Sacrilege – Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, by Hugh Halter

Many of my long held notions of ‘church’ got slammed in ‘The Tangible Kingdom’, Halter’s previous book written with Matt Smay. In this current book, the author takes us – story by apt story – through the Beatitudes, deepening our understanding of the Christ that must inform the way of church.

Halter revisits and explores the context in which our favorite Jesus stories arise, excising our anachronistic retellings that have sanitized the events for modern readers. What we are left with is unexpected Jesus – the ‘forgotten ways’ of the embarrassingly ‘sacrilegious’ Jesus. We can no longer ask ‘how could those folks crucify such a wonderfully kind man like Jesus?’ We know ‘why’. Jesus confounded the religious hierarchy, and religion in general, at every turn.

We must, then, ask ourselves ‘why’ he took this approach? Did he have a death wish? Was he simply contrarian by nature? Was he an angry man? Or, was religion so totally contraindicated that he found it essential to diss it every time he spoke?  Do we ‘get’ what Jesus was doing? Or, have we so preferentially focused on the ‘happy’ stories that we have missed the salient point of his gospel?

Halter cleverly illustrated the sacrilegious Jesus through his own ever-so-shockingly, sacrilegious stories. What kind of pastor would return the middle-finger gesture to a neighbor anyways? If Halter is correct, we have re-created Jesus – whether unwittingly or intentionally – into someone who would have been unrecognizable in his time. ‘Our’ Jesus, is not the ‘Jesus’ of history. He is not the person we have imagined him to be, thus we – the church – are not, cannot be, the ‘body’ of Christ we must be.

For many, chapter after chapter of this book will relentlessly yank them beyond long established and acceptable understandings of what it means to be the church and a follower of Jesus. Yet, for some, while one chapter will elicit a joyful applause, the next will seem to inadequately apply the lessons gleaned from the first. Though a well-written book with many much needed insights for the 21st century church, there are, in my opinion, several disappointing paradigmatic inconsistencies not uncommon within this genre of books. This suggests that we are in a transitional period in which there are few spiritual ‘futurists’ among us. Your response, as always, will depend upon where you are in your own personal faith journey.

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One Response to “Sacrilege – Finding Life in the Unorthodox Ways of Jesus, by Hugh Halter”

  1. I just posted my review of Sacrilege have been reading other reviews now and found your post through the helpful hashtag (thanks for using it). I usually wait to check others because I don’t their voices in my head 😉 Liked your review though.

    I also really liked the book, found Hugh to be very relatable and I truly resonated with a lot of what he said. Especially since he’s a seasoned voice. My only critique was that I would have liked him to be more sacrilegious (like in the Peter Rollins sense which I see you have a review of Insurrection – will check that out next).

    Anyway, hope our paths cross in the new year – grace and peace to you.

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