Monday, February 1, 2010

Revolutionary Jesus

I want to be honest, and yet it's so hard for me to say this, like this, so publicly; this heresy. But I'm going to do it anyway, because I don't think I'm alone, because it's part of my process and because the very idea that I don't want to do something usually makes me all the more inclined to push through it and do it anyway, if only to say that I completed the difficult task.

I have hated Jesus.

Hated him and not just a little, but in the depths of who I am. I believed him to be an absolute FAKE. What a hoax! Man in God, on earth, to take my sins, pay the price, ascend into "heaven" to be seated at the right hand of God and someday to return to Earth and establish a perfect kingdom and rule forever. Sounds like a fable.
But the fairy tale qualities of this story were not the root of my avoidance, my anger or hostility towards this kind shepherd who's always pictured in clean, white robes and sandals, hands outstretched, red cloak around his shoulders and a peaceful expression on his tan face. Those were Sunday school images and I knew they were the fabric of imaginations. I know that still.
I couldn't know that picturesque Jesus, that man who never made a mistake, or had a personality, or told a joke. That Jesus didn't solve world hunger, heal my cancer-stricken grandmother even though she believed that He would. The Jesus that so many Christians want to follow didn't always do what he was supposed to do. And He wasn't very real, this marvelous lie, not even real to His own people; not in the churches I've visited. Not in the chancel of my own heart.
Modestly dressed women stood in worship in the sanctuary's of those churches, raised their hands in worship and then bit each other in the backs once they were out the doors, ignoring the desperate needs of other women to be loved without judgment, to talk to someone, to relate, to be free.
The suit clad men stood alongside their wives, looking dignified, sometimes humbled, other times strong and straight, exemplifying traditional Christian manhood, even preaching the 'word of god' from the pulpit, all the while having gay lovers waiting in the wings, a bottle in their desk drawer, pornographic websites bookmarked on their desktops, perfection too heavy to carry, humanity demanding to be released, acknowledged, unavoidable though they try, though we all try.

What are we to make of this modern day church? What am I to make of this ridiculous, pompous display of our "convictions"!? I am shouting this in writing. No WONDER non-believers hate us. No WONDER they don't believe a WORD THAT WE SAY!


What an arrogant church we've become. What an arrogant people. What an arrogant person I am. I look back over my years as a 'Christian' and wonder if I was ever really following Jesus or just putting on nice clothes on Sunday and showing up at the clubhouse for practice. I hate the Jesus that lived in me because that Jesus looked exactly like the worst parts of myself; prideful, judgmental, critical, arrogant and conceited, 'perfect' and proud of it, better than you. And I don't need that Jesus. I can be all of those things by myself, no assistance necessary. And I'll probably get a lot farther in life because I can stop giving my money to causes I don't believe in or really, know anything about.

I didn't believe a word I said, a thought I held, a conviction I possessed. They were all just 'initiation fee's' for the club I was attending at the time. Did I tell people about Christ? About His love? About a change in my life? Well, no. Because I didn't have any idea what that love crap meant, because there hadn't really been a change in my life that behavioral modification couldn't explain and because I hated Jesus. He was so freaking unappealing. Also, the thought crossed my mind that if I talked about my church to whatever person was in front of me, they might attend. And we can't have just anybody you know.

God forgive me, my soul whispers. Forgive me.

Forgive me for avoiding the eyes of the needy, for pretending to be too busy to acknowledge the homeless, the ugly, the bedraggled, the abused. Forgive me for being choosy about the 'kind of people' I associate with, forgive me for my righteous indignation when someone doesn't live life my way, doesn't worship my way, doesn't take communion my way, doesn't look the way a good Christian should look, behave and be. Forgive me, God, for allowing my personal Jesus to come to the forefront; that Jesus who is the mascot for my own desires and prejudices and for taking up my martyr's cross to follow him. Because, yes, I HATE the Pharisaical Jesus of my own invention. No wonder he's unappealing. He's constructed of fantasy and wishful thinking, formed out of pride and raised to life by the breath of self worship.

I want to walk the lakeshore with a God who is real. That God who whispered to me about His delight in who I am, his presence in the darkness calling me forward to know him truly, to abandon this charlatan Jesus of my selfish ideals and become a follower of the man who fed the hungry and loved the poor, who offered water to the thirsty and gentle grace to the adulteress, the prostitute, the lost. The man who's greatest instruction for our lives was to love one another. Who told me to care for the orphans and the widows, those who suffered, those who hurt, those who were lonely and broken. Would I know that Jesus if He stood before me? I'd like to say yes...

I want a faith who's hands are rough and calloused, worn from action, marred with the beauty of beliefs put to use. I want a faith who's feet are covered in the dust of villages with no running water and tired from walking, running, driving, to those who need a friend, a meal, a conversation, encouragement, love. I want a faith who's heart breaks for the children of our worlds orphanages, breaks for China's mothers who are forced to put their daughters to death, breaks for the fathers of Malawi who watch their wives and children starve and waste away to ashes, breaks for the fifteen year old kid next door who's mother is on meth and who's father died last year, breaks and breaks and breaks, this heart of faith that pounds out it's convictions on the inner workings of my soul.

I am done with this ridiculous image of jesus that I've been carrying around all my life. I don't want the tidy god that welcomes the tidy Christian to church every Sunday. I want the messy, dust covered, blood soaked God that walked the streets touching people with healing hands. I want the God who turned over the tables of injustice. I want to follow that Revolutionary Jesus into a life marked by love, marked by change, marked by growth, touched by grace and full of mercy.

What do I know of who He is? What do I know of this God who calls me? I know the call is irresistible, irrevocable, beautiful. And I'm drawn forward into knowing Him and through Him, to knowing myself, another mystery.

"An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God."
David G. Benner
The Gift of Being Yourself


jkroft said...

I can't help but be reminded of a day when I took from the shelf one of my old bibles, which I had bought right after I became reborn by the Spirit of God. I would make these little notes in the margins and now I can't even remember what I was thinking at the time, but the note is so far from the reality of what the words were actually saying, I had to laugh. And then I was sad. And then I was glad, because I had matured a little further and understood better. Better is a relative term of course. You have shown me a Jesus that I had forgotten about. The hated one. The despised to death one. When the angry crowd before Pilate cried out "His blood be on our hands and on our children..." it's scary to read. That was the Jesus they thought they knew. And Jesus, as you so eloquently alluded to, practicing the kind of non-responsive forgiveness, made it possible for them [me, us] to be his children.
Keep pulling the trigger, Melissa. You're a crack shot. A><>J

rebecca said...

Beautifully written, Melissa.
It does seem that one who does
nothing for those in need couldn't possibly be a true follower of Jesus.
I loved your descriptions of love in action: "hands [that] are rough and calloused, worn from action, marred with the beauty of beliefs put to use". and that you remind us that Jesus had hands like that. and definitely feet, what with all the walking he did:)
I'm loving the new direction your blog is going!

Melissa said...

"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received."

This Einstein quote seems to align with your eloquent description of the spirituality you're moving toward. You might want to read more about his beliefs. You'll find them provocative, but I know that doesn't scare you.