Christianity as a religion really isn’t that spectacular (and no it’s not because Christianity is a relationship and not a religion). We’ve got some interesting stories, most of which are rewrites of other stories. There is revelation that we hold to which leads to all sorts of different doctrine (most of which isn’t that unique in the world of religion). From that doctrine comes a bunch of rituals and practices that are certainly worthwhile, but they aren’t revolutionary, they’ve existed a lot longer than the faith have. We have festivals and holidays and our own calendar, all again which can be a beautiful thing – but who doesn’t have these things? Even our countries have this now. Our morality is pretty basic (hey stop killing each other!). We certainly don’t have a history of peace that we can hold on to.
Christianity as a religion isn’t very complete either. Since for Christians all revelation stops at the end of the Bible – almost all important contributions to the faith are easily discarded by anyone who lacks interest. Somehow the Bible became this end all and be all of everything we need for a perfect religion and so everything else became secondary and unnecessary for completeness. That has been disastrous for most sects of Christianity because it has always inevitably meant that authority was found within their own subjective interpretations of what they were reading. Jewish folk really figured that one out and incorporated growth, change and layers of truth into their faith much better than we ever did. So instead of Christianity’s authority resting in the continuing philosophy of Christians throughout its history, it rests on the current cultural context in which the reader is immersed in.
Christianity became a set of morals, a culture of ethics and spiritual safety net and soothing ideology for anyone who needed it.
I think this is why I find a lot in common with the atheists who despise religion. I really think Jesus was this kind of atheist. Christianity has become just another religion in a sea of religion which nothing in particular sets it apart from any of the others. Not only are the stories ridiculous, the followers are crazed and no one lives or follows the morals that are emphasized. So even as a religion, it’s a failed one like all the others. It doesn’t make people better, it doesn’t bring hope, it doesn’t line up with reality, it is just a bunch of doctrine that exists because institutions maintained it.
Granted, I just finished reading The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul, so I might be over compensating a little bit, but in a lot of ways I think he is right. Maybe the only reason why Christianity survived the way it did was by taking on a form like everything else. Institutionalize, multiply, convert, oppress, change everything to be acceptable and workable and then go from there. At least you’ve got people claiming to be Christians now!
You’d think that if Christianity was as important as we think it is, that Jesus would have had a little more to say about it. Rather he wandered around with a lot of unimportant people and told stories of what the Kingdom was like, freaked out on the people that were doing it all wrong and hurting others and then died. Everything else is what humans built up around the central message. Jesus’ central message was the Kingdom and proclaiming its arrival and and making sure everyone knew they were invited to the party. I think he’d be devastated to see what we made of that announcement.