Some find the trappings of religion to be the very thing that draws us far from the message that Scripture carries. The historical Jesus was a person of reform, challanging the treatment of outcasts in his society, questioning the traditions of the Jewish religion and calling not for the destruction of that religion, but for changes to be made in that society.
A Historical Jesus
This Jesus was historical, political, charismatic and ready and willing to use these traits to take a stand for what he believed in. He carried and promoted those beliefs to his death, indicted for those beliefs. He was a man of honor and witness willing to go the whole mile for what he believed were changes that needed to be made his society. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and the Kennedy brothers are examples of others who made the same choice. While Jesus was murdered by the state and the others by rebels against moral living makes no difference. All died for what they believed in.
Religion and Observance
Can one believe in the profound honor and seismic commitment of Jesus without reducing his life to a religious observance? Most Christian religions have sets of basic rules and doctrines that are required belief for its members, yet the person of Jesus did not call people to live out rituals and doctrines but rather to live lives that challenged the status quo when that status quo was unjust. This was a Jesus who believed strongly in the art of loving and of the equality of all. It becomes impossible to imagine this Jesus sanctioning the marginalization of people due to education, gender, immigration status or any other of the arbitrary classifications assigned to people by alleged organized societies or religions.
These arbitrary categories are often the very reason why people reject religious belief and religion in general. Many people see the message of Jesus as less concerned with his divinity and some kind of divine afterlife exclusively for believers, and more concerned with the way people live lives devoted to the concept of justice for everyone.
Thus it becomes possible to see this Jesus not as the Christ, but rather as a political and litmus test against which to measure how a society is living up to its commitment to those on the margins. Without the doctrines and customs, the community is freed to hear the message of Jesus and not have it colored by the religious practice. It is important to also remember to never let the institutions interfere with one’s relationship with Jesus.