Jesus does not owe knowledge about him to mainline Christianity though there are seminaries strewn about and churches still hold services. Schweitzer was an eminent scholar until he moved to Gabon and became a doctor to the Gabonese. He gave up a scholarship after writing the most careful analysis of Jesus that has appeared before or since. His conclusion was that Christ would remain forever unknown. We are talking about the Jesus of history.

Answers regarding Jesus continue to have global currency but they are coming from anywhere but the shrinking center of Christendom itself.

Today I shall focus on but two, one ambiguous and the other simply outlandish. Let's start with the most absurd evocation because it shows how the world has changed.

The 'most popular' ploy

You are too young to remember when the Beatles got in trouble because one of their members said they were more popular than Jesus. That is a matter of debate. But it was a sign that Christian thinkers and leaders would no longer command the media. The few household names of my callow youth as a religious journalist are now in archival oblivion.

The most popular existing Christians are -- well there are simply not that many and they are not really known for their thinking but because they are personalities related to other fields.

How Jesus surfaces today

Today the man of Nazareth surfaces in items like the following.

The Alabama Senate election is in a shambles this morning because of how Mr. Moore, the candidate, is now under the shade of a monster accusation, further amplified by a theological conjecture as crazy as everything else Trump-related. It is now being suggested that anything Moore did at age 32 to a 14-year-old girl was OK.

After all, Joseph said to be the father of the immaculately-born son of a virgin, was much older than Mary.

The logic of this is to suggest that Jesus was actually sired by Joseph who was most probably a child molester. Because of the distinguished nature of Mary's offspring, this molestation hint is irrelevant. So absurd is this entire episode that it is included here merely to underline the crazed nature of things just now.

Dylan's theology

Bob Dylan has the capacity to rise above most of the words that are written about him. He had, it is recounted, a religious experience in which Jesus appeared to him.

Now, this seems to me the most real of events when you compare it with the conjectures related to Mr. Moore. It is completely credible that Dylan was given a vision of Jesus. All of us can and do have visions of one sort or another. Their reality is tangible. Their meaning is entirely subjective even if their subject is, like Jesus, universal.

It turns out that Dylan's God is not really vengeful. If you listen to his music in its entirety a far more nuanced vision emerges.