When I finally watched the Fox News interview of Reza Aslan by Lauren Green, it just about lived up to the hype. As readers may know, this hostile interview is credited with landing Zealot, Aslan's new study of Jesus, on the non-fiction bestseller lists. You can find the interview all over the place now, but this copy was uploaded by IcbmNEWS, who calls it the "Stupidest Interview Ever."
Green can't get past the idea that Aslan must take an adversarial stance toward Christ and/or Christianity. While Aslan's Muslim faith is the most obvious reason for her suspicion, at heart she's refighting the old battle within Christianity against scholars committed to presenting "the historic Jesus" as far as he can be revealed from surviving evidence. From what I've read, there doesn't seem to be much new in Aslan's interpretation. As the title tips off, he sees Jesus primarily as a political rebel, arguing that he wouldn't have been crucified otherwise. He argues that the Two Thieves, as "bandits," were probably rebels as well. To the extent that Aslan argues that the canonical Gospels misrepresent Jesus's actual mission, a fundamentalist backlash was inevitable. You either affirm that Jesus was Son of God, the redeemer of sin, etc., or you're the enemy. Aslan would have received essentially the same treatment had he been an atheist, a Hindu, or even a more liberal and less literal-minded Christian.
The question to ask now is: who's buying this book? Is it the people who saw the interview second-hand or, against the odds, is it the original Fox News audience left curious about what Aslan actually believes? Are the prospective readers the same "seekers" who buy stuff like the Gospel of Judas, or do some of them imagine that they're sticking it to Fox News by putting money in Aslan's pocket? I must admit that I'm now curious about Zealot, if only to see if Aslan has actually made an original contribution to Jesus scholarship. Whether he has or not, he was probably crazy to do this interview -- like a fox.