State of Denial


Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

It’s wacko ideas like this that can make Christianity totally suck. Somebody needs to clue Jesus in. If you want somebody to follow you, you need to make it at least look like a good thing. If Jesus is exaggerating to make a point, then he’s taking the wrong exit here. Worse, if he actually means this crapola, then he’s got himself a clunker worthy of a place right next to the Clapper and the Chia Pet.

This whole cross hauling, self-denial thing is fine if you happen to be the savior. I mean, that’s your job. You’re supposed to have a miserable life; that’s what makes people feel religious about you and what qualifies you to die for everybody. A zippity doo da guy isn’t going to get a lot of respect and sure as hell isn’t going to get his scraggy anatomy glued to a gold crucifix for the next 2000 years. So if Jesus was going to land the venerable scapegoat position he had to play to the cheap seats.

But to turn that around and lay the trip on us is another thing entirely. Not only does this show Jesus’ astonishing lack of insight about human nature, it also just about guarantees that the pool of religious doormats is going to be pretty dang small. First of all, Jesus apparently doesn’t get that he’s supposed to win salvation for us. That’s what saviors do. If we could make it happen ourselves we wouldn’t need Jesus in the first place. Our job is to accept that salvation, period. It’s supposed to be a free gift of grace, not some carrot on a stick.  To make us put on sackcloth and ashes as part of the deal reveals his startling misunderstanding of the whole salvation enterprise of which he’s supposed to be the champion. Nobody in his right mind is going to fall for that. Only a small percentage of religious Emo-types are going to sink to that level.

Look. As a modern Christian with a modicum of self-respect, it’s hard enough being associated with hypocrites, charlatans, and flakes. Displays of religious zeal of any kind is awkward at best. Our culture, unlike ancient Palestine, is sophisticated. We don’t do leprosy or “unclean spirits” anymore. When we’re sick, we go to a doctor, not a traveling guru. I know of at least two illusionists who can walk on water or read your mind. In other words, don’t you think we’re a little bit beyond the carry the cross schtick these days? (Yes, I know there’s a guy who literally wheels a cross around the world, but that just proves my point. There’s only one of him, and there doesn’t seem to be a line of cross-wheeling wannabes.) Christians already have a reputation as a bunch of narrow-minded, empty-headed hicks. The last thing we need is to become a clutch of messianic masochists.

Lucky thing that most of us Christians have a sense of propriety. We give Jesus his due (he did put his money where is mouth is) and don’t begrudge his post suffering position as Lord of the Universe (besides, who’d really want that job anyway?). The truth is that most of us are glad he did his thing. However, I personally have to draw the line at his rather impertinent—and self-defeating—insistence on self-denial. That’s not the way the world works and has already proven a less than appealing approach to disciple making. Jesus ought to be grateful that we’ve saved him from total failure in our contemporary culture. In fact, I’m guessing he’ll eventually see the light (if he hasn’t already) and reward those of us who advocate a more reasonable path.

Who’d have thought that we’d have to save Christianity from Jesus?


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