I am sorry to say this, but it has been a long time since going to church on Sunday morning has uplifted my spirit. Interacting with people definitely is uplifting, but the service is mostly boring, preachers never give an indication that the scripture readings are not the literal word of God, and the theology of these same preachers is stuck somewhere way back when. This past Easter I dropped in via Youtube to join a few UCC churches with which I have had contact. Without exception, every sermon spoke of resurrection as resuscitation, the whole point being that the tomb was empty, and not of resurrection as the inspiring sign and seal of God’s promise for the future and empowerment for the present. Someone was even curious what happened in the tomb on Saturday. I have always empathized with secular humanists who find no meaning at all in Christian churches, and now I find myself empathizing with Jesus as well, whose actual life seems neglected or misinterpreted.
In a recent article, Brian McLaren describes a new book coming out next month entitled, Do I Stay Christian? The first part is a list of all the reasons why the answer could be “No, I’m leaving”. I suppose that the comments found there could apply to any religion that has turned away from its founder and master, although Christianity might have a monopoly on the Crusades. Part two offers reasons why the answer could be “Yes, I’m staying.” Reason number three is “where would I go?”, and reason number five is “I’m staying because of our legendary founder.” I could be mistaken, but when Jesus comes in at number five out of ten as the reason one should be a Christian, sociological analysis has overshadowed theological analysis. If Jesus is not the focal point of being a Christian, then what is?
Of course, being a Christian certainly need not be the focal point of being a human being, as McLaren eloquently reminds us. Being a fully human being, filled with love, is both what we seek and what the world needs, and the question of humanity supersedes the question of Christianity. The real question is not whether one should leave the Christian religion, but rather where do we find what it means to be human. For the first disciples, the answer was Jesus. They found in him who they really were, and they discovered who God was. The problem is that by the end of the first century the band of disciples had been transformed into an organization that was under the control of the rich and powerful, who demanded obedience to the authorities. What the church needs today is not to walk away from itself but rather to rediscover who we are. We need to become again what those first disciples had.
So let me pose a new question, not whether one should leave Christianity, but instead how can we regain what Jesus was really about so that we can begin to rediscover what we are really about. This is the question asked by both secular humanists as well as would be disciples of Jesus, and urgently requires an answer.
Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith and The Void and the Vision. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.