The Day I Encountered Ethnic Jesus

An image of Jesus about as realistic as any other in American culture, IMO.

I was steeped in Christian culture from the womb, so I grew up surrounded by pictures of Jesus. One hung on a little plaque in my grandmother’s apartment, a Jesus looking mournfully skyward with blue eyes and flowing, light-brown locks. Then, at my church, there was the black velvet painting of Jesus praying in agony at the garden of Gethsemane. This one had red hair and green eyes.

Of course, I can’t forget all of the other Jesus pictorials I grew up with: those cut from Sunday school books for the flannel-graph or the ones illustrating the stories in my children’s Bible. All of them looked like me: white.

At first, I thought nothing of it. At the time, everyone I saw at church, or at school, or at the grocery store was white. Why wouldn’t Jesus and his disciples be white, too?

But as I studied these depictions of Jesus, something about them struck me as false. Contrived. Superficial. It wasn’t just the perfectly trimmed beards, Colgate smiles or the soft, womanly eyes. Something told me that the real Jesus probably looked very different than what these pictures showed.

Then I started encountering other people in my community. People who didn’t look like me. I began learning about people in other countries and what they looked like. And, soon, the white Jesus began to trouble me. Deeply. The depictions struck me as caricatures, poor imitations of the Jesus I read about in the gospels. It seemed that members of my white Christian community had created a Christ in their own image.

Then, one day, I unexpectedly encountered ethnic Jesus. And it changed my life.  Continue reading

The Problem with Spiritual “Authority”

Image found at favim.com. Artist unknown.

Trigger warning for victims of sexual assault and abuse.

The other day, I published a post on what spiritual authority really means and how the evangelical church has abused the term. It seems rather timely that, shortly afterward, a huge uproar would arise over Christianity Today‘s decision to publish the story of a youth minister who sexually exploited one of the girls in his youth group. Of course, the ex-youth pastor doesn’t call it statutory rape or exploitation; rather it was a “extra-marital relationship” where both had “fallen into sin.” Many Christian bloggers, myself included, are calling for the story to be taken down.

Thankfully, that former youth pastor is in prison and, hopefully, his victim is receiving help. But if you want to know why sexual abuse is so prevalent in the Church, or why things like rape and pedophilia can be labeled “consensual extra-marital affairs,” or why it’s so darn difficult for victims to come forward and receive justice, the misuse of “spiritual authority” is a big reason.

To illustrate, I’m going to tell you my own story. Continue reading

What Having Spiritual Authority REALLY Means

walken_communion_27

Walken must have heard the phrase “spiritual authority.” I know. I’ve looked this way often.

If I asked some of you to name the spiritual authority in your life, what would you say? Would you be confused that I only asked for one and give multiple answers? I ask, because the concept of “spiritual authority” is huge in the evangelical church. You can find whole books on the subject. Unfortunately, most of what they teach is wrong.

The Bible references three types of authority that humans can wield in this life: Continue reading

Jesus wouldn’t vote for anybody

It never fails. It seems I can’t go anywhere, Internet or otherwise, without hearing some sort of political remark–despite being almost two years removed from an election season. And 95% of the time, an argument ensues between two people about whom Jesus would vote for. The liberal person states that Jesus would certainly vote Democrat, the party that promotes social justice and seeks to aid the poor. The conservative, of course, says that Jesus would vote Republican, the party that touts family values, protects the unborn and encourages personal responsibility.

Countless blog posts (and their comment sections) have been dedicated to this topic. Writers going ’round and ’round about which political party, candidate and policy is most Christian. Pastors both fundamental and progressive taking to their pulpits to make their case for Jesus supporting their favorite legislation. It’s all so very…pointless.

Everyone engaged in these discussions has apparently forgotten one critical fact: Kings don’t vote. Continue reading

Should faith make you happy?

Image from franthony.com

“I’m not sure why you keep holding onto your faith. It doesn’t seem to make you happy.”

My head snapped up in shock. “Really?”

“Yes. Really.”

This conversation occurred a few months ago with someone close to me. After meditating on it a while, I came to an interesting conclusion: He was right. My faith doesn’t make me happy. And, honestly, I don’t think it’s supposed to. Continue reading