The Future of Christianity: In Christ, which means…

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Future of Christianity: In Christ, which means…

  1. I appreciate your post; it’s balanced and thoughtful. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

    I was brought up evangelical Christian, and came to paganism and specifically British country witchcraft in my late twenties. I try to see the two sides in this debate; and have personal experience of those I have ‘left behind’ in Christ and their fears for me and my soul, now I’m ‘wandering in the outer darkness’. It can’t be easy watching someone you love ‘damning’ themselves.

    Specifically on the issue of interfaith dialogue; I believe strongly that it is the personal disposition and the convictions of the participants over and above faith that causes division, not necessarily the religons themselves.

    For example – militant Christians, who want witches to burn, who mobilise against them, who refuse to take time to understand and work with the ideas presented, who in fact refuse to see the similarities in worship and aims that the two religious strands can present are the problem here. And militant Pagans, who refuse to meet Christian half-way and instigate dialogue, are as bad.

    A deep breath and an outstretched hand are a good start. And perhaps the realisation that no-one can be 100% correct in their assumptions that ‘their’ religion is the ‘right’ one. I once heard someone say, ‘I don’t know that Christ is the Saviour, but I’ve got a good idea’. I liked this. They went on to explain that it meant they were happy to worship Christ, but not to force others to do the same. I liked this even more.

    Blessings, TGW

  2. “Specifically on the issue of interfaith dialogue; I believe strongly that it is the personal disposition and the convictions of the participants over and above faith that causes division, not necessarily the religons themselves.”

    I could not agree more with this point, and I am grateful that you have taken the time to respond to my post. Regardless of how fully we try to follow the lessons and tenets given by our faith, we all fall short, and rely more on ourselves than the Divine. This will automatically cause division and dissension, as we try miserably to hold on, not to our faith really, but to the ego we surround our faith with.

    The really powerful assertion that we can make, TGW, begins with conversations like these. My epiphany in faith, which I had many years after leaving my church behind as something delusional and dogmatic, came from the realization that I was allowing others to determine who Christ was for me, instead of finding out for myself. I was allowing others to subvert the identity of Christ for their own gain, in essence “giving” them my faith. I let those who created divisions define Christ by the boundaries they created. It came high time for me to take it back, regardless of the rancor stirred up between myself and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ is not left-wing or right-wing, conservative or liberal, American or British.

    Given the twists and turns in my own road of faith, which continue to this day (see my post “Beyond the Mist”) I cannot in any good conscience deny others the same journey. Didn’t Tolkien, whose Catholic faith played a large role in his fiction and worldview, write “Not all who wander are lost?”

    Look forward to speaking with you again,
    Pax,
    wanderingtree

  3. Blessings, wanderingtree, and it’s a pleasure to speak with someone like you!

    Your renaissance of faith in a Jesus you define for yourself is a hugely important and significant happening in a life; I take it to mean that you are not happy to allow others to mediate your worship of the Divine as you see it. This was one of my primary reasons for leaving the Christian church. I also had enormous misgivings over the ethics of the Church of England… but that’s a rant for another day!

    May I recommend to you the blog of a fellow seeker; he is a Sufi Muslim and an elegant and eloquent thinker. Adbur Rahman is his name, and he blogs at http://thecorner.wordpress.com/

    Peace,

    TGW x

  4. Peace Wandering Tree & The Green Witch,

    Firstly, I wanted to say what a thought-provoking and open post this is. I enjoyed reading it immensely. There are many points of contact with some of my own ways of looking at things. I had a very similar epiphany myself and have tried to spend the time since in carving out my own space, or in ‘creating my own story’ as Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (God sanctify his soul) instructs us.

    Thank you Green Witch for the kind words. I’m blushing 😉

    At any rate, there is much to be gained from conversation – and only the same old stereotypes to be gained from sullen, isolated silences.

    God willing, this will blossom into an even more interesting conversation.

    Peace, one and all….

    Abdur Rahman

  5. Abdur,
    I am grateful for your presence on my site- thank you for your comments. I am grateful to the Green Witch for making your presence known to me. My apologies for the delay in response- I’m a school teacher, and we are wrapping up the first marking period, which means quarter exams, makeups, etc.

    I am pleased you enjoyed the post. I needed to express my dismay at the current direction some are taking my faith, and try to structure, for myself mostly, an adequate response. Conversation, as you rightly say, is key- holding on to stereotypes merely turn us all into mere shadows of our true selves, definitely not what the good Lord intended.

    There is more to write…so much more to say, and even more to hear, but I must wait until later tonight. Again, thank you for your post!

  6. Thank you for finding a recent post at my blog on Pagan-Christian dialogue stimulating and worthy of further reflection here. Your post hit on one of the major issues and challenges involved in our dialogue, that of the strong negative feelings of targeting and othering in evangelism, and the Christian need to share the pathway of Jesus with others in keeping with Jesus’s teachings. I am glad to see positive discussions of these issues here among Pagans and Christians, and my hope is that our book by Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega, Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue (Lion, 2008) can help provide additional positive content and example to such efforts.

  7. Peace Wandering Tree

    I wasn’t worried by the delay. Life can be busy – especially for those in education. I work in a university here in the UK and so I can relate to the ‘marking blues’. 🙂

    There is indeed much more to say – but I’m in no rush. Insha Allah (God willing), now that we’ve ‘met’ so to speak, we’ll have a chance to explore together. I am thinking about similar issues myself and may well post some thoughts of my own.

    At any rate, God bless you and yours always.

    Abdur Rahman

  8. Peace and Greetings to you Abdur,
    Thank you for the reminder of patience in all relationships. I indeed look forward to exploring ideas with you and look forward to checking out your thoughts and musings on your blog

    Pax,
    wanderingtree

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