The cover of former Oklahoma Gazette commentary writer Robin Meyers' new book, "Saving Jesus from the Church," features a piece of tape over the mouth of Jesus Christ.
The imagery and title are intentionally provocative. Meyers, pastor of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, said he hopes the book provokes a conversation between various factions in the larger church.
"The thrust is not to pit liberal versus conservative for a competing model," he said. "It is an invitation to both sides to restructure the church around the oldest Gospel."
The Gospel of Mark is widely believed to be the oldest Gospel, and Meyers believes the Jesus portrayed there is different than the Jesus portrayed in the latest Gospel, John.
"What happened was the church changed a Galilean sage to a savior by the fourth century," he said. "They added layers of creeds that were not part of Jesus' ministry. In the book, I attempt to reconstruct this historical Jesus, not the supernatural Jesus."
INTENSE STUDY AND DEBATE
The quest for the historical Jesus has been a focus of intense study and debate in theological circles for about 150 years. Meyers is a member of one well-known body whose members are renowned liberal scholars in this field: the Jesus Seminar. Some of the members are a who's who of liberal scholarship and publishing, including John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and Robert Funk.
Meyers said he was invited to join the Jesus Seminar about three years ago. He said he doesn't consider himself a scholar, but believes he has a role as part of the group.
"I see what I do as an interpretive position between the scholarly world and those who want to know what scholars are discovering," he said. "Scholars don't take their work and package it for people who are sitting in pews."
A minister for more than 20 years in Oklahoma, Meyers has spent much of his life trying to communicate with those people in the pews, and he is alarmed at the state of Christianity in America.
"American Christianity is dominated by belief systems," Meyers said. "The subtitle of the book, 'How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus,' emphasizes that believing things takes very little. You just sign off on some things. Discipleship requires transformation. That means Christianity is a way of life, not a belief system."
Meyers said the book is intentional about bringing evangelicals into the discussion. "These are people with whom I disagree, but I want to have the conversation about the things we can agree on," he said
"Saving Jesus from the Church" will be released Feb. 24. Kit Mauldin of Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway, said a signing will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 26.
"The plan is to have him read an excerpt and field questions," Mauldin said. "We'll have 100 copies of the book in the store, but it's a good idea to call ahead and reserve copies." "Greg Horton