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Rev. Michelle's Message April 25, 2024

We see it everyday in the news: people who claim to be followers of Christ saying and doing horrible things, supposedly in the name of Jesus. They claim Jesus hates gays, but loves America. They claim Jesus despises trans people and drag queens, but wants us to vote for their candidates. When we see these things, we feel dumbfounded; none of it seems to align with the Jesus we know or the things he taught.

 

This disconnect between what we understand as the teachings of Jesus and the dangerous values the ultra-conservative Evangelicals and fundamentalists ascribe to him has caused millions of people to leave the church over the previous few decades. More people are leaving organized religion every day because it no longer seems to make sense to them and they cannot abide the hypocrisy. Unfortunately, this disconnect and hypocrisy has caused many people to also abandon Jesus all together, rather than continue to follow the man the fundamentalists have claimed as their own….the man who, coincidentally seems to hate all the same people they hate and love all the same people they love.

 

This seems such an unfathomable tragedy, especially since Jesus routinely railed against hypocrisy, especially from politicians and religious leaders. Jesus’ teachings are so radical, so countercultural, and so potentially transformative, and yet they have been almost completely buried by those who have sold their own souls in order to co-opt religion for political gain and to preserve their own power and privilege–the very things Jesus so passionately spoke out against.

 

In a recent blogpost on his website entitled, “A Funeral for My Christianity,” John Pavlovitz talks about his own disillusionment with the Church in America:

 

I see what’s become of the Church here in America and it’s like a wake for the religion I once called home.

 

I’m not sure what all this angry, chest-thumping, bullying, “don’t tread on me” thing that we’ve come to call Christianity is, but here’s what I do know:It isn’t the Gospel.It isn’t Good News for the poor and marginalized.It isn’t the Prince of Peace.It isn’t the perfect love that casts out fear.It isn’t Jesus by any measure.It’s a toxic cocktail of power, control, fear, nationalism, and white privilege—and it looks much more like the bloated opulence of Rome than the early Church that resisted it.

 

People have said that the MAGA Evangelical movement has hijacked Jesus but I don’t believe that’s true. They have hijacked the word Christian. Jesus is of no use to them.

 

This is so poignant because it’s obvious that while these folks use the name of Jesus and Christianity, they are really quite obviously not true followers of Jesus at all. As Pavlovitz says, “Jesus is of no use to them.”

 

So what are we, as Unity Truth students, to do with all of this? Are we to abandon Jesus as well? I think that would be a real shame. Jesus is no more tied to ultra-right-wing politics and fundamentalism in 2024 than he was tied to Rome or the Pharisees in 30 CE. We can’t let them have him. We have to take back Jesus and reassign the values of peace and love and justice and mercy that truly belong to him. We have to disentangle Jesus from dangerous nationalism and white supremacy and from those who have so egregiously misappropriated and misrepresented him. But how do we do this?

 

We start with ourselves. We do the work of freeing ourselves from our own religious wounding and the bad theology we were once taught and most likely still carry deep within. We work to separate Jesus in our own minds and hearts from the hatred and the hypocrisy, and restore our own belief in the Jesus of love and justice. We work to forge a personal relationship with Jesus and his teachings that can guide us on our spiritual journey. Basically, we deconstruct and reconstruct Jesus for ourselves.

 

This is the work we will be doing together in our Sunday lessons over the next three weeks and in our class and discussion that will take place after the service. This is important and powerful work and I am honored to be doing it alongside all of you. See you Sunday!

 

Blessings,

Rev Michelle




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