The capstone to most college degrees, especially the writing intensive ones, is the thesis. As a history major, writing is my chief academic activity, and come fall 2017 I will be enrolled in the Senior Seminar Course for history majors. At the time of writing this (August 2017), Preliminary research for my thesis has been ongoing during the past several months, and I’ve come to believe that documenting the process is beneficial. I will post a series of articles between now and the end of the year to do exactly that.
Before disclosing the subject of my thesis, allow me to explain why several common (one might say cliché) topics were bypassed while reaching my conclusion.
I have been a self-professed history major since 2011 despite, until spring of 2016, attending a community college without a history option. In lieu of history, I majored in political science, which informed and fueled my political activism at the time. I remained politically active, even after unofficially changing my program to history. Bottom line, I have studied far more history than political science to date. At the time, I considered it a necessary component to political science, though I later discovered that a minority view, as most political science majors didn’t study history at all, or even economics. Rather, most studied public policy and ideology.
I was the errant member of the student body reading the work of historians to form and validate my political positions. As a conservative, I was committed to finding solutions based on historical precedent. My liberal classmates favored pseudo-economic ideas to rationalize the expansion of pet entitlement program. During class discussions I cited historians, while classmates quoted journalists writing for popular political journals as backing for their ad hominem assertions. Having tired of their emotional appeals, I defected. Political science was not for me — at least not as being practiced in academia — though political activism certainly was.
My tenure as a political activist had stretched to nearly eight years, volunteering for political campaigns on federal, state and local levels, as well as membership in the local chapter of the Republican Party’s central committee, and eventually becoming president my of Community College’s chapter of College Republicans. When not engaged in formal political activism, I engaged in informal political activism, such as online debates and discussions with members of student government. Political activism came to an end for me shortly after transferring to a four-year university. After Donald Trump secured the Republican Party’s nomination in April 2016, I stepped back from political activism and politics in general, while staying apprised of government and electoral politics, limiting my involvement to monitoring election news, and sharing political memes from a litany of Libertarian Facebook groups.
A proud American, I see value in national identities and deem it essential to study one’s own national history, accepting the good and the bad. In retrospect, it’s obvious there were political motivations behind my embrace of American history. In terms of fact and reason, history trumped everything, yet it’s inability to sway people’s attitudes and opinions is why I abandoned political science and, eventually, political activism. After walking away from the political arena, I found myself unburdened in many ways, including the need to constantly study American history. Though still passionate about it, I’ve concluded it is not very useful to my daily life or current interests. There is something burning far more brightly on my interest scale: The Fringe.
What do I mean by The Fringe? Those who have — or at least experiment with — fresh ideas. I am intellectually attracted to those who have something different to say. When everyone else is saying X, I’m naturally drawn to those who are saying Y. Indeed, my attraction to The Fringe has been present for some time. Does that make me a contrarian? Possibly. I won’t deny the attraction that exists for being intellectually edgy, but it’s not what it seems on the surface. What fascinates me about The Fringe is completely different conclusions drawn from the same information everyone else has access to. My beliefs do not change to adhere to whatever Fringe idea has my attention at the time. Rather, my fascination with Fringe ideas has more in common with being a Game of Thrones fan than a convert to a new ideology.
While politically active, I became a follower of George Friedman of Stratfor after reading The Next 100 Years. His views on China were exhilarating. While economists and media outlets were fixated on China superseding U.S. economic leadership and creating an inevitable military showdown, Friedman posits that China is more likely to politically fracture than go to war with the United States. Historical argument was used to justify his forecast, which comported with my own belief that history is the most accurate guide to future events. In essence, past is prologue. In a similar vein, studying history while others studied public policy and sociology, was another venture into The Fringe. Hence, the subject of my thesis: I should note that the Christ Myth Theory, which I’ll explain momentarily, was not my first choice.
Initially, I had planned a thesis on the Saarbruecken School, a group of revisionist historians who question the traditional narrative for the origins of Islam. Some believe that the Prophet Muhammad never existed, while others believe he existed, though not as typically portrayed. The problem: I don’t have a firm position on that issue, even though I was drawn to the topic for the same reason I was drawn to my final choice; i.e., no one was thinking or talking about it. The biggest problem with the Saarbruecken School is the lack of translated primary sources, because most of the research is being done in German, Dutch and French. It has not caught on in English-speaking countries, though that will not deter me from researching it, and will likely write something or produce a video on it in the future. I ultimately chose the Christ Myth Theory because of the fascination factor, and because there is a much larger pool of English-language sources available.
The basic premise of the Christ Myth Theory is that there are a number of people who question whether Jesus Christ existed as a historical character. Whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was the immaculately conceived son of God, or if God even exists, has been disputed for centuries and is something historians and scientists cannot prove or disprove. However, it has been the consensus among historians and academics in general that Jesus did exist in some capacity. The Christ Myth Theory is not accepted by the overwhelming majority of academics, and there is not one tenured New Testament historian who supports the theory.
For my thesis, I have decided not to look at the Christ Myth Theory as a hypothesis to be written in favor of or against. Rather, I am choosing to look at the subject as a movement and an intellectual history, analyzing its evolution and impact on scholarship and popular culture. I am fascinated by how this theory — which has almost zero academic support, and has had no new arguments or evidence surface in a century — somehow continue to gain adherents. I have my own hypothesis, but further research is necessary. My senior thesis paper will elucidate.