The question Christians must answer to stay relevant in the twenty-first century is “Who is Jesus today—who is Jesus in light of interfaith dialogue?” This central question requires an adequate answer that makes sense through and through for our post 9/11 world. Answers I get to that most significant question are usually dated and rigid or amorphous and confusing.
Who is Jesus in our post 9/11 world and in the larger context of the world religions? When I ask fundamentalists this question, they tell me Jesus is God period, and salvation is through him alone. Mainline clergy have wishy-washy responses lacking conviction. So, on the one hand I am given a fixed interpretation of Jesus condemning more than two thirds of the world’s population (Jesus is God period, end of story). And on the other hand I am told Jesus is human, a wisdom teacher like other founders of world religions. And this interpretation (Jesus is a human wisdom teacher, period) is unrecognizable to our Christian forbearers.
For Jews and Muslims, Jesus was a prophet. Many Buddhists say Jesus was enlightened. Hindus call Jesus an Avatar (the human incarnation of a “deity”). I appreciate these responses, which interpret Jesus in light of various faith perspectives. Yet, I longed for a relevant and comprehensive understanding of Jesus within my own faith.
I longed for a Christian interpretation of Jesus somewhere between rigid fundamentalism and the wishy-washy liberalism. Like many Christians I searched for Christianity’s elusive core, that’s about creative tension and mystery, not definitive resolution and either-or answers platitudes.
The Jesus I found in the pages of the Gospels satisfied a deep longing in my soul. But I didn’t find an essential interpretation of Jesus that did him justice. I felt I was back in Mark’s day: Herod is claiming Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Others are claiming Jesus is Elijah. Still others are claiming he is like one of the prophets of old (Mark 6:14-15). In short, there’s confusion.
Mainline Christians should be the guardians of a balanced path that holds the extremes in check. Yet there’s a lack of Jesus theology charting a balanced path. So, mainline Christians vacillate between fundamentalism and new age.
For a long time I searched for a cure to the polarization I felt, not only in the larger church, but within my own soul. I searched in Mexico. I searched in India. I searched in Africa. I searched in Eastern Europe. I searched in the Anglican Church. I searched among Friends/Quakers. I searched in the United Church of Christ. But, I couldn’t come home and embrace faith in Jesus with both arms.
There was no core of Christian tradition I could stand on and call my own. I was a Christian without a theological home.
My book is about my search for a theological home and the culmination of that search. It is about wrestling with that core question, Who is Jesus in light of the twenty-first century?