I don’t purposely try to be a smartass with stuff like that. Well, ok, I once told a dentist that maybe my molar no. 2 was sensitive to hot or cold because of his relationship with his father. So let us say that at least 60 percent of the time I try not to be a smartass with stuff like that.
But if I'm to be totally honest, it has started to feel even more disingenuous to say that I'm a “Christian” with no other qualifiers. So I settled on “Christian – mostly.”
Counselor: What’s with the 'mostly'?
Me: It’s complicated.
Counselor: How so?
Me: Well, I’m a Christian, but I also try to follow Jesus.
Me: …who wasn’t a Christian and had a love hate…no, truthfully, a hate hate relationship with religion.
I know that counselors love nothing more than when you BS them and over-intellectualize something about yourself in order to avoid talking about the real reason you came into their office. So I’m sure all of this went over swimmingly.
But is it not true? What do the Euro-American cultural inheritance called Christianity and Jesus, called the Christ, have to do with each other, really? The 3rd century church father Tertullian asked the same question another way, “What has Rome to do with Jerusalem?” His answer? Not much.
In a blog this size, I can’t even substantiate the claim that Jesus and the cultural paradigm that we call Christianity are very distant cousins, if they’re related at all. That would be a bit like listing all the reasons why Confucianism seems to have very little to do with Sammy Davis Jr.
Fortunately, having said that, I would add that you can shoehorn Jesus into just about anything. Or to appease my old theology professors, you can shoehorn most things into Jesus (is that better or worse?).
My colleague Nicole and I were joking about this earlier today. If we’re always preaching to our congregations that Jesus is relevant to their Monday-Saturday lives, then there is really no reason the same couldn’t be true for us as preachers. Building on an insight that a lapsed monk, who drank a little and had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, named Martin Luther had in the 16th century: if you can shoehorn Jesus into your job as a physician, or a cobbler, or a mother, or a shoehorn maker, then why not your job as a monk or a Christian as well? No reason why you couldn’t?
In between labor day potlucks and council meetings and praise songs, why not spend some time Jesus-ing as well? Here are some fun ways you might do it:
- You could take some time out on your way back from the worship show one Sunday to have lunch with a panhandler.
- You could commit to a matching funds program: for every dollar you donate to the expansion of your church building, you could send another one to an immigration and refugee resettlement organization.
- You could put your pro-life picketing on hold for a day, visit a women’s shelter, and befriend a pregnant girl (or, to point the finger back at myself, your Muslim ban picketing on hold to befriend a Muslim).
- You could close the page in your biblical concordance that lists all the references to “homosexuality,” put it aside for a bit, and instead read the Sermon on the Mount or one of the many other passages that actually have to do with the crucified and risen man from Nazareth.
- Orlando folks, instead of meeting in the parish hall on Wednesday, you could take your church ladies’ breakfast club to help some homeless folks obtain identification at an upcoming IDignity event.
If you have a little imagination about it, there must be a hundred different ways that you could work some Jesus in with your Christianity. There’s really no reason the two couldn’t coexist side by side.
Cheers and Peace,
Jared Witt (Twitter: @realjaredwitt) is a pastor in the ELCA and, along with Aaron Schmalzle, is a Founding Director of Castle Church Brewing Community and Castle Church Faith Community.