Now 82, I’m a junior in the demanding four-year weekly lay-ministry course of America’s national Episcopal Church. Another year-and-a-half and, God willing, and I’ll graduate from EfM, as we students refer to the program, formally Education for Ministry. Anyway, all four classes just spent two weeks reading and discussing a humdinger of a book entitled The Dream of God—A Call to Return by Verna J. Dozier (c. 2006). In it the author argues that we are not meant to worship Jesus, who, she asserts, is not God but the Divine in human form. Instead, we are to follow the way of living Jesus modeled for us. That’s much, much harder than mere worship. The latter is like walking up a local hill versus climbing one of Colorado’s 58 14ers, mountains that exceed 14,000 feet...
It’s hard enough for many of us just to get up on Sunday morning and go to church, and not just at Christmas and Easter. Then there’s the matter of regular donations, not only to our Charles Schwab accounts but to good old St. So-and-so’s. But, as Dozier points out, the institutional church, even if we attend regularly and pay our tithes, is far from actually following in the way of Jesus. At best, our religious institutions are “islands of refuge where the wounded find healing; the confused, light; the fearful, courage; the lonely, community; the alienated, acceptance; [and] the strong, gratitude” (p. 114).
So, what is this Christian road less traveled? It’s the hard slog of treating the wretched of the earth like family, welcoming the alien at the border, taking care of the widows and orphans, forgiving those who mistreat us and our families, and even praying for those who hate us and whom we may hate. No wonder Nietzsche considered Christianity “a religion of slaves.” Right-wing believers tend to skip over Acts 4:32-35, where Luke writes, “The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belonging were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. . . . There was no one in the group who was in need” (Acts 4:32, 34a; The Good News Bible). Yikes, this is Christian socialism!!!” Dozier’s point is if we would actually put into practice what Jesus asked us, his followers, to do, God’s Kingdom would truly come, and as a world we’d study war no more. To be sure, I’m still far from being there, but I have done one small thing, with (for me) semi-miraculous results: I’ve added former President Donald Trump to my daily prayer list. And wonder of wonders, I’ve stopped loading myself down with the hatred I’ve long felt for him. Maybe I’ve made it to the first ridge, but there’s lots more to go before I come close to summiting. I now get why the early Christians referred to their “faith” as “the Way.” Nietzsche was clearly wrong. Christianity done right is a religion not of slaves but of super-heroes. Time to continue my pilgrimage!