This semester, I am teaching a world religions class. Last week we entered our two days exploration of Christianity, the faith tradition my students claim as their own. What became apparent, as our dialogue happened around Christianity, is that my students really do not ‘know’ why they are Christian. They said the cliched answer, “Jesus died for my sins.” They say this because it is the only thing they have been taught about Christianity.
I struggled with this as an instructor and as a pastor. Not in some fundamentalist way, but rather in the view that if you are going to claim a faith tradition as your own at least take some time to clearly understand what it holds and why you follow it. (Author’s note: I love my students and in this time, I saw their eyes light up and their brains engaging). So my response was to take another class period and explore Christianity more completely. We talked about Anselm and Substitutionary Atonement, we talked about Jesus’ death possibly having a political edge to it, we talked about assumptions made when the students sit down and talk with someone who says they are ‘Christian’ and that in reality Christianity is diverse in doctrines and Christology.
During this hour, I was silently reminded of the radical nature of the Jesus movement: ya know the movement that describes the Kingdom of God being created here on earth at the banquet table not only filled with the ‘pretty’ people of the day, but rather filled with the untouchables.
Who are the untouchables of 2013?
The Jesus movement that does not exist in 4 million dollar buildings while children on the streets are going hungry.
Remember that Jesus movement?
Do you remember the Jesus movement that said feed the hungry, visit the sick, give your cloak, turn the other cheek, find your life not by being greedy, but find it by giving it away?
In many ways, I will be honest and say that I have given up on institutional Christianity. It is too focused on buildings, structures creating status quo, doctrines that don’t matter, liturgical functions, etc etc. but I haven’t given up entirely on the Jesus movement.
I just need to remind myself once and again, what it is really about.