Andrew Sullivan’s “The Forgotten Jesus”
A review in seven limericks.

While children's poetry is an unusual form for a Leadership article, this is what emerged after reviewing Andrew Sullivan's thought provoking article, "The Forgotten Jesus," in the April 9 edition of Newsweek. I'm glad that the disparity of church behavior with the teachings of Jesus is becoming a prominent national conversation, but it is often framed as a false choice between either Jesus or the church. Still, Sullivan's piece is an important article on the institutional church and the gospel of Jesus in our current American context.

There once was a writer named Sullivan

who wanted to give Christ a mulligan,

so he said "people, please—ditch the Church so diseased,

and remember what Jesus taught us again!"


His article published in Newsweek,

caused Americans widely to now speak

about clergy corruption, and "Christian" eruptions

of behavior not loving or meek.


My thoughts on the matter? As follows:

his argument's not at all hollow,

the critique is well taken, "churchianity" shaken,

an indictment we'd do well to swallow . . .

but I can't recommend his conclusion

(the repeat of an age old delusion);

that if the church lets us down, we should get out of town

and leave "them" to break down in confusion.


See, Christ married critique with communion,

restoration, and holy reunion.

The rich he made poor, but still opened his door

for all sinners to feast and find union.


And so I say listen to Andrew,

but do all you possibly can do

to live well in the church, leaving none in the lurch,

like our Teacher Jesus has shown you.


For the church is a whore, but our mother,

and as much as we might like to smother

those who hijack our lord, we cannot well afford

to leave Jesus behind with the others.

April 16, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments


April 18, 2012  3:38pm

As I see it, we are truly "the Church" only when we go to church, i.e., are submitted to and embraced by other true believers with whom we also gather for the Eucharistic celebration. Certainly, many aspects of institutional churches are superfluous and not properly part of "the Church," but the very word "ecclesia," the called out ones, also implies the gathering of this holy assembly together in Christ as an offering of praise to God.

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April 18, 2012  10:47am

The forgotten Jesus When the saints gather in pews facing a pulpit to be dominated by one man in one-way communication, Jesus, the body of Christ present is forgotten. The bread and cup are passed to remember Jesus but his body is forgotten - zero participation from the hearts of the members of Christs body to the other members. Mutual, two-way communication from members to members is specifically stated to be the dynamic for the gathering of believers. Heb 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Saints throw off their confession of hope, they ignore Gods faithfulness in His design of the new and living way when they gather for the lecturing of the Word rather than the body participating in the preaching of the Word in its true richness. Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. The body of Christ must dominate the gathering of the body for Jesus to be remembered. Like LGBT people select an alternative sexuality, believers select an alternative spirituality when they gather for one-way communication. Jesus is given lip service and our hearts are far from Him. With these truths in mind, saints who persist In stimulating one another to the truth will be labeled divisive and troublemakers, disloyal to "their pastor". There may be some exceptions. Exiting an institution to take up 100% mutuality - no lecturing, 100% giving beyond yourself - no pooling to buy "ministry for yourself", 100% brotherliness -no power pyramid, 100% intergenerationalness -never send the children away, 100% reproducing leadership - no perpetual dependency, will produce living the body of Jesus. He will become much more visible to the eyes of faith. No excuses. Practice the Word, not traditions of men.

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April 18, 2012  6:11am

We don't 'Go to church' - we ARE the church. If you get a hold of that - it will change your life forever. Forsaking 'The Church' is like forsaking our GENDER - which Andrew Sullivan would also have you do. To say 'The church is a whore" would be a "Statement I deplore". She is the most beautiful woman the world has ever seen - without spot or blemish or any such thing. To touch her is to touch the "apple of His eye". The 'institution' is not 'The Church' - not even close. To say the institution is 'a whore' - may be accurate - and even scriptural - suffice to call it "Babylon" - but don't call it 'The Church'. And yes - there are a lot of saints - 'in Babylon' - and the cry is going out to 'Come out of her'. But - let's get it straight - the 'Institution' is not 'The Church' - WE ARE HIS PEOPLE - THE SHEEP OF HIS PASTURE.

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Steve Martin

April 17, 2012  11:26am

Good comments, Mark. As I look around the (Christian) blogesphere, I see more and more people urging believers to dump the Church in favor of something else. I think this is of the Devil. (not that there are not bad churches who are not Christ centered...there are plenty)

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April 17, 2012  11:25am

Mark, I think your comments are well-taken about our American ethnocentrism, etc. I do think; however, that understanding the Bride of Christ as sometimes a wayward one, one that needs to be cleansed by the washing of regeneration by the Word before she can be presented spotless and blameless to her Bridegroom at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is a biblical one. Consider all the OT prophecies about Israel in her waywardness as representing a spiritual adultery. Consider the message of the book of Hosea. The OT Israel has always been understood by Christians as a type of the Church. So whether calling Christ's Church a "whore" is wrong or not, depends (it seems to me) on whether this is a humble and realistic agreement with the Lord's righteous (yet merciful) assessment of our present incomplete state and a recognition of our own failings in a spirit of repentance or a pointing the finger at other members of Christ's body in self-righteousness. Too often, likely, it is the latter and you are right in that case that the Lord would not look favorably on such.

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Mark Gomez

April 17, 2012  8:22am

It is interesting that Mr. Sullivan is so against politics and the Christian, while he uses Jefferson as an example in his article. Jefferson who helped form the nation, Jefferson who was so engaged in politics that he was president during his lifetime. Then to use Jefferson as an example of some type of purist because he wanted to create his own version of the Bible, well, all I can say about that is look a little closer at the man who did not believe in the resurrection of Christ. Then, to damn the Church because of what we see in America is flaws and failure in our churches? This is such a totally American ethno-centric perspective of the world to see things this way and want to toss it all. Despite the failing of the Church in America, she is no whore! How can one dare to claim that Christ's bride is a whore? I think the husband will not take such remarks well. The Church is growing and flourishing all over the world like Africa, China, and in South America. Americans tend to see everything in their own little sphere and give no recognition to what is happening all over the world. Jesus created the Church and told us that she would stand against the gates of Hell. (Matthew 16:18) To abandon her is an American view, the way we abandon a troubled marriage or dump the perfectly fine technology we have for the newest and greater tech. Jesus will not abandon His bride, and she is here to stay and is God's chosen means of reaching the world. I am here to stay.

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Steve Martin

April 16, 2012  12:51pm

Oh there's a problem alright. I believe the problem is a famine of the Word. Of God's law and His pure gospel for the forgiveness of sins. This has been traded in for entertainment, for self-help, for religious ladder-climbing-spirituality projects. We need to have the guts to proclaim the truth into a world and culture who does not care one wit about the church. Where two or three are gathered, there am I. The church may be small...but it is mighty.

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April 16, 2012  12:07pm

I'm not sure it's fair to say its "the only thing floating". That seems to me to be a bit self serving use of hyperbole. Considering the rising rates of literacy and education and the sinking levels of church membership and engagement, I'd say that we have a big problem on our hands, and denying theres a problem won't help.

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Steve Martin

April 16, 2012  11:13am

Yes...and we stay afloat not because of what 'we do' (or don't do)...but because of His Word alone...and what He does to people (real sinners) through that Word.

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April 16, 2012  10:44am

Is there a perfect church? No, what we have here on this pale blue dot in the middle of a vast cosmos is a dingy of a life-raft being battered, tossed, ocean-washed, and to be perfectly blunt...unfit for human habitation, much less spiritual survival. But in a vast ocean of stupidity, a turbulent undercurrent of avarice and murder, immorality both in the high and low, inhumane human nature being what it is...I find it fascinating that the only thing floating in that vast, empty wasteland of spiritual depravity and corruption we call earth is this sad, over-patched, little rubber dingy called the Church. So perhaps, just a maybe of sorts, a suggestion to those who are hanging on to that rubber-dingy of scrounges and misfits, cads, and bounders is that we try not to sink the thing with our knifing skills, and start patching things so that our rubber-life raft to a as-of-yet-to-get-there-destination will float a just while more till either mother-ship arrives, or the ocean drains.

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