Big Veda

In Hinduism, a Veda is a knowledge or truth writing. I don't pretend that this stuff is anything more than rumination. But through writing it I find a bit of knowledge or truth. Hope you find some truth too. PAX


From Belonging to Belief

From belonging to belief

Evangelism of the 20th century is on life support. And as the guardians of the results-oriented evangelism of the last 100+ years we can do nothing more merciful than to issue a do-not-resuscitate order. We must let it go. This antiquated evangelism stressed the move from belief to belonging. In other words, one must be convinced that Jesus is Lord before one was allowed to enjoy fully the life of the Church. The time has come for Christians in a global culture to change the paradigm, as it were, to see belonging as the first step and allowing belief to germinate and develop through belonging.

Why can we not operate on the assumption that we have something to learn from the non-believer? In his work, History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff writes of early church practice:

“The catechumens or hearers were regarded not as unbelievers, but as half-Christians, and were accordingly allowed to attend all the exercises of worship, except the celebration of the sacraments. They embraced people of all ranks, ages, and grades of culture, even philosophers, statesmen, and rhetoricians… The duration of this catechetical instruction was fixed sometimes at two years sometimes at three, but might be shortened according to circumstances.” [vol. II; pp 256-7]

Maybe the choice must be made preemptively by Christians to affirm the humanity of every individual, regardless of their choice to affirm the Christian faith. In our global society we are confronted by unprecedented cultural diversity. If we expect to be considered participants in this society then we must participate fully in the life of the world around us. We want others to choose to belong to our faith communities but we don’t want to belong to the world of non-believers. By virtue of our humanity, we do belong to that world of non-believers. A hard fact is that non-believers are no longer the outsiders. The Church has become the outsider and the global community sits in judgment of it. May the world be more merciful to the Church than the Church has been to the world.

Winds of Change

From Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313 to the Cartesian declaration, “Cogito ergo sum” in 1641, the “civilized” (and I use that term loosely) world was ruled by the Christian faith. For over 1300 years the Christian faith was free to enrich and pervert society in what ways it saw fit. It saw its manifest destiny as one of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Enlightenment rationalism didn’t precisely reject God but it did categorize God as the “first thing” and not “every thing”. American Christians have a poor memory. We forget that approximately 100 years ago churches across the United States were openly complicit in the oppression of blacks and defense of slavery as an institution. To this day, churches reject the role of women as leaders in the church. In the discipline of social justice the church in the United States is in grave danger of getting a big, fat “F”. Whether or not the Church in the United States chooses to accept it, the fact remains that if it wants to become anything other than an alternative to the Rotary Club it must allow itself to be formed, deformed and transformed by the world. The Church in the U.S. must humble itself before mankind and serve society. Humanity is not made up of cogs to be used in driving the Christian Machine. Christianity consists (or rather, should consist) of servants. Not servants of the institution of the Church but of servants to all of creation. That means that in following the example of our professed leader we must wash humanity’s feet instead of stepping all over them. It means that we must touch the untouchable instead of looking through them. We must love those who hate us instead of killing them. And we must do it with all humility!

Reflecting theologically, then, must begin not with an inductive reading of scripture rather it should start with a deductive examination of ourselves and what it is that makes us human. We must value what makes us human not what makes us right. Forming doctrines that exclude entire people groups based on a handful of scriptures is exactly the thing that we must cease doing. Whether we are marginalizing souls based on gender, sexuality, age, marital status, socio-economic status, or ethnicity, we are nothing more than Pharisees.

Maybe Christians should value the deplorable over the desirable; the plebeian over the polished; the immoral over the immaculate. Maybe we should stop protecting ourselves so well. Hedges protect but so do ramparts. When hedges are allowed to grow unattended, they become impenetrable dissections between adjacent real estate. Are Christians being good neighbors? Are we keeping our hedges in order? God help us if we fail to be diligent in our landscape maintenance…


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