Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011
My Minimalist Jesus
by Donna Schaper
The only advice I have for a young tikkunista is this: Stay minimal in your claims about religion. Stay maximal about love, passion, and the Golden Rule we all share.
What has been great about writing for Tikkun over the years is that I didn't have to be quiet about Jesus. We avoided that Thanksgiving-eve-service generalized spirituality on behalf of a space of safety for those who saw the Messiah in different terms. That freedom has allowed me to become more clear about my minimalist Jesus. No General Motors, General Foods, Fox News imperial Jesus for me!
Here I tell you what little I know. I have studied Jesus and preached Jesus and misunderstood Jesus and re-understood Jesus. I have demythologized Jesus and applied "critical theory" to his words. I have recited the Apostles' Creed from memory and gotten the Nicene wrong when I've tried to repeat it. I have never understood the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation. I have let Augustine and Aquinas have at Jesus and read Reinhold Niebuhr in distant respect for him. My studies have distanced me from Christ, but not from Jesus or his warmth.
Jesus is my brother and my friend. I have fussed with the punishmentalists over him, even though I was raised by kind fundamentalists. I don't see myself as their enemy so much but instead as one who inquires about why they need to talk so much about the distanced Jesus or the correct Christ. I really dislike the word "Christology." Jesus, in my terms of trust and warmth, embodied in bread, wine, pastors, and congregations, wouldn't make such a big thing out of himself. Certainty -- or getting Jesus right -- would be like fully understanding my biological brother, which I do not and cannot. I do love him and trust him.
My bottom line is the Golden Rule, which is harder to live by than it is to speak. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love our self. He followed the more ancient testimony that we are to seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare is our welfare. These two pieces of gold -- what some call the Golden Rule -- are the very best investment we can ever make. They show us how to live. When you know how to live, you are truly safe, even saved; truly secure; sometimes sure, if rarely certain. Nothing can scare you if you know love as your center. Everything can scare you if you don't.
Jesus is the one who calls me out to the other on behalf of myself. Jesus is the argument that you can have what you can let go of -- and that you can't have what you can't release. Jesus is kenotic energy, the great emptying of the self, which returns it to you, blessed, warmed, trusting, centered. Pouring out fills up. That's all I know.
Donna Schaper is senior minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City.
She is the author of twenty-nine books, most recently Grass Roots Gardening: Rituals to Sustain Activists from Nation/Perseus books.
Source Citation: Schaper, Donna. 2011. My Minimalist Jesus. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.