James Carroll, writing in the New York Times, reminds us of the eternal bond.
So what can a modern person believe about Jesus? There are intellectual obstacles to faith. The church has always shaped what it believes in terms drawn from the prevailing worldview, but history is the record of one worldview yielding to the next — from Ptolemy and Aquinas to Copernicus and Darwin to Einstein and Hubble.
More than a century ago, the church was thrown for a loop by the mind of modernity, and even now struggles to assimilate the established ideas that change is essential to the human condition; that truth is always seen from a particular point of view; that all language about God falls short of God.
And, speaking of God, in what way, actually, can Jesus be said to be divine? A scientifically minded believer wants to discard that notion, but before he does, he should remember that if Jesus were not regarded as somehow divine almost from the start of his movement, we would never have heard of him. And if faith in the divinity of Jesus is left behind because it fails the test of contemporary thought, Jesus will ultimately be forgotten. Is it possible that contemporary thought can learn from this old article of faith? What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as the majesty of what it is to be human?
But, in addition to intellectual barriers, there are moral obstacles to faith in Jesus, too — not just the blatant sins of the church like sex abuse or misogyny, but also sacrosanct core traditions of Christianity that turn out to be grotesque distortions of who Jesus was.
Chief among these is the way in which the full and permanent Jewishness of Jesus was forgotten, so much so that his story is told in the Gospels themselves as a story of Jesus against the Jews, as if he were not one of them. Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment (which girds the anti-Jewish bipolarity of grace versus law; generosity versus greed; mercy versus revenge). Rather, as a Shema-reciting son of Israel, he proclaimed the one God, whose judgment comes as love.
Imagined as a zealot who attacked the Temple, Jesus, on the contrary, surely revered the Temple, along with his fellow Jews. If, as scholars assume, he caused a disturbance there, it was almost certainly in defense of the place, not in opposition to it. The narrative denouement of this conflicted misremembering occurred in the 20th century, when the anti-Semitism of Nazism laid bare the ultimate meaning of the church’s religious anti-Judaism.
The horrified reckoning after the Holocaust was the beginning of the Christian reform that remains the church’s unfinished moral imperative to this day.
Retrieved November 9, 2014 from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/opinion/sunday/can-i-stay-with-the-church.html?ref=opinion&_r=0