Flinders, looking south to Wilpena Pound November 2014

Yoghurt with your Jesus, Sir?

I notice they have fat free yoghurt in our supermarket. Of course, to achieve this, they have to add other stuff to make it thicken and stay smooth like yoghurt. At what point does it cease to become yoghurt, and become something else?

Food industry lobbyists and politicians can meet and define what constitutes "yoghurt." We can envisage that true yoghurt will have at least a certain percentage of milk fats, and no more than a certain percentage of sugar.

Who owns the church, and will have authority to define just how much Jesus needs to be in the church for it to be Christian? Which Jesus will that be?

Last year John Petty wrote an article called What "progressive Christianity" must not do. He quotes Gretta Vosper saying: "The story about Jesus as the symbol of everything that Christianity is will fade away." John's response is "That is exactly the wrong way to go."

In his disagreement with Vosper, John gives a brief history of the development of the church which is worth reading for itself. Since the conversion of Constantine,

we have been subjected to heavily theologized, heavily pietized, heavily colonialized, and heavily lobotomized interpretations of scripture. Jesus was kicked upstairs, into an object to be worshipped, but not necessarily followed.

The progressive movement within Christianity, and the whole church, really does need to deal with this history. As John concludes, we

can throw out a lot of "churchified dogma," and you can certainly throw out--and should throw out--the various false Jesuses promoted by some. (One of the first to go should be the "mini-me" Jesus "who lives in my heart" and pats me on the head and tells me how swell I am. Ick.)

However,

we must keep the Jesus of the gospels, the "savior of the world," who contended against the corruption of the religious and social elite, and promoted healthy and compassionate living in the "beloved community" of humankind. "The story about Jesus as the symbol of everything that Christianity is" should not fade away. In fact, just the opposite. We ought to try it.

Agreed.

If John were writing a longer essay, he would no doubt acknowledge that the Jesus he has drawn for us, is also a contingent Jesus, dependent upon the sensibilities and sensitivities of our time. In the future, this Jesus, too, will be seen for what he is, a construction of our time. There is nothing wrong with this. April DeConick said of the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar,

I like that poet/rebel/healer fighter for peace and justice who sticks it to the man. He lives his integrity to the death and thus inspires change and hope. Did he exist? No. He's a construct that resonates with many including me.

At the time I suggested

What the Jesus Seminar has done for many is demolish an old Jesus, and bring to light a new one which resonates with our time. Seems to me that's the point of theologising generally. It goes wrong when we believe it.

John is talking about something else. We can't have Jesusless Christianity without Jesus, anymore than we can have yoghurt without milk. Maybe we can make a tasty, and even nutritious fruche, made from gelatine and fruit and six food enhancing chemicals, but it won't be yoghurt.

I like yoghurt, and waver between what my stipend dictates I can afford, and yoghurt of better quality. Some yoghurts are better than others. I know our time bestows a certain blindness upon us, but the Jesus John sketches out, seems pretty good quality for me. He is not a no name supermarket brand "mini-me" Jesus "who lives in my heart."

John's article is here.
James McGrath wrote a detailed response to Vosper's book
here.
April DeConick's article is
here.


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