The Cosmic Christ: Week 2
“Christ” Is Another Word for Everything
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
When Christians defined Jesus in a small way—as a mere problem solver for sin—we soon became preoccupied with sin itself, which is a largely negative foundation. We became blind to much else going on in this world except sin and its effects, which became preoccupations of most monks and reformers. One well- known Protestant reformer actually spoke of “total depravity” to characterize the human situation; another spoke of human nature as “a pile of manure covered with the snow of Christ.” With such a negative anthropology and without inherent human dignity, it is very hard for even a good theology to succeed. Grace can only build on—and perfect—nature; it cannot undo it, says Catholic theology. We must start where the Bible begins in Genesis 1: “It was good, it was good . . . it was very good” (Genesis 1:10-31).
Yet many Christian leaders and churches focus on shame and guilt, atonement and reparation, as if we were children frightened of an abusive father. Is there no greater meaning to our individual lives and history than to be chastened, corrected, and “saved” by God? Is there no implanted hope and goodness to first celebrate? The starting point of religion and life cannot be a huge problem. If we start with original sin (beginning with Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1), our worldview is scarcity rather than abundance.
Didn’t Paul tell us “There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11), so that “God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28)? What cosmic hope and direction we were offered! But our calculating minds have a very hard time knowing how to live inside of such abundance. Grace is the consummate threat to all self-hatred.
Christians formally believed that somehow Jesus was “fully human and fully divine” at the same time. But with dualistic thinking, the best most of us could do was to see ourselves as only human, and Jesus, for all practical purposes, as only divine. We thus missed the whole point, which was to put the two together in him and then dare to discover the same mystery in ourselves and in all of creation! That is how Jesus “saves” us and shows himself as the “pioneer and perfector” of our faith (see Hebrews 12:2)—and also the model, the guarantee, the promise, and the pledge, to use some of Paul’s many fine metaphors for Jesus.
Christianity, a religion based on the radically inclusive and compassionate vision of Jesus, has had a very different philosophy and practice in its actual history. Jesus was held hostage and misused by culture, nation-building, and prejudice, I am afraid. He ended up being neither Jesus nor Christ!
Rather than being taught that we can and should follow Jesus as “partners in his great triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14), we were told to be grateful spectators and admirers of what he once did. Instead of a totally “Inclusive Savior” we made Jesus into an object of exclusive and exclusionary worship. Then we argued and divided over what kind of worship he preferred. Jesus never asked for worship, only that we “follow” him (Mark 1:18) as fellow attractors (“fishers of people”) and partners in “his triumphal procession.”
Gateway to Silence:
In Christ, with Christ, through Christ
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 219-220.