You probably know that I have written a book entitled, An Irreligious Faith that is currently being edited and will be published soon. This book is the fruit of my 25-year search to find a church that is that is relevant in today’s culture, truly compassionate toward outsiders and those on the fringes of acceptability, and real, not just a show and programs.
I have looked at it the issue from the inside-out and the outside-in. I have been happily immersed up to my eyeballs in church life and also have pushed away to get a panoramic view. In the book, I unfold my story, “An Irreligious Journey.” I reveal the counter intuitive, but compelling ways of Jesus, “An Irreligious Jesus.” I suggest some areas where the church must make changes to be more like Jesus, “An Irreligious Church.” Lastly, I focus on my companions who refuse to outsource their spiritual expression to an institution, preferring to simply live life loving Jesus and others in “An Irreligious Life.”
An Irreligious Faith is the culmination of my life’s work. I believe it will validate and encourage some people who feel very lonely on the spiritual quest. So, I want to go ahead and begin getting it into the hands of people now. I am going to be giving away a big chunk of the book, the section entitled, “An Irreligious Jesus: Surprised by his Humanity.”
Here is introduction to the section.
An Irreligious Jesus: Surprised by his Humanity
“Give up your good Christian life and follow Jesus.” – Garrison Keillor
Sadly, when I was a pastor, the huge differences between Jesus and the church were not a big deal to me. Sure, I could get excited preaching about Jesus’ compassion or how he was counter-cultural, but I somehow missed the fact that church was so different from him or else I excused the differences as necessary accommodations to the times or the need to have a sustainable business model. Yet, these differences are so pronounced that people who have very little association with the faith can easily see them and justifiably point a figure of blame at a church that doesn’t look much like Jesus.
Christians have been masters at losing their focus. The simple teachings of Jesus have been replaced with a compulsion to make God manageable through systematic theology, to make our life run smoothly (hence, all of the “how to” sermons), to have carefully crafted services that would convince guests we are cool, to leverage our numbers into political power, and to build a large, successful organization.
All through those years of being in church, I learned a lot about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, and very little about the years in between, i.e., his life. This pattern parallels the fact that I learned a lot about what I was supposed to believe and little about how to live in the real world.
In Bible College, my professors spiritualized some of the most important things about his life, robbing them of their purest, simplest meaning. They taught that everything, especially his healings and miracles were signs to prove he was the Messiah and creator who had power over disease, demons, and nature. I got the impression that they did not want anybody thinking that Jesus did something as a compassionate response to human need, because that would sound too much like the “Social Gospel,” a movement that focuses more upon improving conditions on earth. That oddly seemed be like the worse form of evil to these fundamentalists who prided themselves on being concerned with the truly spiritual issues of where one was spending eternity, how to correctly understand the Bible, and living a life they regarded as separate from the sinfulness of the world. Even though they thought of themselves as literalists, when Jesus did something that that did not fit their theology; they found ways to explain it away.
But Jesus is God and more than anyone or anything he showed us what God is like. So, we should take the biblical accounts of Jesus life on face value. Granted they may also have prophetical significance, but there is meaning in his very actions.
Jesus surprised people and almost never met their expectations. He made a lot of people mad and a lot of other people glad. After all, he had an authority problem and associated with outcasts.