I’ve kicked off my new year’s resolution to have a more vibrant faith in style: I released a new book in which I call Jesus “dirty” and declared him a “capitalist,” all in the first two weeks of the year.
I genuinely believe in both, and people are in a tizzy over it.
Every kind of Christian you can imagine has accused me of heresy, atheists galore have charged me with a kind of delusion that they must know suspiciously well, and I’ve even received multiple, curious emails from people actually claiming to be Jesus.
Those are my favorites.
These Jesuses seem much more opinionated than the original one.
Among evangelicals, it’s not all that controversial to believe that Jesus, the Son of God, took on the sin of the world (became dirty) and rose again so that the world could get cleaned up. We call that “salvation” in our religious speak.
What is controversial to some is to say - as I have also done - that Jesus had to actually do everyday human things, like go to the bathroom.
Since 451 A.D., professing Christians of Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic persuasions have all agreed (which is quite a feat in itself) with one another that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. Yet, it seems that we’re far more interested in the divine part of the conversation than the human one.
I believe it’s in Jesus’ humanity that we find the integration of our faith and everyday life. This is, after all, the perennial struggle of the religious person - to discover “how all of this is relevant to my everyday life.”
In exploring the human side of Jesus, we contemporize his life and teachings, and I believe you can do so without jeopardizing traditional, Christian ideas of right thinking and right living.
I believe that Jesus had lots to say about the things we face everyday-our challenges and struggles, our sins and follies-and he had quite a few opinions about how we should treat others and think of ourselves.
Basically, I’m trying to rescue Jesus from what religion has done to him.
Religion has whitewashed his edginess, walled him up in stuffy sanctuaries and generally robbed him of all personality and humanity. Many Christians today worship a petrified Jesus painted only in one dimension on a wall or in their minds.
That’s why, this year, I’m encouraging people to read the Gospels again, to discover the dirty God for themselves…but to do so through the lens of Jesus’ everyday-ness, and to do so with an open mind.
We live in a culture where everyone has an opinion about Jesus. He’s easily the most famous person in history, but more often than not, our opinions about him are inherited from others. I think it’s time we went to the original source, and when we do that, we’ll discover all kinds of interesting and relevant things that Jesus had to say about truth and relationships, politics and faith and even how to handle money (or debt). We’ll find the compassion that Jesus had for people whose sin made them the subject of ridicule and rejection, and we’ll find his wonderful sense of humor and way with sarcasm.
We’ll also find ourselves believing controversial things, if you believe in Jesus.
After all, they didn’t crucify Jesus because he was a cute, little self-help teacher. They crucified him because he was saying the types of things that got you killed in the first century.
It will always be controversial to believe in Jesus, and to live what he tells us is right.
Thankfully, we live in America whose plenary freedom is that of speech and religion. It grants us the opportunity to be peacefully misunderstood but heard, and the opportunity to be disagreed with but accepted.
Sadly, it seems that too many people have gotten their information about Jesus secondhand and some have forgotten that in America everyone has the right to preach what they will.
Johnnie Moore is the author of a new book on the “humanity of Jesus” called “Dirty God” (#DirtyGod). He is a Professor of Religion and Vice President at the nearly 100,000-student, Liberty University. Keep track of him @johnnieM. The opinions expressed are solely those of Johnnie Moore.