Wednesday, August 26, 2009

how do you define christianity

I received an email from a guy I don't really know. We area associated thru Face Book. He said he was having trouble figuring out his role as "christian" and was dealing with some worldly issues and wanted to know what I meant by my term Protestant Postmodern Tradionalist... This was my response:

"well let me see. Its actually a combination of things I consider myself. Many folks consider themselves denominationally, like Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, whatever... even though I am a member of the United Methodist Church, it is still under the Christian religion and Protestant wing. So when asked "what religion are you" some reply Baptist, but thats a denomination affiliation. So Protestant. Postmodern is a relatively new term. For me it means that I am willing to accept or be open to the premise that we don't know everything there is to know about God, and that the Mystery and Nature of God is probably much bigger than we have given Him credit for. We have put God in such a nice tidy box of doctrines that we marry ourselves to, that we do not allow for the possibility that God could be something other than what we've learned. It is allowing people to keep searching and questioning and growing in their understanding and knowledge of God without all the associated "rules and procedures" that religion has imposed. So thats Postmodern for me.

Tradionalist is basically what is says. I haven't thrown the baby out with the bath water. I take all that I have learned from "the faith of our fathers living still" and apply it to my daily walk and understanding. However, I do not stop there. I do not believe that the final word has been spoken. I believe God speaks to us each and every moment and that creation is still occuring. Back to my "religion limiting God" stuff. Religion or Religious Doctrines dictate this or that and what you should do... I'm not sure that "religion" has it all figured out. So I take my traditional values, mix it with my Postmodern questioning, and try and find my place/relationship with God.

Christianity. In my walk I have been everything I describe in my teachings and conversations, so I speak from experience. I have been arrogant, evangelical, servant hearted, judgemental, confused, apathetic etc... Christianity used to be for me a set of rules and processes, church attendance and committee meetings. It wasn't personal, it was social. In our geographical region, many consider themselves "christian" because they attend church. I saw a saying once that stated "going to church no more makes you a christian that going to mcdonalds makes you a hamburger". funny but true. Max Lucado used the term "Churchianity" to describe this. Its a social norm for us in this area to go to church, but as you know we don't always practice Christianity. Which brings up the main point: What is Christianity anyway? What does it mean to you? In my old self, I used to think it was a set up behaviors: christians don't drink, smoke, curse, have lustful thoughts, vote democratic, etc. They go to church and do nice stuff in the community. I have found that none of this is true. Christianity is merely "practicing the teachings of Christ" or "Christ follower". hmmmm... so what DID Jesus say? Basically, it is Love One Another. Jesus is quoted as saying the greatest commandment is:"You must love God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:35-40) So basically love. Not too much judgement in there. Not to many rules. No doctrine. Just examples from his parables on how to treat people. Relationships. So Christianity has very little to do with church, or, uh, religion.
Now, we express ourselves thru worship and act together as the body of Christ through the organized church. Not bad. Good stuff if the focus is good. Build the kingdom but not the the empire so to speak. But you can be a Christian without going to church. Because Christianity and Religion are not the same. enough said on that.

So, do you beat yourself up as a Christian? Not good enough? Have too much baggage for God to use? The bible is full of stories of folks just like that who God used all the time. Point being Christians are not perfect and are spinning their wheels trying to be, or at least for beating themselves up over it. Michael Yacconelli wrote a book entitled "Messy Spirituality". It gives you permission to understand that you are only human, you will have issues, and that you will never be perfect. God loves you anyway. Heck, he created you, so he knows we are flawed and lacking. Doesn't mean he can't use us.

And for some reason, people think when they "accept Christ" its like a magic pill, and nothing bad will ever happen. Again, unbiblical. Life happens regardless if you are a Christian or not - its who you put your trust in to get you through that is the difference. If you rely solely on yourself, you'll fall flat on your face. If you trust in God, you may fall flat on your face, but He will help you up.
So yes, you will deal with worldly issues. I'm not sure in what respect your issues are, but it is Okay to have them. We all do. Its how you choose to deal with them that matters.
any of this helpful? continue the conversation?"

I hope the conversation continues.

1 comment:

journeyingrick said...

n.p.p. - this is the gospel, as far as i'm concerned. it's true to the spirit of the threads that run through the bible and christian tradition, and yet it transcends the rules and fences that have been built for hundreds and hundreds of years to somehow make it all make sense. it doesn't ultimately make sense - it's faith. i personally love being alive and at work with god in a time in history when we who are christians, or whatever we jesus followers are, are able to ask questions and be open, and not be burned at the stake - literally or figuratively.
you hit it, for me. dead on. thank you for this. sometimes i get caught up in religion or churchianity or just daily life and forget that this faith is big, big, big - and whatever i do to try to contain and codify it, while it may make me more comfortable in the short-run, is a disservice to me and to god and to those around me.