Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The word is "faith"

Well, this one certainly caught my eye.  "Forget the Church".  I'm not sure what possessed me to read an article whose title I so adamantly disagree with but I figured, what could it hurt?  I mean, the Bible on my desk clearly identifies the "church" as the "Body of Christ" so the separation of the two seems to be a stretch...what could this guy "Andrew" be getting at?  So out of curiosity I read it.  The article began by saying that "if you go to the second floor of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., you'll find a room containing an 18th century Bible whose pages are full of holes.  They are carefully razor-cut empty spaces, so this was not an act of vandalism".  Sullivan is referring to the infamous "Jefferson Bible", a project that the 4th President of the United States began to undertake when he was around 77 years old. He literally took a razor and removed the passages that "he thought reflected the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth".  He cut and pasted his way through until he had created a "slimmer, different New Testament".  His criteria for removal, according to Sullivan, was anything that Jefferson believed represented the "very words of Jesus", leaving behind the "misconceptions of Jesus' followers" that were expressed "unintelligibly".  The snippets of the "real Jesus" were described as "diamonds" in a "dunghill" that was fraught full of "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man".  Jefferson apparently determined that the Incarnation, Resurrection, and "various miracles" were "dung" because they hit the chopping block right away.  The "message was the miracle".

So, out of curiosity, I looked at the "Jefferson Bible"; here's a sampling of what Jefferson thought to be "dung":

Luke's description of the angelic visit to Mary.  

Jesus turning water into wine.  

John the Baptist's words to the Pharisees (you brood of vipers).  

Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus.  

John 3:16 (for God so loved the world). 

I could go on.  You can look it all up for yourself.  I'll save you the trouble.  Jefferson took out the hard stuff.  You know, the really challenging stuff, the stuff that makes us uneasy and calls us to have some semblance of faith.  No man could raise the dead, right?  No man could be the Son of God, right?  No man could perform a miracle that defies the laws of nature...right?  Resurrection?  No way.  The Son of God in pain?  Forget it.  If we can't explain it, reason it, or prove it with science and logic and reason then it's "dung" (the excrement of animals).  Cut it out like a cancer before it affects the whole.  Keep the nice, easy to understand stuff that doesn't challenge us on every level.  Keep the stuff that requires little or no faith.  If we can't reason it out then it can't be true.  That's what the Pharisees thought so they killed the messenger in order to kill the message. Funny thing happened, the message remained intact and believed by billions of people for 2012 years by my last count.

I hesitate to say this.  Maybe I shouldn't, lest it trouble the person who took the time to read the words of my blog.  I wouldn't want anyone to decide that I am a fundamentalist, ultra conservative, believer in the inerrant and infallible Bible.  I really am none of those things.  So maybe now that I've got that out of the way I can go ahead and say it.  Christianity is not easy.  Following Jesus isn't all roses, mostly because we don't dictate the terms and we apparently have to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the needs of others (difficult when the ol' portfolio drops a couple of points, no?).  I often ponder what would happen if we (notice I am saying we) were to take it upon ourselves to live into some of the hard teachings (dung) of Christ?  I wonder what the world might look like if we loved neighbor as self?  I wonder what might happen if we made every attempt to live into the precepts of the Gospels?  I wonder how different things might be if we modeled our very lives after the sacrificial life that Jesus led?  Well, for those of you not quite so familiar with the Bible, I can tell you to read through the book of Acts to see what can happen when ordinary, flawed, uncertain human beings decided to do just that.  You will note healing.  You will note transformation.  You will note peace.  You will note a brief time when poverty was nonexistent.  And yes, you will note the miracles.  I must warn you though, don't read it in the "Jefferson Bible" because the above mentioned events were probably cut out.

One other thing.  If we really do believe in a God that created everything from nothing; if we proclaim a belief in this all powerful, all knowing God that holds the balance of the universe in his "hands"; if we believe that the God that we worship has created some sort of order out of the chaos and some level of good in the midst of evil, then is it that big of a stretch to say that the remote possibility exists that he could turn a jug of water into something comparable to a nice, Willamette Valley Pinot?  I hope so, because I'm staking my life on the far greater miracle that apparently leads me to life eternal.

Jefferson should have stuck to the politics.  Just sayin...      


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