Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus Paperback – Mar 9 2010
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“Robin Meyers emerges in Saving Jesus from the Church as a national voice for a new Christianity. He is a well read scholar and a superb communicator. He writes with a refreshing honesty and a disarming authority. This book is a treat.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious)
“With crisply prophetic joy, Meyers calls seekers and believers alike to leave belief about God behind in favor of becoming imitators of Jesus. We can save Jesus from the church, and in doing so, recreate faith communities freed from hypocrisy and filled with hope.” (Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity for the Rest of Us)
“Every once in a while, a book comes along that changes everything. This is the book. It is scholarly, pastoral, prophetic, and eloquent--all in equal measure. Robin Meyers has spoken truth to power, and the church he loves will never be the same.” (Desmond Tutu)
“The time is right for this book and this book is right for the time.” (Fred B. Craddock, Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament Emeritus, Emory University)
“In a progressive rather than negatively critical mode, in strong contrast to much of Far Right Protestantism, pastor/NPR commentator Meyers (philosophy, Oklahoma City Univ.) suggests with typical elegance that a recovery of true Christianity emphasizes compassion over condemnation, blessing over sin, and equity over individual prosperity. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal, starred review)
“Meyers’ insightful and provocative critique of contemporary Christianity will stimulate energetic theologizing: deconstruction, reconstruction, or impassioned defense of the inherited tradition. Thank you, Robin, for convening this urgently needed conversation.” (Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., president and founder of The Healing of the Nations Foundation)
“A perceptive book . . . Not many authors can present such progressive ideas and still come across as reasonable and loving. Meyers masters such a task.” (Oklahoma City Oklahoman)
From the Back Cover
Countless thoughtful people are now so disgusted with the marriage of bad theology and hypocritical behavior by the church that a new Reformation is required in which the purpose of religion itself is reimagined.
Meyers takes the best of biblical scholarship and recasts these core Christian concepts to exhort the church to pursue an alternative vision of the Christian life:
- Jesus as Teacher, not Savior
- Christianity as Compassion, not Condemnation
- Prosperity as Dangerous, not Divine
- Discipleship as Obedience, not Control
- Religion as Relationship, not Righteousness
This is not a call to the church to move to the far left or to try something brand new. Rather, it is the recovery of something very old. Saving Jesus from the Church shows us what it means to be a Christian and how to follow Jesus' teachings today.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The title and its accompanying cover say much of what needs to be said about the new book from Oklahoma City resident, author, professor, scholar, syndicated columnist, and controversial reverend Robin Meyers. The bluest man in the reddest state has put his new book to the masses for what he hopes will be a uniting, not dividing, result. With such a title, you'd think it a stretch, but Meyers' approach and respect for the subject is convincing for anyone who makes it past the Prologue.
This book attempts to dissect, as the previous sentence begins to describe, the human side of Jesus and the deity which was created in his remembrance. Jesus the human was about peace, unconditional love, inclusiveness, aiding the sick and the poor, forgiving, and fellowship. The deity, on the other hand, is much more about commandments and rules, practices and rituals, do's and don'ts. Dr. Meyers points out that merely believing in Jesus has no impact on our daily lives. Following Jesus, though, can change everything.
Dr. Meyers seeks to find the common ground in all the divisiveness and debate about religion. Meyers has said of his own book that he hopes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Agnostics alike can see that when we remove that which we disagree - and there are many things about which we disagree - we can all see that following the teachings of a human being like Jesus will be the more productive task to merely consenting to belief in a deity like Christ.
Meyers' central purpose for the book? Finding a reason for the millions of Americans who have left the church in disappointment, confusion or betrayal to come back and try a new approach to faith: Following what Jesus represents, not just believing in His story.
While political in the Prologue (Meyers gives an account of a dream in which he found himself isolated from the modern stereotypes of Christianity and its alignment with Conservative politics, war, and greed), Meyers soon defects from his personal motives and finds a near-objective position from which he frames the rest of his book. Thoughtful and patient, Dr. Meyers teaches and guides at a pace that is tolerable for religious scholars and more than accommodating for the casual reader.
In his least political and most thoughtful book to date, Dr. Robin Meyers finds the common ground in the world of Jesus and lays out a call to action that unites us under a banner of hope and reconciliation.
Meyers, the pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and the author of four books, surveys the state of the church and of contemporary Christianity--conservative and liberal--and doesn't think much of it is in sync with the message of Jesus. The bottom line for Meyers is that the church has overemphasized belief rather than actions that indicate one is following Jesus, and each chapter points us in the right direction.
Meyers is very solidly on the progressive end of the theological spectrum, and his book does a fine job of deftly skewering more conservative forms of Christianity or biblical interpretation. But those on the left should be well-prepared for the regular roasting they receive as well. This passage is fairly typical:
"In a world today that is desperate for something real, many megachurches today are like Disney World plus God, while too many mainline churches are serving up bits and pieces of the Great Books Club. One wonders which fiction is most cruel, that all your dreams can come true if you pray the "Prayer of Jabez" or that discipleship is the same thing as enlightenment...The first question any churchgoer should be asked and expected to answer is: What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?" (p. 145)
Each chapter contrasts "common" Christianity with a progressive, uncommon understanding of Jesus' teaching. They cover a lot of territory:
* Jesus the Teacher, Not the Savior
* Faith as Being, Not Belief
* The Cross as Futility, Not Forgiveness
* Easter as Presence, Not Proof
* Original Blessing, Not Original Sin
* Christianity as Compassion, Not Condemnation
* Discipleship as Obedience, Not Observance
* Justice as Covenant, Not Control
* Prosperity as Dangerous, Not Divine
* Religion as Relationship, Not Righteousness
This prophetic book would make an ideal resource for group study (and it really begs to be read in community) though unfortunately no discussion questions are included. Consider it especially for a summer Sunday school class, a staff study, a young adult study, and a congregational study. The book does assume the reader is at least somewhat familiar with contemporary progressive biblical scholarship (i.e. has moved beyond a literal understanding of scripture), so little time is spent exploring the ground that has already been superbly covered by scholars like Borg, Pagels, Brueggemann, Levine and others (see his ample endnotes for many other great books). Instead, Saving Jesus consistently does a fine job of summarizing the scholarship and then moving on to the question which so often is neglected: "So what do I/we do now?" There is no "step by step guide to following Jesus" here, but if read carefully (especially with others), Meyer's work will undoubtedly help us all stop pretending to be followers of Jesus so we can save Jesus from a church which has for too long distorted his message.
Although most religious people will see Meyers views as stripping the mystery out of God, I believe it restores it. Remember, people, Jesus was not a christian!!! It is shocking how many christians believe that Jesus was not jewish. He was a jewish man raised in the jewish vision of god, and he took that understanding to a higher level by insisting that living through the prisim of, not a merciful god but a loving god, should inform decisions about how to live. He obviously stood against power structures such as the temple in his day, and we would do well to emulate his example with regard to the church and out-of-control political structures as well. They serve largely to preseve power and do not move forward the collective and individual good in balance with one another. Jesus stood against the "robber barons" of his time and was killed for it. Meyers is right: Jesus as a god is powerless, but Jesus as a person who lived as though god informed everything is extremely powerful. Speaking out in favor of what is right has never been popular, but has served to move forward the good policies we enjoy today. Are we prepared to suffer to do what is right? Jesus was.
Although I think Meyers' book leans a little too hard on what some would call the "social gospel", I believe the view that informs the details is right. "Rugged individualism" has become an excuse to ignore the collective good. Our world becomes literally "survival of the fittest", informed by those at the top of the food chain. If that is all that humans are, then we are worse than the animals we use and subdue. Humans, endowed with different brain functions, are required to look at common as well as individual good to survive, and I believe Jesus rebelled against the "survival of the fittest" mentality of his time as should we all. He intended to raise the consciousness of people, not to be worshiped as a god.
Let me start by noting for the record that several reviewers may not have actually read the book, for they identify Robin Meyers as a "she". That was good for a chuckle.
I'd give his book five stars "if only" the preponderance concerned what we, as 21st. century Christians, should be and should be about. This is where the book shines.
But Meyers insists on "debunking" a number of traditional Christian doctrines -- and the substitution of others he finds more palatable. He evidently feels demolishing old beliefs is a prerequisite for changing how Christians do ministry in the world.
I'd be happier with a less scorched-earth approach. Meyers doesn't need to throw the baby Jesus out with the baptismal bathwater in order to make his point about modern-day lay ministry and where it clearly could stand some improvement.
Although his heart and spirit are in the right place, I'm not so sure about his head (as evinced by his argumentative writing style). He constantly portrays things in dichotomies (even after warning us to beware of "terminal false" dichotomies). He seems unable to acknowledge any middle ground, and in the real world, the middle ground is where most of us stand.
It's easy to ascribe this mindset to decades of being a progressive pastor in a State full of fundamentalists; it's hard to imagine him not developing a degree of "siege mentality". But he, or his editor, should've kept it under better control -- since he's writing for a mass market that likely doesn't see things in his preferred subtle hues of black and white.
There's also a particular bone to be picked, that I haven't seen addressed by other reviewers. He uses the term "Biblically illiterate" in several places, and even "Biblically ignorant" at the beginning of Chapter 2. As a pastor with 40 years experience -- and a Professor of Rhetoric in the Dept. of Philosophy at OU -- he thereby sets himself a pretty high bar as one who both knows Scripture, and understands the power of language for both good and ill.
So when he says that the Transfiguration occurred "in a dream", and that Jesus spoke with "Moses and Isaiah", it sent me right back to the gospels. All of them describe a daytime event and a perfectly normal state of wakefulness. No falling asleep nor dreaming are mentioned. He cites no authority for his contrary claim.
And Jesus is described in all the gospels as meeting with "Moses and ELIJAH". In fact, Scripture goes on to describe how Jesus conversed with Peter, James and John -- explaining that the OT scripture saying that "Elijah must return before the Messiah appears" has been fulfilled in John. Any pastor ought to be familiar with that; was it simply an incidental slip of the pen? I feel the need to ask.
Meyers later asserts that all four gospels demonstrate that Jesus was a "follower" of John the Baptist -- that he left his home in Nazareth to, in effect, be John's disciple. Actually, that isn't supported by any of the four. They say, instead, that Jesus went from Nazareth straight to Bethany, was baptized the same day he encountered John at the Jordan (who recognized him that day "for the first time"), and called his first disciples and began his own ministry the very next day.
This leaves me a bit unhappy with his sniping at "Biblical illiterates". Especially since, as he notes on the first page of Chapter 1, "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." (!!)
Nevertheless, setting aside flaws such as these, and Meyers' somewhat cartoonish characterizations of other Christians and Biblical doctrines, one gets to the core of his vision of a true Christian lifestyle:
To spend less time "worshiping the King" and more time "working for the Kingdom". To see God in everything and everyone. To bring Christian ethics and empathy into the workplace and the work week. To recognize the injustice in the world, and work actively to redress it. To reach out to the less fortunate and acknowledge them, especially, as worthy of love and attention. As St. Paul reminds us, "Against such things there is no law". (Galatians 5:22-23)
For arguing such a welcome and needed vision, Meyers gets five stars. For the way he clutters up the book with the notion that we have to raze the "old" Church and erect a "new" one, he gets a single star from me and an average rating, therefore, of three. A shame, really, because with more self-restraint and discipline he'd have written a book more of us could wholeheartedly embrace.
Dr. Meyers describes his intended audience: "It is a word on behalf of those who have walked away from the church because they recognize intellectual dishonesty as the original sin of orthodoxy. .. It is meant to provide a second opinion for all those who know what they are supposed to believe but refuse to equate miracles with magic or liturgy with history -- and yet still fall silent when someone reads to Beatitudes or get goosebumps listening to the parable of the prodigal son." (that would be me!) "It is ... a call to reconsider what it means to follow Jesus, instead of arguing over things that the church has insisted we must all believe about Christ. Doctrines divide by nature. Discipleship brings us together."
Enjoy the book!