I recently saw a video on YouTube that really surprised me. The title was “The Great Jesus Swindle” (click to view) and was a monologue prepared by an atheist. I expected it to be another tirade by an angry atheist fed up with Christians shoving religion at them. I clicked play with a smirk, waiting for him to go into all the reasons Jesus was just another “Christian Fairy Tale”, how he didn’t really exist, and christian’s just need to “think more logically”. But I didn’t get any of that. There was no animosity that would be attributed to overbearing religious abuse as a child as most Christians believe. He started simply by saying that Jesus is personal and therefore based on each individual Jesus has become anything that person wants. “If you don’t like homosexuals, neither does your Jesus” he says. He then continues to talk about Christ’s message and purpose, and how the true message of Jesus has been suppressed by Christianity and because of how Christianity is such a strong part of western culture Atheists have no choice but to have an opinion on the reality of Jesus life. He then proceeded to share the differences between the the Jesus he understood and the Christian’s Jesus.
An Atheist’s Jesus more resembles Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr. He doesn’t care about politics, feel the need to comment on the budget deficit, or pass judgment on groups or social policies like abortion. What he does is speak for the weak and underserved. He lived a simple life of advocacy, loving everyone. The Atheist’s Jesus would fight human trafficking, AIDS, child abuse, and global warming. He would condemn the ever widening gap between the richest of the rich and poorest of the poor. He would not polarize groups of people based on ethnicity or religion, but try to bring everyone together in peace. The kingdom of heaven he spoke about wasn’t about an otherworldly place that you go after you die, but a place that could be tangible in the here and now, created as a result of the love we put into our neighbors, friends, and families.
He wouldn’t carry on a ministry to draw attention to himself, building massive church complexes generating millions of dollars in donations. He wouldn’t write books, make the talk show circuit, and travel with an entourage. He’d live the lifestyle he preached. He’d be rejected by most denominations for promoting the lifestyles of “those people” because he spent time with homosexuals, ex-cons, and prostitutes. “My Jesus Despises Christianity” he states.
Frankly, I like the Atheist’s Jesus much better than the Christian’s Jesus. There’s a song by Todd Agnew entitled “My Jesus” in which he states “my Jesus wouldn’t be accepted in my church, the blood and dirt on his feet might stain the carpet”. I can’t imagine the Jesus I’ve read of in the Bible as bombing abortion clinics or protesting military funerals. I see him sitting in the clinic lobby or at the graveside weeping with the family, his heart broken by the pain and suffering. I don’t see a Jesus who “has no place to lay his head” building a mega church and televising his sermons, but rather walking into those places flipping tables and throwing out the latte machines crying “where were you when I was naked or in prison or hungry?”
How is it that an individual who doesn’t believe in God or religion can believe in the “life changing” words of Jesus? Paul of Tarsus tells us that the blood of Jesus has set us free. Yet we allow the gospel, the “Good News”, to be used to create fear, shame, and slavery so that others will be so afraid of their eternal damnation that they have no choice but to become Christians. Rob Bell, pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church, has received a constant stream of condemnation for his new book “Love Wins” because he asks the question “Does Love supercede Hell?” One response I read stated “Without fear of hell how would we convert people to christianity?” That’s the “Great Jesus Swindle”.
Have christians let the true nature of Jesus become hijacked? How far have Christian’s strayed from the Jesus that asked “Where are your accusers?” If he came today would religious leaders reject him as easily today as they didn’t 2000 years ago because he is so counter cultural? The Bible refers to Jesus as “The Prince of Peace”, “Savior”, and “Redeemer”. Where did we lose sight of that?