A new book from popular author Greg Garrett offers an “upgrade” to contemporary Christianity. In The Other Jesus: Rejecting a Religion of Fear for the God of Love (Westminster John Knox Press), Garrett comments on the decline in attendance at nearly every Christian denomination, attributing this decline to the negative connotations associated with the label “Christianity.” At its best, Garrett says contemporary Christianity is perceived as judgmental and irrelevant, and at its worst, irrational and even dangerous. Indeed, in a country where a newly elected Alabama state governor renounces non-Christians at his inauguration ceremony, the existence of such negative associations may be unsurprising to some. Garrett writes:
Where is the Other Jesus, the one who taught and modeled love, inclusion, transformation, and a life of service? He is not to be found in many churches. Many American Christians have warped the figure of Jesus almost beyond recognition to support agendas of intolerance, imperialism, political power, and self-congratulatory salvation.” (p. 5)
Rejecting fundamentalist beliefs, Garrett argues that a faith that focuses solely on personal morality and the afterlife misses much of the point of Jesus’ message. Relating his own personal experiences of growing up in—and leaving—a disapproving conservative church and then finding his way back to a different church community, Garrett ultimately offers “Christianity 2.0,” a faith that is not concerned with an array of commandments or with holding the “right” beliefs. Such a faith, Garrett argues, is centered on loving each other and loving God, or as Garrett puts it, “love, where the rubber meets the road, where faith meets the world.” (p. 9)
Greg Garrett is the author of several books, including We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 and Stories from the Edge: A Theology of Grief. He is a novelist, a professor of English at Baylor University, writer-in-residence at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. Visit his webpage for more information.