Millennials are increasingly rejecting their Christian upbringing to adopt a secular mindset. The shift away from the Jesus seems to be driven by a closed-minded influence on social policy. When religion is weaponized to limit the rights of others, Millennials find an easy excuse to abandon religion. Atheists, agnostics and spiritual-but-not-religious believers are gaining popularity.
My religious journey has meandered from devoted Christian through agnosticism into eastern practices – like Taoism and Buddhism – before arriving full circle as a dude down with Jesus. My religious path has been guided by study, reflection and life events. As I watch my friends and peers navigate through life without a religious anchor, I feel compelled to explain how I’ve arrived with my conclusions.
Real or Fake?
The story of Jesus fits in one of three paradigms:
1) The story of Jesus is completely true and every detail, quote and action should be interpreted as literal fact.
2) The story of Jesus is a based on actual events and historical facts, but the details of the story have been manipulated by their authors. There are aspects of the story that have been enhanced for more effective storytelling, modified for cultural acceptance or embellished to emphasize key lessons.
3) The story of Jesus is completely made up. Jesus never existed. There is no historical basis for the story. Jesus is simply a fictional character developed by a community of writers sharing a common goal and purpose.
These three scenarios boil down to common debate: Is the story of Jesus fiction? Or is the story of Jesus nonfiction?
If the story of Jesus is nonfiction, Jesus was a master of humanity with a divine capacity to lead generations towards mastery of the human condition. Jesus could be in the same class of inspired and enlighted thinkers as the Bodhisattva, Prophet Mohammed, Abram and Moses.
If the story of Jesus is fiction, the character of Jesus is a metaphor for unconditional love and achieving happiness through selfless giving.
In either case, the lessons Jesus preached are worth knowing, studying and applying to your daily life. That’s not to say his lessons can’t be acquired from other masters of humanity outside of Christianity, but for me, being raised in the Christian faith, Jesus is part of the traditions of my ancestors. By practicing Christianity as my religion, I’m not only aspiring to the pinnacle of existence, but also I’m honoring generations of ancestors devoted to Jesus. When I sing a hymn or whisper a prayer, I’m reciting the same words and melodies as my great-great-great-great grandparents. Christian rituals give me an opportunity to connect with the generations responsible for my DNA.
If you’re focused on every pixel, you won’t realize you’re staring at a beautiful image. I hope to inspire Christians to let go of distracting details and embrace the overarching theme Jesus offers your life. I think it’s more important to seek common understanding than to persuade a confrontational point of view. Kind of like how Jesus handled disagreements.
What about the whole ‘Rapture’ thing?
The idea that Jesus will return to earth is one of the defining characteristics of Christianity. He will swoop down to earth. He will collect all the believers, and he will leave everyone else behind to suffer.
I don’t buy it.
I do buy that Jesus returns, but I do not think it’s a literal return. The second coming of Jesus may be misunderstood. Instead, the rapture stories could illustrate how we obtain enlightenment through practicing lessons of Jesus. In other words, Jesus returns to us when we become like Jesus.
If you’ve lost a close family member, you may have experienced this. Years after the person passes away, another family member unconsciously mimics one of their gestures. For a brief second, you feel like the passed family member is back in the room. If you’re acting like Jesus taught us, you can bring Jesus back to any room.
Your salvation is not dependent on belief. Your salvation is dependent on practice. I’m not convinced the return of Jesus is to reward people whom believed. I think Jesus’s return expresses the transformative nature of practicing his teachings. Your beliefs motivate strong convictions, so your beliefs are important. But more importantly, behaving with conviction in every opportunity is what awards you a fulfilling and happy life. You can believe Jesus is the savior, but this alone won’t save you.
For each person practicing his faith, there is an opportunity for Jesus to return to earth. An opportunity for Jesus to return just for you.
We are all guessing for the best path to navigate life. We are all seeking purpose. We all are pursuing happiness. Jesus blessed humanity with the ultimate gift: a unique roadmap. Our individual destinations may be different, but by simply walking down the paths of his roadmap, we discover a journey with plenty of purpose and happiness along the way.
UPDATE: In Church, my pastor mentioned an interesting detail that I’ve never heard. The Bible clearly states Heaven is not a destination waiting for us after death. We have the potential to discover Heaven here on Earth. He casually mentioned this detail, but I found it a striking validation of my thinking.