If I do anything with my life, my hope is to reclaim a loving faith that my Church has spent a long time denying, destroying, and even sometimes making a lie - often in word and deed.
Today’s most “visible” church in America, the evangelical right-wing version, has co-opted my faith in horrible ways. The prosperity Gospel is a deeply harmful heresy, and it’s participation in uncritical nationalism is idolatrous and dangerous. In upholding these false idols of wealth, power, and privilege, this "Christianity" has disenfranchised many, lost any sense of social justice, and has propped up the powerful in ways that undermine human dignity and worth. This is not the Christianity that I profess, nor is the Jesus they say they follow in any way recognizable to the Jesus of the Gospels whose love, power, and witness changed my life. It has not been a positive Christianity aligned with our Master’s teachings, but a Christianity co-opted by money, power, political posturing, and the exclusion of those whom Jesus loved deeply. The poor, oppressed, and broken.
I embrace a positive Christianity that doesn’t seek to define itself in opposition to non-believers or other faiths. In fact that doesn’t try to define itself in opposition, but in affirmation of the beautiful and breathtaking dignity of every human being. A deeply spiritual faith that paves the way for all who seek a deeper purpose and life, regardless of what “tribal” affiliations one lays claim to. Tribal affinities characterized by political views, social positions or status, race, gender, or ways in which we desire to love. The Church, for too long, rather than "gather in" has instead "cast out" based on categories that were meaningless to the Jesus of the Gospels, inasmuch as they were not criteria for either believing in or following him, or seeking the God Jesus' pointed to who, above all, is love.
It is my hope that my life can bear witness to the transforming love of God, and to that end, I spend a good deal of time trying to re-assert the prophetic teachings of Christ’s Gospel of love, mercy, and social justice.
But, I am not at all unique in the deliberate attempts to reclaim it as a beautiful tradition worth recognizing as something that informs and exposes deeper truths about our humanity. Some call me a mystic, others a unicorn. For me, I’m just a simple human who seeks love and tries to give it as I may. And there are many other people in my faith tradition who are seeking to do just that.
I am Christian. I am not “a Christian because everyone else is a damned heathen.” I am not a Christian because it sets me apart from you, but because it binds me closer to you in love and joy, and even in sorrow. I am Christian because it makes me a more compassionate and loving human in my own life. Others are better people without faith, because faith makes them feel icky. Or duplicitous. Or fraudulent. Or oppressed. My faith’s religious history, and the Church’s involvement in transient and expedient political movements for the sake of power, had a large part to play in that. That fact breaks my heart. I spend my life literally trying to clear the wreckage of that truth and helping to bind the hearts of wounded people without needing to shove my faith down people’s throats as the price of my love or kindness.
Of all my dearest social companions, I am the only “faith” person. And we all agree...if what makes you inspired to be a better person is true and good for you, BE THAT. Don’t be a “I’m not that, because I'm better than you and more evolved than that” kind of person. Because THAT doesn’t, in fact, make the world a better place, or make human relationships more connected. It makes us more prone to distrust one another. As a Christian, I am not better than anyone. But I am better than the “me” I was before I found my way to faith again. And I don’t believe that you need to be a person of faith to be a better you. Whatever that looks like, I’m sure you can find it without any help from me or my faith.
A monolithic faith destroys. A faith of rigid rules and formulas, or “believe or get out”, cannot withstand the facts of the world around us, scientific discovery, and the reality of human diversity and self-recovery. No belief ought to be monolithic. There are shades, and shadows, and legalisms, and mysticisms everywhere. In my faith, and also in our politics, and our philosophies and our sexualities and our strivings for justice and peace. Beautiful expressions of the beautiful abound. Everywhere! And for my mystical heart, God is at the center of every one, and the life of Jesus called us to discover God there. I don’t want to see differences turned into dividing lines or gates to keep people out. Let’s make art of them, and beauty, and friendships, and connections, and love. That’s what makes us beautiful, creative, and connected in some lovely mystical way with everything. With the past and also the future. Connected with each other. With the fragile planet we inhabit. And with the inimitable dignity of being free and whole and beloved creatures capable of changing the world.
For David, a beloved...