Conservative Christianity Telling the Wrong Story

Telling the Wrong Story
It is easy and dangerous to distort the telling of the story of Jesus. Within American Conservative Christianity (aka Evangelical Christianity), we have come to think of Jesus in one of two ways. First, an embodiment of divinity like a computer avatar rather than the unique incarnate son of the Creator God. We think of his death as an example of great sacrifice and his resurrection becomes a way of thinking and talking about God’s continuing work in the present world. Second, we think in a dualistic way. Jesus is someone who is from the outside of our world, a superman of sorts who has come from another sphere to tell us that our true home is someplace else, namely heaven. His coming was to teach us how to follow him to that distant and unearthly destination.

There is something wrong with that picture. Neither way of thinking comes close to the Story of Jesus as presented in the Gospels of the New Testament. American Conservative Christianity, served up on a regular basis in America and exported to the global world, simply ignores what the Bible actually says about Jesus in favor of another story that has been created out of bits and pieces of perception and refracted through various biblical passage which misreads the text of the biblical story.

This brand of Christianity passes itself off as authentic because it believes the items that have come to be thought of as orthodox, namely: incarnation, atonement, resurrection, spirit, and second coming. But, what has happened is that all these beliefs have been joined together into the wrong narrative sorta like a kid who is drawing a “draw by numbers” picture but decides to follow another sequence rather than following the numbers. The result of this activity: of not following the right sequence, is drawing a picture other than the one intended. If you put all the elements of Conservative Christianity within a story of a deist God who sent his superman son to undergo some redemptive violence in order to satisfy his primal vengeance, then raise this dead body to life in order to show followers a way back to heaven and away from earth only to come again and snatch them away from earth as earth finally rolls toward rotting in hell. If that is the narrative that one sets incarnation, atonement, resurrection, spirit, and second coming into, then that production produces a violently distorted parody of biblical Christianity. Alas, this is the story of American Conservative Christianity.

So What Biblical Story?
A fresh way of understanding the Story of Scripture is to understand it as a story where humankind, though created good, became radically flawed by choosing to be independent. Into this flawed world, Jesus came as the long-awaited King of the Jews, who themselves had been the redemptive promise of God for some two thousands years. Jesus came to do what Israel had failed to do. Jesus took on the weight of sin and exhausted it, not so those following him could escape this world because it was bad or evil, but because of his resurrection could become part of the project of new creation, a new heaven and earth, or one might say a new garden. This project started after the first created beings chose to follow themselves and not God. The second coming then, is not a day in which Jesus will snatch away his bride from this evil earth and take them to heaven forever, but a time when the rule of Jesus which was already established in his first coming: birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, will finally be established in peace and justice in a transformed heaven and earth. It is this Biblical narrative that should replace the present conservative Christian narrative so that this narrative can make a fresh impact on the world in this present time.

These thoughts were influential by Tom Wright.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Melody April 17, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Reading this makes so much more sense than what we have always been taught. Sure makes me miss our “sunday mornings”

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drwinn May 27, 2007 at 9:06 am

Melody,

Sorry for the looooong delay in responding. Yep! we were all taught some pretty interesting stuff. It is the baggage that we carry and have to unpack and throw away from. Living in God’s story and living in the now as if it was the then is exciting stuff.

Yep, meeting with you guys and gals on Sundays live via video/audio over the net was fun stuff. I’m glad it seems to have had an effect in your life.

Winn

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