I find it refreshing when an author lets you know early on where he or she is coming from. Hugh Halter does so in Sacrilege: finding life in the unorthodox ways of Jesus. In the second paragraph of his Acknowledgments (p.18), Halter defines the gospel as “the message of Jesus about a new way of life that he called the kingdom of God.”
If you don’t agree that Jesus was out to teach and lead into a new way of life, you won’t much appreciate Halter’s book. You should still read it, though, because he is on target far more than he is off.
Halter chooses the beatitudes as the frame on which he hangs his argument that Jesus came to smash “the spiritual, religious, traditional, and pop idols of his day.” Here again, though, the reader is challenged by Halter’s assumption that today’s society mirrors that in Jesus’ day. if it does, as Ahlter alleges and I agree, then much of what Jesus did comes against current religion.
Where I’m a little thrown off, though, is when Halter suggests that we substitute the word apprentice for follower and/or disciple with reference to Jesus. Especially as he presents a definition of what he means by apprentice. I am concerned that narrowing definitions for substitute words will lose too many people. Halter is too propehtic is his call to lose people on word choice.
But, then, merely to call people to follow Jesus, or to be disciples, would lose his voice in the crowd. Most anyone who claims to be a Christian would also claim to be a follower or disciple of Jesus. Could “apprentice” help here? Perhaps it could, if our society could separate the word from the Donald, of which I am skeptical.
Apprenticeship is an attractive metaphor for what it is to be a Christian. Sadly, our society doesn’t generally understand apprenticeship anymore. It’s too condescending to our cultural collective to assume that someone would actually spend time – years – learning to emulate every behavior of another. A 12 DVD set is about the max we’d like to have to wait to “arrive.”
Yet, Halter chooses words well when he suggests that we aim to become like Jesus the man rather than like God in heaven. (If I see one more “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” bumper sticker, I think I’ll puke). The whole lot of us Christians have written off becoming Christ-like because of our genericized imagination of God. We dont’ need generic God; we have Jesus. Want to know how God-in-flesh would live ? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. For that matter, read all four.
Halter writes very readably. Sacrilege is worth the read if you are at all interested in how Jesus’ people might return to news that is good to offer the world.