The Stage Is Set

Christianity is at something of a turning point, but I think that this questioning and this reaching is even bigger than Christianity. It reaches into many religious traditions. This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression — it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.

Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary president, cited in N. Kristof
(https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/opinion/sunday/christian-easter-serene-jones.html)

A lot of writers have written a lot of words about the beliefs of Ms. Jones. She denies the resurrection, denies Jesus’ divinity, and calls God an “abusive father.” It’s remarkable what she can say with a straight face. Regardless, I’m not writing about that. Her views are hardly worth additional breath. Instead, the quote above is substantially more telling. Using ornate language, Ms. Jones essentially says:

“The world is falling apart. Christianity clearly doesn’t work. It’s time for us to depend on ourselves.”

The Jewish people, especially the Pharisees and other leaders, thought the same way. They expected that the Messiah would be the instrument of God’s vengeance. They wanted the world they lived in right then to be redeemed. They wanted the Romans to get what was coming to them. They wanted God to build the perfect Kingdom on the sands of the Middle East. But Jesus didn’t do that. So they killed Him.

The message of Easter isn’t about making this world better. It is about the establishment of the new Kingdom, a Kingdom discussed at length in Christ’s teachings and later by the Apostles. It is not an earthly Kingdom and it does not promise to eradicate evil in this world. But Ms. Jones and others like her aren’t satisfied with that. Because they have decided that Christianity can only be real if it makes the world better, then it can’t be real. She reduces it to fairy tales that are as ineffectual as the “vulnerable” God she describes, wringing His hands somewhere pleading with people to “play nice.”

And so now the stage is set. Ms. Jones has laid out the case, quite beautifully, for the anti-Christ. She has eviscerated Christianity, making it just another fanciful story, all while arguing that it’s really a “new and improved” Christianity. Humans are the powerful ones, humans are the creators, humans are doing what God can’t. It is self-worship, plain and simple.

These aren’t new ideas to be sure – but the fact that they are being declared from the pulpit is.

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