Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christian in Practice, Christian in Deed, Christian in Intent, but not Christian in Identity

The first words out of my mouth this morning are "Wow!" A mention at an active blog aggregator has a ways of doing fantastic things for one's daily hits. This site received 80 hits yesterday and nearly fifty the day before that. As such, thanks are in order to the good folks at Quaker Quaker. I take this good news as a challenge to keep my posts at a consistently high quality.

I was in search of a starting point this morning and one arrived in the form of a comment I received to Monday's post. In it I am reminded to contemplate that the message of Jesus, that of love and stewardship towards one fellow person, ought to be separated from the religion about Jesus to which so many of us object. It's an excellent point and one I made reference to in a series of posts a few months back.

Perhaps the region of the country where I live has much to do with it. Here in the Bible Belt South, the overpowering nature of Evangelical Christianity often renders progressive "loyal opposition" faith traditions/denominations not specifically Christian passionately opposed to any and every mention of Jesus of Nazareth. There is, however, a great danger in this sort of approach. Taken to an extreme, what remains is a faith tradition that gives preferential, even glamorizing treatment to other faiths, all faiths, that is, except Christianity. The irony, of course, is that the underlying message preached is often Christian in practice, Christian in deed, Christian in intent, but not Christian in identity.

No religion or faith tradition is perfect. Being that all are conceived by humans and that human are intrinsically flawed beings, it would stand to reason that they would have problems. What I object to is the line of logic that supposes that if a human being y has had a negative experience with x tradition, then it should be removed from all discourse. No doubt there are people who have been scarred by the perversion of Islam, particularly the sort of militant fundamentalism advanced by terrorists. No doubt there have been people adversely affected by all of the world's faith traditions. Discounting, if not altogether avoiding the historical context and intrinsic basis of any movement, however, is hardly a good strategy.

I admit to being caught between two viewpoints when I contemplate this matter further. One claims that the message of Jesus has been so thoroughly co-opted by the right over the years that, despite my best efforts, it has been forever tainted. If I assert that I am a Christian (which I do) then what I stand for is bound to be misinterpreted. Furthermore, this point of view argues that religion has evolved far beyond Christianity and as such, couching faith in such terms is, at best, a counter-productive activity.

The other part of me, which speaks to my fighting spirit, is not content to surrender so easily. I am far more comfortable in the context of a Christian movement or at least one which is unwilling to remove scriptural references at the risk of offending someone's sensibilities. Emasculating a faith tradition in such fashion caters to a sort of victim mentality unfortunately prevalent in today's discourse. Dwelling on one's own past hurts is helpful insofar as it spurns us to right the wrongs which created them. The grieving process ought to be temporary, not permanently institutionalized as policy. The ultimate goal, as I see it, is to strive towards empowerment, which works within the confines of reality, not at cross-purposes with it.

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