John O’Keefe is the author of The Naked Jesus; A Journey Out of Christianity and Into Christ. He is also the author of other books as well. He holds a Doctorate from George Fox University, and an MDiv from Drew University. John operates under the assumption that there is no box to “think outside” of to start with. For John, everything goes, and creativity rules.
To understand the TNJ we thought it best to here with you “The Preface” of the book. We hope this introduction to who we are, and what we are all about, helps.
There comes a time in everyone’s life where they question the presumptions they’ve lived under for years. I’m not talking about finding out there’s no Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, or Easter Bunny – though I can assure you when I was 17 years old and found out they were not real, it freaked me out.
I’m talking about something bigger.
That time came for me in the late 90’s when I decided I would no longer call myself a Christian.
I remember it clearly, I posted on a ginkworld.net message board (back when they were all the rage), and all hell broke loose. I had just finished writing, and posting, an article entitled “95 Postmodern Thesis,” a kind of rant about the state of the current church modeled after Martin Luther. When I posted my statement on the board, people were angry and confused, and they pressured me to change my mind. To be honest, I waffled for a few years before I held fast to my decision. I am not sure who said if first, but I learned that if I could no longer accept the things I couldn’t change, it was time to change the things I couldn’t accept – for me, that was self-identifying as a “Christian.”
The Current face of the church was something I could not accept.
I didn’t deny the label Christian because I couldn’t or didn’t want to follow the teachings of Jesus, but because I did want to follow those teachings. I wanted my life to change so I could live the teachings of the Naked Jesus, a Jesus stripped of the brand identity of the Jesus® (the Institutional Church) proclaimed by the brand holders. I realized I wasn’t called to be like other Christians, I was invited to be more like Christ.
Much of what some call Christianity was centered more on the institutional church’s teachings on the branded Jesus® and less on the teachings of the words of the Naked Jesus. So, I rejected the label Christian and started calling myself a Follower of the Teachings of Jesus. At that moment, I realized I had to journey out of the institutional church and into the arms of the Naked Jesus.
This book is a process of that journey, not complete by any stretch of the imagination because my life and faith are always in process; I’m always growing and willing to hear the voices of others. I’m continually wrestling with what I hear the Naked Jesus saying and what I hear the institutional church saying, desiring to follow the teachings of the Naked Jesus, not those of the institutional church.
I’ve been a coward in that struggle. Inside, I have contemplated the Naked Jesus while continuing to toe the company line of the institutional church on the outside in order to keep me safe. That didn’t always work out for me; I slipped and had to cover my tracks more than once. Yes, I define that as being a coward.
I feared losing my friends, my ministry, my status, and my job. I hid behind the company line to maintain my safety and fund this silly habit of eating I developed as a youth. I feared what others would think of me, what others would say about me, and how they would push me aside. I feared sharing my inner thoughts, my inner conflicts, because I knew, I just knew, people would push me aside and call me stupid. How did I know that would happen? Because I saw it happen to others with more courage than I had. However, the more I read, the more I prayed, and the more I thought about what the Naked Jesus had to say and how so many seemed to twist that to fit their personal need or protect some crazy notion of the institutional church, the more I felt I needed to grow a pair, share where my heart was, and let the chips fall where they may.
Some may see this book as confronting, or even angry at some points, but my goal is neither. I have no desire to confront and I am not angry. My prayer is that you see this book as a starting point and find your voice to stand against the Jesus® you are expected to follow and learn instead to follow the Naked Jesus.
Over time I grew a pair – I hope they are big enough to share everything in my heart and journey.
 I founded ginkworld.net back in the early 90’s to be a voice for the than “postmodern Christians” looking to express themselves about the current state of the church.
 The Naked Jesus is the Jesus we see without all the human trappings. The Naked Jesus is the Jesus I desire to follow, not the man-made Jesus of the Institutional Church.
 Jesus® is the trademark of the Institutional Church, and no permission was given for the use of the term.
 I will share a definition of the Institutional Church in a later chapter. The reason for this is because I desire you to think about that term, struggle with the term and come to grips with your personal definition before I share mine.
 Sometimes I used the term Follower of Jesus, or Follower of the Way.