Jesus is Christianity
A Poem by Mike Garner
God become human without exception
nonviolent resistor of systemic evil
revealing God - suffering death,
not fighting back - loving us to death
Author and Finisher
arms outstretched forgiving, embracing, hanging on a cross
The doctrinal claims of sectarian institutions that benefit those who govern through adherence to their particular set of dogmas exalt their statements above the scripture. This is so because they absolutize the meaning of their statements and exclude alternative views. In this situation, what we need, is clarity on those enduring realities that constitute Christian faith. This is so because Christianity in all its glory as light and salt in a world of darkness has been lost, misrepresented, politicized, and in affect, what exists is spiritually impotent.
What is Christianity?
Christianity is a breach upon the world order. It is the beginning of the end of reality as constructed by humanity - a reality inconsistent with God’s will. Christianity’s breach into the sphere of human existence is a challenge for humanity to re-imagine the world with God. Christianity is a radical message of freedom, in which humanity chooses to follow the teachings of Jesus without restraint; without excusive reasoning that justifies the concept of ‘the secular’. Christianity demands the immediate sacralizing of every human being’s life. Human beings alone hold the position of being sacred before God. Christianity accepts the non-violent teaching of Jesus as essential practice for expanding the breach of God’s entrance into the world. Christianity is the singular power potent enough to change, to save, the world.
Jesus’ ministry began with John’s announcement of the impending arrival of a Kingdom whose origin was from beyond, from God. In this sense the reign of God in Christ does not find its origins in David, and its entrance is indicative of the beginning of a new reality, a reality recognized by the prophets in their hope pieces. The prophets envisioned a world where, every person knows the Lord, war is abolished; a world where even nature is arrested and transformed.
This breach of reality requires that all humanity has known, or experienced, be understood as less than God desires; it must come to an end. God’s desire is that every human being would know his voice, hear, and willingly live in accordance with his will. God wants to be known. God can be known, but his existence cannot be proven. The hope of existence is God. Reality’s hope for eternity is the end of death. Jesus’ life is the existence of God in the face of death’s seeming finality. The breach is established and held in place by the unending life of Jesus. Transcendence offers nothing; it is because God joined the creation that we can become recipients of heaven.
All of creation is a product of God’s imagination. However, social reality is a construct formed through human relationships. To re-imagine this reality is the practice of Christianity and our call to become children of God. To re-imagine reality is a Christian practice, a spiritual practice, it is to align us with the will of God for humanity; it brings God into the world. Re-imagining reality is to question the permanence of institutional inevitability as the governing power over humanity.
Christianity is socially egalitarian by nature. This is so because love, and the sacredness of every human life comprises the ultimate concern of God. Christianity is a reality consuming faith because it is the unseen God made present in flesh and ultimately in all humanity. Christianity is the ongoing salvation of God’s redeeming work in creation and for humanity. Christianity is always more than, greater than, any institution attempting to identify itself with, or as, Christianity.
Christianity is the freedom to live in the yes to God. The present state of humanity is life in both the yes and no, in both the good and evil. Christianity is to follow and live out the life and teachings of Jesus. The no, the secular, is the refusal, it is the lack of courage to live in faith and follow Jesus through a narrow gate, one person, wide.
Christianity is a power that produces exemplary people whose lives are marked by a profound sense of humility and personal suffering over the condition of the world. Christianity is relentless in the proclamation of good news: built around the particularity of Jesus Christ as the coming of God, as the apex of God’s self-revelation, as a spiritual movement of subversive power that is set to liberate humanity from all that does not represent God.
Christianity is merciful, yet ever calling her members through the gauntlet of repentance where change of one’s very being occurs. Because sin, as we know, is common to the human experience, repentance is a painful but healing gift. Repentance is completed when guilt is replaced with the restful touch of God, even though the consequences of sin remain in the world.
Christianity is revelatory, for it is God who calls and works in those who receive the kerygma (proclamation). God has joined the creation and made part of what it means to be God is to be human. This act of love, God’s longing to join the creature in the adventure of creative reality is indicative of the sacredness of every human being. Life has meaning because God cares, God watches, God is one of us. The Kingdom of Heaven is our salvation made present in a world not the way it is supposed to be. Christianity is a lived practice and the living is more important than petty dogmas.
Christianity is to connect with the pathos of God.
Because God is love, the pathos of God for the suffering of humanity is ever immediate and always intense. This being said, a person experiencing the pathos of God would cry, would desire to alleviate suffering caused by injustice, catastrophe, and war. Where Christianity is there are tears over the evils of human suffering, particularly that which is caused by human action. The pathos of God also moves those so touched to action. Where Christianity is there is people helping the suffering.
Christianity is a struggle.
The Kingdom of God is now / not yet, it is yet to swallow up the present but it has begun. The now / not yet transformative infusion of the reign of God into reality allows for two overlapping and incompatible realities to exist simultaneously. The yeast in the meal ultimately cannot be resisted but in the present Christianity lives within a state of struggle. Life is permeated with death, good is present but sin corrupts. Human beings who follow Christ, struggle to live and produce life while death still reigns and sin still corrupts. Christianity is a struggle to expand the breach that is the Spirit of Christ in humanity working to overcome the world.
Christianity is by nature incompatible with the state.
The appointing of a king, a president, or any head of a nation state, of necessity, must include a hierarchal system of those persons who will implement his or her, will and decrees. It is true to say that human beings are not fit to rule over one another. Further, it is true to say that God did not create us to rule over one another. God desires a people, not a nation state.
Christianity is constantly involved in education for the spiritual, physical and intellectual betterment of humanity.
It is the divine will’s word that we are to ‘love one another’, this being so; Christianity’s understands that the development of every human being is an imperative. The development of the mind is to be congruent with the transformative work of the Spirit. To be drawn into the life of Christ in the present is an invitation to contemplative thought over the human condition and the reconciliatory work of God. Learning to think critically is learning to know how to ‘answer everyone’ (Col. 4:6). To think theologically about everything is a spiritual discipline for the mind that enables physical flourishing for humanity.
To be Christian is to learn all that one is enabled to learn, or blessed to learn, in any field of study or craft, so that this learning might be given to others. Christianity opens the heart and mind to unquenchable curiosity over all that can be learned under the sun. A curious mind is a healthy soul.
Christianity is present when the poor are educated and lifted into the social economy as flourishing members.
It is un-Christian to withhold knowledge from others for the sake of economic gain. God does not leave his children foolish. Where Christianity is present, then education for all is also present. Although a person may ‘specialize’ in a given field of study, in a Christian community knowledge is shared freely.
Christianity is present when peace is sought without recourse to violence.
Jesus was a man of peace and taught that the qualifying evidence of a child of God is to be a peacemaker. Christianity and violence are incompatible. Jesus life and teaching exemplify nonviolence. Jesus’ refusal to resist his murder upon a cross reveals to us the heart of man and the heart of God. Jesus taught that we are to resist evil with good and to love our enemies.
Christianity in the present is subject to eruptions of both chance and evil where the absurd absolves the world of meaning; where meaning exists only in hope, through faith, knowing that God is watching – that God cares.
The absence of God, is theologically instructive, a literary motif throughout scripture, and a daily experience. Yet, Christianity fails to instruct her adherents in the church to affirm this truth. In the church, everything becomes providence and is given an explanation. This explanatory effort is as absurd as the unexplainable meaningless evil that permeates life and reality.
In Christianity, the word tragedy is seldom used. When it is, it is swallowed up in the ensuing trust that God has somehow blessed the victim with needed lessons for their life, or the victim of the tragic becomes an exemplar of faith for their refusal to acknowledge God’s absence in the tragic.
Evil’s absurdity and the tragic is born of chance and disrupts life. This disruption devalues existence; it rips at the fabric of hope and captures its victims in the grips of its permanence. A happy theology is simple-minded coping that ignores reality. Yes, the Lord brings us joy – in the midst of our sufferings.
The brevity of life is matched by the fragility of life; both mark the human condition as subject to suffering and death. Christianity’s power lies in a judgment that affirms God is watching and in a hope that meets eternity in the face of Jesus. A life of self-aggrandizement is a life in rebellion to the lessons of absurdity, of the tragic, of evil and death, which are the foil for our faith.
How we respond to the suffering in the world is the evidence of knowing Christ. If we are governed by our ego we cannot be responsive to the voice of God in a world marked by suffering. Humility in concert with a passion for merciful justice and how to live out truth is the mark of a Christian life.
Christianity is present when prisons are closed and prisoners redeemed.
Moses’ life in Egypt provided him with the knowledge of how political powers jail and treat those they render unfit to live with society. So, Moses does not institute a penal system of incarceration, rather, he provides cities of refuge where the guilty (particularly anyone who has caused the death of another) can live together with their families (Numbers 35). Christianity is not supportive of a criminal justice system without restoration and opportunity for restitution over crimes committed. The for-profit prison system in the U.S. is a sign of the economic stratification of society in a way that allows for unlimited wealth appropriation to flourish. This single flaw in our systems of law is more threatening to life than all the prisoners we have locked away.
Christianity is present when war is understood to be an intolerable madness not to be taught to our children.
When I went through the plague narratives of Exodus to uncover the acts of mercy that hardened Pharaoh’s heart, I came across one event that simply defied all reasonable response. It was the madness of Pharaoh to pursue the Hebrews into the sea. Pharaoh had been left his chariots that he might have recourse to defend Egypt after the liberation of the slaves. The author of the text is careful to include this bit of information, the preservation of the chariots, and its meaning includes the response of Pharaoh to God’s mercy – Pharaoh is at war with God. Pharaoh’s response is madness. War is madness. War is an act against both God and humanity.
Christianity is the refusal to teach war as a legitimate response to the problems of shifting powers over humanity.
Christianity exists and cannot be contained; it is God’s work. All human efforts to limit or control the in-breaking reality of salvation, of heaven, of the Spirit are chaff. God wins.
 See: Garner, Mike Interpretive Adventures; Subversive Readings in a Missional School, Wipf and Stock Publishers. It is my position that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s acts of mercy during the plagues. Each plague is communicative and contains God’s revelation of self amidst the liberating acts of power. It must be said that the plague narratives are also revelatory about human behavior, particularly that of a demagogue.