Monday, July 17, 2017

"In Search of the American Jesus"

Job 12.16 NAS

“With Him are strength and sound wisdom, the misled and the misleader belong to Him.

No one can mislead without followers who are willing to be misled. Mis-leaders need mis-followers. Mis-leaders, using skillful leadership principles, create dysfunctional organizations and mis-management teams to insure the on-going success of the whole mis-adventure. God is bigger than all our conceptions about Him and how He would do things. “The misled and the misleader belong to Him.” But that does not stop us from trying to create bigger and worse ideas about who Jesus is. It’s called “totemism,” the human tendency to form a conception of God in our own image, and it’s as old as civilization itself.

“Human beings… take the values and traditions that we most admire about ourselves and project them onto a totem. Eventually, we stand in awe of that totem and end up worshiping an incarnation of the things we love about ourselves. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor.’ ”[1]

The popular question “What would Jesus do?” can be very dangerous. Its answer depends entirely on who Jesus is. Strong leaders who invent Jesus in their own image form faulty conclusions and mislead others in their experiment of faith. Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, had a personal experience with this scary idea while on a short-term mission trip...

“…a group of children were preparing a skit from the gospel story they had read. They came up to me and said, ‘Shane, we need you to play Jesus, because you are white and from America.’ Ouch! God forgive us. Buddy Jesus has become a white American resembling Mr. Rogers.”[2]

Totem Pole by Tripleman
Sometimes we act just like the children preparing for a skit. We allow ourselves to become easily misled. Our continual search for the American Jesus who fits our image of who He should be makes us vulnerable to any mis-leader with a so-called new and better vision. Mis-leadership does not always happen intentionally. We want so badly to perpetuate a notion of Jesus who approves of the lifestyle we adopt and wish to maintain that we easily deafen ourselves to the true voice of Him who said, “Follow Me.”

Thankfully, both “the misled and the misleader belong to Him.” I trust the real Jesus will stand up every day and reveal Himself in stark contrast to the Jesus I want Him to be.


[1] The Irresistible Revolution ~ living as an ordinary radical, Shane Claiborne, Zondervan, 2006, p. 112.

[2] Ibid. p. 112f.

The painting of Jesus with a tie is called "The Conformist" (alkyd on canvas, 12" x 16", 2003) by Clifford Davis B.A. Hamilton College, M.F.A. Cranbrook Academy of Art. Mr. Davis is a faculty member at Rivier College in Nashua, New Hamshire, and kindly gave me permission to use his painting on this post.

The image"Totem Pole" was shot by photographer Tripleman at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia (


JOV said...
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JOV said...

I think the biggest problem is that most of us are gospel ignorant. We spend more time on things of the world, rather than reading and understanding the gospel.

If we would read, then we would know who Jesus is and what He does and does not stand for.

1 Timothy 4:13 NIrV Until I come, spend your time reading Scripture out loud to one another. Spend your time preaching and teaching.

We really need to know what the scriptures say so we will know when we are being deceived.

We need to remember that with God ignorance is no excuse.

I need to

Dave Scriven said...

Great insights, Kevin. Thanks for sharing on this post.