Writing a Book About How RADICAL Jesus Is? Please Stop Boring Me.

My Jesus is more AWESOMELY RADICAL than your Jesus!

Every week I get a book in the mail from a Christian publisher.  It’s another book about how incredibly, totally, awesomely, sacreligiously RADICAL Jesus is.

Inevitably, the book uncovers the scandal that the church has missed out on how RADICAL Jesus is, and the erstwhile author trots out the usual list of examples from the life of Jesus about how he RADICALLY challenged the religious authorities of his day.  And how he RADICALLY hung on the cross.  I mean, he was seriously RADICAL.  How could we have missed that for so long?!?

But here’s what’s interesting to me: These books are almost always by evangelical authors and from evangelical publishers.  And guess what seems to be missing?  That’s right, advocacy for GLBT persons in the life of the church and society.  These authors are quick to trumpet Jesus’ advocacy for lepers, but they are painstakingly silent on the one social issue that is rending the church today: same-sex relations.  I don’t know about you, but it’s been a long time since I met a leper.

While I appreciate that many evangelicals are being cured of their Paulophilia and are shifting their focus back to Jesus, I wonder just how radical they’re going to let Jesus be.

Bruce Reyes-Chow tackled this same issue, with a little less snark than me:

While I generally agree with the positions taken about church, culture and life, I have wondered – and will no doubt get in trouble for verbalizing this – if those who preach a gospel of radicality are preaching the radical life that Jesus is in fact calling us to live. Yes, I do believe that Jesus calls us to speak truth to power, social and political, but sometimes, I wonder if we can embody this role so much that it becomes all who we are. With good intentions, the overabundance of one tactic and gospel perspective begins to sound as if Jesus only wants radical transformation for the other . . . and we are the ones to deign how to do that. [Read the rest: The Unexpected Safety of the Radical Jesus | Bruce Reyes-Chow]

(The title of this post is an homage to Lillian Daniel.)

  • http://bobcornwall.com Bob Cornwall

    Darn, and I was going to start writing one!!

  • Keaton

    I think there is an even larger principle at work that is causing this symptom – many people love reading about RADICAL things because it lets them feel RADICAL for a moment, failing to realize that there is nothing RADICAL about their lives. It is much like awareness of a certain social justice being an end in itself. If we want to see the Church live in the light of the mess Jesus made, people need to stop writing books to make Jesus seem cool or counter-cultural, so that others might actually go do something RADICAL.

  • http://emarkthomas.wordpress.com/ Ethan

    I’ve wondered this same thing myself, and often. I look around me and I see people grabbing ahold of Jesus’ message, but they only apply it to a certain level. They apply it as far as they feel comfortable; they decide how radical they want Jesus to be. It baffles my mind, because I look at the situation as this: we’ve been awoken to the message and life that the Holy God has, and we declare it to be holy and sacred, yet we try to limit its power and purpose? Something doesn’t work there.

    Of course, I’m a gay Christian guy, so it’s probably easier for me to see that than my straight Christian friends.

  • JoeyS

    This is what Peter Rollins gets at when he talks about having a “release valve” that allows us to live however we want. He likens it to Batman who has enough resources to fund a small military campaign so he can beat up criminals on Friday night, when if he wanted to incite real change he would use those resources to start schools and do economic development that would deter crime.

  • Pat Pope

    ” Jesus only wants radical transformation for the other . . . and we are the ones to deign how to do that.”

    AMEN and AMEN!

  • Frank

    Jesus wants radical transformation for all of us. He makes us new, including our sexuality. Sadly many miss this and instead choose to stay the way they feel instead of what they could be. It’s the outspoken Christian LGBTs and their advocates who would rather stay they way they’re “born” instead of being born again and transformed.

    So who is missing out on what?

    • JoeyS

      But, Frank, so few people reconcile their sexuality to God. Choosing to think about this issue as “social” rather than “personal” (although it is both) means that we have to start trying to understand what faith in Jesus actually means for how we treat groups of people regardless of their moral convictions. Take Michigan’s new law that effectively promotes bullying, provided it comes from a religious conviction. This is anything but a radical Jesus shaped ethic and looks more like another way we separate, hate, and reject people who differ from us.

    • ben w.

      Frank, agreed. Moreover, I’m not sure what Tony means by “LGBT advocacy”, but essentially all evangelicals advocate for hate-crime laws that protect LGBT persons, teach on loving all people (including LGBT), but still maintain that homosexual acts are sin – because all these things arise from the teaching of Jesus and His apostles.

      How is advocacy for the same sexual morality promoted by Lady Gaga or Ellen or Oprah or anyone on Primetime TV “radical”?

    • Scot Miller

      Frank, I’m not sure you really thought through what your’re suggesting. Do you really mean that Jesus wants radical transformation for “all” of us, including our sexuality? I don’t think so.You don’t mean that following Jesus means that the sexuality of heterosexuals should be transformed, do you? Do you really mean that heterosexual followers of Jesus shouldn’t “stay the way they feel instead of what they could be” (i.e., gay)?

      • JoeyS

        I am not in agreement with Frank, though I would hold that heterosexual’s sexuality should be transformed. This is rooted in my belief that we are broken and in need of wholeness and restoration, including our broken and selfish approach to sexuality.

      • Frank

        Jesus makes everything new including heterosexuality. I would argue that most heterosexuals, single and married, do not honor God sexually, at least not all the time.

        So while homosexuality clearly does not honor God, heterosexuality does not automatically bring honor to God simply because it’s God design. All sexuality is corrupted by sin.

    • Basil

      There were homosexuals in antiquity, and you forgot to mention that passage where Jesus met with some homosexuals and they repented and they were cured…oh yeah, that’s right, he never said that.

      Maybe instead, we should focus our prayers on asking Jesus to cure homophobia. It is a choice after all. Now that’s a radical thought!

      • ben w.

        Basil, is this the passage to which you’re referring?

        1Cor. 6:9   Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        You’re right that Jesus didn’t say anything specifically. But this is the Apostle Paul in an undisputed letter that’s about the earliest writing of the Christian Church we have in existence writing to people who’ve been radically changed by Jesus – which is pretty close.

        • Curtis

          I’m sure you are aware that this is far from an “undisputed letter” from the Apostle Paul. The specific phrase that is translated “men who practice homosexuality” has been disputed for centuries, including today, because Paul did not use the usual Greek term for “homosexuality” in his letter. All modern translations of the Bible include a footnote that alludes to the uncertainty of the phrase “men who practice homosexuality”. To leave out that footnote and then declare the passage as “undisputed” is dishonest.

          • Frank

            You are right it was disputed by those looking for an out for their sit, but has been clarified and resolved.

            http://christianstudies.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/230/

          • Curtis

            1 Cor. 6:9 has been disputed throughout history. At times it is claimed that it condemns masturbation. Paul’s wording is so vague that almost any desired sexual evil can be shoehorned into that verse if you want to.

            Your reference lists dozens of scholars with varying ideas about what, exactly, Paul meant, and circular references back to modern translations of the text. Paul’s meaning is far from clear and resolved. So please stop referring to it as an “undisputed letter”. It is, historically, one of the most disputed passages in the New Testament.

      • Frank

        How tiring to continue to wrongly assert that believing, with ample biblical evidence, that homosexuality is a sin equates to fear. It’s very convenient to throw that word around, it certainly makes you the “victim” but it’s clearly inaccurate.

  • Frank

    I agree Joey that most people do not, including heterosexuals. Sexuality is broken but we all have to admit its broken before Christ can transform it.

    Social change starts with personal change. If you refuse to accept change on a personal level than its impossible to affect or expect social change.

    • Basil

      That’s funny you should say that, since nearly every “ex-gay” leader denies that their sexual orientation has changed when they are asked, and the entire medical and psychiatric community have repeatedly repudiated the idea that one can “change” one’s sexual orientation. But there is no need for you to be honest, or rational, about sexual orientation — not when you can support your homophobia with cherry-picked, and grossly misconstrued (but never presented) Biblical passages, augmented an infinite hubris in the infallibility of your own scriptural interpretation. Why you are a regular Pope!

      • Frank

        You can trust the APA I trust Christ.

        Still waiting for any scriptural support for your position. You have no credibility until you can provide it.

        So continue on with your infantile name calling, it’s all you got!

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  • http://finalinsurrection.blogspot.com/ Lock

    I am looking forward to you guys showing some thought towards trangender issues.

    • Charles

      I am as well, Lock. If some folks think LGBTQ folks are marginalized by the church, our trans brothers and sisters are treated worse than lepers by the church. When religious folk can fully embrace trans folk I may finally rest in peace, for a moment or two.

  • Dan

    Reading Tony’s first couple paragraphs is like getting sucked into a mid-nineties television commercial; RADICAL!!!!!

    Then I found twenty bucks.

  • David

    Maybe these authors (who I admit I have never read) are simply following in the steps of those Paulophiliac authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I wonder how these saintly evangelists could be “painstakingly silent on the one social issue that is rending the church today: same-sex relations.”

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      David, did you just call the Gospel writers Paulophiles? Could you please explicate that? In what sense do they show any reliance on — nay, any knowledge of — the writings of Paul?

  • John Mc

    Here’s a question: Jesus teaches us to care for our neighbors and further challenges our understanding of who is our neighbor. Jesus also teaches us to love our enemies and to care for them as well, but he does not explicitly define “enemy”. Who then is our enemy? Theologically, socially, morally, politically, existentially, competitively?

    My response ought to dictate the reach of Jesus’ command to love my enemies, and should challenge me to consider what “love” means in the face of the enemy.

    And when the enemy becomes neighbor, ought the character of my love change?

    What scriptures help us here?

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  • David

    Tony,

    It was joke. Just a take off from your use of the term. But my question is serious. Why did the evangelists ignore this issue if I it so important?

  • Michael

    I guess the real question is: why the hell do these Christian publishers still care what you think?

  • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

    What I hear you saying is this:
    “These books, churches and leaders are not truly RADICAL because they haven’t included my pet “lost/marginalized” people in their dissertation.”

    Could you be more selfish or short-sighted?

  • http://callonjesus.us MikeL

    To follow Jesus is not only stop following Paul but the entire “church” structure he set into place. Jesus never spoke of or wanted another religious social organization. The word ekklesia does not mean church any more than the name of Yahweh is God. Perhaps the reason why there is no power, no miracles no threat to the powers of this world is because we do not worship Yahweh but Paul?


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