I wish I could have read this book five years ago. No, really. About 2010 I was in the height of my anger, my hurt, and my absolute insistence that if God, or Jesus, was there, then he must hate me. I was also fully enveloped in the fact that the Jesus I thought I knew from the Bible was nothing like the American, gun-toting, uber-capitalist Jesus. To me, this meant that the whole thing was total bullshit. I was done.
But over time I became aware that there was a competing third viewpoint. It was something between the extremes of “Jesus doesn’t exist” on one hand and “Jesus is Ronald Reagan on Steroids” on the other. It was Brian McLaren who helped me finally realize this, and started to point me in a different direction.
Shortly after I began following McLaren on twitter, I got a notification that some guy named Benjamin Corey was now following me. I checked out his blog and came to the realization that this guy….THIS GUY was speaking my language. Corey espoused following a Jesus that doesn’t hate or condemn gay people, a Jesus who cares for the poor and the outcast, a Jesus who taught that violence is never the answer. I was hooked.
So this last Christmas, I finally picked up his book “Undiluted” with a gift card given to me by my sister, bless her heart. How was it? Let’s just say that I think this book, and Corey’s message, has the power to change our lives and our culture if taken seriously.
Corey’s message is, of course, the message of Christ. He starts with a simple statement. When Jesus called his disciples he didn’t make them sign a statement of faith. He didn’t say you could only follow him if you believed in infant baptism. He just said…”Follow Me.”
And without further explanation, his disciples did just that. Corey believes if we are willing to do just that, to drop all the baggage we carry, even the baggage that our faith has saddled us with, and follow Jesus and The Way, that we too can experience the life that he would have for us RIGHT NOW, not in some life after death.
Corey compares what we think of as American Christianity with a meal that’s been so watered down that it tastes nothing like it was originally intended to. Experiencing the “Undiluted” version of the meal opens up new tastes and textures that can be radically different from the mush we’re used to having. He then covers several topics. In each chapter he reflects on things that have happened in his own life and offers commentary on how he, and we, can follow an undiluted version of Christ.
The discussion of every topic was great and on point, but there are two that I want to mention specifically. First, he talks about “Undiluted Tension.” Christ is rarely recorded saying something straight out. Usually he posits questions (similar to a Socratic method) or he teaches in parables. He doesn’t do this because we’re all to dumb to get it, it’s because he wants us to think and actually wrestle with the meaning of what he’s trying to say. Maybe it’s all not as black and white as church doctrines would have us believe? As I read through scripture I come across many things that make me uncomfortable. According to Corey, that’s fine! Questions are welcome! Come, think, and share as we try to become more like Christ. It’s a process, and there is to be tension in that process, there’s just no escaping it.
He also talks about what he terms “the Undiluted Story.” This takes a huge, wide angle view of human history written by God, and our place in it. Much of the language of Christ, and of scripture itself has to do with reconciliation. Our part to play in this story is that of the peacemaker. We are to be people who reconcile people to other people, not cast those that are different from us down in judgment. We’re also called to bring revival and reconciliation to the Earth, the creation that we’ve damaged so much. Environmentalism: it’s not just for hippies anymore.
But perhaps most important of all, I realized that I’m not always right either. According to Corey, we have to reconcile ourselves to Christ first. How can we reconcile others without reconciling ourselves? As I said earlier, it’s a process, and process that we probably never totally finish. There is always something to learn from the Master.
Now, I know that I lost a few readers the moment that I mentioned McLaren. American Christian culture is very much: “Do what we say or you’re going to hell.” Any question that’s asked is immediately labeled apostasy and the questioner is dismissed. The pity there is that as Corey believes, the Undiluted message of Christ is totally counter-cultural, and sometimes following Christ poses more questions than answers.
But I invite you to try it. Check out Corey and his book. Dare to taste the Undiluted message of Christ and see what might happen!