Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hating Jesus

The Huffington Post recently published a piece "Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus" by California professors Phil Zuckerman and Dan Cady; they write that "White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture."

I don't have any reason to believe that they write from an avowed Christian perspective, but they have it right. And here's why: Much of the American evangelical world is focused more on "pie in the sky" and that a "personal relationship with Jesus" doesn't really change their lives all that much. And as much as we talk about "magnifying" and "glorifying" Him, the truth is that we don't spend all that much energy, let alone thought, on obeying Him. In fact, I would say that a lot of us appreciate His "saving grace" but refuse to accept Him as absolute, unconditional LORD.

An insult? Maybe. But if Jesus truly were LORD of our lives there are some things we wouldn't do. First, our mission would be focused not on changing the culture around us so that we can live in it (and hope to avoid spiritual warfare in the process). Fewer of us would live in the country or the suburbs, realizing that we truly need to be "salt" and "light" in the very places that need a true Gospel witness. We wouldn't be concerned with such inconsequential things as property values and being in the "right" neighborhood. We wouldn't have all these independent mega-churches with no accountability to any larger body. We wouldn't have so many racists in our ranks, and we wouldn't complain about "persecution" from the world. (Indeed, most of what we call "persecution" we actually provoke through our own arrogance.) Above all, Jesus calls us to sacrifice for His Kingdom, which runs counter to our culture.

Whether you agree or not with the professors' interpretation of what Jesus taught, much of evangelical Christianity has completely missed the intent of Jesus' Gospel: Reconciliation -- not only with God through the cross of Christ but also with each other. It's not just about "personal salvation" or "personal holiness"; we're "saved" as part of a larger Body to do work that bears witness to His reign, now and in the future. The way we relate to each other should be different. The way we look at the world should be "But for the grace of God ... " But we often end up as Pharisees, poring over the Scriptures basically to buttress our own prejudices. No wonder we as a church are weak.

I don't think that it's any coincidence that, spiritually speaking, the strongest church we've ever had in this country was the African-American church in the South in the 1950s, which did all these things because, even though it didn't have (and in fact, couldn't get) the theological training that white churches did, it sought to obey God. The civil-rights movement, which came out of it, actually began as prayer and revival meetings in such churches, and at the appointed time God raised up a prophet out of Atlanta via Montgomery, Ala. named Martin Luther King Jr., who is still hated in some "Christian" circles for causing change. (But that's part of the risk -- and now virtually everyone knows that he was ultimately right.)

There's a reason that Jesus said, "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Jesus is not a value-added commodity to ensure an after-life; He is life itself. And if we evangelicals truly found and committed to that ... well, watch out.

1 comment:

Chris "Jesdisciple" said...

Just happened to see the title and got my curiosity piqued. Unusually, I'll agree - with your basic premise: We have a lot of hipocrisy, and aren't a whole lot different from everyone else (for the most part - I know a few individuals that I think are doing pretty well at this).

However, while obviously politics will be changed to some degree along with everything else (you can't get a bulls-eye on anything if you're blind) I don't agree with the implication that the change will necessarily be toward "progressive" or "liberal" policies... It might be in all different directions depending on the issue, it might be toward a consistently liberal or conservative platform, or maybe it would look more like libertarianism or communitarianism.