UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

Drawing a clear line between what Christians want from faith and what God wants from us

By Sara Jewell

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?
By Peter J. Gomes
(HarperCollins) $28.95

“When Jesus came preaching, it was to disturb the status quo,” writes author Peter J. Gomes. This is the Harvard professor and minister’s third book in his The Good Book series, and his message is radical and transforming — though he claims it is not new. He provides example after example of how Christians modify the real message of the New Testament to suit their needs but expresses the hope that we will come to see it as a gospel of hope, not of fear.

Gomes draws a clear line between what we as Christians want from our faith and what God wants from us: “The commandment to love God means that we must love all whom God has made, even those different from ourselves, and disagreeable to us.”

In addressing our fear-based religion, he devotes an entire chapter to the effects of Sept. 11, 2001, and makes the claim that God would want us to be compassionate, not courageous. He also takes a strong stand against homophobia, stating more than once that divorce is more of a threat to marriage than homosexuality and pointing out that Jesus himself condemned only divorce and never mentioned homosexuality.

Gomes’s view of the Gospels is one of hope and potential for a new way of Christian living, the way Jesus meant us to live. Gomes is actually saying that the status quo — in Jesus’ time and ours — is not what Jesus wants for us. In the chapter titled, “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?” Gomes says the onus isn’t on Jesus (“What would Jesus do?”) but on us to live up to our full humanity. Jesus wants us to act as we should, not as he did, and Gomes points out repeatedly this means to love God and love your neighbour.

The only drawback to having a long-time academic write this book is that the storytelling lacks the passion and persuasiveness needed to inspire mass action on the call to hope and change that Gomes claims is the true purpose of the Gospels. This is unfortunate because his writing is conversational, not heavy, and his ideas are simple and convincing. Gomes’s message is powerful, but the low-impact writing squanders the potential to reach enough people to initiate radical transformation.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image
Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Faith

January 2018

In the beginning

by Alanna Mitchell

The award-winning science writer travels to northern Australia to explore the world's oldest creation story

Society

January 2018

The good death

by Pieta Woolley

Anglican professor Donald Grayston made dying in peace a lifetime project. His example is inspiring others to plan a meaningful exit.

Faith

January 2018

Me, Dad and the Almighty

by Anne Bayin

A preacher’s kid pretended to be a devout daughter, but secretly she felt lost in a wilderness of doubt.

Society

January 2018

The good death

by Pieta Woolley

Anglican professor Donald Grayston made dying in peace a lifetime project. His example is inspiring others to plan a meaningful exit.

Faith

January 2018

In the beginning

by Alanna Mitchell

The award-winning science writer travels to northern Australia to explore the world's oldest creation story

Faith

January 2018

Me, Dad and the Almighty

by Anne Bayin

A preacher’s kid pretended to be a devout daughter, but secretly she felt lost in a wilderness of doubt.

Promotional Image