Sunday, February 26, 2012

Response to CNN Belief Blog essay "Stop sugarcoating the bible"

There is an essay on CNN Belief Blog today. Steven James's essay titled, My Take: Stop sugarcoating the Bible got my ire up.

Now, I liked the title. As I read the first few paragraphs I agreed with Mr James that we often like to overlook the uncomfortable facts of the bible's harsher realities being glaringly depicted.

As his essay continued I silently sang hallelujah to each paragraph's main point. Until I got to this one:

"I find it encouraging that Jesus never came across as pietistic. In fact, he was never accused of being too religious; instead he partied so much that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matthew 11:19).'

Jesus was hated by the legalistic religious leaders of the day. He lived, so they killed Him. He preached, so they blasphemed. He performed miracles, so they said He was from satan. He ate, so they called him a glutton. It doesn't mean that Jesus was any of those things. Here, Mr James makes an interpretation of the partying Jesus that escapes me. "Partying" evokes images of boys in the frat house living riotously without regard to the noise, the property owner, or themselves. Jesus was never riotous and He was never out of control. He didn't "party." I became even more dismayed when I read the following:

"Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” He said the kingdom was like a homecoming celebration, a wedding, a party, a feast to which all are invited. This idea was too radical for the religious leaders of his day. They were more concerned about etiquette, manners, traditions and religious rituals than about partying with Jesus. And that’s why they missed out."

The Pharisees missed the party because they were too tightly wound to party? He continued:

"That’s why we miss out."

We miss the salvation offer of Jesus because we are too afraid to party with Him? And there's more:

"According to Jesus, the truly spiritual life is one marked by freedom rather than compulsion (John 8:36), love rather than ritual (Mark 12:30-33) and peace rather than guilt (John 14:27). Jesus saves us from the dry, dusty duties of religion and frees us to cut loose and celebrate."

I object to several points, but I'd like to focus on his thread of hipster dude-ism the author promotes and which currently perverts the faith. The young pastors coming up with their ripped jeans and cool glasses and casual attitude and the throwing away of dry, dusty doctrine that really gets in the way of what Jesus came to do, which is urge us to social justice. These pastors and others like them are re-making God in their image. Jesus is now a hipster dude, partying down with his buds by the Sea of Galilee. All they need is a bonfire and a guitar.

Jesus came to us manifested as a Man so that He could live a life of a man on earth, being tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). Because He lived a life as a Man, He attended weddings (John 2:1), accepted dinner invitations (Luke 10:38, Mark 2:15), cried (Luke 19:41), walked and got tired (John 4:6), ate (John 13:26), preached (Luke 4:14), worshiped (Luke 6:12). But partying? Cutting loose? No. Jesus didn't come to free us from constraining etiquette, He came to seek and save the lost who were bound to satan in their sins.

Jesus is God. This is our God: " Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently," (Exodus 19:18)

This is our God: "Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19)

This is our God: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1)

Does any of that sound like He came to release us to cut loose from rules and etiquette and propriety? (Above, "Buddy Christ" from movie Dogma, source)

The issue I have with essays like Mr James's is that they take some truth and wrap it in a lie. In the essay's beginning are some wonderful thoughts. At the end is a strong conclusion. In the middle of the essay is blasphemy. Or at the very least, a deeply flawed understanding of who Jesus is and why He came. Do you notice that for all the author's entreaties not to sugarcoat the bible, he fails to mention the one recurring theme from Genesis to Revelation, and the exact reason Jesus came? The word "sin" is not stated once. He mentions the bible's heroes "being screwed up" and talks of people "being where they're at" but the word sin is not uttered. I put it to you that despite the author's entreaties not to sugarcoat the bible's message, by failing to mention the reason we need Jesus is because we're sinners, he has done just that.


  1. Bravo! I hope this is picked up by CNN.

  2. The world doesn't want a Savior who makes them feel negative Elizabeth, They want someone that makes them feel good about themselves. Someone that they can relate to. That's why most of them miss the real Jesus.

  3. #POW! Enough said....I was thinking the same thing as I read....Smh. that's how the enemy deceives..take some truth and WeLsh it up in a lie.

  4. We live in an era when it is a requirement to bow before the pope and kiss his ring at the Vatican and then be told that Jesus wants to crack a beer with us. I think we are much nearer to the end than we realize.

  5. I completely agree Elizabeth. This Sunday Matt Chandler argued a similar point, that some look at the Gospel and use it as a ticket to slip into licentiousness. They regard the law in much the same way that Steven James does..."dry, dusty duties of religion".

    Thank you for writing this response to the CNN article, it is definitely relevant and I hope someone at CNN will see it and be brave enough to post it!

  6. Hello Lydia,

    The co-editor at CNN Belief Blog did read it. He did not say one way or another whether they will publish it as I had requested. I was thrilled he read it though, that was very generous of them. They undoubtedly receive a lot of material.

  7. Chris and Glenn, thank you :)

    Anonymous, great comment about the Vatican etc. I could not agree more.

    Anonymous I am smh, too.

  8. Well done! If you are on the bleachers watching Christian bashing and having a good time being led by the rowdy cheerleaders whipping up the crowd into a frenzy you are called Hip, Cool, but if you are in the arena living the christian life, running the race (ACCORDING TO THE RULES,2 Tim 2:5 they would like to forget that one)you are called all kinds of epithets and woe to you if you show righteous indignation. Thank you Elizabeth, continue the good work. Jean-Louis.

  9. The gospel of Jesus constantly blame Jews for the death of their "messiah". Persistently imbue self-righteousness of the behaviour of Jesus over the "tyranny" of the Pharisees. Persistently indoctrinate that Jewish traditions are false, extraneous and were necessarily to be criticised and eliminated by Jesus.

    1. Really? It says all that? Because when I read it I don't get that at all...


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