Andrew Sullivan

Wannabe Buddhist

The following comes from an April 4 posting on the Real Clear Religion website

Andrew Sullivan’s April 2 Newsweekstory, “Christianity in Crisis,” [called on the front cover “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus”] admirably argues for a “simpler, purer, apolitical” version of the faith. He condemns a politicized Christianity that is concerned with prosperity and morality but dismissive of self-sacrifice and sanctification.

No surprise this Jesus-flavored civil religion increasingly alienates its own youth and becomes more shrill as the economy and culture deteriorate, but Sullivan’s analysis of the crisis misses on several points worth considering.

For Sullivan, the simple, pure, apolitical Jesus is the one that insists we “give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence…” 

Power is complex, and Sullivan’s simplistic approach automatically renders Jesus’ treatment of the temple moneychangers indecipherable. But focus on just one facet of power: authority. “If we return to what Jesus actually asked us to do and to be — rather than the unknowable intricacies of what we believe he was — he actually emerges more powerfully and more purely,” says Sullivan. His article’s promo copy (though Newsweekeditors may be more to blame for this than Sullivan) amplifies the underlying message: “Forget the church. Follow Jesus.”

It’s a trendy thing to say, but how do we know what Jesus asks of us? Unlike Muhammad or L. Ron Hubbard, Jesus didn’t scratch out a word of Scripture. We only know what Jesus said because his followers wrote things down. These followers and their community — that is to say, the church — then curated that message. That means we have to understand Jesus’ words in a matrix that includes the thoughts and writings of the early church: its bishops, priests, poets, monks, theologians, and artists. Divorcing Jesus from the church is conceptually impossible.

This plays havoc with Sullivan’s simplistic idea of power, because we access Christ and his teachings by submitting to the authority of the church. This authority is no mere historical accretion. Despite the popular notion that the early church resembled a loose network hippies passing their Sundays at informal prayer meetings, significant and powerful church government is present in the first century. James, Jesus’ own brother and the first bishop of Jerusalem, exercised real authority. So did the Apostle John’s disciples Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna.

The reality of power and authority inevitably brings politics with it. Sullivan commends the example of Francis of Assisi as a Christian who determined to live peacefully and renounce power over others. Francis is a wonderful example of the complexity of the issue, as Sullivan himself notes, because he couldn’t escape politics. The more followers he amassed the greater his challenge.

Every monastic father before Francis faced the same problem: Anthony, Macarius, Pachomius, Benedict. People live in community, and politics is one of the tools people employ to negotiate those complex relationships.

It’s no good demonizing politics. You can (and should) point out its manifold bad uses, but there are good uses as well. Sullivan says that Christians must speak prophetically on occasions. Yes, but William Wilberforce required more than words to end the slave trade. It took laws. As necessary as nongovernment solutions are to the problem of abortion, defending the unborn ultimately requires laws as well.

To read entire story, Click here.

 

READER COMMENTS

Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 1:19 AM By charlio
Patrick Coffin said he wants a t-shirt that says, “I’m not spiritual, just religious”.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 4:36 AM By Thomas Edward Miles
Mr. Sullivan, you are wrong! How can one forget the body, without the head you have a social club, not a church!


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 5:02 AM By Mary
Secularists think this pap is religion. To me, Andrew Sullivan is a man lost in rationalization because of same sex attraction.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 5:21 AM By JMJ
If Newsweek is talking about the One and only True Church, they are leading their readers into the pits of hell, but, if they are talking about the church of Obama, Hell-lywood and the “Democratic” party, they are saying a lot. +JMJ+


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 6:38 AM By Ann sullivan
When a rich man wanted to follow him, Jesus said that first he had to give away his wealth. When the Pope and Romney give away their wealth I will agree they are Christians, followers of Jesus.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 6:54 AM By Prof.Helen
In the U.S. the Christian Church was behind every social movement of the 19th and early 20th century. AMEN


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 7:04 AM By Matthew
As I sit reading this on Maundy Thursday preparing to leave town for the Easter Triduum I think of just how easy the harmful actions of s many Catholic clerics and laypersons have made the crusades of people like Sullivan. My parish and my diocese are so watered-down, so scandal-plagued that I have to travel nearly 200 miles to be in an atmosphere that I feel is conductive to celebrating Easter. How dare these people treat God’s Church with such disrespect! Happy Easter.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 8:03 AM By Theo 
Ho hum! Just the annual (or should I say bi-annual) bashing of Christianity by the lame-stream media during the most holy days of the liturgical year. This happens every Easter & Christmas like clockwork in the pages of Time, Newsweek, etc… and on the TV on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, A & E, etc. I wonder why Christians celebrating the mysteries of their faith so frightens and unnerves them? Everyone should go to Church and thank God for His Mercy! Happy Easter!


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 8:16 AM By Susan
The Risen and Glorified Christ blinded Saul with His power and light: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” The CHURCH is the BODY OF CHRIST and the BRIDE OF CHRIST. Attack us and you attack Jesus. Period.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 8:51 AM By Brad
Especially during this time of year, the demon wants to lead souls away from the Sacraments and the boat of Peter in general. Where are we to go, Lord? You have the keys to eternal life? Through your Church, which you so kindly left us. And through the virtue of religion, the practice of religion.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 9:08 AM By Ronnie
The Church gives more to the poor than any other organization and Jesus told Judus that we would have the poor with us always….Christianity is not based on socialism. It is based on loving God and your neighbor. The sacrificial kind that rejects sin and helps his neighbor reject it also. A true Christian is not a socialist. It is loving people so much that it dares to tell the truth so that souls will not be lost…..Andrew Sullivan is a lost soul. He rejects the Church because it confronts his sin and he doesn’t want to give up his sinful life…


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 9:27 AM By Tom
Matthaeus 16:18-19 Biblia Sacra Vulgata (VULGATE) 18et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam 19et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum in caelis et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 9:39 AM By Ray
Paragraph 6: “James, Jesus’ own brother and the first bishop of Jerusalem …” Where did this come from? Could you explain the “brother” part?


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 9:51 AM By Bud 
Andrew Sullivan has been touting his talent for writing for years, most of which was spent in arrogance along with his talent. He despises his cradle Catholicism even more when he supossedly explores it.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:04 AM By mrpkguy
Six paragraphs down in this article it states “James, Jesus’ own brother and the first bishop of Jerusalem, exercised real authority.” Somebody’s theology is REALLY off base!


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:22 AM By Juergensen
How can one follow Jesus and reject the Church explicitly founded by Jesus? One cannot follow by rejecting.


Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 10:39 AM By Becie
The pope doesn’t personally own much at ALL. St. Peter’s and all the art works are the patrimony of ALL Catholics. Jesus never said that everyone must give up his wealth to follow Him; some need to, because that is their hindrance to salvation. Remember, it is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil…

To add a comment, click on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ icons OR go further down to the bottom of comments to the Post your comment box.
COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.