Growing up I assumed that Jesus had a last name and that it was Christ. It was as if, for all practical purposes, this person of the Godhead didn’t really matter until Jesus was born to a virgin girl over 2,000 years ago. I was comfortable with his life and teachings because they always seemed to mirror my own. They confirmed what I was taught and how I lived.
Now I see that I was fooling myself and making a mockery of the true Gospel. When you boil it down, I was a product of a fundamentalism that really only cared about one thing, the souls of people – not systemic injustice or creation or the physical lives of people – just souls. Everything that was taught and done was aimed at making sure people had their fire insurance. It’s as if the Gospel had nothing to say about anything else. It was a small Gospel, and I had it mastered!
Sadly, I never contemplated and internalized Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 or John 1. These texts (interestingly, all appear in the first chapter) speak of a Christ so big, so full and so complete that the best description I can use is cosmic, that which “fills the universe in all its parts” (Eph. 1:23). Christ was before creation, at creation and through him all things were created (Col. 1:16).
“We’ve replaced the Cosmic Christ with a Christ who looks a whole lot like me.”
Richard Rhor, in his paradigm-shifting book, The Universal Christ, and other writings, suggests that 13 billion years ago is when the incarnation first began, not in the fullness or the totality that was present in Jesus, but in an initial outpouring of the Trinity that gave birth to life as we know it.
There is nothing in creation that God did not and does not sustain, nor anything that does not bear the divine mark.
Nothing. No plant growing. No animal foraging. No rock undergoing evolution’s task. No space dust floating near Mars. No migrant and his daughter trying to cross a river to flee suffering and a life of violence for something better. But, I’m afraid we’ve forgotten this “nothing” and have made Christ small and socially irrelevant. We’ve replaced the Cosmic Christ with a Christ who looks a whole lot like me, talks like me, thinks like me and is mostly concerned with me and those like me – the Christ I spent much of my younger life worshiping.
We have taken a cosmic Gospel that redeems everything and replaced it with a puny, individualistic, if-you-were-to-die-today, only-the-soul-matters gnostic heresy. It’s this kind of gospel that has nothing to say to children in cages without toothbrushes, blankets and even parents – or suggests that since these migrant children have nowhere to go it’s at least an opportunity to share the gospel with them! It’s the kind of gospel that wraps itself in the American flag, baptizes what my country wants and makes Jesus pro-America above every other country. It’s the kind of gospel that blends with white nationalism and that demeans the children of immigrants, saying “these are not our kids.”
It’s not the real Gospel, of course, but sadly it has found a hospitable environment in many churches.
What if we crucify this faux-gospel and allow God to resurrect a cosmic Gospel that cares for all, that redeems all? Imagine that. A cosmic Gospel that welcomes all, cares about all and finds a place at the table for all. Not just white, middle class people, but people of color, the poor, the LGBT community and the differently abled. Or a desperate father who risks crossing a border river because the unknown on the other side is better than the side he’s escaping with his young daughter.
How do we as followers of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ, get there? Perhaps a good starting place would be to go back and reread those texts I referenced earlier. To read them as if for the first time. To sit quietly and contemplate them. To resist the temptation to miniaturize what is supposed to be bottomless, edgeless, comprehensive and all-encompassing.
And then to honestly ask ourselves: Does all mean ALL or does all really mean me and those like me?