The mariner has been watching the dismantling of the political, economic and social mores that began back in the seventies and, in each category, are moving faster and faster toward something we do not understand but will be a change in the status of an American life. Christianity does not escape this change in culture.
There are many books on the market attempting to redefine Christianity for the modern age. The best narrative, both historically and religiously, is Zealot, The life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Though many still hold to the mythical interpretation of the Jesus narrative, modern history, common sense and the pressures of a modern society 2,100 years distant from the time of Jesus require a better understanding of both the man and the message – which may not be synonymous.
The New Testament, particularly Matthew and Luke, provide a template of how we must behave as Christians. Yet historians, respected in their field, suggest that the Gospels were written after Jesus lived and were designed to support the spiritual message of Jesus rather than to account specifically for his words and actions while Jesus was alive.
Historians say that the time in which Jesus lived the population was immersed in a belief that the apocalypse was about to happen. Many prophets were preaching about preparedness for this event. Some, like Jesus, did the same but went a step further to challenge the divinity of the Roman Emperor, which ultimately led to death on the cross.
We are in similar times today. Our government is dysfunctional; more and more Americans are forced into poverty; the American dream that anyone can achieve whatever they desire has faded away; many who propose to speak in the name of Christianity (Tea Party) attack the relationship between the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount and daily life.
Christians today are challenged: Is the New Testament our word of faith? Is the Jesus of history depicted by artists and religious writers through the ages the real Jesus? More importantly, is the spiritual and moral guidance of the New Testament valid? No doubt, there is substantive truth in these writings. The New Testament has not been replaced by any stretch of the imagination. However, how shall we present it? How shall we, as devoted Christians, defend the meaningfulness of our faith? These are the questions at hand as our society experiences significant change.
We must live the word of Jesus. Words like forgiveness, kindness, goodness, acceptance, constitute a way of life. A Christian, no matter the historical account, is someone who is devoted to the happiness and wellbeing of others – no matter their style of life or their ethnicity. This is the message that must not fade in the midst of these troublesome days.