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May 12, 2011

Jesus Who?

Imagine you wake up one day and you turn on the morning news. The headline of the day discusses a famous religious man who was executed by the government for allegations of treason and conspiring to overthrow the government. Now you have been following news stories about this man for awhile, and you know his background. 

He was known for railing against the established religion. He even had an emotional outburst in a place of worship where he got a bit violent and ransacked the place. He constantly got into vicious arguments with very well-known theologians and religious scholars that were highly respected. He is known for hanging out with hookers, homosexuals, alcoholics, drug addicts, shady money dealers and even Muslims. He also hung out with people from radical militias plotting to overthrow the government. To top it off, he claims God's deep love and mercy for these people and promotes their chances of getting into heaven above the learned theologians, pastors, and scholars. 

He told rich people to sell everything they have, give it all away to the poor, and follow him. He told poor people not to work for riches and just depend on God to provide everything and follow him. He told people to leave their jobs and their very lifestyle, abandoning everything to join him. He is also known for performing astounding miracles. 

He constantly preached love and peace, even love for bitter enemies. He taught what many people think of as pacifism. He spoke in bizarre riddles and said a few disturbing and radically offensive things that caused some people to leave him. His closest associate was a wild man who lived in the desert, railed against the establishment, and was executed earlier for similar reasons. 

After he was executed, his followers started saying that he came back from the dead and continue on in this man's teachings. They all live together in tightly knit communities, sharing everything, owning nothing so that no one among them had any physical needs. For awhile the religious establishment and even some of the government were constantly trying to arrest and harass his followers, and sometimes even have them killed. We'll just say that they called him and his followers radical terrorists and cast them as public enemy number one. 

The average American right wing conservative Christian would think such thoughts as cult leader, religious radical, witch, deceiver, hippie, communist, socialist, liberal, anarchist or deeply mentally ill. But place this same exact scenario two thousand years ago and the same person would call this man God. 

I think about what passes for Christianity in America today and I really wonder if we would even recognize the Jesus we profess to follow. I wonder if Jesus decided not to appear two thousand years ago and, instead, were born today in our world situation, would we believe him or scorn him? 

Somehow, most of the world believes that Christianity is an American idea. Many middle eastern countries believe that America is solely a Christian country, as do many political Christians in America. But I took a step back from American politics for about a year now and I really began comparing what the average, conservative, Christian American believes about life and how they live, and what Jesus taught exactly. 

I have brought this up in a few discussions with devoted right wing conservative Christians and they usually hem and haw, explain certain things away, or even get angry with me and classify me as a liberal democrat heathen. 

Recently I have decided to seriously consider living a lifestyle similar to the way Jesus taught and the first century Christians lived as described in the book of Acts and some of the letters. When I really pondered the idea I felt a sense of excitement as well as a bit of fear. I realized that such a lifestyle would go almost opposite of the way things are done in America today and I would be under much scrutiny by churches, and even the government itself. 

My conclusion is this. If Jesus did His incarnation today, His life and His teachings would be just as radical and troublesome in our culture as they were in His day. And many devoted American Christians would probably be on the bandwagon trying to silence and discredit him as a radical cult leader. 

Which Jesus do you really want to follow?

by David Backus

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    I want what's real. I want who's real. So far, I've been able to connect with the sense of God as love, but the whole connecting with Jesus thing has escaped me. I'm starting to get an inkling; the start of a connection to God the man, and it's touching deep . . . the real deal changes you from the inside out. The outside in stuff of religion, does not give life. It kills.

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