Evangelicalism’s “Crosslessness.”

In today’s triumphalistic evangelicalism with “an election” under its belt and megachurches sprouting up like dandelions in the garden, it is quite noticeable that themes of “suffering” and images such as the cross are often victims of this “feel good God wants to bless you and make you really happy” theology.

Oddly, my first real attraction to the faith was in Jesus as the suffering servant and my understanding of following him was one based on self-denial and taking up a cross. Given evangelicalism’s drift I find myself relating to Kurt Vonnegut ‘s perception of Jesus more than the view of Jesus in many “success driven evangelicals”

“Jesus is particularly stimulating to me,” Kurt Vonnegut once wrote in a letter to the Dean of Chapel at Transylvania University, “since he noticed what I can’t help noticing, that life is so hard most people are losers or feel like losers, so that a skill essential to most of us, if we are to retain some shred of dignity, is to show grace in defeat…. What I can’t stand are sermons which say that to believe in the divinity of Jesus is a way to win.”

I hear echoes of Steely Dan. “They’ve got a name for the winners in this world, I want a name when I lose¢â‚¬¦they call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call me Deacon Blues.”

A friend recently sent me a piece he is developing on “The Scandalous Church” and in it he explores the significance of the evangelical practice of “crosses” without Jesus on them. While Protestants argue Jesus is not there because he is risen, I wonder if evangelicalism could have degenerated into its current state of giddy glibness, if there was an image of Jesus hanging on the cross in each sanctuary and communion practiced each Sunday. Sometimes today’s seeker churches actually remove the cross from their buildings because they don’t want to needlessly offend or “turn off” seekers; this very practice says volumes about underlying theologies.

Only one who suffers or is aware of deep spiritual need can appreciate the suffering servant and only those who take up a cross are true followers of Jesus.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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