I’m writing to my fellow Christians here. Let me clarify that. I’m writing to all people who claim the label of Christian.
We need to talk. Because I think there’s some confusion going on. Everyone is claiming to follow Jesus, but I’m not convinced that we all mean the same person. I need some clarification because I keep seeing things said and done in the name of Jesus that seem odd, out of alignment with Jesus, and downright antithetical to Jesus.
I just don’t recognize the Jesus that some of you are following.
Some of you have this idea that there’s a white patriotic American Jesus who is all about material comfort, talks a lot about individual morality (with a heavy focus on sex), and is quite comfortable with violence and the means of violence. This Jesus seems to believe in the ends justifying the means, that only the strong survive, and that might makes right. This Jesus is all about blaming people, scapegoating, and putting people into categories of us and them. This Jesus not only doesn’t welcome strangers, but calls on followers to push them away because they are dangerous and we should be afraid of them. This Jesus gives us ammunition to protect our privileges and vested interests. This Jesus has no problem with a schizoid nature of saying one thing and then having people doing the exact opposite of that thing.
That’s what I take away from conversations and what I see and hear from people who adhere to that Jesus. I don’t recognize that Jesus though. I’m not sure where he came from. In fact, I don’t believe that Jesus ever existed. I haven’t seen any evidence to show me that he did. That’s not a Jesus that I’m interested in following. He sounds like a jerk actually. He certainly doesn’t sound like someone who cares about most people, unless they are part of the in crowd – those few selected folks who fit the criteria for who a “good” Christian is. That Jesus and his message sound an awful lot like all the empires the world has ever known – with a heavy focus on compliance, authoritarianism, control, and using violence to get what he wants. Sorry, (not sorry), but I’m no interested in that Jesus.
The Jesus I recognize and try to follow as best I can, is a brown skin Middle Eastern Jew who lived without rights and freedoms under the oppressive regime of the Roman Empire who had control over the religious authorities of the time to ensure that the abusive and exploitive status quo would continue. He’s the Jesus that hung out with the outcast and outsiders, healing people, casting out demons, and proclaiming the kingdom of God – a new way of being and being in community with one another. The Jesus who empowers people and shared a message that so terrified those in power that they put him to death, not because he was a nice guy, but because he was a threat to the status quo. The Jesus who gave people hope and a vision for the future. The Jesus who knew that the means are as important as the ends. The Jesus who knew that if we don’t value the weak, then no one has value. The Jesus who made faith more than just private practice, but having an impact on the whole of the community. The Jesus who calls on followers to die to self, our privileges and vested interests. The Jesus who calls on us to be transformed. That’s the Jesus I follow.
Maybe it’s time for Christianity to have a “come to Jesus” moment with itself. Splintering within a religion/denomination is not uncommon. Maybe it’s time for it to happen again – for followers of each Jesus to acknowledge which Jesus we actually follow, be honest about it, and go our separate ways, instead of pretending that we are worshipping the same Jesus. Because clearly, we aren’t. All I’m asking for is some honesty in this. But I won’t hold my breathe on that. The first Jesus doesn’t seem to be all that interested in honesty. He’s more concerned with conquering and controlling.
While the pipe dream of Christianity being honest with itself will probably not happen, here’s what I know and what I’ll do. I’ll continue to follow the Jesus I talked about. I’ll continue to oppose the other Jesus. There isn’t room for two Jesuses – especially two that are antithetical to each other. And I don’t say this to mean that I have all the answers – I don’t. At the very least I know that we need a common starting point and that starting point has to be founded in Jesus. The challenge that we face, Christianity, is we don’t have an agreement on which Jesus we are basing our faith on. And that’s a serious problem.
Amen. Preach it! Brutha!