April 16, 2012
Long, long ago – in an America far, far away – restaurants served American food. I had my family with me last week – for Easter Break – and we were far enough away from home that we were Yelp-dependent at a few mealtimes. With the “$$” limitation (I didn't want to be a “$” cheapskate, but there are 11 of us, and “$$$” was a little rich for the one-check patriarch), I did “close to current location” searches. The result? Ethnic foods were the dominant option; not much American food nearby.
These days, one of the most frequent compromises is fusion. Good luck finding “fusion” on a map; it didn’t exist 25 years ago. Technically, “Fusion cuisine combines elements of various culinary traditions while not being categorized per any one particular cuisine style, and can pertain to innovations in many contemporary restaurant cuisines since the 1970s…” (Wikipedia). Fusion puts tacos and dim sum on the same menu – or, on the same plate – with no culinary conflict.
It’s one thing to mix up your food; it's quite another to mix up your faith. What happens in the dining room will simply be a curiosity; what happens in the sanctuary could become an eternal disqualifier. Using a quirky buffet line for dinner is one thing; doing a creative hodgepodge of the holy is risking way too much to dismiss it as “personal freedom.”
Last week, Andrew Sullivan wrote the cover story for Newsweek: “Forget the Church; Follow Jesus.” Sullivan – self-described as British by birth, American by residence, politically conservative, Catholic, and openly gay – offers his perspectives as an author, editor, political commentator and blogger. His contribution to Easter Week suggested that the best approach to the Christian faith offer was to go a la carte: just Jesus, without church-on-the-side…
His lead illustration was the work of Thomas Jefferson on the question of faith, demonstrated by his Bible-on-display at the National Museum of American History in Washington. Jefferson's approach was to "cut the diamonds of Christ's teachings out of the dunghill of the New Testament." He extracted the portions of the Gospels that he thought “reflected the actual teachings of Jesus,” aggregated those… and dismissed the rest as “the misconceptions of Jesus'; followers;” not to be trusted, not authoritative.
Jefferson declared himself to be "a real Christian; that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." More succinctly, he was aligned with the sayings of Jesus that survived his scalpel. He created a picture of Jesus that reflected his sensibilities, and dismissed the rest as irrelevant; the supernatural was negated by science, and the result was an individual code that did not need to agree with anyone else's construct of Christianity… or synchronize with a faith community organized as a “church.”
So… Andrew Sullivan embraces his version of Thomas Jefferson, who embraces his version of Jesus of Nazareth… and gets cover-story status from Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown, also a British-born journalist who speaks to American culture from the platform of one of the culture's dominant weeklies. Is it the prerogative of journalists – imported from England – to reinvent American faith in Christianity's most holy week?
America suffered a brutal backlash recently in Afghanistan when it was reported that copies of the Koran had been mishandled. But… there's no outcry in America when a former president – or, a contemporary reporter – does a cut-and-paste on the book that claims divine inspiration for all of its words, including and limited to the “words of Jesus in red!”
“Forget the Church; Follow Jesus?” Which Jesus? I wonder if Thomas Jefferson – or, Andrew Sullivan – considers this statement to be among Jesus accurate quotations: “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it…” (Matthew 16:18).
I'm ranting… but, I'm right. Is anyone else becoming a little perturbed by the mounting attacks on the Word of God, the Son of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ?