Like the perennial dandelions that pop up on lawns each spring, when Easter week rolls around you can expect Newsweek to put some form of Jesus being blasphemed on their cover. In the most recent issue, the lead article, “Christianity in Crisis” by Andrew Sullivan, is featured on the cover by displaying a figure many are calling the “Hipster Jesus” who has these words stamped on his front: “Forget the Church. Follow Jesus.”
Sullivan’s article, having the correction of modern Christianity as its theme, begins by referring to the National History Museum’s display of Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible.” That Bible is really the tattered leftovers after Jefferson excised the sayings of Jesus he liked while leaving behind the miracles, teachings, and, yes, even the resurrection that he did not believe. Not that you should, but you can buy a version of Jefferson’s “Trim-line” Bible today. Sullivan explains that Jefferson described this exercise as one of finding “diamonds” he liked in the Bible while leaving the rest of the “dung” behind. Then Sullivan, armed with his own Jeffersonian-knife, builds his case for constructing a Jesus of his own making. Sullivan’s Jesus “never spoke of homosexuality or abortion,” implying we should accept these practices; calls us to forsake the outdated notion of the family since he “disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him;” and does not care about our sexual practices because he “was a celibate who, along with his followers, anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant.” Having preached the gospel according to Sullivan, he then addresses the problems of the modern church.
At points Sullivan, like Jefferson’s tattered Bible, touches on truth, such as when he points to the bad religious politicking of Protestants or the abuses of the Catholic church. However, Sullivan’s article offers an unacceptable – and glaringly hypocritical – answer to the crisis he says Christianity has. Using Francis of Assisi as his example, Sullivan proposes that real believers should retreat from the public eye and the institution of the church. Citing some of Assisi’s extreme asceticism and strange antics, Sullivan seeks to encourage us to follow his example:
To reduce one’s life to essentials, to ask merely for daily bread, forgiveness of others, and denial of self is, in many ways, a form of madness. It is also a form of liberation. It lets go of complexity and focuses on simplicity. Francis did not found an order designed to think or control. He insisted on the simplicity of manual labor, prayer, and the sacraments. That was enough for him.
Sullivan thinks that should be enough for us as well, as he ends emotively:
This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement.
This “religion of unachievement” Sullivan proposes is unacceptable to those who follow the Lord Jesus. After all, He told us to “go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-20, where the Great Commission is found, did not make the cut in Jefferson’s Bible either). And perhaps Sullivan’s words would carry more weight if they were not so self-contradicting. For they appear on the Daily Beast webpage of Newsweek written by a homosexual activist who is regularly seeking to use magazines, books, news programs, and other “worldly” means to make disciples of his false Jesus.
One final thing needs mentioning. Contrary to Mr. Sullivan’s gospel, if one wants to follow Jesus he cannot “forget the church.” Jesus shed His blood for the church. He was raised to give life to the church. As early church fathers such as Augustine and Cyprian stated, “He cannot have God for his Father who will not have the church for his mother.” They were echoing the sentiments of passages in the Bible such as in Galatians 5, where the Apostle Paul says, “The Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” The church where Christ alone is preached and faith alone is practiced is a place where spiritual life is imparted and nurtured. Where the church is imparting spiritual life, she is a true mother to and of the people of God. To ask someone to forget the church is like telling them to forget their mother. According to the Proverbs, only a fool would do such a thing.
Do not let that be you. Forget Newsweek. Follow Jesus. Join His church.