Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christian Identity: A 21st Century Crisis

http://theyoungcurmudgeonpriest.blogspot.ca/2014/11/christian-identity-21st-century-crisis.html?m=1
 
The Church likes to fight - a lot.  Since the earliest days of Christianity the followers of Jesus Christ have been at odds with one another over one thing or another.  A simple reading of the Book of Acts is evidence to the ongoing struggle of early Christians to agree on much as they delivered the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  While some often long for the "old days" where everyone got along, that was never reality.  Wars, reformations, heresy trials...it goes on and on.  The Church has always been in conflict and that is not a terrible thing.  Nothing stays the same - the Church is like any living organism, it grows and becomes something new all the time and the Church grows through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and it is in discerning the call of the Holy Spirit that we argue and it is in discerning the call of the Holy Spirit that we find truth.  In the mess we find truth and that is not always an enjoyable process.

After millennia of privilege, the 21st Century Church is discerning its identity and it is indeed messy. While it would seem that we are arguing about various separate issues whether it be marriage equality, ordination of women, communion without baptism, mission vs. discipleship, the use of the National Cathedral for an Islamic prayer service, etc; the issues are very much related - they are about what it means to be a Christian in the 21st Century.  They are questions of orthodoxy and orthopraxis.  It may look as if the Church is arguing over silly issues that distract from bigger questions, however I think these discussions are indeed the bigger questions.  What does it mean to be a Christian?

Some would argue that today's Christian in a global and pluralistic society need not believe in much as long as they are "hospitable" and "welcoming;" that one's belief in the Trinity, the Incarnation or the Resurrection means little as long as they are following the example of Jesus of Nazareth and showing unconditional love to the world.  This is indeed a troubling trend for Jesus certainly believed something.  Jesus, time and time again showed that he was indeed an orthodox Jewish man.  He
believed the scriptures, he worshiped God in the temple - he was as about as orthodox as they came.  What Jesus was not was a Pharisee.  Jesus' beliefs and actions were never in conflict and he had little room for those whose actions did not match their beliefs or time for those who believed nothing at all.  Jesus Christ's message was orthodox, he had strong convictions about theology and was not afraid to call out those in their disbelief.  Jesus was not a first century social worker as some would have us think.  Jesus showed us how to live out our orthodoxy with the appropriate boundaries and with the all the love we could ever imagine.

Christianity seems less and less willing to have boundaries around what it believes.  Rather than do the hard work of proclaiming our beliefs or the having hard discussions around how we practice what we believe, we have begun to recreate our faith into something unrecognizable.  A faith in which we welcome everyone but believe in nothing.  A faith with no convictions other than to be "nice."

Jesus did indeed welcome everyone, but Jesus also taught humanity hard lessons.  Jesus did not compromise his beliefs for his welcome - he welcomed and invited his guests to believe.  Jesus taught about God's love, spoke of God's judgement, and he taught us about our redemption.  I have no doubt that his followers did not always like what he had to say, they were probably offended from time to time, but he kept at it; Jesus kept teaching truth and now it is our turn to keep teaching truth.  Truth is not relative - my truth and your truth are not different.  Truth is God's.

As Christians seek our place in the 21st century perhaps it is time we learn to balance our place in a multi-faith world with our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Let us be proud of who we are and stop apologizing for what we believe.  Christian identity is key to God's mission, it is key to who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.  In our baptisms we were given a Holy Identity and made promises about what we believe and how we love God and neighbor.  Let us once again find our identity in our baptisms and stop apologizing for who we are and live out our faith as Christ lived out his.

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