15 Second Gospel?

duckdynastyMost of us are at least aware of Duck Dynasty and the Robertson clan. And, by now, we also know that they are all unabashed Christians of a rather conservative evangelical stripe. One of the brothers (not on the show) is pastor at local church and the rest of the family never misses a chance to share their faith. Not long ago, clan patriarch Phil was speaking at Saddleback Church and an article on Christianity.com summed up what he said with this 15 second recap:

Why did God become human? Because He wanted you to understand that He loves you. He needed to pay the price for your sin. ·

We all know we’re guilty of doing wrong. The question is what can we do about it? ·

Let’s not justify ourselves and try to pretend what good people we are. ·

Let’s compare ourselves with Jesus. He never violated the law. ·

He died so that all of your sins could be forgiven. ·

And because Christ rose from the dead, He can give you victory over death too. (Hey, eternal healthcare that’s free. Sounds a whole lot better than Obamacare!) ·

So, what’s wrong with Jesus? Why not trust Him?

It probably no big surprise that I don’t care for this sermonette, but let me explain why. Like all too many messages that purport to be from the gospel, it takes everything Jesus did during his time on Earth and turns into a “Get out of jail free” card. The point of following Jesus shouldn’t be avoidance of a hot time in the afterlife; it should be to make the best possible life for all God’s children right here and right now. No one should have to suffer in the present for the promise of some pie-in-the-sky reward after they die. How is that good news?

We are where we are for a number of reasons, including faulty interpretation of the Bible. The Gospels (and the rest of the New Testament) were recorded during the Roman occupation of Palestine. Most people were subsistence farmers and dirt poor. Life was hard and short and social mobility was non-existent. Jews of the era also didn’t believe in an afterlife. In fact, the Torah focuses on Olam Ha Ze (translated “this world”) and says little or nothing about life after death. Combined with the grinding poverty and oppression they experienced, this means the kind of pie-in-the-sky promises about heaven that are offered by present-day Christians probably wouldn’t mean much to them. Immediate relief of their situation would be a different story. Living in a country that’s never lost a war on our own soil, much less been occupied by a foreign power severely inhibits our ability to grasp this.

Phil Robertson is an excellent speaker with a folksy style that resonates with a lot of people. I just wish he (and others like him) would spend as much time talking about what Jesus said and did while he was alive as he does his death and resurrection. That’s a 15 second recap many of us could actually use.