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…
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.