The Christian Atheist pt 1
I can boldly say that I do believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I can also boldly say that I do not believe there is a god. If I may put one more idea forward, I do not believe that these statements contradict each other in the least.
It has taken me over 10 years of working in churches to wrestle with these ideas. I’m sure I have not arrived at my final destination of what I think about such matters, but I will talk about the post I’m at today. In future writings I will discuss why I don’t believe in god, how I understand Jesus and the bible, and other topics (I will warn you know, I have a filthy little mouth). For today, I want to unpack the idea of Jesus as my Lord and Savior sans a belief in God.
A quick rabbit trail (get use to it, its the way my brain works), I realize these writings will not be popular among anyone. I feel I will honor Jesus too much for the atheist and will criticize god notions too much for the theist. I have often found myself in life very much a people person but also very much alone. It seems when you accept all, very few accept you! Thats besides the point…
When I speak of Jesus as my Lord and Savior I do not speak of it in the fundamentalist, heavenly minded, spiritual bullshit, saved from a fiery hell speak that our mind jumps to when we hear this phrase. I understand it in a very anthropological sense. In other words, I make this statement in regards to my relation and understanding with humanity. I do not make this statement in a theological sense in relation to who I think god to be.
I will start with the idea of Jesus as my savior. The idea of savior as meaning one who saves you from the judgement from god and the hell he has waiting for you is NOT the idea of salvation for the writers of the Old Testament. Their idea of salvation was easy: God will deliver us from our foreign enemies who oppress us. We will have a military victory over them and throw their rule off our back. This is salvation. It has nothing to do with your spirit, nothing to do with going to heaven, and nothing to do with making your wallet fatter (sorry word of faith peoples).
The new testament writers subvert the meaning of this word salvation. It no longer means throwing your enemy off your back with military victory. Now it means being made whole. How does Jesus say that we are made whole? Not by destroying our enemies through conquest in the name of god, but by loving and forgiving our enemies. Salvation is a restoration of relationships, it’s healing, it’s wholeness.
When I say Jesus is my savior I am positing the truth that his teachings has caused me to love those whom my culture and (former) religion would consider my enemy. His teachings has made me personally at whole with those who hurt me. I use to think Gays and Lesbians were wicked, Jesus saved me from that. I use to think Muslims were going to hell, Jesus saved me from that. I use to hold grudges against people who I felt wronged me, Jesus saved me from that. It’s in this sense Jesus is my savior. His ideas have healed me and caused me to approach my “enemies” with understanding and love.
Now the more complicated issue as Jesus as my Lord. It’s only complicated because of what we understand it means today. We think Lord = God. Interestingly enough it was theologians who corrected me from this line of thinking. When the early church spoke of Jesus as Lord it was not a religious statement, but a political one. The church was saying that they would not bow a knee to Rome, but they belonged to an empire that could not be seen. One that worked on different principles. Their Caesar was not Nero, their Caesar was Jesus.
That is so fucking punk rock. In essence they were rejecting the ideas and the violence of the government that sought to rule them to follow a peaceful hippy who would rather die than become violent like his enemy. In this sense Jesus is my Lord. I will not kill for my country. I will not take a life for the interest and policies of the United States. I will not pledge allegiance to any flag. My allegiance is to all of humanity. It took Jesus as my Lord for me to shed the lie of patriotism and see the whole world as a place without borders.
When I speak as Jesus as my Lord and Savior it is in this sense. I do not need a god to follow Jesus. I just need a heart for humanity.