It’s hard to imagine anyone coming across Jesus in the midst of the ” world crisis ” of his day thinking that Jesus was about reforming religion; maybe some institutional changes, a revamp of the worship style…more culturally relevant. They would have seen the tide changing, an uprising on the margins of an empire. It was simply a revolution.
Fast forward to today. Empire is still with us, and continues to spin a story of illusion, one of prosperity, security and hope. The empire parades through the streets of the the global village proclaiming capitalism and globalization are still the way forward. Through it’s corporate icons, it’s incomprehensible economics, it’s military power and it’s controlled media…a dumbed down world has been fooled.
Mass protests, throughout history have come at a time when enough of the population has been affected by policies of the rulers and elite. They have often been met with brutal, efficient crackdown by the guardians of the elite…as was the case in Jesus day. It was an empire with a global plan to expand it’s borders, it’s wealth and power…whatever the costs. Also, a religion, a faith community that collaborated with the empire…or at best washed its hands and turned a blind eye.
This was the situation in Jesus day, and certainly even more magnified and amplified today. If you want to get a grasp of what is going on in the world from social, political, economic and environmental issues that effect us ” all “…I encourage you to browse ” Global Issues.”
Jesus, the God-man being birthed into the margins of humanity has always mystified me. We are so fixated with religion as a navigation tool to get from ” us ” to God. We all have our maps, and compasses and charted our bearings and declared ” our ” route the only way. But God, in a sense seems to ignore all paths and births the God-man of the grid. Jesus strangely is birthed outside of is own religion. God births the God-man in the humus of humanity…in the midst of the poverty, the injustice, the brokenness…in the midst of the unloved.
I wonder if God didn’t birth himself outside of religion to show us that it really isn’t that important? Maybe religion says more about us than God? Maybe we view Jesus like some helium filled balloon, that the more lines we have anchored to him, the less of a chance he’ll drift off to non-existence. Maybe God won’t allow himself to be owned like a piece of property by ” any ” religion? Maybe that is one of the most profound realities of the incarnation is that God puts himself into the midst of ” humanity ” not a religion.
Process theologian John C Cobb made this comment recently, ” We become devoted to Christianity instead of Jesus. Jesus taught us to be faithful to Christianity is found no where in the Bible.” And Bono reminds us, ” God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house…God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.”
We know where Jesus planted his life, and throughout the gospels we see Jesus not promoting, trying indoctrinate people into a religion…we see him revealing what it is to be fully human. We see Jesus bringing a new world to life, an alternative, subversive world that stands in stark contrast to the world of the empire. And around us today we see a church that continues to to sink into absolute irrelevance.
” In many churches today, the primary question being asked is, how do we get more members? Behind this is often a painful awareness of the patterns of institutional decline and the need for more bodies and buck’s in the pews to sustain things. This is not the primary question we should be asking. Instead, we should be wondering, what is God up to in our neighborhood? How do we join up with it?” ( Dwight. J Zscheile )
God is not concerned about sustaining Christianity, ensuring you have someplace to go on Sunday mornings. God is concerned about sustaining life…about redeeming the brokenness of the world around us into this new creation, this alternative world…where justice reigns; where oppression ends, where there is universal health care for all; where there is no hunger; where religion embraces ” all ” humanity…not the god’s we’ve created; where we become stewards of the earth and it’s resources again, where we truly love our neighbor…and where there is no more “us” and “them”, but where we live life as one.
Christianity continues to decline in the west despite trying to make it more culturally relevant, putting a new coat of paint on the surface…people are still trickling out the back door. It’s not that we’ve lost faith in Jesus…we’ve lost faith in the church. We are consumed with the idea that worship pleases God, if we can just get it right…sing the right things, say the right things, we’ll turn it around. People will be pounding at our doors to get in.
Today, to say, we stand in the midst of a crisis is an understatement…maybe it’s time to awaken to the reality that God doesn’t care about our religion, this Christianity that resembles so little of Jesus, and imagines so little of this profound redemptive alternative world he spoke about and lived in. It is time for a revolutionary Christianity that gets beyond faith in beliefs, but to risk faith on life. Jesus came that we might have abundant life…not just for church folk, nice behaving Christians…but for all humanity. It was about a faith that changed the world, literally to build a new creation. Jesus challenged the worldly empire of the day it’s lie, its narrative of prosperity, and security and false hope for the deserving…he was constantly in there face telling a profoundly more redemptive story for everyone. But more than that he was willing to set aside religion this obsession of trying to turn ourselves into pious self-righteous gods…to just be more fully human.
God is out there in the brokenness, in the midst of the oppression, injustice and poverty in the global village…this is where revolutionary faith begins. Jesus was birthed, lived and died in this place. It is only here that the reality of any new kind of creation can take place. Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion…he came to bring heaven to earth now. He came to start a revolution, to turn the world ” right ” side up…where a new alternative world would capture the imagination of ” all ” humanity.
” For the revolutionary, those goals and objectives are directed toward changing reality and toward redemption of humanity. It is humanity itself, ones fellow human being, the redemption of ones fellow human being that constitutes the revolutionary’s objective. If we revolutionaries are asked what matters to us most, we will say: the people, and we will always say the people. People in their true sense, that is, the majority of those who have had to live under exploitation and the cruelest neglect. Our fundamental concern will always be with the great majority of the people, the oppressed and exploited classes. We view evrything from this standpoint: Whatever is good for them is good for us; whatever noble, useful and beautiful for them , will be noble, useful and beautiful for us. If one does not think in this manner, if one does not think of the people and for the people, if one does not think and act for the great exploited mass of the people, for the great masses we seek to redeem, then one simply does not have a revolutionary attitude.” ( Fidel Castro: Words To Intellectuals, Havana June 30 1961 )
” By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such, he has exposed it as a mere game. he has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the the emperor is infact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened; by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world, He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can coexist wuth living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of the line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.” ( Vaclav Havel: The Power of the Powerless 1936 )
Christianity will not save the world…living into Jesus as the way, the truth and the life…of what it is to be fully human…should spark the imagination of all humanity to where we look for hope on the horizon of history.
” They went first. We are next. The indifference we showed to the plight of the underclass, in Biblical terms our ‘neighbor’, haunts us. We failed them, and in doing so we failed ourselves. We were accomplices in our own demise. Revolt is all we have left. It is the only hope.”
The revolutionary faith of Jesus is all we have left…his way, his truth and his life. A faith beyond belief…a faith profoundly and humanly lived. It really is our only hope.