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20
Nov

Would Jesus recognize Christianity in North America?

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Would Jesus recognize Christianity in North America as his Way?

I doubt it.  The more I study the gospels and read the letters of the New Testament, the more I believe that Jesus would be puzzled, if not actually dumbfounded, frustrated, and angered, by some (much) of the presentation of Christianity in North America, since settlers, explorers, and invading armies first arrived. 

 

Jesus said, “Do not judge”  (Matthew 7:1) and yet I hear so much judgement in the voices of people who call themselves Christian.  I truly believe that Jesus would have sat at table with those of the LBGTQ community and named them friends.

 

Jesus said, “Love your neighbour. Even love those you consider enemies” (Matthew 6:43)  and yet I see people, who identify as Christians, leveling unfounded accusations and protesting against Muslim & Jewish neighbours.

 

Jesus said, “Welcome the stranger.”  (Matthew 25:31ff). In fact, Jesus himself was a refuge, a stranger in a strange land, when Mary & Joseph had to flee with their newborn baby to Egypt.  Yet I hear those, who claim Christianity as their faith, calling for a stop to so many refugees coming to North America.  Oh, and remember…Jesus talked about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison.  That fits with welcoming refugees as well, doesn’t it?

 

Jesus said to the rich young man who was seeking eternal life, “Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.”  The first followers of Jesus, after his death, lived by sharing everything they had in common so that no one was in need.  Yet, I hear preachers, who claim to share the Christian gospel, saying that if you are rich, it is a sign that God is blessing you.  So called gospel messages declare that if you live a faithful life, you will be rich and prosperous.   They forget that, as God declared to Abraham (Genesis 12:2),  we are blessed to be a blessing.  Riches are meant to be shared, not hoarded. Riches are not a reward for faithful behaviour.

 

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-17) and yet I still hear Christians claim that spanking is appropriate discipline, even as studies show that spanking has the equivalent effects of other kinds of abuse.

 

Jesus welcomed the ministry of women, and was able to carry out his own ministry because of the financial support of a group of women (Luke 8:1-3).  Yet I continue to hear some Christians in North America support the abuse and sexual harassment of women, as well as deny women equal leadership roles within the church as well as within society. 

  

I don’t even know where to begin in looking at what Christians did, in the name of Jesus, to the Indigenous Peoples, as they invaded the land and claimed it as their own because of a declaration, made by Pope Urban II in 1095, that only Christians could hold title to land.  The forcing of European culture upon indigenous people had nothing to do with Christianity.  All of us who are settlers in this land must listen carefully to the stories and consider how we continue the legacy of these Christian forebears.  It was not the gospel they brought to North America.

 

To offer just a bit of balance, I look around North America, and see some very amazing ways that people of many faiths, and who claim no faith at all, live these very principles of the path of Jesus.  (And just so you know, I don’t believe that God only loves Christians – something I’ll explore another time.)

 

I am a follower of the Way of Jesus.  It is a challenge to live the Way of Jesus.  I have so much to learn yet about how to truly shape my life according the path that Jesus taught.  I daily struggle with the materialism of our culture and of my own life.  Obviously, by this article, I still have work to do on not judging others. 

 

When we choose the path of Jesus, it calls us out of our culture and its practices.  It is not meant to be a “nice” addition to our lives, but rather something to which we commit our whole way of living, our resources, our passion, our decisions, our actions, our very lives.

 

I believe that North American Christianity has too often got it backwards.  People have gone to the Bible looking for that verse or story that they can interpret in a way that supports what they already believe.  Racism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds have hidden behind a veneer of Christian faith.  Jesus, I believe, would be horrified.

 

I am a Christian, devoted to living the Way of Jesus, open to the transformation of the Spirit, and constantly aware of the presence of God in my life.  The challenge I offer myself, and you, if you should choose to take it, is to go to scripture, sit with it, pray with it, until it changes and challenges me (and you) into living the very difficult, but very amazing, Way of Jesus.   May it be so!

November 20,  2017                              ©Susan Lukey 2017

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