Reza Aslan: Jesus ‘Far Less MLK, More Like Malcolm X’


Author and religious scholar Reza Aslan joined “Open Source” Thursday for a holiday themed conversation with host Leon Krauze. The scholar touched on whiteness, Pope Francis, and the Jesus who existed in history versus the Christ figure of faith.


Aslan wrote a book about the life of Jesus titled “Zealot” and had a moment of internet fame this July when he went on a Fox News web series called a “Spirited Debate.” The host, Lauren Green, aggressively questioned Aslan about his motivations for writing a book about Jesus, alleging that he was biased because he is Muslim. The video of Aslan defending himself went viral, and his book reached number four on the New York Times bestseller list.

Krauze asked Aslan about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s recent comments about Jesus’ race and whether Jesus could have been “white” in terms of our modern understanding of the word and its connotations.

"For Jesus, who was a peasant from the backwoods of Galilee, not on only was he not white but he certainly wouldn't fit anywhere near the socio-economic identity issues that Megan and fox news are claiming about him," Aslan said.

Aslan explained that Christians confuse the Christ figure of their religion with the Jesus who was a living, breathing human living a real life on earth.

“The Jesus of history was a Jew teaching Judaism to other Jews,” Aslan said.

And, according to Aslan, Jesus wasn’t a pacifist like Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Malcolm X would be a better modern comparison to Jesus, Aslan said.


“There was no such thing as nonviolent resistance in the first century,” Aslan said. “You don’t remove the world’s largest empire from power with a sit-in.”

Aslan said it’s critical for Christians to realize that the Bible is not necessarily a 100 percent accurate portrayal of Jesus’ life.


“We have to remember that the gospels are not historical documents,” Aslan said. “They’re not eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds, nor were they ever meant to be read as such.”

The people who wrote the books of the Bible wrote them to promote the ideals of Jesus they personally believed in and agreed with. In other words, the gospels are a biased view of what Jesus was like.


“They’re theological affirmations of faith written by communities of faith,” Aslan said.

Finally, Leon asked Aslan about how Jesus would like the star of our newest segment: Pope Francis. Aslan said Jesus preached against wealth and power and would be “baffled” by the bureaucratic behemoth of the Catholic Church – but he would probably get along with its current leader.


“I think he would have liked Pope Francis,” Aslan said. “Francis and Jesus would get along just fine.”

“Pope Francis is a Marxist, you know!” joked Leon.

Aslan had a swift retort to that:

“Then so was Jesus!”