“We are on a quest for a new kind of Christianity—a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straightjackets we inherited, a way of life that integrates the personal and the social dimensions of spirituality, a practice that integrates centered contemplation and dynamic action. In our quest, we must remember how easy it is to self-sabotage; we must remember that how we get there will determine where we will be.” Brian McLaren quoted from cac.org
I can’t help but love the phrasing, “a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straightjackets we inherited.” That is exactly where many of us have been led by our traditional faith endeavors. Even within my liberal Lutheranism the dogma and theology can become binding chains of thou shalt and thou shalt not. I have been given a very basic set of values in the Ten Commandments which facilitate a sane and peaceful social structure and then an unmistakable rule by which to live:
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27
What more do I need? Everything else within my faith tradition is gravy on the meat. I don’t need to have gravy but it makes for a more fulfilling meal. The weekly church service, the hymns, the scripture readings, the communion, the Advent services, the Christmas Eve candlelight celebration, the fellowship, they all are gravy atop the meat of Christianity which I can now define as devotion to a lifestyle emphasized by the story of Jesus. He and his disciples called that manner of living the Way; I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. These are words written by the author of John 14:6. Within those parameters of love, compassion and service to mankind I have a path to successful and victorious living.
The concept of “emerging” Christianity is an exciting development. Many of us must first learn how to rise above the pain, anger, and frustration which our old institutions of religion have caused in us. The fire and brimstone from the pulpit serve no purpose in our new way of living. When we join hearts with Jesus, we abandon the meanness and bitterness of our old beliefs and habits.
Idealism needs to be controlled. There is no perfect religion, church, or congregation in this lifetime. I will continue to stumble and bumble along my faith walk because I continue to harbor character defects, but, in the realm of emerging Christianity, I am accepted as I am and I am covered by the grace of a loving and compassionate God. I no longer fear the wrath of a vengeful God or eternity in the pits of a lonely hell on earth.
Within this radical practice of the Way, I accept personal responsibility for my actions and behavior. I control no other brother/sister nor religious institution and I give up the need to judge/condemn their actions and behavior. I accept that they are also giving life the best shot they can within the guidelines of their beliefs. If my church affiliation does not emphasize a ministry to the homeless, then I should do so personally. If my church does not openly accept ministry to the LGBT community, then I should. If my church does not embrace a multi-racial ministry, then I should. I have been freed from dogmatic and doctrinal restraints and it is my responsibility to extend that freedom to others suffering under religious oppression.
Again from the words of Brian McLaren:
“Finally, we need to start small and celebrate small gains. One of the curses of late modernity was the belief that unless something was big and well-publicized, it didn’t count. . . . [Jesus] spoke of tiny mustard seeds, of a little yeast in a lot of dough, of a little flock, of the greatness of smallness, of a secret good deed and a simple cup of cold water given to one in need.”
I want to be a little mustard seed, a cup of cold water to the thirsty. How about you?
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”