by Brad Duncan
I often ask myself what I'm up to, by writing this blog and keeping up the )open( church FB page. Is it really doing anything useful? What's the purpose, etc? A little bit of existential neurosis is good for you from time to time. The answer is, I write because it's something I can do, and something I want to do. I write because I love the Church and want it to be a home for Christians. But at the same time I want the Church and Christianity itself to change. Really change. Repent. Modify. Correct. Be something different. Cultural shift. Missional shift.
First I have to say that some churches and denominations are joining me in this cultural and missional shift. I'm not standing alone in the woods screaming my head off, here. I'm just joining in the choir. So, if you're already aligned with this movement of change, we're partners in the change. I'm writing to help.
One place to find the evolving story of the cultural and missional shift I'm calling for is in the writings of Brian McLaren. I'm reading this book right now:
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren (Sep 11, 2012)
So what is the shift? In short I am (we are) calling for Christianity to address it's mistakes. Yes mistakes. Like slavery, colonization, misogyny, racism, religious violence, and genocide, there were times and events in history when wrong actions were considered right, even God-ordained. Now we understand that these things are wrong. We understand best when we look at these wrong actions from the eyes of the person and group being harmed. It is now time that we realize that Christianity is harboring hatred toward outsiders, propagating violence, perpetuating discrimination, and resisting real beneficial change in the world. Harsh words, I know. But it's why I write. It's why I do something. The society I love, the society of fellow believers, is due for some real repentance.
Like Martin Luther King, Jr., who called on Christians to stand up for freedom and to oppose racism and violence, I am calling again for Christians to continue the tide of change. I'm calling for basically one thing: open your arms to the "other". The Church is Christian society. It has thrived by loving itself and its own. But in the process has split the world, deliberately I would say, and based on wrong theology, into "Us" - the good guys, and "Them" - the "other" - the bad guys. This dichotomy excuses certain behaviors, done in the name of love, but which is visibly harmful to the "other". McClaren describes this love. It is the love for our own cause, and standing up for its defense when it is attacked, that causes us to excuse mistreatment of the "other". In this way, "love" does harm. It is Christian society shoring itself up and defending itself against the outside world. It's called isolationism. Society protecting itself by excluding outsiders and defending against foreign ideas.
What I'm asking the Church to do is both difficult and easy. Don't abandon culture, religion, traditions and beliefs, unless and except these are in place to protect your own interest. Open your hearts by liberally applying the teaching of Jesus in a counter cultural, revolutionary way. Love liberally. Don't worry about the potential harm to your cohesive society. Let down your guard against the "other". By embracing the "other" you will let go of some of the defenses and cohesiveness of safe Christian society. But you will embrace our true Christian mission to love the world and reach the world with God's kingdom.
What's hard is that the "other" is people of other religions. Non-Christians, like Muslims, Hindus and Jews. Like atheists and agnostics. The rest of the world. The "other" is also gays, LGBT. Or democrats ! :) . Actually, you know quite well who the "other" is, because it's the people that you declare yourself to be different than. "I'm so glad I'm not like them." You say, or "Don't ever be like that," or "I'll never understand how someone can ...". We can't see through our own culture to recognize the equally valid cultures of other people. This blindness is in fact something we all have in common, Christians and non-Christians alike. It causes the worst kind of crimes and atrocities!
What I'm calling for is a new Church. One that keeps Christianity. Keeps Christ. But lets down its guard. Lowers the defensive wall. Opens mind, heart and arms. Embraces its role in broader society. Like McClaren, I'm calling for an end to the hostility
If you still have no clue what in the world I'm talking about, I recommend reading his book. In the safety and privacy of reading a book, you can ponder whether you are part of the problem, or part of the solution. In fact, if you email me I will BUY you this book, up the first 20 takers :), under the condition that you will discuss it with me. Together we can change Christianity. Not throw it out, as some might be calling for, but call it to repentance. Times have changed. People change. Society changes. Christianity can change too.