How History We Never Knew Taps a Spirituality We Really Need
My next book is in the hands of the publisher! Wipf and Stock Publishing in Eugene, Oregon is publishing it in April or May 2016. Besides the craft beer theme (just as small, independent craft breweries using historical recipes have rethought corporate-brewed beer, pub or cafe theologians outside the church are rethinking “corporate” religion), here are the book’s three big ideas:
1) The Modern American Church Has Failed Christian History 101 – With some notable exceptions, American Christianity does not understand the rich, fascinating, and complex-but-illuminating history of the early Jesus saga and how it later morphed into a warped man-made religion. Many modern theologies (on the Bible, church, salvation, the kingdom of God, evangelism, “Christian” America, homosexuality, the “end times,” and the afterlife) are just that: modern rather than historical. They are not based on or informed by the primary sources of the Jesus Movement in the first century and beyond but rather on much later tainted voices through the centuries.
2) Modern Christian Religion Has Raised a Herd of Mythical Sacred Cows– Without the anchor of good history of the ancient Jesus story and knowledge of how it evolved through the centuries, the modern church has come up with some pretty wacky theologies: Jesus is coming back to earth (probably in our lifetime) to usher in an apocalyptic Day of Judgment, all of humanity deserves eternal damnation, Jesus’ death on the cross appeases the wrath of an angry God, the Bible has no mistakes and is our only source of moral authority today (even though it is not the same Bible the early church had), Christianity is the only true religion, institutional churches are the ordained organizations to change the world, and the destiny of two thirds or more of humanity is everlasting hell (depending on who does the math), to name only a few. It’s not that there’s nothing right in modern religion, but that what is wrong with it has almost entirely mangled the original Good News message of the first century anointed Rabbi who started it all.
3) Modern America Needs a New Spirituality Based on Reality – It’s long past time that people take a fresh look at the historical roots of our modern theological assumptions and see how they compare to original primary sources. It begins, not by just re-reading our modern English Bibles, but carefully prodding it with questions, revealing mistranslations and misinterpretations, and learning to use it like our ancient precedents did. When we do that, we discover a new, refreshing spirituality. This is not a new Dan Brown fiction or a biased secular study that throws the historical Jesus “baby” out with a mythical “bathwater,” but a rational look at what really happened, including a lost story about the open-minded, non-state-sponsored Christian communities of the East. This is not in order to create some new, dogmatic, fundamentalist “pure” religion, but rather to uncover this truth: exclusivist religion was never part of the message. What was, is an earth-shattering love ethic and an inclusive faith that accepts both belief and doubt.
In the next few months, I’ll be giving away excerpts from various chapters of the book. I’m asking for your feedback to hopefully start a national conversation around these questions: What’s wrong with modern religion? Why? What makes history so important? Is there a new spiritual paradigm that could help us minimize our culture wars and bring all the players—believers, conservatives, liberals, agnostics, and atheists—to the table? Long enough to drink a few literal or figurative beers and work together to change the world?