Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan thinks Christianity is in crisis. I think he’s confused the Christian gospel with some version of a Jesusy-neo-Buddhism.

I'm sure this article resonates with many people hungry for deep and authentic spirituality and maybe even seekers struggling to find a coherent example of faith, but this points to a journey without a destination. This is a version of a gospel that's a vision of the human condition and God's eternal purpose misses two of the core revelations of God in Christ. It's a perceived remedy for personal piety that cuts out the man and the mission in an attempt to retain the message of Jesus.

In my opinion it's a Twinkie — promises substance and sustenance but is full of fluffed creamy air and empty calories. And like its golden tongued shaped pastry it will always be offered (and always has) on the the proverbial shelf of human spirituality consumerism. People have been tempted to present a version of Jesus that severs one or two of his purposes in his incarnational life, but upon closer examination or after practice, one finds it falls apart and doesn’t support a healthy Christian life.

I'm quite amused and befuddled at the hybrid of humanism and asceticism that Sullivan offers up as a authentic 'way' of Jesus while missing the 'truth' and 'life' of our Lord.

The outcome is less Apostolic Christianity as much as a kind of Neo-Buddhism with which could be summed up in these three points from Sullivan's article:

1. He believed stripped of the doctrines of the incarnation, resurrection and the various miracles, the message of Jesus was the deepest miracle.

2. The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he endured.

3. The point was how he conducted himself through it all — calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God.

A Jeffersonian/Franciscan vision of a spiritual walk for today? Really? His portrayal of Francis's faith would send the majority of spiritual seekers running. Hating oneself for sleeping with a pillow? Say what? We're going to abandon a fraudulent prosperity gospel for a return to self loathing, a naked whipping of oneself and extreme self renunciation type of faith instead?

Ugh.

In the end, Sullivan espouses a version of Jesus that looks like a bumper-sticker slogan that fits more on back of a Volkswagen than in a church. But maybe that’s what he’s going for a ‘Christless message and a churchless faith’ but that isn’t historic Christianity.  It makes for a good humanistic philosophy but not a faithful representation of the way, the truth and life of Jesus or the God-man, his mission or his message.  

In some people’s opinion, it may be good, but I don’t think it’s good enough. There is much more to the biblical gospel.

7 Comments

  1. samuelfletcher

    Eric, I’m puzzled. Did we read the same article? Sullivan’s point is that it’s the lust for power that is corroding the church. That power is political power, and the means by which the church in America is getting it is through rallying their core against people — gays, latinos, women, Muslims, whomever. Check out this article on CNN and tell me if it Sullivan’s point doesn’t have a ring of truth to it: http://bit.ly/xEcSIN

    Sullivan’s message with regards to Jefferson and St. Francis is so very timely in our power- and consumption-obsessed society. He specifically says in the article that one needn’t follow Francis’ ascetic life to appreciate and practice living outside the box of working for material goods while stepping on the heads of the rest of the world to get there. One simply need recognize that the pursuit of goods and power is what is corrupting and ungodly.

    The church is clearly losing its misguided cultural war, and if it keeps up, there’s not going to be much “church” left anymore. It’s an unappealing message to most, and it’s quite unnecessary. As is well-known, Jesus had much, much harsher things to say about the “sons of hell,” “whitewashed tombs,” and “nests of vipers” of the conservative religious establishment of his day, who delighted in their flowing robes and elaborate public piety, than he did about homosexuals, prostitutes, and common folk just trying to get by.

    I agree with Sullivan; many among us have forgotten what it means to simply live a good life, as a good human, making a better society one small act of kindness at a time.

  2. Well, that article states:

    “I’m not surprised. These young dropouts value the sense of community their churches provide but are tired of being told how they should live their lives. They don’t appreciate being condemned for living with a partner, straight or gay, outside of marriage or opting for abortion to terminate an unplanned pregnancy…the nominee who convinces the millennials that they’ll be better off financially will get their vote.”

    If that is the new ‘christian’ ethos…I would again, reiterate that the gospel is needed now, more than ever.

    The article touched more issues than politics…and for me, those matters are far more critical to examine than his points about the political tone. From my perspective those are the fruits of roots. And the root of biblical, Jesus discipleship is undermined by his philosophical approach to Jesus’s life, teaching and mission.

    I get that people who share the above moral ethic would resonate with Andrew’s version of the gospel…I don’t think it’s the full gospel.

  3. samuelfletcher

    I guess what I’m struggling to understand then — as someone who has read the gospels backwards and forwards, as well as much research and commentary on them — is where in the gospel is it explicitly stated that Jesus wants his followers to engage in culture war? To discriminate against our fellow country men and women? To dictate the bedroom behavior of others? To gain political power and make — literally — holy war? I think either our “gospels” are different, or we are talking past each other in some monumentally large way.

    And even for those who hold to any part of the spectrum of faith that has been forged by 2000 years of Christianity, are we supposed to just give up our powers of observation? Gay people do not self-destruct in some cataclysmic event of unholiness, as we are told by the conservative preachers. Marriages end in divorce about half the time, contrary to the view that marriage the only godly way to live in a sexual relationship with another. People get along just fine without these laws upon laws. I can’t ignore that, and I have a faith that isn’t shaken by these very real people living very reasonable lives — as if such a faith were really what was expressed by Jesus.

  4. I do not comment, however after browsing through some of the remarks on
    Christianity inn crisjs or Christianity without Jesus? | Spokane Faith &
    Values. I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s okay.
    Is it just me or does it look as if like some of the remarks look
    like they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are
    posting on other social sites, I’d like to keep up with you.
    Could you post a list oof all of all your social sites like your linkedin profile,
    Facebook paage or twitter feed?

  5. Eric Blauer

    Eric Blauer

    Article author

    Buford,
    There are many commentators and writers here that I may disagree with but I think there’s a lot of critical thinkers on this site. I may not come to the same conclusions but I think there’s serious wrestling going on about theology, culture and many other things. One example is Sam above, we are very different but I know Sam is a man who has deep roots to his thoughts. I think if you hang around long enough you will start to see much more fruit than nuts on this tree.

    As for social media, my main blog that feeds to my Twitter and Facebook sites is www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I am on Linkedin too.

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