Stripped by God
December 16, 2012 by Bob
Some years ago a group of Christians including such notables as Marcus Borg, Bishop J Shelby Spong, Walter Brueggemann and John Dominic Crossen became part of a movement called Progressive Christianity.
They had observed over a long period of time that many have not only left the Church but also the faith. They concluded that a great deal of what passes for Christianity is largely outdated and irrelevant.
The gospel must be presented in contemporary language otherwise it will be seen as an ancient relic of the past. The present belief system, that represents so much of Christianity, has remained unchanged since the reformation of 1517 yet, we live in a world that is so different its hard to catalogue the differences, yet the model remains unchanged.A significant part of the challenge is the way scripture is read. For many the stories are still understood at the same conceptual level as Sunday school children. Not only do we continue to present Christianity at this level but we also insist that others see it in the same light.
The focus of Progressive Christianity is about embracing a more mature view of Christianity or what Brian Mclaren calls Adult Christianity. To do this we need to strip away the old and make way a new more vibrant way of seeing. “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” however, for many the model was always flawed to begin with. As Richard Rohr observed when we begin to see the gospel within a broader Adult context when the Scriptures are used maturely, they proceed in this order:
- They confront us with a bigger picture than we are used to, “God’s kingdom” that has the potential to “deconstruct” our false and smaller kingdoms.
- They then have the power to convert us to an alternative worldview by proclamation, grace, and the sheer attraction of the good, the true, and the beautiful (not by shame, guilt, or fear which are low-level motivations, but which operate more quickly and so churches often resort to them).
- They then console us and bring deep healing as they “reconstruct” us in a new place with a new mind and heart.
No matter what our theological position, this poem is a poignant reminder that the work of the Spirit is often Iconoclastic in nature; we need deconstruction before reconstruction can take place and herein is the greatest challenge facing Christianity in the West;
What would happen if I pursued God if I filled my pockets with openness.Grabbed a thermos half filled with fortitude and crawled into the cave of the Almighty. Nose first eyes peeled heart hesitantly following until I was face to face with the raw pulsating beat of Mystery.
What if I entered and it looked different than anyone had ever described? What if the cave was to big to be fully known far to extensive to be comprehended by one person or group. To vast for one doctrine or dogma?.Would I shatter at such a thought? Perish from paradox or puzzle? Shrink and shrivel before the power?.
Would God be diminished if I lived a question rather than a statement? Would I lose my faith?As I discovered the magnitude of grace?
O, for the willingness to explore to leave my tiny vocabulary at the entrance and stand before you naked stripped of pretenses and rigidity disrobed of self-righteousness and tiny packages stripped of all that holds me at a distance from you and your world.Strip me O’ God then clothe me in curiosity and courage. (Cynthia Langston Kirk)