It’s Time to Demote Jesus

If you are reading this, then I was not struck by lightening! Let me further distance myself from guilt by telling you that the title of this post is not my original idea. There, I’m safe.

Rev. Robin R. Meyers penned those words in his book, Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus. Meyers and several other modern theologians have begun to wrest Jesus from the clutches of the Church and place him along the shores of Lake Galilee. Where he belongs. Not in some high, bejeweled and mighty altar or tabernacle. Meyers says, “Strange as it sounds, we must demote Christ now and recover him as Jesus once more, if we are to enter and survive the new age that is upon us.” This ‘new age’ to which the author refers is one that he and others see erupting all across the land- the longing to follow a model rather than a deity. Deities are so yesterday, so Medieval, so old world.  Modern humans cannot relate to deities, but can relate to another human who walked the earth as they do, a person who sought the truth, and fought for dignity and compassion for others.

Jesus the Christ sits on a throne somewhere in heaven after coming to earth to do superhuman deeds.  Sounds like Superman who ‘came to earth with powers and  abilities far beyond those mortal men…’ Was God disguised as Jesus much like Superman was disguised as Clark Kent? The Christian creed seems to think so:

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven.

If Jesus came down from Heaven, then who was he? Christians say these words every Sunday in liturgies all across the land. And they finish this fantastic voyage with:

On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Fantastic. Literally. But the bishops gathered in Nicaea in the 4th century needed to make their deity more spectacular than the other, run-of-the-mill deities who were worshiped throughout the land. So they made the man who walked the sands of Galilee into the Son of God with powers and abilities far beyond mortal men.

The earlier version of a creed, the Apostles Creed removes any humanity from Jesus- any accomplishments as a man;

 Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

Meyers says of this quick biography of Jesus: “Look carefully what separates birth of Christ from his death. The world’s greatest life is reduced to a comma. Gone and rendered superfluous are the Sermon on the Mount, the maddening parables, the open table, the boundary-breaking mission to the Gentiles, the elevation of women, the touching of the untouchables—and not a word of the creed testifies to the redeeming power of unconditional love to cure and to restore.”

The Christ. The Savior. King of Kings. Lord of Lords. Only begotten son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made…

Halleluiah!

Not only that but you need to be ashamed for your sins! Yes, you! Christ had to die on the cross because of your sins! Shame on you! His blood dripping from the cross had to wash away your sins- even though you were not alive at that time. Repent and be saved! Get your ticket to Heaven.

“To save ourselves,” Meyers writes, “we will first have to save Jesus from the church—break him out of the stained-glass window in which he is frozen as a two-dimensional superhero without depth, flesh, or breath. We need to turn away from the institutional forgeries that constitute orthodoxy for millions: the blood atonement, fear-based fantasies of the afterlife, “vertical” notions of heaven and hell, selective providence based on human ignorance, and a God who pimps for us on the battlefield.”

So, dear readers, how do we do that? And more importantly, how do we ‘convert’ the fundamentalists and the Christian Right? How do we make them see that we need to follow the life, teachings and examples of Jesus the man  rather than glorifying the death, resurrection and ascension of the Christ? In other words, how do we promote Wisdom Theology rather than Salvation Theology? The former is inclusive and humane; the latter is exclusive and stingy. Salvation Theology jumps over the Beatitudes and parables to a splash-down in sacred blood atonement without noticing The People below.

‘I’ve got mine, now you get yours!’

Jesus was a socialist; Christ was a king. Jesus walked among the downtrodden and disadvantaged. Christ rides a gilded chariot. Jesus never promised that his blood would save; rather he promised that following his example would save them from their ego-centric humanity. Christ will swoop down one day and carry off the ‘faithful and the saved’ to Heaven where they can live happily forever after. Jesus asks us to live our lives happily by thoughtfully caring for one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German, Lutheran theologian who was hung by the Nazis, called fellow Christians to a commitment to social justice and ideas about “religionless Christianity.”  Yes, religionless. After all, Jesus and his followers did not need a religion nor a church to learn and practice social justice. Their message was co-opted by a Roman general and a group of righteous bishops.  It was chopped up, ground and distilled into a hierarchial body of priests and bishops who, alone, knew what the Christ was all about. And they made him into God the Almighty- the God who demanded obedience, rules, repentance and forgiveness. A package deal befitting the priestly class. Fall on your knees! Repent! We will save you.

Amen.

 

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9 thoughts on “It’s Time to Demote Jesus

  1. My first comment is, where are you going with this?
    My second is, isn’t it still religion? And, related to this
    question, is western man/woman still so depraved that
    there is still a need for a “moral authority” for men/women
    to emulate ? Are you and Meyers saying that there still needs
    to be a type of moral hierarchy to save man from himself?

    And, finally, have you kept aware to the tremendous growth in
    the congregation of Joel Osteen? He is not a tele-eveangilist in
    the usual way. He rarely talks about sin, redemption, the blood of
    Christ, grace, salvation, and the like…He seems to be more along
    the line that you write of Myers, emphasizing the social concepts
    of Jesus. Over 10,000 come to his weekly service in Houston. Is this the type of religion that Meyers is suggesting?

    1. Meyers talked about him but I can’t remember what he said. I’ll need to check when I have more time. Right now my time for this is very limited.

  2. I don’t know the depth of this question, M_R, but what are the
    real spoken words of Jesus? It’ s not the words attributed to him by man, but his own actural words? Some where I read that it is
    actually very few. Is there a way to search for it?

    1. There was a gathering some years ago called, I think, the Jesus Institute which attempted to distill his words. You might google that.

  3. OMG, i just did a google search on the words of Jesus Christ and came up with 55 MILLION sites! However, there is one site that
    issued a study by biblical scholars in the early 1990s that shows there are few places in the New Testament where one can accept most of the words attributed to Jesus. Most of the words are
    “man made.”

      1. Yes, I found it right off…20 years is hard to remember out of hat anymore, lol…Didnt even have a computer then, lol…must have read it in the paper. It is interisting to note that Mark was not an apostle, but rather a disciple of Paul and took a lot of his gospels from what Paul told him…..

  4. Finally had a chance to read your post. Wow. I’m always telling people that the Bible wasn’t written by “God”, but it contains some great fables*. And I’m more in line with the Jews who think Jesus was just a prophet. But doesn’t it just kill you that people will quote the damn Bible, then turn around and act like they’ve never even read it?

    * One of the fables I’m always quoting is the one about the grape farmer dealing with the pickers bitching about the differences in pay. Another one I like relates to how you treat others.

    1. The grape-pickers parable, in my interpretation, is a lesson that says that it does not matter when a person decides to bury his/her ego.

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