In my New Testament class I work hard to “provincialize” Jesus, by which I mean I try to show that he was a hick Jew from the 1st century—probably socially awkward—who had little to say that is relevant to us today.
I realize this is not necessarily the only way to denaturalize Jesus’ authority in the classroom, and maybe not the best, but it’s the one I’m utilizing at present.
In any case, this week in class I was reading out loud some passages about Jesus casting out demons and being accused of doing so by the power of Beelzebul. I wanted to point out that this story only makes since in a world quite alien to our own. I asked the students, “Have you have had this conversation with anyone? Have you ever argued over whether or not an exorcism was done by the power of Yahweh or the power of a super demon?”
In sum, I wanted them to see that this is weird stuff.
But one of my students came up to me after class and told me that, in fact, demons had been cast out of her, and apparently recently. Let me tell you, it’s hard to know how to respond to this.
This is the sort of thing professors of religion are dealing with over here in North America, where conservative evangelicalism is quite strong.
It’s not fair; the astronomy professors don’t have to deal with flat-earth fundamentalists.