The Heart of the Gospel
But you do have to wonder how people who are so vocal about being Christian can have values so different from the actual teaching of Jesus.
But this does fit into some of the thoughts I'm having at the moment. What is the heart of the Gospel? What is the the most vital part of Christianity?
For a great proportion of the Christian population the heart of Christianity is the person of Jesus, devotion to him, and belief in his divine sonship. Now some Unitarians claim that this kind of thing was only made up in the fourth century. That simply isn't true, and Unitarians should stop saying it. Devotion to the person of Jesus clearly developed very early on in Christian history, and is present in the New Testament.
Now I don't, and never have, shared this spirituality of devotion to Jesus. But at the same time, I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with it, as such. But the question is: is it the heart of the Gospel? Is it the most vital thing?
The problem with putting devotion to Jesus at the heart of Christianity as that, as the article points out, you can commit to this devotion, while rejecting all of Jesus' teaching. You can be pro-wealth, pro-violence, pro-revenge while praying to Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. Of course many Christians are devoted to Jesus while also living out his teaching, but many, in fact I would say most, do not.
What I have been struggling to work out, really for all of my life, is what the heart of the Gospel really is. I think we desperately need a way of talking about the central thrust of Jesus' teaching as the heart of the Gospel. We could say "love" and I'd agree witht that, but it doesn't really go far enough, and we're in danger of going into a liberal dead-end that doesn't say much more than "it's nice to be nice."
I think the heart of the Gospel can be described as a number of central virtures. I'm still working this out, but I think the list goes something like this: prayer, immediacy, humility, simplicity, compassion, hospitality, reconciliation, justice for the poor and non-violence.
That list, I think, is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus' teaching points us in the direction of a lifestyle that is rooted in those virtues. And I would maintain that personal devotion to Jesus, and belief in his divine sonship is optional.
So as a Unitarian I approach ecumenism with a commitment, not so much "that you believe X and I disagree with you" but more like "you believe X, and I don't think it matters very much whether you believe in X or not, I think what's more important is that we do Y."