I have had some unlikely allies over the years. I have seen people who are passionately against Christianity and even loudly non-christian be softened and encouraging about the way I live out my faith.
It turns out that it has something to do with not being ‘that’ kind of a Christian.
This is a difficult idea for me. I try not to be a judgmental christian – especially about other christians. I don’t like how it sounds when others do it and I don’t like how it makes me feel when I do it. I try to have a generous orthodoxy.
The problem, however, is that there is a type of christianity that makes my uncomfortable and upset. I will go as far as to say that it makes the world a worse place. Something happened in post-Christendom where the fundamentalist impulse merged with a nationalistic and militaristic brand of Christianity to become some sort of monstrous, warped Frankenstein creature. It is barely recognizable in the pages of the Gospel.
Some people try to distance themselves from it by saying “that is not real Christianity”. I think that is a mistake. In fact, I think that is a major mistake.
The reality is that this is Christianity. I don’t mean following the teaching of Christ or something – I mean that Christianity is product, a brand and an institution at some level. It’s no use saying ‘that is not real Christianity’. It is Christianity. It’s what Christianity has become.
Through a historical drift, many amalgamations, adaptations, adjustments, compromises, syncretism and compromise – these things have produced what we call Christianity.
You can say that Jesus wasn’t a Christian. You would be correct. You can say that this is never what Jesus wanted, and you would be justified. But I believe that what you can not say is that this is not Christianity.
People I don’t like or agree with are still my family. These are my sisters and brothers in Christ. That I can’t change.
What I can have some influence over is what kind of Christian I am. What has been so amazing to me over the years is how supportive, encouraging and intrigued non-christians have been with this kind of christianity.
It is still shocking to me when people who don’t believe what I believe become unlikely allies for me. I am often encouraged by people outside the faith to keep going. They seem to think there is something good in my brand of faith and that the world could actually use more of this kind of christianity.
Now this usually gets me in trouble with the kind of christians who have bought into Constantinian forms of Christendom. They see my unlikely allies’ endorsement as evidence of compromise. Of course they would – that is how that brand of Christianity works after all.
I am convinced, however, that there is a way to be in the world while following Christ that world actually thinks is a good thing and that they would be interested in … if the world didn’t already work the way it does.
Have you seen this happen?
Are you comfortable with my drawing lines?
Do you like my family analogy?