Several years ago I was at what I can only describe as a spiritual crossroad. I was facing some serious issues in my life and I was searching for some serious answers. My minister, as any minister would, suggested I look in the Bible for guidance. What I liked about the way he phrased this was that if the answer to my questions were contained somewhere in the text, I would need to find it. With the help of a highlighter and Harper’s Bible Commentary I discovered that exploring this ancient document with the guidance of people much smarter than I was made the words I had glossed over for so many years come to life with a deeper meaning that had seemed to escape me before.
Purely by chance, I bought a special edition of the U.S. News & World Report magazine in the checkout line of my grocery store. The sensational title “Secrets of Christianity” grabbed my attention. Inside this publication adorned with a classic portrait of Jesus looking more like a European gypsy than an ancient Middle Easterner from Galilee, I was introduced to religious scholars and authors such as James Tabor, Marcus Borg, N. T. Wright, John Dominic Crossan, Dallas Willard, Bruce Chilton, and Karen Armstrong. I discovered that here were people, respected theologians, who questioned the most scared of texts, the King James version of the Bible; and they were not just questioning it, but were adding content and answers to it as well. Their books and articles exposed me to a new belief system, a faith-based on the actions and words of a Jesus I hadn’t known existed. Having been indoctrinated by the conservative political and religious views of the geographical area in which I lived, worshiped, and worked, it was as if, to borrow from Marcus Borg, I was meeting Jesus for the first time.
Over the next two years I read well-over 100 books about the Christian faith. Some very mainline, others extremely controversial and revolutionary. My mind and my heart buzzed with excitement about the path I found myself on but it was a path I was walking alone. At the time, I attended a men’s bible study hosted by a very conservative church. For over ten years, every Friday morning I had breakfast with twenty other guys and we discussed some bible verse, lesson, or book with a very fundamental bent, God is good, God is all-knowing, Jesus is the only path to salvation, etc. My journey was taking me further and further away from this groups core beliefs, beliefs that had no middle ground.
We rotated each Friday who would lead the lesson and discussion. As my turn approached I wrote a lesson based on the book of James, a contentious and radical text often overlooked in the whole but sampled, out of context, in sound bites for sermons. The short answer on the receptiveness of the group to my lesson is, that was the last time I had breakfast with those gentlemen.
The journey continues.