Unlikely Allies and Not That Kind of Christian (Day 10)

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. Neighbors & Wisemen

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? 

 

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8 comments
willhouk
willhouk

Let me answer your question with a question. How many abodigonals do you see modeling? (sorry I'm a big Zoolander fan)

 

But really, I do have a question. I am cool with the family analogy and it makes sense. But what if they don't see you as family? The response I've gotten from many Evangelicals is that I am a heretic. Where I am at if I talk about Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, or any of these types of Christians then I am instantly dismissed and most of the time seen as a danger to a persons faith. This is why I have left the world of the Evangelical and I go to a Methodist church that is accepting and loving. It's the biggest relief in the world. I don't know maybe I'm just in a place of rest and healing but I have little desire to interact with Evangelicals on a day to day basis. I find that they reject me, disrespect me, and believe that I am going to spend eternity in hell. I find that hard to reconcile with. Where do you go from there?

kenalto9
kenalto9

I belong to a mainline church by the happenstance of my infant baptism, and my parents (hence our family) stopped going long before I was an adult. I returned to church as an adult, seeking a relationship with a Higher Power to guide and help me in my recovery. That accident of baptism got me in that particular door, and I was fortunate to find myself in a place where I now believe Mother/Son/Spirit calls me to be. Can't say that anyone on any side of any of the lines you can draw in Christianity was particularly attractive to me at that point. If anyone made the gospel attractive to me, it was people like Tommy Douglas whose commitment to a social gospel prompted them to work in secular politics. Because the mainliners have the kind of colonial history that they need to confront, I would rather be part of a church that is having to deal with that than a younger offshoot that seems to have no part in it.

 

Nothing wrong with the family analogy - but I believe Jesus is pointing us toward realizing we are all part of the human family, whether we realize just how direct the branches connect to the family tree or not, so I personally do not think too much in terms of my Christian family. Perhaps that is just me putting on blinders as to how clearly I draw lines myself. If anything, now having a mainline Christianity now makes it easier for my far more evangelical friends to talk to me, and for me to realize I have something in common with them.

 

Many people have taught me many things in the dozen years or so that I have been listening: fellow meditators I met on trip to listen to the Dalai Lama, out and out atheists, out and out secularists, and quite a few Christians. I enjoyed Tony's description of the Pope both in the book and on the podcast. There are so many non-believers in the world who practice hospitality and friendship so much better than I do, who are less judgmental than my knee-jerk reactions can be, that I can only thank Christ he is now helping me try to get my act together.

 

One of the things I enjoy most about BoDaddy as a conversation partner is he expresses a viewpoint that is completely revelational to me - and it happens on this site where there are an even bigger range of new (to me) ideas being bandied about. Thanks.

 

 

rasheye
rasheye

i'm much more likely to call anyone acting out of love my brother or my sister than i am just anyone who wields the name christian.  so many of the atheists that i know left religion precisely because, in their experience, it was impeding their ability to love their neighbor (my phrasing).  i don't like this idea that anyone who calls themselves christian is part of my family more than people who don't.  that said, i'm looking to "adopt" (continuing the family analogy) as many people as i can, and am not looking to disown anyone on the basis of my disagreement with them.

sean muldowney
sean muldowney

1. I have seen this happen. I've been on both sides. I was in danger of being *that* kind of Christian. Now I fight against just what you say: the urge to dissociate from those that I tend to see as *those* kinds of Christians. 

 

2. I think drawing lines is ok, so long as the lines don't creep up and become walls/barriers. Gatekeeping happens on all sides. But those who have become your allies probably felt comfortable once you defined where you stand with them. That sounds like drawing a (healthy) line. 

 

3. The family analogy is what keeps me dialoguing with certain folks, and holding out hope not that they will buy into my brand, but at least fully pursue the character of Christ within their own context.

JosephLRatledge
JosephLRatledge

To attempt to answer your questions:

 

1)  I try to make it happen in my life.  All branches/forms of Christianity is "real" Christianity.  Each just placed different emphases upon different places.  (IMO)

2) I don't have a problem with your lines.  I agree with them.

3)  The family analogy is fine.  We all live in shared human existence which includes suffering.  All of us.  The shared human condition is what unites every single human on the planet, even if you aren't Christian.  It doesn't mean that I like you or love you.  It also doesn't mean that I don't want your life to be a good one.  It just means that we share something in common.  Using my theology, that commonality of humanity is linked and we all have the imago Dei.  We are family, even those who aren't Christian. 

 

One of my dearest friends from childhood is a stout Richard Dawkins book beating atheist.  I'd rather have a beer with him than many many of my Christian friends.

 

hornmike
hornmike

Hey Bo, I've been impressed with you precisely because you facilitate dialogue.  I'm still in the evangelical/charismatic/renewal tribe and I'm being stretched and positively influenced by people like you because you've lived in both worlds.  I wonder sometimes though if we've given up too much, more out of some hurtful experience or disillusionment with people, than of a progressive, evolving theological paradigm.  I've come a long ways from being a pentecostal, "fighting fundy", but still retain the what I believe are "best beliefs and practices" from the past.  Keep going homie!!

John Pohl
John Pohl

Good post. I have to think about this issue daily, especially in how I want to be perceived.

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  1. […] again: while I do not like drawing lines and attempt to be generously orthodox, it seems to me that there is a kind of christianity that the world is fine to let us hold and actually finds quite intriguing.  Dr. Perkins has that kind of faith. He […]