The Jesus I don't Believe In

According to the National Candle Association (I’m not making this up), candle sales “have taken off like wildfire.” They didn’t say whether the pun was intended or not. The candle industry experiences growth of 10 to 15 percent a year and annual sales have topped $2 billion with a B.

Some will say that’s a lot of money going up in smoke, but these people have probably never been to a candlelight dinner, saw Liberace play piano, or watched a children’s choir sing a candlelight Christmas concert.

I wish that we weren’t burning so many candles like those we see at vigils and makeshift memorials. I wish this only because I wish we didn’t need to have these, but it seems to be our new reality.

I really do try to avoid politics and religion in anything I post on the WWW. Maybe, if I was the president of my daddy’s university, I could just rant there, but since I’m not, I’ll use my little blog here. After all, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Or, so they say.

Jerry Falwell Jr. and I have something in common: I am so, so grateful that Jerry Falwell Jr. doesn’t represent or speak for all christians. And, if Jerry Falwell Jr. knew me at all, I’m certain he would say that he too is so, so grateful that I don’t either.

In deference to Jerry Jr., I didn’t hear all of his convocation address to his young soldiers, and I won’t repeat the soundbites here. You can find them for yourself if you’re so inclined.

I have a document at home called a Cradle Roll Cerftificate. It states that I was enrolled at the Brookside Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a wee little lad. (I think we were called “Sunbeams”). One of the things I’ve learned over these many years is that we should not hide our light under a bushel. We should share our testimony.

In that spirit, I will testify and confess that I am having a crisis of faith. I’ve had them many times before but it’s been a long time.

My freshman year in college, I was driving back to campus after a weekend at home. I stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. Don’t worry. It was the early 70s. He was a hippie. I knew he wasn’t going to shoot me and steal my car. We talked smalltalk. It went roughly like this: 

Hippie: Where you headed man?
Me: Back to school. 
Hippie: Cool, cool. Where?
Me: OBU.
Hippie: What does that stand for?
Me: Oklahoma Baptist University.
Hippie: That’s a heavy trip man, that whole religion scene.
Me: But you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. (I didn’t really say that. It was probably more something like): Why do you say that?
Hippie: I believe there is divinty in every thing. What do you think of that? Mind if I smoke?
Me: I don’t belive that spirit can enter inanimate things. (I guess I assumed we were going to speak esoterically.)
Hippie: Actually, I don’t believe in Jesus or anything like that.
Me: Tell me about the Jesus you don’t believe in.

And he told me. He told me about a typical, americanized, generic diety that is primarily concerned with sorting good and bad behavior.

Me: I’m pretty sure that the god you’ve rejected is not the true God. I feel like if you would really spend time getting to know Jesus, you would find him to be completely different than your concept of him. He is the creator and source of this amazing thing called grace.
Hippie: Fair enough.

By that time we were halfway along the turnpike. I bought him an ice cream at Howard Johnson’s and as we parted ways, he hugged me and said, “Peace, brother.”

“Exactly.” I said.

Here’s my crisis. I’m pretty sure that the “Jesus” that has been hijacked by the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. and the most hardcore of fundamentalists for political gain, and co-opted for their agendas, is not the Jesus I know from scripture, from a long life full of teaching from faithful followers, and from personal experience.

This is the Jesus I know:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6

Peace, brothers and sisters. May the only candles you have to light this season be those of the advent.

P.S.: Speaking of who Jesus is and songs by candlelight. WATCH THIS BREATHTAKING VIDEO FROM PENTATONIX

For more on this topic, I recommend this from Relevant Magazine