hat is the 'essential Jesus'? What do we know for certain about Jesus
that is relevant and truly helpful to everybody today? Do certain basic
facts and clear certainties exist about Jesus that can form a basis for
realistic objective logical faith?
The sources for knowing Jesus begin with the Four Gospels and the Book
of Acts and go on to include your own personal spiritual experience and
your own faith tradition, which might be helpful and might also be part
of the problem. Where do you get your spiritual information? What have
been your basic sources for religion, faith, spiritual direction and
strength, and your vision of God and of yourself?
What have your parents, family and friends taught you about Jesus? What
has your church taught and conditioned you to believe? What have you
worked out for yourself? What has been the role of gospel songs and
hymns along with religious art and images in shaping your view of
Jesus? Many sources have shaped your vision of Jesus.
Seeing through the dark curtain
Jesus is a vague out of focus image for all of us. Too many conflicting
voices claim to speak the truth. None do. The voices that most firmly
demand that they have the truth are often the most incorrect and
misleading. Religious groups and churches that claim absolute authority
and demand absolute obedience are usually the ones that most reduce
Jesus to a set of beliefs, doctrines, rules and propositions and that
discourage people from thinking for themselves and enjoying the real
freedom of the Spirit of Jesus in their lives.
Abusive religion is controlling and oppressive, not liberating and
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina. At the age of
nine, I "accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior" and joined the church and
was baptized "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit." I have
spent the past 60 years trying to understand and to enter fully into
whatever that means
As I have struggled through my own personal "dark night of the soul" as
a Gay Christian, I have found that a great multitude of other people
also share the same struggle and spiritual pilgrimage. We are "marching
to Zion," but none of us know what "Zion" means or even really care.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John
1:29, 36). But, what does that mean? Multiple layers of confusion and
misinformation, along with political, religious and financial
manipulations, and celebrations of ignorance in the name of God for the
past 2,000 years of church history have darkened our access to Jesus.
We do indeed see Jesus "through a glass darkly" and not face-to-face.
Where is the shortcut to Jesus? Does a basic simple direct uncluttered
vision of Jesus exist? Can we construct a brief overview of the details
of Jesus that is easy to grasp and relevant to each individual here and
now? Is a "Jesus for Dummies" possible? I think so.
The following "Twelve Steps" might be a helpful framework for new
directions in knowing and following Jesus.
Twelve steps to recovering Jesus
Step One: Admit that you have a vague incorrect view of Jesus and that
religion has misled and confused you.
Step Two: Turn to God who is already within you as your basic source for
knowing and following the Spirit of Jesus.
Step Three: Take the time to learn the basic content of the Four Gospels
and the Book of Acts.
Step Four: Question everything in the Jesus traditions that does not
make sense or ring true to you.
Step Five: Search for and write down a list of the actions and teachings
of Jesus in the Gospels that demonstrate something human and accessible
that you can realistically follow and do yourself, such as accepting and
celebrating your own humanity and having compassion for other people.
Step Six: Find or start a small group in your home that can provide a
setting for dialogue, discussion, encouragement, learning, changing and
Step Seven: Fearlessly face and challenge the misinformation and
confusions about Jesus that seem to interfere most with your own
acceptance of Jesus as real and relevant to you.
Step Eight: Start over in your own spiritual journey by letting go of
legalistic judgmental religious literature, people and groups. Don't
listen to the ignorant misinformation of fundamentalists and other forms
of self-serving religious confusion.
Step Nine: Search for and find resources from other people both ancient
and modern that also have struggled with their own understanding of
Jesus and have challenged the traditions and tried to cut through the
gloom to see the real Jesus.
Step Ten: Accept yourself as you are, just as Jesus accepted himself,
and build a self-esteem basis for being able to accept and follow the
real Jesus that is beginning to emerge in your personal search and
Step Eleven: Take others along with you in your journey of discovery and
clarification whenever you have opportunity.
Step Twelve: Act positively and with compassion on what you are learning
and experiencing about the real Jesus.
Jesus is for dummies
All of us are dummies about many things. None of us completely master
anything. Abandoning traditional visions of Jesus is not abandoning the
real Jesus. Letting go of misinformation and confusions about Jesus is
not letting go of the real Jesus. The reason that we are dummies about
Jesus is because we have been dummied by religious manipulations and
misinformation. The same abusive sick religion that has made GLBT
people hate themselves and try to destroy themselves and each other is
the source of our confusion and misinformation about Jesus.
Last week I began to use a new Dell computer with Windows XP, which is
far different from what I had used before. I was really lost and
confused. I immediately bought a copy of "Windows XP for Dummies" with
high hopes that I could learn enough about this new operating system to
do a better job in my writing and Internet ministries. So far, I am
still quite a dummy, but I am learning.
High hopes for positive change
I have high hopes for positive changes in how all of us find relevant
spiritual resources and healthy spirituality in a fresh look at who
Jesus really is for us today in our rapidly changing world. In every
area of life, we are constantly being challenged to "let go and move
on." We either: "let go and move on," or we are dead in the water and
Paul in Philippians 3:1-14 described how he had to move out of one
spiritual house and into another place in order to have Jesus in his
life: "I count all things (legalistic judgmental religion) to be loss in
view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I
have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be garbage
(literally "animal feces"!) in order that I may gain Christ." When Paul
said: "forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies
ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of
God in Christ Jesus," he was letting go of abusive legalistic religion
in order to know and follow Jesus.
To live is to change. To learn and grow demands and creates change.
Walking through new doors can be threatening. Stepping off of familiar
ground onto a new path can be scary, but staying put on trembling
sinking ground can be deadly. If the traditional abusive religious
images of Jesus have not worked for you, let go and move on to something