We just finished a study group of the Brian McLaren book, The Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. It’s a fascinating look at a huge, once-in-a-generation shift in theological thought as it pertains to doing church. Stay awake with me and see if you don’t see this blossoming in our church.
In short, it’s about a seismic shift away from focus on right belief or orthodoxy to right practice or orthopraxy. Apparently, Christians the world over are beginning to shift away from arguing about what is and isn’t “right” understanding into living a life securely in Jesus’ shadow. That is, focusing on and living into the over-arching message of “Love God, and love your neighbors” in the Jesus stories. (See Matthew 22:34-40)
This is not news to our church, not at all. I’ve noticed this since the day I walked in the door. In fact, it’s pretty rare to hear people talking too much about Bible or theology unless engaged in a specific study or class or in teaching. But, it’s not at all unusual to hear somebody say, “We’re putting the giving tree in the sanctuary this Sunday so we can buy gifts for families who are struggling this Christmas.” Or, “how old do kids have to be to help pack meals at the Rotary’s End Hunger 3.6 campaign?” Or, “we need help cooking and serving the meal for the Homeless Solutions Shelter.”
What I found comforting and encouraging in the McLaren book is somebody putting words to this idea of practice, of living the life, of walking the walk. I mean, I think we do it. We try to, anyway. I see you doing it. Though speaking just for me, I’m not always successful, but I’m working on it! Every day. I think we all are.
So, after this book study is over (this happens a lot), I start noticing the idea more and more. It starts coming up either in conversation or in my reading. A lot.
Last week as we were rolling into the weekend and our Pledge Drive Commitment Event on Friday night, one of my daily devotionals started ringing this bell. It’s Fr. Richard Rohr, Franciscan friar, theologian, leader, innovator, and though-provoking writer. Link here.
Here are just a few cuts and pastes from last week:
Critical biblical scholarship is occurring on a broad ecumenical level, especially honest historical and anthropological scholarship about Jesus as a Jew in the culture of his time. This leads us far beyond the liberal reductionism and the conservative fundamentalism that divide so many churches. We now see the liberal/conservative divide as a bogus and finally unhelpful framing of the issues.
There is a common-sense and growing recognition that Jesus was clearly concerned about the specific healing and transformation of real persons and human society “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Church, more than Jesus, historically focused on doctrinal belief and moral stances, which ask almost nothing of us in terms of real change. They just define groups—often in an oppositional way.
A global sense of Christianity frames the denominational divisions in a larger context. Many of the things we historically fought about are resolved, boring, or non-essential. We have all been both victims and beneficiaries of these very specific histories and cultures, and we can find unity in that.
There is a new appreciation for “many gifts and ministries” (1 Corinthians 12), “together making a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4), instead of concentrating on a top tier of ordained leadership where gender and power issues dominate. With many gifts and many ministries, legitimacy comes from ability, solidarity with suffering, and willingness to serve, rather than from top-down authorization.
Emerging Christianity is both longing for and moving toward a way of following Jesus that has much more to do with lifestyle than with belief. We do not want to solidify into an institution focused on certain words and the writing of documents. We want to remain, if at all possible, focused on orthopraxy (right practice), compassionate action flowing from non-dual consciousness.
We are grateful and content to let our historic churches and denominations take care of the substructures and the superstructures of Christianity. Some are gifted and called to that, but most are not. Our churches have trained us, grounded us, and sent us on this radical mission. We will keep one happy foot in our Mother churches, but we have something else that we must do and other places that we must also stand. We have no time to walk away from anything. We want to walk toward and alongside.
I’m gonna stop here and let you process all that because there’s so much more. Way more. And already it’s a lot. You may even want to re-read some of it. But, I catch very definite glimpses into our church and how we’re living it. See if you don’t, too.
We’re sure not running away from anything. And honestly, it’s starting to feel like we’re not just walking toward and alongside—It feels like we’re running. And I thank God! I thank God, because I can’t think of a better place to do it.
Grace & Peace,