If you think that Islam is facing big challenges (a subject we’ve covered extensively)—well, Christianity is rumbling through a similar earthquake that some, like Phyllis Tickle, call a new cycle of Reformation. In recent weeks, we’ve reported on “Unprotected Texts,” a provocative rethinking about Christian interpretations of sexuality, and on provacateurs like the tattooed and radically inclusive Jay Bakker. We’ve even reported on Miroslav Volf’s worldwide effort to link Muslim and Christian leaders with an honest understanding of both great religions.
THIS WEEK, we’re stepping into the grassroots to look at how thousands of Christian congregations nationwide might start to get a handle on this historic era of transformation. Lent is coming next week and we’ve already suggested “Our Lent: Things We Carry.”
TODAY, we’re introducing another great choice for Lenten small groups or for individual reading—Greg Garrett’s new “The Other Jesus: Rejecting a Religion of Fear for the God of Love.”
If you like Marcus Borg—and we’ve heard from countless readers who do like Borg’s new study guide for small groups, “Embracing an Adult Faith”—then you’ll discover a kindred spirit in the pages of Greg Garrett’s books. Greg is a multi-talented scholar and author. He travels widely around the world. He’s professor of English at Baylor University, but he’s also a well-known speaker, teacher and writer in the Episcopal Church. Over the years, we have recommended a number of earlier Greg Garrett books:
- Faith and Popular Culture: In 2007, we interviewed Greg on comic books and movies.
- Timeless Power of Psalms: In 2008, we talked about using Psalms in our spiritual journeys.
- Spiritual Side of U2: In 2009, Greg produced a book about the influence of U2.
- Harry Potter: Last year, Greg talked with us about using Harry Potter in small groups.
Come back on Wednesday, this week, to meet Greg Garrett in our interview on “The Other Jesus.”
EXCERPT OF GREG GARRETT’S ‘THE OTHER JESUS,’
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF ENVISIONING A NEW CHRISTIANITY
We’re going to let Greg Garrett introduce his new book in his own words. This brief excerpt comes from the opening pages of “The Other Jesus.” He borrows Garry Wills’ phrase and invites readers to envision a Christianity that “blends head and heart.” Greg writes …
What might such a Christianity look like? How can we continue to be the people of God in this brave new world? Well, to begin with, the challenging present calls for a faith that doesn’t withdraw in fear, doesn’t react or accommodate, and doesn’t dumb down—or water down—belief and practice in response to either the strident truth claims of fundamentalists or the changes and challenges of this new normal. …
When, after 25 years of wandering, I came back to the church, I finally encountered the Other Jesus. I discovered an authentic message of love and acceptance, the one that the Other Jesus seems to be exemplifying in the Christian Testament. We also call this the New Testament; I’m using the terms interchangeably in this book because I want to suggest that the Christian (New) and Hebrew (Old) Testaments are both powerful witnesses to God, that one is not “New” and the other outdated.
I discovered believers who were trying to live lives that reflected the change this Other Jesus had wrought in them. I discovered people who practiced faith as well as preached it. In short, I discovered that many other people—the “other Christians,” as Diana Butler Bass calls them—were seeking and finding the Other Jesus: the one who commanded peace, the one who served instead of grabbing power, the one who healed and fed, the one who stood against the powers and principalities of this world. This is the Jesus who—instead of the dizzying array of negative commandments promoted by many American Christians—left only one.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus told his followers, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 132:34-35).
This way of following Christ is not concerned with an array of commandments or simply with holding the right beliefs. As we’ll see it is centered on loving each other and loving God, what Augustine called the twofold commandment of love that is at the heart of Christian faith. This love is where the rubber meets the road, where faith meets the world.
So I don’t care to introduce you to the Spiteful Jesus. I’m not here to talk you into joining an exclusive club or to prep you to answer the Great Pop Quiz correctly. But I do want to talk about how a thoughtful Christianity that takes seriously the twofold commandment of love could reshape our lives, bring hope into a world filled with fear and despair, and create a powerful sense of connection with the source of truth, beauty, joy and justice—the Creator of all that is.
Walk along with me, and let’s see where the Other Jesus might lead us, what faith and practice and fellowship with the Other Christians might look like. It’s a journey that has changed my life—and saved my life, as well as my soul. I have no doubt it could do the same for you, if it hasn’t already.
REMEMBER, you can order new “The Other Jesus: Rejecting a Religion of Fear for the God of Love.”from Amazon at a discount.
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com.)