while i’m not necessarily suggesting some kind of weird, mystic thought connectivity, it certainly seems as if god uses streams of interconnected pieces of thinking to foster my own theological growth and investigation. over the last several days, that very thing has occurred.
several days ago, i listened to a podcast that featured an interview with len sweet
, a self-described theologian, author and futurist (the title “futurist” always gets me…who really
knows what that means…does it mean a guy with a quasi-mullet, because len sweet definitely has that…). while i most defnitely have some significant disagreements with some of this theologies and commentary about the emerging conversation, he’s a guy who is deeply spiritual and is able to draw observations about god from culture that most would never see (his twitter
is interesting because of these very things).
in the interview, sweet was talking about what distinguished jesus & christianity from other religions/movements/ways of thinking throughout time. he said (paraphrase),
aristotle said, “follow my teachings”
confucius said, “follow my sayings”
moses said, “follow my commandments”
muhammad said, “follow my pillars”
but jesus said something very different:
jesus said, “follow me.”
the idea is that with jesus (and subsequently christianity…when it’s done properly…), life is about a person, not a thing or merely an idea. truth is a person, not an abstract concept. jesus is personal. following jesus isn’t about doing things, it’s about being something. it’s about an intimacy and closeness.
so, in the midst of still stirring that thought over in my mind (and actually using it in a sermon the very next day), i, last night, attended doug pagitt’s
book tour at argenta united methodist church
. his book tour, which is “part one-man show, part revival, part book reading, part hootenanny, and part communal gathering”, centers on his latest book, a christianity worth believing: hope-filled, open-armed, alive-and-well faith for the left out, left behind, and let down in us all
. i’ve had the pleasure of reading the book and even blogged about it
quite some time ago.
over the course of a couple hours, pagitt worked through the book, beginning with an excellent, yet concise, history of early christianity from the time of jesus to the reign of constantine. of course, we know that constantine made christianity the official religion of the empire and things, well, haven’t quite been the same ever since
. one of the many legacies of that time was that we have many articulations of the story of god told from very greek perspectives. basically, the story of god shifted from a hebraic telling to a very romanic perspective. while this isn’t devoid of any good, there were some particular worldviews that made their way into scripture, creeds and common understandings of god that tweaked the understanding of a jerusalem-based faith system.
during the time of constantine, the “competing” gods were the mythological gods: zeus and posse. those gods were thought to live atop mt. olympus—far away from people. the idea is that on top of their mountain, they ruled high above the lowly humans. what you then have is a view of god that puts god upon a high, distant pedestal and humans in a lowered, disconnected position.
the understanding of god’s relationship to humans became top-bottom, rather than the hebraic side-by-side.
to make a connecting point with sweet’s quote and pagitt’s assertion, jesus was defined just as much (or more, i would argue) by his personhood as he was his divine nature. he lived with people. he was accessible. he was like us. he was one of us. he was not only fully god, but fully human.
god isn’t distant. he dwells among us, as the gospel of john so beautifully states. he doesn’t hover above us on some faraway mountain top. he’s here. and through the reality of his personhood, we are intimately connected.
jesus identifies with the people on bottom. he lives on the bottom. he has descended the mountain and advocates for those with whom he lives.
jesus is, certainly, the god of the bottom.