Who is your Jesus? Religion, Culture or … Jesus?
Many months back I took a class called “Christian Ethics” as one of my electives at the University I attend and this post was a paper I wrote. The response from my professor was that he thought that my paper showed extraordinary insight and that I would have a very bright future if I decided to pursue a career in this particular field (ethics/theology). When I reread this paper I do my best to resist the urge to add more content to my already long literary monologue. I think that certain ideas that I present below could use a little more fleshing out so I welcome the chance to dialogue with anyone who wants to once you have had the chance to read what I have written.
As we find ourselves in the midst of modernity the view of scripture in contemporary Christian culture has changed in ways that cannot be ignored or denied. It is blatantly obvious that while scripture is still the crux of Christian ideology, the massive amount of commentary which has continually sought to take away from or add to scripture via Christian self help, end-time fiction, post-modern and emerging church literature has removed the spotlight from scripture and essentially taken the crown from Jesus and placed it squarely on the head of humanity. The idea of sola scriptura has all but vanished and in its place can be found an idea that seeks to replace scripture with a theology that at best takes God and warps his image to fit our finite perspective, and at worst voids God from our theology and lives all together. This blog post is an attempt to address the role that the ancient ceremonies and customs have played in the reading of scripture and the benefits and drawbacks to such a rigid and repetitious approach to its reading, interpretation, and its ultimate application in everyday life. This response will also mull over the reality that in the current cultural climate, humanity is no longer interested in being told what to do and has chosen amiddle of the road approach where to “do what feels good” has replaced absolute truth as the mantra of the day.
What must be considered most of all is what role scripture has to play in addressing political ambition and injustice in a world where ethical and moral boundaries are eroding as fast as the Florida coastline and where modern Christian assembly has become a ghost of its former self.
If ever there is a need for a framework in which we are to place our lives, we are taught that scripture is that framework.
When first taught the idea of an unseen God and his relationship with humanity we are brought face to face with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
This is how we are first introduced to the guidelines of Christianity. The problem that arises with the focus on ritual to give our lives “rhythms and cadences” is that over time those rituals and boundaries take control of our lives and become the focal point rather than the God they are meant to connect us with. Though ritual is an important part of Christianity’s past, it is apparent, that Jesus sought to move humanity forward in a relationship with God that was once complete but had become broken and therefore needed mending. The many rituals that we now find common were put in place to connect us with God and were meant to be no more than that a temporary fix
It is apparent that we have forgotten that we were once naked before God and were not ashamed or afraid.
We are now so entangled in religion and trapped by the traditions of our fathers that an authentic relationship with our creator and thorough understanding of theology and its impact on relevant issues requires eight years of bullet point training. What makes matters worse is the commercialization by popular culture of an already watered down gospel has left much to be desired in the way of theological direction. The way we approach the reading of scripture ties directly into the way we view authority and obedience to scriptural direction. It is important to have adequate correlation when approaching scripture in light of Christianity’s impact on surrounding culture and its growing disillusionment with religion and subsequent abandonment of ethical boundaries in modern culture. This is most apparent in the ever increasing act of sexual exploration outside of monogamous marriage, homosexuality and its invasion of church and political leadership, widespread human trafficking and slavery, and the prevailing presence of organization such as scientology and N.A.M.B.L.A. (North American Man/Boy Love Association). I confess that I have yet to find the answer to the question of how to mine out authentic and correct theology in a commercialized religion that has become entangled and taken over by tradition. It is no wonder that society has given birth to individuals such as Immanuel Kant who believe that we should “have the courage to use your own reason”.
The question that begs to be considered is the place that the authority of scripture and the deity of Jesus have in humanity’s reasoning. What has come to rest upon the shoulders of Christianity is the responsibility to portray an accurate foundation on which to build reason. The desire to witness to the world who Jesus was and who he is in light of eternity is difficult for the modern Christian who finds himself or herself in the midst of a perverted popular culture and a church that takes it’s cue from culture in order to fit in. What is the meaning of truth and what does it look like when the theological foundation that we stand on is quicksand. The view from the pew and the digestion of truth as dished out from the pulpit is tainted if the preachers perspective of scripture is built on a legacy of misinformation. As time progresses there will be more of a danger of scripture to be manipulated by the modern preacher to suit his or her (in light of current cultural shifts) agenda.
If there is to be justice, it must be in response to the truth that is being presented. That truth must subsequently be used as a filter to receive conflict with the truth being presented. How then can any individual or community of individuals accurately dispense justice without the foundation of truth? This also is apparent when addressing politics as it pertains to Christianity. The text states that, “modern politics is a story of reconciliation that is told in a tragic key”.
This is true in that modern politics is the attempt to address the issue of ethics and morality and to foster community but at the same time keep the church separated for governmental affairs. The problem that remains when all words have been spoken and the day has ended is this; all politics modern and ancient, government bodies, ethical and moral standards, and all the stained glass cathedrals containing incense burning liturgical communities who recite scripture in the most precise way mean absolutely nothing if they forget the foundation on which they are built. That foundation of which I speak is a posture of awe in light of God the Father, a relationship with Jesus Christ who died for the love of humanity, and the holy spirit with whom all is possible.