While Mainline Protestant denominations attempt to figure out what it means to be welcoming as if that’s what is keeping people from their door, I contend that nearly every denomination one can name is avoiding the fact that a strikingly clear picture of Jesus has been emerging from the desert. And he looks and sounds nothing like the man we’ve been hearing about from American pulpits since 1620.
The Jesus that emerged from over 200 years of archaeological discovery, as well as historical, biblical and linguistic scholarship is at odds with what a lot of our grandfathers and mothers and priests and preachers taught us. That is, in my opinion, at the very heart of the loss of credibility and butts in seats for modern Christianity.
Some of the discrepancies are painful. For instance, the depiction of Jesus that emerged from jars buried in the sand, and history that was always available to religious leaders but was ignored for centuries would clearly take issue with how Jesus is portrayed in the Gospel of John, (starting with the fact that we call it “John”, as if it was actually written by a disciple). As we will hear all through Holy Week, if we’re listening, John’s gospel is anti-Semitic, anti-Jew through and through. It was written assuming that Christians had forgotten that Jesus was a Jew and would share the disgust of Jews.
As a point of historical fact, the Church, literally 8 years after becoming the official Church and gaining that capital C began its first slaughter of Jews using the testimony of Helen, mother of Constantine, and the gospel they attributed to the Gospel of John as the excuse to begin 1600 years of murder of Jews, culminating in Auschwitz, culminating in Charlottesville two years ago.
That slaughter would be an absurd tragedy to the historical Jesus as well as the Jesus described in any of the three Synoptic Gospels. But is still a historical fact.
The Jesus that lived was an apocalypticist. He was a Jew who preached to Jews with rare and pointed exception. He understood that Roman Occupation meant the utter end of his people; and lo, he was dead right. Roman Legions burned Jerusalem and its temple to the ground and slaughtered its inhabitants. That slaughter ended in the infamous mass suicide atop Masada. Rome, Empire wiped out the Jewish nature of Christianity and left Paul’s Greek side, which the Book of Acts itself admits, was suspect to Jerusalem Church.
The Jesus you meet in my classroom on Tuesday nights is the Jesus who lived 2000 years ago and we explore modern proclamation from the living Jesuses who still speak like him today.
Jesus was a politician who fought the corporate, greed-driven takeover of his God-centric country by the most insatiable global hegemony on the planet. That should sound familiar. He debated publically the educated religious and wealthy elite of his country on philosophy and faith; pointing out what is God-thought and what is temporal blunder, greed, lust or ambition. When the religious elite chose keeping jobs and enjoying the pay raise over with wisdom of their faith and service to their people, his people, he started his own ministry.
Some of the rest we know, sort of.
But here’s something everyone should know. When our parents told us that politics and religion weren’t topics for polite conversation they weren’t thinking like the living Jesus.
Politics and philosophy was literally Jesus’ profession. That’s what a Rabbi or Pharisee was: a lawyer per se whose expertise is religion and the social order in a theocratic society. Priests tend fires and funerals. Pharisees argue philosophy and holy writ.
In response to military occupation, Jesus, the Pharisee and former refugee of Rome fought, argued, taught and reminded his flock of what it means to be Jewish, soul-wise. Step one: fight empire for all it’s worth, as always. But know that Love throws a wrench in the Empire machine like no army can.
The Gospel of John tells us that the Jews were the problem.
I believe the only future Christianity can have is through reuniting itself with the Jesus who actually lived. In order to do so we must divorce ourselves of 1600 years of bad religion beginning with turning Jesus from Jew to Greek then murdering millions of Jews and anyone else we didn’t like for the next 1600 years, all of it justified by being Christian. Then there’s 300 years of slavery and torture by good Presbyterians and Baptists and such.
Easter is a good time to get right with actual Jesus.
—April 10, 2019
These are exciting times. What Christians believe about God has been an example of flux for 2000 years, but everyone seems to feel the sand shifting beneath their feet. The Bible conveys the spiritual evolution of man from the dawn of the Bronze Age to the height of Roman Empire; the only constant being the eternal orthodox belief that a God who loves us resides somewhere we cannot see. In the wave patter of history, the world’s faithful are, once again, asking hard questions about God. What we are witnessing is the end of the fourth, roughly 500-year, cycle; the end of Luther’s age. The wide but shallow pond we all stand in has been dubbed Post-Modernism. The specifically Christian bubble of this Venn diagram has been called Post-Protestantism for practical reasons. Progressive Emergent Christians are on the move from dividing themselves up by creed and doctrine, to joining streams of people intent on palpably experiencing Grace.
Emergent Christianity began with Emerging Christianity with the rise of Pentecostalism in Southern California; although such experiential, immersive behavior can be traced to Ann Hutchinson of Massachusetts in the 17th Century, back through Frances of Assisi, through the Desert Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd Century. In other words, there’s nothing new here. What is so exciting is that the paradigm within which the future religion will operate is being written as we speak, literally, by us as we begin to immerse ourselves in discussions about who we are and whence our wisdom will come. It is also the type of discussion had every Tuesday evening in the Annex from 6:30 pm to mental exhaustion.
Join us for a preview of Christianity’s future.
All are welcome