Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I was really pleased when I saw this Carnival posting, because I have been hungry for theological discourse for some time, and this feels just the right speed for my Friendly endeavors.
By this I mean that the advent of Rob Bell, from my brief research online a giant of mainstream mega-church Christianity, is stirring the pot around central articles of faith. Bravo for him! I am always glad when there is an exposing of the in-fighting and policing of faith borders within the artifice of contemporary Christianity. Were I within those borders, I might have more pain than fascination, but from my vantage point of feminist
god-seeker, I am more fascinated than hurt.
Let me describe this fascination. When there are rumblings of heterodoxy-- either theologically or behaviorally-- within this monolith of mall-sized churches, it highlights the actual diversity within these settings. When one of the leaders opens the can of worms, then there is a moment of taking in of breath—be it in anxiety, in hope, in fear—of all, and
then, moments of uncertainty.
This uncertainty is, in my mind, of most value to these communities, and indeed I think valuing uncertainty is one of the deep lessons I have learned through Quaker practice, as well as Zen and earth-based practice. The humility, vulnerability, and earnest truth-seeking that comes from this disruption confirms the continuing revelation of communities of faith in holy relationship with Divinity.
Does this seeking end? No. Do we get complacent? Yes. Does Christ enter into our hearts when we are disrupted? If we are open to listening to those who are different from us, and if we do not seek to stop His voice through our arrogance, then I believe so.
It surprises me not at all that the attacks on Bell’s book come before the book has even been read. It also does not surprise that Christian Universalism would be outed as satanic, heterodox, and worthy of dismissal. In some ministry work I did years ago, my organization was publicly called out by conservative Christian groups, and told to stop
calling ourselves Christian. At that point, from the inside, it hurt. A lot. It drove home for me, as attacks on Bell, how tenuous a hold conservative Christianity has on itself, that it needs to attack those who see Christianity differently.
I understand the biblicial references to false prophets, the concern about evil masquerading as good, but let me reiterate—heterodoxy breeds diversity, breeds good things IN THE WORLD (apart from historical precedents of beheadings and such of the heterodox by dominant religion), and the possibility of in-breaking of Christ in complex and unusual ways.
What is ultimately fascinating is that this heterodoxy persists, and in fact grows. What is meaningful in this is that good things happen (Love wins!) in many heterodox beliefs. I am not advocating for relativism in this, I am merely pointing out that the diversity of belief
CANNOT be controlled by human structures, and in fact the complexity of Christ,
of God(ess), of this great uncertainty, cannot be controlled by human hands, either.
In our post-denominational world, the in-fighting of Christianities are very compelling, and educational. As a fellow-walker with Quakers, I think that the practice of unprogrammed Friends has much to offer this in-fighting. My question to more mainstream and contending Christians is, can you handle the humility that is required of you to sit in silence, and wait on our shared and disparate God? When we speak with such certainty about the faiths of others, I have my doubts.