Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chapter 10.1: The American Jesus

So who is the "American Jesus"? Well that is a broad question. See, on this subject we will be looking at Jesus as a cultural figure and how we have tried to make him something he is not here in America. There are many subcultures within the idea of the "American Jesus" and we will be touching on many of them throughout this miniseries. The first part I will be talking about is how we have tried to fit Jesus into our culture instead of making our culture conform to Jesus.

Now, there are many people who say that at the birth of America our forefathers tried to make our country a Christian nation with God, Jesus, and the Bible being our bedrock of morals. I really do not plan to make an argument other wise I am just going to point out that just as much as we are a very different country from what we once were, we also have a very different culture than what our forefathers had dreamed for us. Even if we at one time were a "Christian nation" we are most definitely not one now. So here is my big problem with that, we can not simply say that what we do as a culture is anywhere close to lining up with the Bible let alone claim that Jesus is cool with this culture.

I do want to move on because I do not want to simply point out that as a whole country we are not Christian. What I do want to talk about is how we as Christians have tried to fit Jesus into our view point and call it Godly. I have a personal term for what goes on in American Christianity, someone else may have called it this too I just have not heard, but I call it "cultural Christianity". So what is "cultural Christianity"? Well to be honest, as a whole, it is religiosity, legalism, and at worst very much like the pharisees in the times of Jesus. We have made Jesus and the Bible simply a rule book to live by and not the Gospel and the truth. The flip side to this, in "cultural Christianity", is that if Jesus and the Bible are not the rule book, Jesus and the Bible are too harsh and we should take everything that was said as just a suggestion at best. So in this chapter I will be looking at both of them briefly and trying to shed some light on how both of these view points are making God look bad.

On the rougher side of the "American Jesus" people will be like, "If we do not like this or that than Jesus wouldn't either, so we are right". Now do not get me wrong there are things that the "world" is trying to say is right when it most definitely is not but I am not talking about that I am talking about things inside of the Body of Christ. "Cultural Christianity" has made God, Jesus, and the Bible something that it was never meant to be, a list of don'ts. Now again do not get me wrong there are a lot of things that we should not do but when we make it just about that we are really missing the message. See in "cultural Christianity" if you simply don't do a certain list of things, and that list will vary depending on who you follow, then praise the "American Jesus" you are a Christian. That could not be further from the truth though. Jesus did not die and raise again simply for you to not be able to do things. Jesus came so we could have life and life more abundant. When we make Christianity simply a list of don'ts and leave out what is desired for us to do than we make impotent and ignorant followers of Christ. I like how Jesus himself put it, "a form of Godliness with no power". If you follow the "American Jesus" then you will become someone who might not do bad things but also has no works to show that your faith even exists. It would be like telling someone if they simply eat right they will be healthy. That is not true either because if someone eats right but just lays around all day then they are really no more healthy than the person who may eat wrong but still goes to the gym to work out, neither person is truly healthy. Not only does this teaching raise up powerless Christians but it also raises up people who "know" what God does not want so much so that they will rally behind something that is not even Biblical. What I mean by that is twenty years ago there where people who would protest against biracial marriage, sadly there are still people who think that it is wrong, and what is worst is that these people thought they were doing the will of God. This kind of "cultural Christianity" will bring about people who do not know how to show the love and grace of Christ while at the same time thinking that they are justified by being that way. This kind of "American Jesus" will raise up radical, not in the good way, kind of followers that will be loud and think that they are talking for God all at the same time causing people to turn away from the true Jesus.

The other kind of "American Jesus" is the one who allows all kinds of sin in the name of love and peace. The people who follow this kind of Jesus are the ones who will change what the Bible says to fit it into the culture today. "American Jesus" will be okay with what ever is the hot topic subject that is at hand no matter if it is something that can be perfectly spelled out in the Bible as wrong. In this "cultural Christianity" Jesus changes his mind as much as we do. It is okay for whatever as long as the majority, sometimes the minority, says it is. This "American Jesus" has no back bone and all his words are either suggestions or at worst just not literal at all. This other part of "cultural Christianity" will say that everything is okay just to say that Jesus is love and would not have a problem with anything cause he loves everyone so much. Where this may be true to people coming to know Christ it is not true once someone has become a new creation in Him. The culture of this Jesus is that if it offends anyone it can not be God. God to this "cultural Christianity" has no hell or judgement. He is just a loving "sky daddy" who even if you have done wrong your punishment will only be for a little bit then you get to be with him forever. This contradicts what the Bible says about God being the perfect judge and that his judgement is final. This "cultural Christianity" will also not hold back on throwing stones at the other side and call them intolerant because they do not show love well enough to people.

So over all who is the "American Jesus"? Well he is a bipolar guy who either hates the culture today or is completely fine with it. He is either all judgement or all love. He either will send everyone, except the ones who stand up and shout about his "laws", to hell or everyone to heaven. Both of these "American Jesuses" are sold to people all over America and it makes me shutter to my core. Nether side has the fullness of the Gospel in mind when they try and paint Jesus in this way. As I have said before God is perfect love and perfect justice. Even though it may hurt peoples feelings hell is real and awaits people who do not call on the name of Jesus for salvation. On the flip side he does not take pleasure in doing this. Jesus is waiting, arms wide open, to bring anyone who calls on Him into relationship with Him. Yes there are rules to following Jesus but those are things that by the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the Bible we will find out are truth. There may be some gray areas in there but to become a new creation is to lay aside your culture and take hold of the culture of the Kingdom of God. We really make God look bad when we try to superimpose our own culture or world view on him instead of being transformed in our mind to the way He wants things done and the view He has for this world.

We as true followers of Christ can no longer sit on the fence when it comes to this subject. The "American Jesus" is not the one of the Bible. We can not just be silent when it comes to either side of this subject. We must stand up with boldness and love to these kinds of things while at the same time trying to reveal the truth of who Jesus really is. If you are wondering who the real Jesus is then like always go and study it for yourself. We have not "cornered the market" on Jesus or the Gospel. We must change our culture, first inside the body of Christ and then the world, to conform to what God says it should look like. We can only do this by preaching the fullness of the Gospel and not just with the parts that we like.

Like always let me ask you some questions. In what way have you tried to make Jesus American? Do you believe that Jesus would be pleased with the way the "Church of America" looks right now? In what way can we stand up against these things to hopefully bring about change?

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