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Bernard Shaw's Preface to Androcles and the Lion

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This etext was produced by Eve Sobol, South Bend, Indiana, USA

PREFACE TO ANDROCLES AND THE LION: ON THE PROSPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY

BERNARD SHAW

1912

CONTENTS:

Why not give Christianity a Trial? Why Jesus more than Another? Was Jesus a Coward? Was Jesus a Martyr? The Gospels without Prejudice The Gospels now unintelligible to Novices Worldliness of the Majority Religion of the Minority. Salvationism The Difference between Atonement and Punishment Salvation at first a Class Privilege; and the Remedy Retrospective Atonement; and the Expectation of the Redeemer Completion of the Scheme by Luther and Calvin John Barleycorn Looking for the End of the World The Honor of Divine Parentage

MATTHEW The Annunciation: the Massacre: the Flight John the Baptist Jesus joins the Baptists The Savage John and the Civilized Jesus Jesus not a Proselytist The Teachings of Jesus The Miracles Matthew imputes Bigotry to Jesus The Great Change Jerusalem and the Mystical Sacrifice Not this Man but Barabbas The Resurrection Date of Matthew's Narrative Class Type of Matthew's Jesus

MARK The Women Disciples and the Ascension

LUKE Luke the Literary Artist The Charm of Luke's Narrative The Touch of Parisian Romance Waiting for the Messiah

JOHN A New Story and a New Character John the Immortal Eye Witness The Peculiar Theology of Jesus John agreed as to the Trial and Crucifixion Credibility of the Gospels Fashions of Belief Credibility and Truth Christian Iconolatry and the Peril of the Iconoclast The Alternative to Barabbas The Reduction to Modern Practice of Christianity Modern Communism Redistribution Shall He Who Makes, Own? Labor Time The Dream of Distribution According to Merit Vital Distribution Equal Distribution The Captain and the Cabin Boy The Political and Biological Objections to Inequality Jesus as Economist Jesus as Biologist Money the Midwife of Scientific Communism Judge Not Limits to Free Will Jesus on Marriage and the Family Why Jesus did not Marry Inconsistency of the Sex Instinct For Better for Worse The Remedy The Case for Marriage Celibacy no Remedy After the Crucifixion The Vindictive Miracles and the Stoning of Stephen Confusion of Christendom Secret of Paul's Success Paul's Qualities Acts of the Apostles The Controversies on Baptism and Transubstantiation The Alternative Christs Credulity no Criterion Belief in Personal Immortality no Criterion The Secular View Natural, not Rational, therefore Inevitable "The Higher Criticism" The Perils of Salvationism The Importance of Hell in the Salvation Scheme The Right to refuse Atonement The Teaching of Christianity Christianity and the Empire

PREFACE ON THE PROSPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY

WHY NOT GIVE CHRISTIANITY A TRIAL?

The question seems a hopeless one after 2000 years of resolute adherence to the old cry of "Not this man, but Barabbas." Yet it is beginning to look as if Barabbas was a failure, in spite of his strong right hand, his victories, his empires, his millions of money, and his moralities and churches and political constitutions. "This man" has not been a failure yet; for nobody has ever been sane enough to try his way. But he has had one quaint triumph. Barabbas has stolen his name and taken his cross as a standard. There is a sort of compliment in that. There is even a sort of loyalty in it, like that of the brigand who breaks every law and yet claims to be a patriotic subject of the king who makes them. We have always had a curious feeling that though we crucified Christ on a stick, he somehow managed to get hold of the right end of it, and that if we were better men we might try his plan. There have been one or two grotesque attempts at it by inadequate people, such as the Kingdom of God in Munster, which was ended by crucifixion so much more atrocious than the one on Calvary that the bishop who took the part of Annas went home and died of horror. But responsible people have never made such attempts. The moneyed, respectable, capable world has been steadily anti-Christian and Barabbasque since the crucifixion; and the specific doctrine of Jesus has not in all that time been put into political or general social practice. I am no more a Christian than Pilate was, or you, gentle reader; and yet, like Pilate, I greatly prefer Jesus to Annas and Caiaphas; and I am ready to admit that after contemplating the world and human nature for nearly sixty years, I see no way out of the world's misery but the way which would have been found by Christ's will if he had undertaken the work of a modern practical statesman. Pray do not at this early point lose patience with me and shut the book. I assure you I am as sceptical and scientific and modern a thinker as you will find anywhere. I grant you I know a great deal more about economics and politics than Jesus did, and can do things he could not do. I am by all Barabbasque standards a person of much better character and standing, and greater practical sense. I have no sympathy with vagabonds and talkers who try to reform society by taking men away from their regular productive work and making vagabonds and talkers of them too; and if I had been Pilate I should have recognized as plainly as he the necessity for suppressing attacks on the existing social order, however corrupt that order might be, by people with no knowledge of government and no power to construct political machinery to carry out their views, acting on the very dangerous delusion that the end of the world was at hand. I make no defence of such Christians as Savonarola and John of Leyden: they were scuttling the ship before they had learned how to build a raft; and it became necessary to throw them overboard to save the crew. I say this to set myself right with respectable society; but I must still insist that if Jesus could have worked out the practical problems of a Communist constitution, an admitted obligation to deal with crime without revenge or punishment, and a full assumption by humanity of divine responsibilities, he would have conferred an incalculable benefit on mankind, because these distinctive demands of his are now turning out to be good sense and sound economics.

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