Bowing and Cringing: Christological Dissonance.

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I admit, this is unconventional Christmas Eve content. While the puppet show of distraction is in full swing through this Holiday season, I wanted to invite you to look closer at something that is surely to be missed as tradition replays it’s “Greatest Hits.”

Christmas celebrates the gift of the world’s savior, though it’s easy to see why so much of our world would disagree with this claim. To me, one of the greatest evidences that Jesus fulfilled Hebrew messianic prophecy as “The Anointed One,” is the undeniable polarizing response of people when facing this claim. The mention of Jesus evokes a reaction from all of us and it is this reaction which we will explore today. When it comes to Jesus, we respond with a bias toward cringing or toward bowing. I’ll deal with each of these in turn.

Cringe-worthy Jesus.

The same PR and propaganda machine responsible for Donald Trump has also taken over the public relations responsibilities for Jesus. My work over the last decade online has focused upon helping people differentiate biblical faith or Christ following from what I call “Churchianity.” It is my love and fidelity for the real Church that has given me voice to prompt reform and maturity in the modern culturally contrived church. The contemporary Christian religion (in all its forms and denominations) was not the mission of it’s Founder and since the time of Constantine it continues to align itself with the State as we see within our own modern political landscape.

I believe the influence of evangelical Churchianity has unfortunately obscured the biblical revelation of the office, purpose, and nature of Christ and turned it into Jesus’ last name. Instead of a cosmic redemptive force found beyond and within every particle of the Universe, Christ has become the warrior who sentences naughty people to an eternity of suffering if they don’t accept Jesus into their heart by converting to a religion. Because this message of a savior has been misunderstood, it has largely been given to the world in the form of threats and rewards.

This is not a jab at the sincere people who spend their time and money propping up countless “cradle to grave” empires, television and media giants, and mission organizations whose marketing budgets alone could alleviate much suffering in the world. Just like me, these well intentioned people within these institutions of religious propaganda, are not aware of alternative ways of seeing the stories within the scripture. Under the guise of biblical teaching there is a constant spin of social, political, and theological engineering which feeds and sustains the institution, and spoon feeds the masses into compliance. Extracting oneself from this is not easy. Because such prominent ministries proclaim the name of Jesus, the true Church is guilty by association and the world cringes at any mention of Jesus.

These ministries are not full of bad people. They are people doing what all people do as they align and over-identify with any institution. The true seeker usually becomes marginalized in these institutions. Their questions are not satisfied by the general script. Christ following usually takes us out of town, away from the herd and up to Golgotha’s lonely hill where we will die to all that the masses hold so sacred and dear. Outside of religion is where the call of Christ takes us. Is it any wonder, Jesus message is so feared by religion. It was in Jesus day. It still is today.

What if the world knew that the savior of the world saves us all by freeing us from over-identifying with a religion unto finding our true name in God through the work of Christ? If so, then I think we would cease to cringe and we would regain our respect for a man who would sacrificially embrace death by the hands of Church and State if that means others could obtain an irrevocable freedom and peace which comes from realizing all that we see is not all that there is.

The world would stop cringing if the incarnation of God in Christ wasn’t limited to one particular expression found in the 8 lb 6 oz baby Jesus, but the indwelling of God and Spirit and life within ever single person.

Bow-Worthy Jesus

When people worship Jesus, what are they seeing? When the praise of any gathering goes forth, what is being contemplated within the minds and hearts of those in attendance? When that person is singing with their whole heart alone in their car, what has overtaken them? When someone is so kind and generous to us that we are convinced it can’t be authentic, what is driving that behavior?

I can assure you of one thing, it is not uniformity of understanding. Everyone who bows their heart or lifts their voice is not of the same mind, nor same experience, nor remotely the same tradition or belief system. So what is it? How do such a diverse swath of humanity come experience these moments of pure bliss, joy, satisfaction and acceptance despite the full spectrum of human experience? What happens on the outside is only a sparkle of what is happening on the inside.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

Whether we are talking about the great Kings and Guru’s from the East who followed a star to the place of Jesus’ birth…

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

…or whether you are humbly serving the world in a job that most see as menial…

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:5)

…all things, and I do mean all things, are teleologically pointed from and to what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called the single “omega point.” While we cannot comprehend all the implications of this realization, worship is the byproduct of comprehending even the smallest bit of it. According the passage included above, there is a point at which every sad and horrible thing humanity has ever experienced actually becomes untrue. Every tear is wiped away. Horror and suffering cannot be wiped away unless our consciousness is erased or everything has been restored. I believe the latter.

The reason we bow before Christ, the reason for our joy and hope, is that the means by which a fallen world is restored has entered the world. In the story of the baby Jesus, the redemption of the world was here but not yet. Today, we are further along but still not fully realized. We are in process. Tomorrow it will be further still and one day, after we close our eyes in death, we will awaken to all things become new where all things have followed in the footsteps of Jesus through decline and death and now unto new life and renewal. It’s going to take a different set of eyes to see it. It will require faith. Some aspect of this cosmic work, whether personally or corporately is resonating, vibrating and sending off a signal through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. To the degree that we can see it in his life, to the same degree we begin to see it in our own. Once that happens, the world has already become new for us.

It’s my prayer that we can become free from our Christological Dissonance and create space for a new experience with God this year. My aim for the coming year is for us to work together to deconstruct all the barriers to seeing what is right here, among us, beyond everything. It’s ok if you are weary of the traditional frameworks, institutions, stories, or rituals which have entombed this message for far too long, so am I. Together, we need not replace any of those things with another thing. The savior of the world is not a behavioral system, a religion, or a framework of belief, it’s a relationship with Ultimate Reality, it’s a dance, it’s the ebb and flow of each of our lives. If we are willing to let reality be what it is, if we are unafraid to free fall into a love that has been loving us forever, then we are certainly ready for Christmas, and we can eagerly participate in the arrival of the New World.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)