ways the church lost Jesus
I think there are all kinds of signs that Christianity (at least in its currently dominant forms) is crumbling. Yet, I think there are signs that paying attention to and following Jesus, and gathering together to help each other do that, is increasingly popular – and important. I am suggesting that in many ways the church lost sight of Jesus over the centuries. Here are some of the main ways:
1. The church lost its heart by becoming allied with power (especially political power from the time of Constantine). Jesus said it’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom – it’s even harder for those in power (and hardest when religious power and political power marry). One of the main results of this loss is that the church forgot non-violence and the centrality of loving enemies.
2. The church forgot Jewish ways of reading and using sacred texts. People are now considered heretics if they read the Bible the way Jesus and the apostles read the Hebrew Bible. (See this post by Richard Rohr or read this book by Peter Enns.)
3. The church forgot that “salvation” is firstly about the fullness of life in the present for us and for our communities rather than “where we go when we die” (eventually this led the church to get fixated on wonky ideas about heaven and hell, as well as forgetting how to read apocalyptic writing – see #2)
4. The church forgot that faith is about trusting enough to follow the way of Jesus (not about signing up for the right dogma).
5. The church got way too caught up drawing lines between who is in and who is out and “defending the faith.” We forgot that we started by following someone who was officially declared a blasphemer who was clearly on the outside.
6. The church quickly separated understandings about the divinity of Jesus from the way in which Jesus invites us all to become divine. I’m open to those who insist that there is a difference, but I believe that driving a wedge between the two is wrong and unhelpful. I think Jesus incarnated – embodied – God, and we’re meant to keep that up.
7. The church forgot that following the way of Jesus is relatively impossible for individuals but is possible for communities. I think this is why the Sermon on the Mount was so neglected in practice. Jesus was trying to teach an ethic to a community of followers that could graciously support each other in trying to mature while forgiving each other when they often failed.
I suspect that there are lots of others ways, but we can always find Jesus again.