The title of this book, Reading the Bible As If Jesus Mattered, must seem paradoxical to some. After all, aren’t the life and teachings of Jesus Christ at the very center of the Bible?
Well, yes, but you can grow up and grow old in some provinces of Christendom without ever hearing very much about the life and teachings of the actual Jesus. I know that I can’t remember ever hearing a sermon preached from the synoptic gospels in the Baptist congregation of my childhood and youth. The Christianity I heard proclaimed generally began and ended with Christ’s vicarious atonement for our sins and the promise of life everlasting. Only a youth group Bible study on the gospel of Matthew saved me from rejecting the faith of my parents. The Sermon on the Mount opened my eyes to the person whom all the shouting was about, and I’ve tried to follow him ever since.
That’s the experience Duane Beachey wants to provide for you, his reader. Beachey provides a clear, cogent, and engaging look at the limitations and contradictions in the fundamentalist worldview that cause many Christians to either drift away from their faith or let their faith devolve into ideology. Duane sees Christianity as, first and foremost, a matter of a lived relationship with a living person, Jesus Christ.
Duane’s work is plainly evangelical. He believes in the primary authority of Scripture, seen through the prism of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. He doesn’t think Christianity is just one interesting way to approach the divine. He sees it as the truth, and he sees the reality of Jesus’ life and death as the ultimate issues of history. He wants people to be or become Christians. But his preaching is also a call to action. He calls his readers to live a life that will show a skeptical world that Jesus lives and matters. He wants us to show this evangelical truth by living the kind of life Jesus did—one of love, self-sacrifice and mercy, especially for the poor and outcast.
Duane is a card-carrying member of the Baby Boomer generation who has held on to the idealism associated with the by-gone time of the young Boomers. To this day he lives among the poor in Appalachian Southeast Kentucky, one of the most marginalized and neglected regions in the U.S. I first met him when he and his wife, Gloria, generously opened their home to my own wife and children. But, paradoxically, this makes his work especially timely because, in our twenty-first century era of endless war and struggles over human and civil rights, Jesus’ message of peace and justice is coming back in style. We can see this longing for the message of Jesus in the popularity of Pope Francis, whose appeal extends far beyond his denominational fiefdom.
Among Christians in general, and especially among evangelicals, new generations ripe for the message of this book are rising. In recent decades, “Christian” in popular usage has often come to stand for a partisan political agenda that has little do with Jesus of Nazareth. But that is changing. Young evangelicals are seeking ways to get beyond the “culture wars” and sterile debates about evolution or inerrancy that have come to constitute evangelical identity.
has the message that those young people are looking for. He issues a
call to a radical discipleship that has always been counter-cultural
and always will be. Jesus matters. He matters more than any of our
customs, predilections and prejudices. This book will help you put him
back at the center of your faith.
—Danny Duncan Collum is contributing editor and columnist for Sojourners magazine and professor of English and journalism at Kentucky State University.
Copyright © 2014 by Cascadia Publishing House LLC