Friday, October 13, 2023

Jesus the therapist and social worker. . .

The whole notion of repentance so essential to orthodox Christianity is offensive to the modern mind.  Any Jesus who presumes to think that any of you is not good enough, not up to snuff, or in need of repair, is not a Jesus modernity welcomes.  Oh, sure, if you are a racist or misogynist or homophobe (or some other sex or gender phobe), by all means repent.  But if something floats your boat that the Scripture happens to look down on, the job of Jesus is to take your side.  The Jesus we want is the Jesus of the modern idea of therapy and social work -- fix your poor self-image by accepting yourself as basically okay the way you are.  In other words, we want a happy Jesus who wants us to be happy and will not trouble us with such things as sin or its punishment.  This Jesus does not go to the cross but sits in an internet cafe with His eyes glued to the screen like the rest of us -- silent except for the occasional giggle over some cute cat meme.  A feel good God for a feel good world -- unless you are rallying people against the approved social causes of liberation from patriarchy, prudishness, climate change, injustice, etc...  Then Jesus can get just as nasty as you get in challenging the status quo.

The problem with this is that therapy and social work seems no longer to treat the causes of anything and is content to deal with the symptoms.  If this is what Jesus does, He is the lying friend who tells the dying buddy that everything is going to be okay even though he knows his buddy is moments away from death.  Either we want a Jesus who is content with the lies we tell ourselves or we risk a Jesus who will tell the blunt truth none of us wants to hear.  If you want my take on why we have such a violent world today, I think it is because we do not deal with the root causes of mental health issues and merely prescribe a pill to deaden the individual to the impulses and urges so dangerous.  The problem is that people stop taking the pills and the pills stop working and the violence within shows itself.  It is not a matter of different people but there but for the grace of God go I.  Some religion has become an opiate, something to take the pain away without addressing its cause.  That is not the religion of Jesus but it seems that many of us will take what we can get if it helps us make it through the day.  

We have remade Jesus into a warm and approving therapist who tells us what we want to hear.  He is like the app on our phone that distracts us from our boredom and who helps us to smile away the hours and the troubles for a moment.  This Jesus is not strong but weak, not a Savior but a codependent in a world of codependents who all agree that we will not talk about why but only how we feel about it.  Sin is the cause of this violence and until we are willing to let Jesus deal with the cause, it does not matter how much we deal with the symptoms, we will all die of our affliction and live in denial of our mortality.  In this case, death is not so bad.  Have you ever wondered by those who heap such violence on the world end up taking their own lives?  Could it be that death has become a better alternative to their painful life?  Have you wondered why assisted suicide and the thought of a painless way to end your life has become so popular?  Could it be that death is less fearful to some folks than a life which does not go as planned or does not deliver what you hoped?  What can Jesus do when this is how we judge things?  Nothing.  Unless you are ready to admit sin is a problem and you are a sinner, Jesus has nothing much to offer you except the same self-serving blather that passes for therapy today.  Jesus is irrelevant in our culture not because He has failed but because we no longer desire to deal with the problem and have chosen to be content to find some sort of pill or placebo to deal with the symptoms.  In this, the cross has become an emoji and nothing more.  Praying hands the same.  The Church nothing more than a crowd to cheer you on to whatever makes you feel good.

Honestly, which is worse?  A Jesus who has come to order you around and force you to save yourself or a Jesus who cannot do anything for us except pat you on the back and lie through His teeth about how it is all good while you babble on about the things you think are preventing your right to happiness?  In either case, there is no Gospel and where there is no Gospel, there is no hope, no life, and no peace.  The world cries out for the blunt truth of sin and its death and of the Jesus who by His death and resurrection has given forgiveness to the sinner, life to the dead, and hope to carry us through the days of our pain.

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