I got to the point of looking at Christianity and the Bible
as more of a painting than as a photograph . . . that there
were people who had this powerful experience with something bigger than themselves, and that this was their
painting of it; this was how they articulated and painted
that experience. But it wasn’t a photograph. And there
were other groups of people in other parts of the world
that had this other powerful experience with something
bigger than themselves and they painted their picture
of it. And, you know, we might have the same kind of
experience, or have an experience with the same thing,
and paint two very di=erent pictures of it.
TERRY: A while back I was reading Albert Schweitzer’s
book on historical Jesus. Do you see Jesus as a historical
figure in terms of leadership?
TIM: Yeah, I do view him as an example of a revolutionary leader.
TIM: Well, he was saying very challenging things both to
the people who were following him and to the dominant
culture at the time. And it led to some radical changes
in the way people were living and the way people were
TERRY: What would you view as the most radical of his
TIM: Turning the other cheek, I think, is one extremely
ONCE I REALIZED THAT THERE
WAS NO HOPE IN ANY SORT OF
NORMAL FUTURE — OF A CAREER
AND A RETIREMENT AND ALL THAT
STUFF— I REALIZED THAT I HAVE
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO LOSE
BY FIGHTING BACK.
radical thing. That, I think, is his powerful message
about civil disobedience. And the other, which might be
even more radical, is letting go of material wealth. That’s
so radical that Christians today still can’t talk about it. I
mean, he said it’s easier to pass a camel through the eye
of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. And
he told his followers to drop what they had, to let go of
their jobs, to let go of their material possessions. Even
let go of their families. If they wanted to follow him, they
had to let go of everything they were holding onto, all the
things that brought them security in life. They had to be
insecure. That’s pretty radical.
TERRY: And when you look at religious leaders, when
you look at St. Francis—certainly he came to that recognition. When you look at Gandhi, certainly. Thoreau
was advocating simplicity. And if you look at those two
tenets you just brought up, moving from the Old Testament “eye for an eye” to the New Testament’s teachings
of Christ o=ering the alternative action of “turning the
other cheek,” you see that this idea of letting go of materialism is tied to charity and love. These are two tenets
that you address frequently in your speaking, right?
TERRY: Yesterday, weren’t you saying that rich people
don’t make great activists?
TIM: Yeah. In front of a very wealthy audience.
TERRY: But people understood what you were saying. I
mean, we’re all privileged, right? Especially as predominantly white Americans sitting in a film festival in Telluride, Colorado.
TIM: Yeah. I also think that’s why we’re bad activists.
That’s why the climate movement is weaker in this
country than in the rest of the world. Because we have
more stu=. We have much higher levels of consumption, and that’s how people have been oppressed in this
country, through comfort. We’ve been oppressed by consumerism. By believing that we have so much to lose.
TERRY: In John de Graaf’s film Affluenza, you see what
a methodical, slow process that really was to turn American culture into a culture of debt through consumption.