“Forget The Church, Follow Jesus” by Andrew Sullivan is the featured cover story on the latest issue of Newsweek. He begins by revisiting Thomas Jefferson’s shredding of the Bible. As you may recall, Jefferson famously extricated a few passages in the New Testament he felt conveyed the actual teachings of Jesus accurately; these became his new improved Bible. He referred to the his new document as the “diamonds,” and the remaining texts as the “dunghill.” Sullivan uses Jefferson’s personal philosophy as (ostensibly) a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus as a segue into his own personal viewpoint on the status of Christianity today.
Sullivan correctly points out that a faith long on doctrine and short on action is seriously deficient, and he does well in calling our attention to the way in which Christianity has become distorted and diseased with the prosperity gospel. The Catholic church is (rightfully) skewered for “enabling, and then covering up, an international conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and children.”
Those who adhere to a “rigid literalism” (inerrancy, a 6,000 year old earth, and so forth) are taken to task as well. It should come as no surprise that Sullivan, a married homosexual, claims Jesus never addressed homosexuality, but did forgive adulterers, and strongly condemned divorce. Sullivan rails against the Catholic church for intruding into our bedrooms, beginning with its prohibition of “the pill” in the 1960′s, and against the church on other fronts.
His answer to our modern day ‘Christianity in Crisis’ focuses on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and the study of his life and reflections is indeed still beneficial for us today.
While there are some points worth reflection and discussion in Sullivan’s article, it’s hard to take seriously a man who against the clear teaching of Scripture is a practicing homosexual. Those who agree with his take on sexuality may be more receptive to his message, but for most of us who claim the Christ as Lord of our lives, this alone disqualifies him as worthy of serious attention. And there’s always that troubling and lengthy reference to Jefferson’s new and improved canon, with not even a whisper of protest.
There is nothing new in Sullivan’s attempt to focus on love, to the exclusion of justice, eternal consequences, and the difficult path of following Jesus. He is simply another in a long line of heretics.