Crucifixion on “the anti-patriarchalrngrounds that the doctrine of atonementrnamounts to divine child abuse.” Anotherrnfeminist is willing to grant the Crucifixionrnits place in history as long as she canrnre-imagine Jesus on the Cross as “a womanrnsuffering from menstrual cramps.”rnIn all these permutations, Allen detectsrnthe same need: We want a Christrnwe can be comfortable with. She pointsrn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn