...if Jesus isn't a symbol WHAT is he?
Assuming this isn't a rhetorical question, the Jesus that actually lived appears to have been a Jewish apocalyptic preacher who taught that the world was about to come to an end and that everyone should drop out of society and form a community to get ready for the end. I don't think it's too cynical to point out that people who do this today aren't met with a worshipful attitude generally. He also taught pacifism (why fight when god is on your side?) and the virtues of being poor and downtrodden (probably because all his followers were poor and downtrodden).
After his brutal death his life and teachings were mythologized and he became in absentia the founder of a new religion that spread enough to undermine the Roman Empire and create a Dark Age that lasted damn near a thousand years. Only after centuries of bloody struggle have we managed to pry the fingers of his followers off the throat of western civilization. A struggle that continues today. Admittedly members of the church rarely look at it from this perspective.
I don't think Jesus symbolized anything. He and his beliefs were products of a time and a place and we should take whatever good we can find from them and ditch the rest. You don't need a lot of hoodoo to feel compassion and love for others. But now I begin to preach, sorry.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter