Guest Blogger

The Jesus I've Come to Know

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 08, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: hypocritical motherfuckers, Jesus, lesbian, LGBT, pharisees, women

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Rev. Rick Elliott has been a minister since June 1973 and has frequently handled the overflow of weddings from a university chapel. He has received an M/Div from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and did five-sixths of a D.Min at Perkins School of Divinity (SMU).

18-jesus_w_children.jpgAs time approaches when death will, once and for all, reveal what I've come to hold in faith, I feel estranged from many who call themselves by the same name I call myself--a Christian. I perceive a bewildering muddle of political gamesmanship, Machiavellian manipulation of well-intentioned people, Madison Avenue staging, and yet, a deep personal belief that nurtures a soul. And somewhere in the midst of it all true faith struggles to be known, and continues to find witnesses--albeit voices crying in the wilderness who feel a prophetic word wanting to be proclaimed.

To help me keep my moorings I stop to assess what is faithful and what is at the core of my belief:

  1. The Native American storyteller doll is the trigger of a primitive faith memory. It's much like the picture of Jesus engulfed in children. I can see him smiling and playing with them, reveling in their exuberance and simplicity. Then adults want Jesus to shoo away his young companions and he brings them up short--adults have to be like children to get into the Dominium of Heaven. How we encrust a child-like core with layer upon layer of dogma, self-serving credos, Pharisaic works righteousness, and nit-picking regulation that loses the truth in a miasma trying to preserve it!
  2. Jesus, the good shepherd who is always reaching out, loving, accepting.
  3. Jesus, the healer who brings health and wholeness--someone to whom a grieving father can come to bring a child back from death, someone who ends the prison of being blind, crippled, and vaginal bleeding,
  4. Jesus, the advocate for those deemed unacceptable because they are women, the wrong ethnicity, in a shady business, shunned by respectable society, those who've run afoul of discriminatory religious regulations and those in a sexual identity minority.
  5. Jesus, who relates that real happiness comes from a way of life that is diametrically different from what our society bombards us with in advertisements and societal opprobrium. He declares that our identity comes from our being created in God's image instead of wealth, position in society and the vagarities of fickle people and circumstances.
  6. I also see where Jesus' announcing that he is Messiah. In contrast I see people--even people called Christians--whose public lives are governed by appearances, but quite different from their private lives. For example, office seekers choose carefully where their grand pronouncements are made. Press conferences are called at places where there'll be the most impact.

    Yet note the setting where John's gospel portrays Jesus first making the revelation that he's the Messiah. There's no press release, no throng of exuberant supporters. There's only a well in a country looked down upon by his fellow Jews and only an audience of one: a woman who's one represents several despised categories of. She's been married five times and is shacked up with a sixth man.

    Jesus constantly thumbed his nose at the religious of his day. The religious establishment dogged his tracks wherever he went trying their best to get him in hot water with the crowd or violating minutiae of religious legal interpretations.

  7. I see the angry Jesus, livid with how alleged believers have defiled the place
    of worship. Futile bleating and restrained fluttering of sacrificial animals provide a backdrop for the loud hawking of sellers of the special coins that only can be used as gifts to the God who only claims to what a faithful heart. Images of Gothic university buildings donated by men who made themselves rich with sweat shops, child labor and unsafe mineshafts. And used their power to obtain obscene agglomerations of assets. And similarly folks who enflame bigotry to maintain their power.
  8. I see Jesus trying to logically show the religious establishment how they
    turned the life-giving word from the mountain into a stultifying morass of regulations, guilt and a burden impossible for anyone to bear. Once again folks manipulate that Law to put down GLBT folks and promote a hate that is the antithesis of Jesus.

As I have become more sophisticated I realize other aspects that trouble me:

  • People calling themselves Christian who practice selective biblical literalism with no faith-based reason for their choices,

  • The Church that has gotten furthering the institution confused with furthering the dominion of God.

  • Unity in Christ isn't unanimity of belief, but what different pieces need to be present for the Church to be whole. I was stunned when it hit home that I needed folks who believed different from me in order to be complete and not completeness from having everybody agree with me.

And I return to my quandary of who Jesus is. What I hold onto is my earliest affirmation of faith expressed in song, Jesus loves me this I know. Little ones to him belong: they are weak, but he is strong.

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Beautifully written. Jesus was (and for many is) cool. That doesn't solve our Religion-LGBT problem.

Will Presbyterians also be cool and formally reject the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong? I know about 10% of your churches have rainbow flags and there are now dozens of LGBT Ministers, but what about rejecting those teachings/beliefs formally?

THAT would make a BIG difference.

This is an interesting debate. I prefer the middle ground. I never turn away an ally or bite the hand that feeds me. I never give cover to an enemy. So in light of churches that have denomination-wide anti-gay teachings, but local open and affirming churches, I am thankful for those communities that have chosen to go against the collective group think of the church and challenge the system.

Religion won't be the enemy of the LGBT community forever. These are the seeds that are being planted to bring that about.

God (Jesus, in your view) is whoever you, or anyone else for that matter, want him to be.

That's the glory (and horror) of all religions.

I prefer mine light, with a hint of irony and a dash of hope.

The Pharisees have returned in force, have they not? Such certainty is borne of arrogance and fear, not humility. How can anyone claim to know all of the mystery that is God?

Your simple assertion at your closing says it all.

Nice post Rev. When a person crosses over no one achieves any points by pointing at another and saying "not me, there's your sinner over there".

Article which shows that Jesus is the Messiah. The old testament text proves that Jesus is the Messiah!

Rick Elliott | September 9, 2010 2:07 PM

Thanks For the receptive words. Looking at what I wrote, I see a love-hate relationship with the Church. Recently The Presbyterian General Assembly voted to remove the language against GLBT folks being ordained. However a majority of the presbyteries ( like a diocese) will have to pass it, Pray for that majority.
Ironically, it's okay for GLBT folk to be ordained as long as they are celibate. What disqualifies a GLBT person is having a covenantal relationship with another person who's the same sex. Of course, the reality is whenever the label is applied GLBT folks are out of consideration whether they're celebate or not. Ironically the serial sex life has been one of the arguments against GLBT ordination. It's the kind of specious logic all too common in Churches.
Personally my emotional state couldn't stand the pressure of leading double life. So I left the Church quietly. In fact I've never gotten my health back. But disability benefits have made it possible to lead a minimal existence. I'm grateful for that.

Andrew Schramm | September 11, 2010 12:49 PM

Rick, thank you for so eloquently and selflessly sharing the Jesus that is so close to your heart. I enjoyed reading this very much, and appreciate how you recognize the tension that exists in our dire attempt to shape the church into a being that more fully expresses the radical, unquestioning love of Jesus.