October 16th, 2011 by Dale Fincher
Have you noticed this promising note in designer spirituality offering the hope of becoming a god? Forget the richness of our created humanity. Transcend your fleshly, frail shackles! Become a creator and make your own world by your own rules. Mormons promise a new planet to populate as the god of this planet populated this one. Scientologists promise a clear mind will return you to your mighty place among the stars. Buddhists promise true serenity if you can only remove your human desires. Customize these to your liking, bundled in The Secret, The New Earth, and The Four Agreements, add a Zen baby carrier, a rock garden and eastern meditation and you have everything you need for your journey into peace, away from your human side.
Sadly, many Christians also think Jesus came to rid us of our human side. Many see Jesus becoming flesh to teach us to shed off our humanity, like a butterfly leaving its chrysalis, flying to better skies, forever becoming angelic or even little gods?
After a recent speaking event at a Christian college, a student approached me confused with Soulation’s goal “to help others become more appropriately human.” In most of his Christian experience, he heard Christians talk about “flesh” being synonymous with our human bodies. He heard songs that seemed to indicate that to be “godly” means to put aside our human limitations. Many talked like they were going to toss off their evil humanity to become something more, maybe even “gods” (his word).
“Isn’t getting to heaven, entering a new state of existence, leaving the earth, the goal of Chrsitians?” he asked me.
The empty promise that we can supercede our humanity first entered this world in Eden. It’s the oldest lie around. The serpent tempted our parents to think that our humanity was to be disdained. If only we could break human limitation, we could become bigger and better, like the divine.
But God never intended us to become divine. The Christian story, and one we meditate on as Advent begins, is that God became human. Eugene Peterson says that in the residue of our fallenness, “I would rather be like God than that God be like me.” If God cannot look on sin, we think, why on earth would he associate with sinners, arriving to look us in the eye? Embarrassed at our humanness, we subtly veer toward disdain that God made us go through our human-experience before we can arrive at the other side.
Yet God purposively made us in his image forever. We remain the only creatures on planet earth with this gift and task. We are body and soul, male and female, young and old, living metaphors of God.
This incarnational aspect of Christianity marks Jesus-followers distinct from other religious groups. Let’s not trade this ancient tradition of knowing it’s good to be human for modern notions that our humanity is a liability, a limiting, embarrassing, vulnerable reality that spirituality would do well to help us overcome.
Nothing has changed. In Jesus, God immersed himself in our humanity, not to trample it, but to repair it. As Gregory Wolfe recently noted, Jesus didn’t plug his nose when he dove into the incarnation.
Humanity wasn’t a disgusting, wormy, gross thing. It was a lost thing, that has been re-found and re-forged, like the sword of Isildur.
C. S. Lewis reminded us that as Jesus dove from heaven to earth, he went down, down, down into the depths to find us, like a diver looking for treasure. And as the ripples of that water calmed, anticipation grew of what the diver would find. His fist thrusts out of the water as straight as a cross, with a splash and a large gold coin clenched in his triumphant fist. Like the gold coin, Jesus brings all of humanity up with him, the lost found, the broken repaired, the hungry fed, the bewildered reoriented. Jesus didn’t come to remove us from our humanity, but to show us what it means to be human with a human savior as our brother.