A recent post online detailed the difficulties inherent in a Christian-Pagan dialogue with missional Christians. Pagans see themselves as targets for conversion, “dehumanized” as mere objects of saving. They are considered by some missional Christians to be “lost” and “unreached.”
This discussion cuts to the core of ecumenical framework of religious tolerance needed to replace the “us vs. them” binary oppositional approach many Christians have used to bolster their own faith and “dominance” in spiritual truth.
Upcoming dialogues will be rendered inert unless the Christian community can turn within and ask themselves the following questions:
1. How are we as Christians demanded by Christ to see “The Other”?
2. What exactly is the Good News? How have we subverted this message to be one of dominance and control and not one of love and peace?
3. Can Christianity ever be a dominant religion? What does that word “dominant” mean in the context of Christianity?
4. How do we as Christians relay Christ as Truth?
I have some preliminary thoughts on these questions to motivate discussion.
The “Other”: We are called to imitate the life of Christ. We are called to see others as Christ. The eyes of the poor and suffering are the eyes of Christ. The eyes of our neighbors are the eyes of Christ. The eyes of our lovers are the eyes of Christ. Thus, we are meant to “serve Christ,” then we must serve others. The Self falls away, leaving us to let Christ shine through. As Thomas a Kempis, a 14th Century monk presumed to have written The Imitation of Christ put it: “If you see anything good in yourself, believe still better things of others and you will then, preserve humility. Peace dwells in a humble heart.”
The “Good News”: Christians see the gospels and the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the bridging of gap between humanity and the Divine. Previously souls in exile, we are now rebonded with God through Jesus Christ. The Acts of the Apostles detail the beginnings of the Great Commission- to spread this Word throughout the land.
But there’s a problem, isn’t there? The Good News doesn’t seem that good anymore. One of the primary reasons for this lies in how this News has been presented over the centuries- not given with Love, which is what the message actually is, but by the end of a sword. But even this is a generalization, for a young Church that is capable of the Inquisition is also capable of the likes of St. Francis of Assisi, who said, “Preach the gospels always. If necessary, use words.” In today’s world, the News seems less an offering of love than a shout to maintain control and authority. American Christianity has its own problems- the alliance of Christ and Capitalism. I don’t mean to say at all that a free market is against God’s will, and that some other economic alternative like Communism is the answer. Rather, belief in Christ and the spreading of God’s Word must transcend these constructs to attend to Christ less as a marketable commodity, something that you can purchase and buy and that will fulfill you, and more to a recognition of Christianity as a relationship between the Self and the Divine. How is this conveyed to others? “Love as Christ loved you.” Leave the numbers game to the pollsters. In Christianity, this should be the least of our concerns, as we are demanded by Christ to see others in the infinite goodness by which they were created by God. How then can we say to one another “I converted three people today!” Rather, we should care as Christ to bear that person’s burdens, to know them as Christ would know them. Relationships are not competitions.
Christianity as the Dominant Religion: In a word, this can never happen. Given how we are called to serve God, how “the last will be first,” how we are called to enter the Kingdom of Heaven like “little children,” given that our Savior Jesus Christ lowered himself in service to us, followers of Christ must always be hesitant and wary of power and control. It is clear that in the Western world this is the case, however- Christians do have enormous power and influence in many areas of society. However, we must strive to make Christianity less the Dominant Religion and more the Humble Way.
These are all simply generalizations of course, and men and women far smarter than yours truly are investigating them in innovative and fresh ways. I do not agree with all of them, but hope lies in the combination of returning to our roots as Christians and looking towards the future. In this highly charged political climate, perhaps a deep breath and a long look in the mirror is just what we need.