On-line Summer B.L.I.S.S. with "Dr./Oma Susie"--If the Church Were Christian, Rediscovering the Values of Jesus by Philip Gulley
B.L.I.S.S.--Books Lead Into Soul Searching
Summer time, for me, is time to be sure to include even more book reading especially when I am in the mountains (my favorite destination) or at the beach (my second favorite destination as long as it's a beach in Hawaii--after living there four years, I became spoiled to "real" beaches). It is with this thought, summer reading, in mind that I invite you to join in reading with me, If the Church Were Christian, Rediscovering the Values of Jesus by Philip Gulley.
The first chapter, If the Church Were Christian...Jesus Would Be a Model for Living Rather Than an Object Worship is the topic for today, and I will only be touching on what I see as the "highlights or teaching 'aha' moments." As you read along with me, and I hope you will do so, I hope you will post your comments that will point out what you see as the "highlights or teaching aha moments" because we all bring to a book our own life experiences--the good, the bad, and the ugly that form the opinions of the books we read and the people we meet.
Here's my only "disclaimer" as we read and check in together:
Please remain focused on B.L.I.S.S--Books Lead Into Soul Searching.
In other words, the purpose of reading this book, and most of the books I read, is to cause me/us to think critically and to ask questions. I am a teacher, and this is the high calling of teaching--to help people to learn to think critically so that they have informed opinions and are more open minded so that they can indeed love their neighbor as they love themselves. I believe this is following in the footsteps of Jesus as he asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" You and I need to be able to respond to this question, too.
From the Introduction:
Most of what we assert about the church is based on fragmentary hints from Jesus and two thousand years of tradition. (pg. 2)
If the Church Were Christian...
Jesus Would Be a Model for Living Rather Than an Object Worship
Quotes from the author that will make you think:
I believe the church's worship of Jesus is something he would not have favored. Further, this tendency has had profound consequences, not all of them beneficial. (pg. 17)
...it is also clear for some people in the church, belief [in Jesus Christ] is not only everything--it is the only thing. Indeed, I have noticed that many Christians refer to themselves as 'believers,' as if Christianity is primarily about believing. (pg. 19)
The time has come for a new language, a language that honors Jesus, though not at the expense of his own self-understanding and our own need to live in peace. (pg. 23)
What I do regret is believing for a number of years that the sole value of Jesus rested in his ability to usher me into heaven. (pg. 24)
Consider this: Jesus offered no new revelation from God. Everything he said and did grew out of his Jewish faith. As in all religions, there were those in Judaism who'd forgotten and forsaken its principles. What first-century Judaism needed wasn't a new revelation, but the reminder of a previous one. The prophets preceding Jesus had described well the priorities of God--mercy, forgiveness, hospitality, and compassion. Jesus exemplified those virtues, expanded their meaning for his generation, and through the power of his good example, urged others to not only imitate his works, but to exceed them. (pg. 25)
The Christian gospel ought not be that Jesus was God and we can find life in his death. Our good news is that we can find life in his example--accepting the excluded, healing the sick, strengthening the weak, loving the despised, and challenging the powerful to use their influence redemptively. These objectives do not require divinity, but commitment, compassion, and courage. Jesus accomplished what he did not because of supernatural power unavailable to the rest of us; he accomplished what he did because of his steadfast dedication to the priorities of God. (pg. 26)
Now consider for a moment all the energy the church has devoted these past centuries getting people to believe theological doctrines about Jesus--sending missionaries around the world, funding and promoting television and radio ministries, going door to door, spending billions of dollars and untold hours urging people to believe certain things, then killing, threatening, or excluding them when they didn't. (pg. 27)
In the chapters ahead, I will be examining in more detail the priorities of Jesus and their implications for his followers. I don't pretend to be a Jesus scholar. There are many others more knowledgeable. My hope is to interpret the life and example of Jesus in a redemptive and relevant way. Each generation must do this with Jesus, lest it be forced into stale beliefs that strain credibility and diminish life. For the joy of Christian faith is not to be found in the rote recitation of dogmas about Jesus, but in modeling his mercy and love, which alone have the power to transform us and our world. (pg. 28)
Questions for discussion from the author:
1. It is not unusual for religions to deify (to make a god of or take as an object of worship) religious leaders, prophets, or founders. Why do you suppose religions do that? What practical purpose does that serve? How might it be unhelpful?
2. How central is the moral perfection of Jesus to your faith? Why is that important or unimportant to you?
3. How would you live differently if Jesus were a model of living, not an object of worship?
Stay watchful (subscribe to my blog) to continue with chapter two...soon.