Michael Gungor, who is one-half of the popular band Gungor, wrote a Twitter post on Friday, July 23, that ignited a furor of over 2600 comments. Gungor stated that Jesus is not only Christ, but Buddha, Muhammad, people, and the church body are also Christ. In the resulting uproar, many commenters expressed disgust and dismay at Gungor’s comments, adding that they had sung his songs during worship services.
Who Is Michael Gungor?
Gungor and his wife Lisa make up their band Gungor, which was nominated for a 2011 Grammy for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song for the band’s album “Beautiful Things.” Growing up a pastor’s kid likely contributed to Michael’s desire to lead worship at the megachurch Resurrection Life (now RESLIFE) in Grandville, Michigan. Gungor was 20 when he become the worship pastor and served for almost six years until 2006 when he and Lisa moved to Denver, Colorado, after feeling disconnected from the church. In their pursuit of “figuring out” what it meant to be the church, the two started an outreach ministry, Bloom, which later became a house church ministry. Eventually, that turned into a worship gathering called Bloom that still meets on Sundays.
Christ Is Universal?
Michael Gungor’s tweet can be read as a universalist statement and was seen as just that by many readers. Gungor’s actual post read: “Jesus was Christ. Buddha was Christ. Muhammad was Christ. Christ is s word for the Universe seeing itself. You are Christ. We are the body of Christ.”
Gungor responded to replies to his tweet, saying, “Thanks for all the thoughtful replies everyone. [Kiss emoji]” Then suggested everyone check out a book by Franciscan friar Richard Rohr called Universal Christ to understand what he was talking about. Then he plugged his podcast “The Liturgists,” imploring people to listen. He said he explores more in depth “how and why this tweet is true.”
One follower commented in response to Gungor’s book suggestion: “That book has changed my complete perception on everything.”
The self-proclaimed Pentecostal worship leader (the description under his Twitter handle) said he is happy his post stirred so much conversation about what “Christ” means, a topic he said he believes is important. He took to Instagram live to unpack his tweet more and answered questions. In a video that has received over 18,000 views, Gungor said his tweet was “met with some fury!”
The tweet wasn’t about “belief or abstraction,” he said, but was more about an “experience of presence.” He added that he’s glad conversations are happening and people are wrestling with it. “What a wonderful chance to talk about something that I know…I grew up Christian and the word Christ and the concept of Christ wasn’t really delved into that deeply or that often. It was kind of almost as part of Jesus’ name…like his last name or something.”
The largest problem followers had with his tweet was that is was “unorthodox to mainstream historical Christianity.” Gungor replied by laughing and smiling. “I plead guilty,” he said to that accusation.
Being labeled as unorthodox related to historical mainstream Christianity doesn’t “freak [me] out,” he said. Because “historical, mainstream Christianity is the force in the world (not saying it doesn’t have any good or worth) that is responsible for the Inquisition, Manifest Destiny, all sorts of colonialism and genocide, sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, ecological violence, and countless other evils.”
“Most of the time, Christendom has been destroying people.”
“I’m not claiming that my take on what Christ is what most Christians have said,” Gungor made clear. “If you are concerned about that…call me a heretic and I will accept your accusation.”
One of the comments Gungor got a good laugh out of read: “Michael, you can’t keep pointing at things in your room and saying they’re Christ.” He told listeners he believes some people around the world and throughout history have used the word Christ in the way he used it. “I think the triumphalism, the colonialism, the militarism of Christ as a concept is something that needs to be abandoned, or perhaps reformed,” he said.
On Instagram Live, a viewer asked: “Do you think Jesus is the only Christ?” Gungor responded with: “I’m still saying there’s one Christ. I’m saying that when Jesus spoke the words, ‘I am the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,’ He was speaking as the ‘Christ.’ The one ‘Christ.’ But what is the one ‘Christ?’ Is it the body of Jesus? And what part? The brain?…What exactly is the truth and the life? The fingernails (He clipped)? The brain? The skin? The hair? Or was it the animating life of Jesus?” Gungor ended his answer with, “Yes, Jesus was the true ‘Christ.’ ” Then he acknowledged that his answer was perhaps heretical and added, “As are you. I think that Jesus saw it more clearly than most of us.” Gungor called his revelation a freeing truth.
“For me, all religions are technologies—they are as useful as we make them. And by themselves, they are no more ‘true”’or useful than a hammer or a saw. So quoting verses of ‘holy text’ to me as though I should agree with your interpretation probably won’t elicit my engagement.”
The cheerful, well-spoken musician read another person’s comment aloud that told him “This is completely heresy,” to which Gungor responded, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
Watch the entire Instagram live video below:
The Liturgists website explains it was founded as a result of Gungor’s and Mike McHargue’s friendship. Two guys that “both grew up in conservative Christian churches, and both lost their faith as adults — and they both rediscovered spirituality through philosophy and mysticism.” After realizing they shared similar religious experiences, they were frustrated by the “anti-science and socially regressive stances of mainstream American Christianity.” So they founded and started The Liturgists in order to produce “thoughtful, evocative art for the spiritually homeless and frustrated,” which they have been doing since 2014.
“Everything The Liturgists do is about creating space for those recovering from spiritual trauma, and lifting up traditionally marginalized people as full and equal members of humanity,” the site says.
What Does ‘Christ’ Mean?
The name “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos, which means “anointed one.” The equivalent Hebrew word for “anointed one” is Mashiach which means “Messiah.” Translated “Jesus the Messiah” or “Jesus the Anointed One” identified Jesus to those looking for the Messiah mentioned in the Old Testament passages like Daniel 9:25-26, Isaiah 32:1, and Isaiah 61:1. There is only one Christ mentioned in the Bible, and his name is Jesus.