If I were going to start a movement this would be the name of it. I long for all senses of the phrase, Jesus before Christianity. Here are Albert Nolan's opening words from the book of the same title,
Many millions throughout the ages have venerated the name of Jesus, but few have understood him and fewer still have tried to put into practice what he wanted to see done. His words have been twisted and turned to mean everything, anything and nothing. His name has been used and abused to justify crimes, to frighten children and to inspire men and women to heroic foolishness. Jesus has been more frequently honored and worshipped for what he did not mean than for what he did mean. The supreme irony is that some of the things he opposed most strongly in the world of his time were resurrected, preached and spread more widely throughout the world—in his name.
Jesus cannot be fully identified with the great religious phenomenon of the Western world known as Christianity. He was much more than the founder of one of the world’s great religions. He stands above Christianity as the judge of all it has done in his name. Nor can historical Christianity claim him as its exclusive possession. Jesus belongs to all humanity.
Isn't it amazing to think that there was a Jesus before Christianity? That there really was a man who walked the earth, who had friends, who ate and drank, who played, who worked, who taught certain things and lived a certain life? That before the robes and chants and creeds and councils and conventions and denominations and cadences and services and styles and pleas that there was a real, flesh and blood man who talked a certain way, walked a certain way, ate a certain way, slept a certain way, touched a certain way, healed a certain way...who lived a certain way?
Isn't it amazing to think that the image we see on TV and in prayer rooms and in worship services and in seminars and in concerts and in church committee meetings and on Sunday mornings is not in truth Jesus but rather Christianity? That Jesus is before this and will be the judge of how much if any of this was the Word made Flesh ?
Isn't it amazing to think that we are now in a Post-Christian world? That Christianity has run its course?
But the most amazing thing to me is that I don't think God is worried about any of this—not about the travesties done in the name of Christ on the one hand, nor about the conclusion of Christianity on the other.
But if you find yourself frustrated with us for ignoring your demands, for not following your rules, for not accepting your premises, for not joining in on your goals and your methods and your plans—take heart: we have chosen Jesus before Christianity. And it's going to work out.