Manipulation, threats of divine retribution, the micromanaging of people’s lives and morality, judgmentalism, paranoid insecurities, obnoxious self-righteousness: we can lay all these crimes at the feet of many of Christianity’s proponents, from the Roman Curia to the most protesting of Protestants. Yet, all of these are mere symptoms of a deeper illness. As Jesus said, the real sickness is hypocrisy.
Much of Christianity (and its leaders, I might add) is more concerned with protecting its position and power than caring for people. As such, it suffers from a crisis of credibility: it offers a false image of the God it represents. Granted, we can bring our individual and collective beliefs and practices under the lordship of Christ, and we who call ourselves Christians should do exactly that. But we must be quick to accept that even something we label “Christian” or “Christianity,” if it is not submissive to the words and ways of Christ, must be recognized for what it is: a damnable lie. Even Christianity can become idolatry.
Again, Jesus came to reform nothing. He came to set the world on fire. This realization, that following Jesus and practicing Christianity are not always identical, turns up the heat on those of us who have done our religion’s heavy lifting over the years. But when confronted by this Jesus, are we willing to change our conclusions about faith, about what it means to be Christian, about what it means to be “saved,” about most everything we have built our lives around and upon? Are we willing to change our minds? If we cannot change our minds, we cannot change anything.
Change is hard, especially for Christians. We are about as inflexible a species as they come. Certainly, many of the faithful are all too happy with this assessment, equating rigidity with orthodoxy. I’m not so sure about that.
Facing truths that do not fit into the framework of our truth, our “biblical worldview,” is nothing new, not in Jesus’ or Galileo’s day, and not in our own. What do we do when we encounter such truth? Typically, we reject it. We refuse all things that do not suit our perspective, labeling it sacrilege, just as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day did. Do not misunderstand me. I am not one who thinks that one truth is as good as another as long as sincerity is involved. I define truth not as a bullet list of talking points, drafted and adopted statements, or even age-old creeds. Truth is a person, Jesus, and we must pursue him.
Still, most of us in the Jesus camp tend to think that truth is locked in a dusty footlocker and stuffed underneath the church altar. It is a fixed, hard as stone list of propositions without adjustment, no matter what Galileo’s telescope or anybody else’s research says.
Launch into an examination of all that is locked away in that musty church locker and you might get accosted by the establishment. Start assailing the flawless truths of your church and you may find yourself seated next to Galileo at a heresy trial or next to Jesus at a Pharisaic dinner of inquisition. But do not be afraid. Truth can take it, at least those truths worth holding on to. Anything that cannot take it should be discarded anyway.
By the way, after this dual encounter with his nation’s religious leaders, we never find Jesus attending the synagogue services again. Never.
Who could blame him?
Wow! The guy is too honest, isn't he? I especially like this line: "I define truth not as a bullet list of talking points, drafted and adopted statements, or even age-old creeds. Truth is a person, Jesus, and we must pursue him." That sums up my theology very well; Jesus has to be the center of everything we do.