Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Contentious Christ

The concept of Jesus as Christ continues to be a source of strife among the masses. Human, divine or go-between? He is the signifier of who belongs to what group and of who belongs to what side of eternity. And to whom does he belong? This too is a contentious matter. Each church, each theology, each individual follower is the self-designated possessor of the truest portrait of Christ and thus the almighty protector against the “others” who own but a caricature. Ironically the man who led perhaps the greatest campaign for peace, unity and equality is the cause of endless fighting, hierarchy, and division.
Many are able to put this safely out of their minds since his ultimate reason for dwelling on this earth was to offer salvation - a mission which cannot be verified so long as one has breathe in their lungs. Instead of offering a palpable likeness of Jesus, his followers insist on out-selling one another in damnation insurance. Worse still, with the rise of apologetics, “faith” has become an alternate term for “fact.” The ambiguous nature of religious matters has magically disappeared thanks to the “facts” presented (sans bias of course!) by Lee Strobel, Norman Giesler, Josh McDowell and others who can be likened to irresponsible parents leaving a loaded gun with a toddler or a running car with an intoxicated teen. Who wants Jesus the wise teacher when Jesus the weapon of mass destruction is available in hardcover or paperback?
The Christians are engaged in an unwise war. Their opponents: Obama, Oprah, gays and lesbians, higher education, American culture, Feminists, Democrats, Atheists, the world wide web… the list goes on and on. As the enemies pile up and the lines are drawn in the sand, Jesus is pushed to the back of the mob, where he hangs his head and weeps. “But, Lord, we’re doing this in your name!” is the only response.
Will there ever be genuine camaraderie among not only the various brotherhoods but also between the faithful, the unsure, and the resistant? Perhaps the cause of the problem also contains the answer. Jesus is unquestionably controversial but in his day, he brought together Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, loved and unloved, rich and poor. Is he not also capable of joining the hands of the Feminist and the submissive wife, the conservatives and the liberals, the educated and the uneducated? He certainly is, but only if denominations call each other equals and doctrines and dogmas are named opinions and the identity of Jesus himself is left an unanswered question. Jesus, who is currently the source of red-faced screaming matches and intellectual brawls, could absolutely become what he set out to be – a plot of common ground.