Saturday, September 12, 2009

Misrepresenting Jesus

I used to live in an area where there were lots of Amish people. They haven’t changed their dress for a couple hundred years. They don’t use any of the newfangled technology. And I’m not talking about ipods and computers here. I’m talking about things like cars, and electricity, and zippers. They are people to be admired for their resolve to live in their own way. But they’re also so far removed from the rest of us that they have absolutely no impact on the world. As we watch them riding by in their horse and buggy we see them as a quaint curiosity.

I have a pastor friend, Joan, who recently posed the question: Are Christians going to become the 21st century Amish? Will they become a quaint curiosity to younger generations but totally irrelevant to the lives of real people and the culture they’re living in? Some would say that we’re practically there.

A couple of guys named Kinnaman and Lyons wrote a book called: unChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity and why it matters. They conducted research with young adults, people under 30. For the most part, these aren’t people unfamiliar with church. They have been to Christian Sunday schools, and Vacation Bible Schools and camps. And what do they say about us?
+ 91% say the best word to describe Christians is “antihomosexual.” They say that Christians are known more for what they stand against than what they stand for. 91%!
+ 87% choose the word “judgmental” to describe Christians. They don’t see evidence of the love of Christ that Christians claim to have.
+ 85% say Christians are hypocritical.
They also say that Christians are all out to proselytize, to get converts. And that they are sheltered. The church is irrelevant – out of touch with reality.

This research is startling. It’s an indictment against the Christian church. We have clearly been misrepresenting Jesus to the world.

When the ELCA voted this summer to become a church that fully includes gays and lesbians in our life together, we were given an opportunity -- an opportunity to introduce people to the real Jesus. This is no time for us to be shy about it. People need to know who he really is. For too long we have allowed other Christians to speak for us in a way that has grossly misrepresented Jesus. It’s time for our voices to be heard. Let's show them who Jesus is.


Joe said...

Hello Nancy's Noodle!

I really liked Joan's FB note, too. She's always been the one to ask the hard questions, as long as I've known her. Just like you, you trouble maker. You think, therefore, you're dangerous.

Of course, you probably have a pretty good idea where I come down on the whole issue of the Church and its place in our current reality. Today I seem to be focusing on the Eucharist as the canary in the coal mine.

I remember reading in seminary about whether the Church is a Real Presence or whether it is a symbolic presence -- imaging the Holy Meal. I have to say that the Lutheran Presence (Church and Meal) is a theological presence, just the way it wants it, it seems. It's so gorged on its theology it can't even move. It is an SYMBOLIC presence where the communicant has to think about what they're eating and drinking or they're damned. It isn't a Real Presence. It's a Cerebral Presence. "The denigration of the imagination at the instigation of the Reformation".

The presence I wanted from Church was a Fresh- Baked-Loaf-of-Bread-Presence: straight from the oven warm, nourishing, appetizing, satisfying, healthy, homey eating with Jesus and each other breaking the space/time barrier.

What I got was a flat, stale, imprinted, tasteless, cold, unappetizing, uniformly produced, representation of what a living spirituality might be.

I ALWAYS went back to Hebrews 5 and was ALWAYS slapped in the face at how debate has replaced counsel, gainsay has replaced dialog, endless rehashing of hot topics (gays, evolution, abortion, the Bible, immaculate conception, physical resurrection, blah blah blah) has replaced growth in spirit, sentimentality has replaced living spirituality, anecdotal three point sermons have replaced visceral retelling of a story that could and should always be new and recognizable in our own stories.

The Church has to die, Nancy. It has to die just like Jesus died. It has to sacrifice itself as the thing (like Jesus) that no one understands and every uses to their own gain. It has to die and utter it's seven last words: "WE NEVER DID IT THAT WAY BEFORE". That is it's only hope. It can't be a fake death or an iconic death. It has to be a Real Death: close the doors, fire the clergy, dismiss the laity and we have to be the ones to nail it up. That's the only answer. Then the vigil must be held. Maybe it'll rise. Maybe it won't. That's why I had to pull the plug on my part in it. Not to save it. It needs to die. I mean, really die.

Jesus has been misrepsented from the time he was conceived until now. No one has ever understood him because their projections got in the way. He would never settle for anyone's version of him. The authentic person can never be defined or imitated. The authentic person is a process.

Church doesn't like process. It likes committees and solutions. Surprisingly, the answer has nothing to do with renewed Ministy Policies or memorializations. It has everything to do with letting it go saying, "It's finished."

I recommend anything by Jacques Ellul and a viewing of the full version of Bernstein's "MASS".

Nancy said...

Joe, You need to start your own blog, dear.

Rev. David Eck said...

Hey Nancy. I linked this post to my blog. Hope to send some readers your way. I thought the statistics were sobering, indeed.