POST 507: ZINGCREED VERSUS THE JESUS CREED
Zingcreed’s motto: More Jesus, Less Christ, No God!
Scot McKnight is a renowned American New Testament scholar, with whom I should have some common ground as he belongs to my favourite Christian denomination, the Anabaptists, plus he studied at Nottingham university where my father used to be a History lecturer. (I was born next door in Derby, England.)
However I am not that impressed. I have Googled his name and “Jesus Creed” and I have read Kindle ‘samples’ of two of his books. I find him confusing and repetitive, and I am left unsure as to what precisely the ‘Jesus Creed’ is. It could just be me. I like stories and I like facts, and my brain doesn’t cope well with too much talk of spiritual matters. Scot’s talk of ‘spiritual formation’ or ‘spiritual masters’ doesn’t resonate with this individual. They are totally meaningless terms to me. My loss, you might say – or could it be my gain? Why fill your head with the fog and clutter of unverifiable hypotheses?
However I like the title ‘Jesus Creed’ which he applies to the Hebrew Shema prayer which he has updated. I wish I had thought of it first. I also envy his access to evangelical Christians through the Patheos website. He is one of them. The closest I will ever be to those close-knit believers is reflected in a message that came my way from Patheos recently: “Zingcreed, one of the 25 most popular Christian blogs – not yet!”
Nor will it ever be; someone is yanking my chain. Although I must say I was rather tickled by a remark attributed to a young Fidel Castro in the 1960s shortly after his successful revolution in Cuba “A papal visit to Cuba is about as likely to happen as having a black president in the Whitehouse!” (The pope visited Cuba this month in case you hadn’t noticed.) I don’t mind waiting 50 years.
My Zingcreed is more up to date than the Jesus Creed can ever be. Like it, it is a misnomer: the Jesus Creed is a prayer, not a creed; and Zing is a manifesto, not a creed: indeed I should have called it the Zing Manifesto from the outset. Let’s take it out, dust it down and have a look at it:
The Zing Manifesto
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its ZING, how will it be made salty? It then has no further use than to be thrown out and stomped on.” Matthew 5:13 (Scholars’ Version)
We believe Jesus was a real flesh and blood person who lived in the Jewish community of first century Palestine;
We believe he taught ethics and ways of wisdom, as well as healing sick men and women;
We believe his teachings are still relevant today and that when we apply them in our daily lives we bring the “Kingdom of God” into being, however fleetingly;
We believe this ”Kingdom of God” on earth is open to all, whether believers or not, and that it may resemble a utopian democratic republic where no-one has power over anyone else;
We accept no contradiction between reason and belief. Reason and common sense will always trump blind faith, indeed they are our most valuable aids in the search for truth in a world where there are more probabilities than certainties;
Consequently we welcome the findings of the philosophers, scholars and archaeologists who over the centuries have cleared away biblical weeds and undergrowth so that each generation may glimpse Jesus more clearly than the one before;
We agree with them that the quest for the authentic words and deeds of Jesus is vital if we are to avoid being sidetracked by forgeries and dubious theologies inserted into the bible by Jesus’ well-wishing followers or early church leaders seeking to manipulate and control the minds of believers;
We support the actions of all those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps, genuinely trying to carry out his will with no thought for personal gain: such as the Catholic Workers who care for the homeless, the Quakers and their peace testimony, and the Anabaptists with their altruism;
We acknowledge that Jesus’ message has been developed and amplified since his death by such activists as Gandhi ( ahimsa and satyagraha) and Martin Luther King (civil disobedience and non-violent direct action) as well as many others;
We also acknowledge that terrible crimes are committed in Jesus’ name and we resolve to be at the forefront of those tackling the perpetrators and supporting the victims;
We note that Jesus challenged the religious and political authorities of his day and we pledge to do the same as we put the interests of the weak and the oppressed before those of the powerful;
We are challenged to feed the hungry, to liberate the enslaved and exploited, and to befriend life’s losers, misfits and marginalized with no thought for reward;
We are enthused by Jesus’ companionship with those whom others despised, and inspired by his compassion for those in need;
We believe in the teachings of Jesus, not the person of Jesus. He is not to be worshipped as, after all, he was only human and the circumstances of his birth and death are largely irrelevant and not verifiable;
We acknowledge that Jesus cannot always be taken literally and we rejoice in his use of wit, aphorism, exaggeration, parable, hyperbole and contradiction to tell his story;
We accept that his iron-age peasant mindset may never be fully comprehensible to us in the information-age, but the residual hardcore of Jesus’ life and teaching as uncovered by the scholars is enough to be getting on with. The chaff has been blown away to leave a kernel that can nourish the world. The words alone survive – in our books and in our hearts;
We believe we should give Zing to the world like salt in a meal; and we are happy to be known by the fruit we bear .
The Jesus Creed / Prayer
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) plus
“Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Apparently this defines what ‘spiritual formation’ is: it is about the love of God and others.
Not exactly earth-shaking, I learned this in Sunday school when I was 5 years old. McKnight’s not exactly pushing boundaries is he? This is the same old message reworked. Yet it’s a publishing sensation, an internet phenomenon, and of course a money maker. Yet whereas he avoids offending anyone,the Zingcreed blogpost goes out and challenges people recklessly, not caring about consequences. (See for example my two series “I accuse!” and “Crimes of the bourgeoisie”, listed in the Index on Zingcreed’s title page.)
The Jesus creed is found in Mark 12:29-31, where Jesus sets up his stall within Judaism and proclaims his ‘First Amendment’. Like a magical incantation, one has to recite these words repeatedly if they are to be effective. “In the morning, in the evening and anytime during the day that comes to mind (because) this was the moral creed of Jesus and the earliest Christians. It is our prayer that the daily recital of the Jesus Creed will find its way back into the daily practice of Christians today.”
Thank you, Scot, and exactly how many times a day do you perform this magical ritual? “Forty to fifty”.
Forty to fifty!? That’s enough to numb anyone’s mind and reduce your clarity of thought. It’s frankly preposterous. Theologically and, dare I say it, spiritually, bankrupt.
Zingcreed gets your hands dirty; it is political, it is a (rather pathetic) attempt to make the world a better place, to determine what Jesus’ teachings were and to try and encourage the establishment of his rather mysterious “kingdom of God” . It is not a publishing phenomenon, and it will never be a money maker.
(i) “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving others” by Scot McKnight, Paraclete Press (2004)
(ii) “40 days living the Jesus Creed” by Scot McKnight, Paraclete Press (2008)