Friday, September 23, 2011

Joining the Pharisees and the "I hate Jesus" Club

I have been abundantly blessed with great books lately. The latest is, Evolving in Monkey Town, by Rachel Held Evans. She is my hero. She grew up in a "Christian home" like I did. She was good attitude and behavior awards. She memorized Scripture. She learned how to confront her non-Christian friends and help them understand that they were on their way to hell if they didn't believe what she believed. She spend hours reading and studying and singing and praying and loving her life of faith.

And then, during her college years - at a Christian college, no less, she began to ask questions. Questions that caused people to worry about her heart and soul. Questions that caused her pastors and roommate and professors and fellow believers to wonder if she believed at all, to warn her to be careful about what she said out loud, and, above all, to remind her that God's ways were higher than her ways.

One friend said, "God's ways are highter than our ways, Rachel. At some point, you have to accept the fact that you cannot understand everything he does. He is the potter. You are the clay. The clay can't tell the potter what to do."

Rachel responded, "You know what, Sarah? I'm starting to wonder if maybe we made this potter up." (page 115)

I love this book. I think I love this woman.

Anyway, below is the quote that has me reeling at the moment.

"It is natural for most Christians to assume that had we lived in Galilee two thousand years ago, we would have dropped everything we owned and followed Jesus. But I'm not so sure that those of us with expensive Christian educations and deeply religious backgrounds would have fallen in line. I'm beginning to suspect that most of us would have joined the Pharisees and enrolled in the I HATE JESUS club.

"Jesus drank wine with sexual deviants. He committed major social taboos. He spent a lot of time among contagious people, crazy people, uneducated people, and smelly people. His famous cousin wore camel hair and ate locusts and honey. Those most familiar with Scripture called his views heretical, and his own family questioned his sanity. Jesus introduced new teachings not found in the Scriptures and claimed his authority came directly from God. He asked his disciples to sell all their "blessings" and follow him, when doing so could get them excommunicated from the faith or even killed. He was too liberal, too radical, and too demanding. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure that I would have followed the guy, and that really scares me sometimes. 

"Fortunately for us Pharisee types, Jesus offers hope in the form of his conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was himself a Pharisee and a member of the prestigious Sanhedrin. He had a lot of questions for Jesus and seemed a bit skeptical, but Jesus assured Nicodemus that if he was willing to start all over again, willing to let some things go and think a little differently, he could experience the new kingdom himself. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"In India, I learned that among Hindus, the goal of reincarnation is to be reborn into nobler circumstances. And in India, I learned that in the kingdom of God, the goal is to be reborn in humbler ones." (pages 155-156)

I'm not finished with this book yet. I'm not sure it will be finished with me anytime soon. But I am loving how open she is about her doubts, her questions, her prayers, her fears, her yearning for more understanding, more peace, and more opportunities to discuss all that was swirling in her with folks who wouldn't immediately question "her salvation," whatever that meant to the one asking the questions at any given time.

I am reeling, folks. Spinning. Twisting. Wondering. Pondering.
Rethinking a whole lot of stuff.
It's so good. So very good.


Celia Jimenez said...

I agree to some extent, Gail. I think we see evidence of even Jesus' own family rejecting Him. He was a radical! Even some of the most devout were scratching their heads! The awesome thing is...He is bigger than all our doubts, our fears, our struggles, and our questions. I pray though...that you would only join that club back then...and not now! :-) God bless you all and your sweet family!!

GailNHB said...

You are right, Celia. What I felt earlier in my faith journey is not what I'm feeling these days. I'm enormously glad and grateful that The One I believe is bigger and more forgiving and lovely and radical than all I can ask or imagine. I'm learning more about Him every single day.

Julie Smith said...

I am so glad someone else is on this crazy path and it's not just me! Questioning everything, I am feeling so much more liberated and even closer to God.