Christ minus the Christianity

Christ minus the Christianity
The Walk

00:00 / 13:34

“Christianity began as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When it went to Athens, it became a philosophy.
When it went to Rome, it became an organization.
When it went to Europe, it became a culture.
When it went to America, it became a business.”

I find this very true indeed. As much as I strive for the ‘personal relationship’ model, I usually end up very close to the ‘philosophy’ model. As far as the organization, culture, and business goes, sour grapes all around. As much as I believe in the philosophy of Christianity, I struggle to functionally have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Our society is filled with sermons, songs, and corny wall plaques that remind us that we should love Jesus {John 8:42}, God {Deuteronomy 6:5}, and that our relationship should be that of a friend {James 2:23, John 15:14-15}. It’s not so much about the conversation. {Matthew 6:5-7} I don’t struggle with using the King’s English when I pray. I pray with the same accent and slang that I’d use to order a bowl of chili. (As a side note, if you ever find yourself in Springfield, MO, you must eat at Casper’s Chili Parlor. You can thank me later.) I’ve heard people speak of falling in love with Jesus, and I’ve seen folks that I honestly believe had a closer relationship with God than their own parents, siblings, or spouse. I’m just not sure how they got there. Maybe it’s a matter of imagery. I can’t say that I’ve ever fallen in love with another guy. Maybe if all the imagery of Jesus was in the form of a 6’5” Hispanic woman who spoke with a Russian accent I’d have an easier time. In accordance with my trust issues, I have difficulty having a relationship with God in the same way I would find it difficult to carry on a relationship with someone who had died and was no longer tangibly present in my physical life. I wonder who actually had a harder task. The disciples had a physical, tangible man to talk to, hang out with, eat with, walk with. However the consequences of being a “Christian” were a bit more extreme then than they are now. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed a beheading, stoning, crucifixion, or the like. The social consequences of being a “Christian” are now usually little more than mild annoyance. I would surely enjoy having a physical, tangible man to direct all my questions to, preferably over a bowl of Casper’s chili. I guess my struggle is with trying to relate to someone like Superman in the same manner I’d banter with a simple farm boy like Clark Kent. This is an unlimited being that I have trouble comprehending, much less asking to help me with some work around the yard. Yet part of me wonders if I would believe it if this wish were granted. {Luke 16:31} Usually folks who show up on our porch and claim to be God incarnate, here to help us with all the issues that life brings, are met with skepticism and a straitjacket. That said, I continue to work toward this goal, and when asked about my beliefs I choose to say that I’m trying to be a follower of Jesus.

I say ‘trying’ because I’m not sure that with all my human faults, I could ever attain or accomplish ‘Christianity.’ I struggle with it daily. Growing up, we used to sing a song, “Ain’t it grand to be a Christian.” Its folksy exemption from the rules of grammar aside, I have problems with its implications. On the surface it implies that by becoming a ‘Christian,’ your days of struggle are erased from existence and you get a ticket to Freeridesville, complete with rainbows, unicorns, and entire groups of people bursting into joyful song and dance through the streets. Perhaps my experience has been, yet again, of the anomalous variety, but in the words of my grandpappy, “Don’t pee down my leg and tell me that it’s raining.” My grandpappy gave me other nuggets of wisdom, usually in reference to what foods, if consumed to excess, would ‘plug your hole,’ but I digress. I’ve found that the harder I work to follow all the ‘rules’ of Christianity, both written and unwritten, the more struggle I get from life. The few times that I’ve strayed from the path have been surprisingly smoother rides. All of this seems to point to my current state of frustration with organized religion and its followers. It sets up its followers for failure, and then when they fail, teaches them to ‘bear false witness’ {Exodus 20:16} as to their true experience in life. We are trying to become better Christians, and it’s a rough go. {Acts 14:22} What happened to this kind of simple honesty? Drop the ‘Holier than thou’ persona. Side note, per (through) + sona (sound) comes from the mask that was worn on stage in the early days, as the sound of their voice was amplified by the megaphone‐like mouth hole in the mask. Second side note, the word parson also comes from this root, a mask. Funny, or is it?

Trying to be a follower of Jesus. Why? I’m sure everyone could give a different answer here, but in light of my rant on honesty, my answer isn’t a pretty one. I’ve been told all my life that I should love God. I want to love God. Why? Fear. {Job 28:28} Fear stemming from the fact that I do believe everything that the Bible has to say, not just the feel good quotes printed on our bookmarks and greeting cards. {Psalms 111:10} Fear that I may not be enlightened enough to understand the true interpretation of scripture. {Proverbs 1:7} Fear of eternal punishment. {Proverbs 9:10} Fear of not becoming that which I was born to become. {Proverbs 15:33} That said, is this a ‘good enough’ reason? Not sure. It’s kind of like saying that I know I’m selfish and prideful. I know that I should not be selfish and prideful. I want to be less selfish and prideful. Why? Because I would, as a selfish and prideful person, feel more proud of, and love myself more if I were able to accomplish it. You see my point.

As one who has a hard time maintaining a personal relationship with God, I tend to lean toward learning about God. {1 Chronicles 28:9} One becomes interesting by becoming interested, and such. Similar to the way one might check up on a girl before asking her out, I find myself studying religious texts and listening to teachers. As I am quite confident that I could never know enough, let alone too much about God, I don’t worry about knowing so much that I won’t have anything to talk about, should the opportunity present itself. This reminds me of time I spent with a Zen master. I asked if he could teach me about Zen, he declined and said there was nothing to teach or learn. He offered a cup of tea, I accepted but did not drink as it was still hot. While letting it cool, I asked again if he would be willing to share his perspective on life with me. He proceeded to take the tea pot and pour more tea into my cup. Slowly he poured and allowed the cup to overflow onto the saucer and then the table and then the floor. I was confused by what had just happened and looked at the guru for explanation. He said, like the cup, I was already full of my own ideas about what Zen was, and therefore any new ideas he would offer would simply overflow and go to waste. I would first have to empty my cup so as to prepare myself for the new perspective he would share. Sometimes I wonder if in my search to know about God, I sabotage my opportunity to know God.

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