According to the Pew Forum on Religion, the fastest growing religious designation in America over the past five years is “None.” While atheism and agnosticism have risen slightly over that time, the biggest increase is among those who, when asked about institutional religion, respond, “Meh.”
It strikes me that much of what drives this unenthusiastic response to religion, at least in the case of Christianity, centers on the apparent (at least to observers) unwillingness of Christians to live like Jesus. Perhaps the reason the “Nones” are so underwhelmed by organized religion isn’t because they don’t find Jesus interesting, but because it appears to them that Christians don’t find him sufficiently interesting enough to take seriously. Sure, we as Christians take seriously the atonement of Jesus but when it comes to the teaching/ethics of Jesus we have said with our lives…
You see, Christians claim to believe in a Jesus who spent a great deal of time reaching out to, speaking out for, advocating on behalf of “the least of these”; but then some segments of Christianity align themselves with systems that seem interested in advancing only the interests of the wealthiest among us — at the expense of the poor, the hungry, the naked, the outcast.
Blessed are the poor in spirit? Bah, humbug! Meek? No, a ruthless climbing-the-ladder-of-success-no-matter-what-the-cost is the religion of many. Pure in heart? Thirsting for righteousness? We are embarrassed by such naivety. Jesus tells us to love not only our neighbor, but our enemy. But we’ve perpetuated a culture of war and violence.
Our world tells us to invest in the future, to command the highest salary we can, and to accumulate wealth. Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth lest we make money our God. He tells us not to obsess over making a living, but to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness.
We build great institutions by naming buildings after big donors, and putting little donors’ names on pretentious plaques. Jesus says that when we give we are to do it secretly, anonymously.
What Jesus teaches is not warmed over religion. It is subversive. It is radical. What if Jesus didn’t mean for his teaching to be viewed as an unattainable ideal, but a blueprint from God for the People of God?
What if Jesus really meant what he said?
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