Friday, December 11, 2015

Losing My Religion to Join the Revolution


Greg Boyd begins his The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution this way:

"Once upon a time I embraced the Christian religion. Frankly, I wasn't very good at it. Religion just isn't my thing. For a while I felt like a failure. Some religious folk consigned me to the fire. But over time I've come to see my religious failure as a tremendous blessing. Because when I lost my religion, I discovered a beautiful revolution. This may surprise or even offend you, but Jesus is not the founder of the Christian religion." (K 61-68)

Indeed. Greg's excellent book reflects a small but powerful Jesus Movement made up of people who are leaving churches that are more "Christian-religious" than "Real Jesus."

Way back in the 1970s, when I was found by Jesus, the word was that Christianity was not a "religion." I even wrote a song about this. I was totally taken by Jesus, and still am. Want Jesus? Begin with the Gospels. You'll see Jesus battling against relIgion, since the religious spirit shuts the door to the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God. This is the hermeneutical key to understanding the Real Jesus. Greg says: "What Jesus was about had nothing to do with being religious. Read the Gospels! He partied with the worst of sinners and outraged the religious. This is what got him crucified. What Jesus was about as starting a revolution. He called this revolution "the Kingdom of God." (K 68-77)

What does Christianity-as-religion look like? In America, it looks like America. It wears the garment of prevailing culture. There is a "radical contradiction between the lifestyle Jesus calls his followers to embrace, on the one hand, and the typical American lifestyle." To do that is not incarnational (like Jesus) but is acquiescent. Incarnational Jesus-living lives in culture while revolting against un-Jesus aspects of culture, thereby transforming culture. (For more on this see H.Richard Niebuhr's classic Christ and Culture.) 

What does the Kingdom of God look like? Greg says: it looks like Jesus.

He writes: "It struck me that the Church in America largely shares - even celebrates - the typical American lifestyle. Research confirms that the values of Americans who profess faith in Christ are largely indistinguishable from the values of those Americans who do not. How could this be if the Church is God's man "vehicle of salvation?"" (K 100-118)

When I was working as a campus minister at Michigan State University I was told about a certain notorious atheistic student who was creating chaos in the lives of some Christians. The atheist was informed that he should meet with me. He agreed, as did I, and we met. He grew up in a "Christian" environment and came to reject it. I asked him about what this looked like. As he described the Christianity he left I began to think, "The Christianity you left wasn't Christianity at all. You left a religion that, as far as I can tell, looks and sounds little like Jesus. So the "Christianity" you are now attacking isn't the real thing." 

Had he been exposed to the beautiful revolution I wonder if he would have left? How sad it is to see deconverted religious Christians attacking a 19th-century fundamentalist-religious American Jesus, or a 21st-century fog machine Entertainment Jesus, or the Jesus of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

A lifetime of studying the Gospels have convinced me even more what I discovered back in the 70s; viz., that Jesus didn't come to earth to start a religion. That was when I lost my religion to join the Revolution.