Hearty Heresy

Take the Falwell Challenge
May 17, 2007, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology, Uncategorized

I know that immediacy is one of the great things about blogging, so I apologize for taking so long to write about Jerry Falwell. In my defense, I will say that I hopped around the blogosphere a bit on Tuesday to make a few comments. I usually said one of two things: I mentioned that Falwell once called Bishop Tutu a fraud (don’t you love how supposedly forgiving Brand Xians are so quick to condemn one another); and I also quoted John Donne’s words “Any man’s death diminishes me….” At any rate, along the way I found this comment about Falwell from Brahnamin at TotalTransformationTest, and it reminded me of a challenge I would like to offer to Brand Xians. First, the comment:

i went to liberty university (briefly) in my youth. i listened to him speak many times, of course, but i only met him once. he offered to give my roommate and me a ride back from the mall.

he kinda thought we were skipping class (we weren’t) but he was really cool about it.

the thing he said that has always stuck with me was :: even if there were not resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, i would still choose to be a christian because i like the lifestyle. i like the man it has made me.

(forgive the clumsy paraquote :: i only heard him say it once during my freshman year)

“…even if there were no resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, i would still choose to be a christian….” That sort of sums up a challenge I’ve wanted to make. Only rather than choosing to be a Christian, one would choose to still following the teachings of Jesus. And as you know, I think there’s a pretty huge difference between the two. Liking the “lifestyle” Brand Xianity offers to a twenty-first century white male in the United States is, what?, roughly 2000 years away from the “lifestyle” following Jesus offered to first century Mediterranean peasants. That “lifestyle,” according to John Dominic Crossan in The Historical Jesus, has more to do with creating a “Kingdom of Nobodies.” Here’s a taste of what Crossan’s talking about:

He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants living long enough at a subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution. He looks like a beggar yet his eyes lack the proper cringe, his voice the proper whine, his walk the proper shuffle. He speaks about the rule of God and they listen as much from curiosity as anything else. They know all about rule and power, about kingdom and empire, but they know it in terms of tax and debt, malnutrition and sickness, agrarian oppression and demonic possession. What, they really want to know, can this kingdom of God do for a lame child, a blind parent, a demented soul screaming its tortured isolation among the graves that mark the edges of the village?

My challenge, then, is simply this: Even if there were no resurrection, no heaven, nothing to look forward to beyond this life, would you still find the message of Jesus, Mary’s bastard son, so compelling that it would move you to want to help make the kingdom of God manifest here and now, not just for the rich and privileged, but for everyone, the nobodies, the poor and oppressed? Just asking.


12 Comments so far
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Yes, I would. And not just for the “Kingdom Now” but for the honest representation of who we all are and acceptance of one another. In Jesus’ teaching I found I could be myself, admit my obvious faults and love other people instead of having to take my shame out on them.

Comment by WhoreChurch

Amen to that! Crossan talks about Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom being beyond honor and shame. That’s definitely one of the liberating aspects of it.

Comment by heartyheretic

Yes, I pretty much have staked my ministry on it.


Comment by pastorofdisaster

That doesn’t surprise me one bit, Brian. I feel a zillion times closer to the Jesus Crossan describes than the nebulous Jesus of my Methodist upbringing, or the judgmental Jesus the late Rev. Falwell preached.

Comment by heartyheretic

From the quote that you chose, it looks like you think he was just a wandering beggarman, exhorting others to wander around just like him. Are you thinking that healing the sick, feeding the hungry and raising the dead are not 21st century ideals to aspire to?

However, there are very few Christians today who are spiritual enough to do those things the way he did them. Yes, they heal the sick, but it is by building medical clinics in ghettos and Barrios. They feed the hungry by opening food pantries and soup kitchens. And there is no raising from the dead. But still, all fine things to be sure, but Jesus did these things by the power of his faith. He did not say he could do these things because he was the son of god, he said anyone with faith could do them. He told us we could move mountains and walk on water if we had the faith of a mustard seed.

Or, are you wondering if loving god with all your heart, strength and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself is something that would be of any practical use to the 21st century person regardless of an afterlife?

Comment by Robin

I cosign with the others, HH. Jesus was for real and had a message that everyone-regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexuality could feel at home with. Even if this plane of existence was all we had, Jesus’ message still would work for me. Peace!

Comment by Dangerous Christian

I would. Jesus was a “friend of sinners” like me, and liked people who were honest about themselves and who they really were. I can work with that.

Comment by Jon

I agree, Robin, that whatever Jesus was able to do was done out of faith, and that he made no claim in exclusivity for himself in that regard. Thanks for the comment.

DC: Yes the message was for everyone! And if that’s all there is to the Jesus tradition, I’d still believe in it, too. Thanks!

Jon: Jesus seems to have see everyone as a beloved child of God, no need to distinguish between the saints and sinners. Would that more of us would see each other that way. I can work with that, too!

Comment by heartyheretic

John 14:12 Jesus says his followers will do even greater things than He did. I’ve often wondered about that verse, no one really knows how to take it. No one else has done the miracles Jesus did, but we do have the opportunity to lay down our lives (literally and figuratively) for one another.

Comment by WhoreChurch

I like the take Bernard Haisch has on that verse (which I mentioned here). A fully human Jesus may very well have been in such complete harmony with the creator that he saw the potential for all of humanity if we’d only follow his teachings–up to and including laying down our lives for one another.

Comment by heartyheretic

*instead of having to take my shame out on them…*

now THAT is a powerful (and sadly accurate) portrayal of modern christianity

Comment by brahnamin

Does seem to be shame-based, doesn’t it. And thanks for sharing your anecdote about Falwell. Good food for thought.

Comment by heartyheretic

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