I just finished a book that I deeply disagree with—but highly recommend.
In If the Church Were Christian, Phillip Gulley makes some very strong claims about the divinity of Christ. I deeply disagree with these claims—yet, he makes even stronger claims about the nature of what the Christian Church has become—and I completely agree with them.
Gulley is a Quaker pastor and theologian. He has written extensively about matters of Biblical exegesis and theological interpretation, but his greatest contribution to the Christian church may be this short, little book that is an incisive critique of postmodern Christianity.
I, like Gulley, am concerned about the state of Christianity in America. My concern, however, extends specifically to the black Christian community. When I attend many black churches, I feel like I am watching a production. Actors seem to be onstage performing their parts. The choir is pitch perfect; the preacher is upbeat and powerful, but often times people leave unchanged—but highly entertained.
In light of this, Gulley asks a simple question: is the Church Christian? That is to say: Would Jesus do things this way?
Gulley does not think so—and I agree. Jesus was a pretty radical guy. Luke Chapter 6 is full of this radicalism. Jesus says things that are remarkably counter intuitive: lend and expect not to receive it; judge not; love your enemies—and this is just the beginning. Truth be told, if we took Jesus seriously, Christianity would look much different. Gulley does an excellent job of pointing this out with clarity and power.
A final word: I once visited a church that had exclusive seating for its ‘special parishioners.’ These are people who gave extraordinarily to the church monetarily. When I showed up, they knew who I was (an assistant pastor at a large church and a professor of theology and philosophy at a major university), so they escorted me to the front. I noticed, however, that other people were standing outside waiting in line to get a seat. This troubled me deeply. I asked the usher when the people outside would be allowed to be seated; he said: after the VIPs are seated.
I left. I didn’t think that church was very Christian.
- Lawrence Ware
(To read Lawrence's bio, click here.)