If there is one thing I long for above all else, it’s that the years to come may see Christianity in this country able again to capture the imagination of our culture.— Rowan Williams
A RELIGION FOR A SECULAR CULTURE
Ideas have consequences. Christianity is ancient, but timeless wisdom – a set of related ideas and values that everyone is encouraged to study, discuss, and embody.
A plain spoken, evidential understanding of Christianity talks about it as a path of personal transformation through love and restoring the world with justice and compassion. At the heart of Christianity is kenotic love (the cross) freeing ourselves (resurrection) from the conditioning that keeps us from being a blessing to all the families of the earth, human and otherwise.
Christianity calls us to build a new order of love – the Kingdom. The values of this Kingdom are mercy, justice, equality, freedom, and kindness. Its vision is of a world of peace accomplished through justice where the dignity of all is affirmed.
The following affirmations provide a sense of the foundational parameters of an evidential Christian theology (Hat tip, 8 Points of Progressive Christianity):
1. Affirm that conforming our lives to teachings of Jesus can provide meaning and awareness of the sacred character and the interconnectedness of all life.
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the sacredness and interconnectedness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources and traditions of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
3. Affirm the benefits of establishing organic Christian communities inclusive of all people of good will.
4. Affirm the importance of theology, but recognize that how we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe.
5. Affirm that holiness is primarily wholeness and is not found in moralism, legalism, or literalism – that moral purity, theological finesse, or ceremonial perfection are not essential to a meaningful and valid spiritual life.
6. Affirm that deity, religious text, and religious authority do not impose morality; rather it is an integral part of our natural identity. Right human behavior is predicated on human flourishing and empathetic reciprocity, conveyed in the core truth of love your neighbor as yourself. Our motivation for virtue is a matter of our own integrity, following the logic of our very being.
7. Affirm the spiritual/religious freedom of each individual and encourage all to engage in a free and responsible pursuit of the truth – aided by the tradition, their community, and all of human learning.
8. Affirm the priority of peace and justice among all people, working toward a culture affirms the dignity of all life and strives to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth.
For Christianity to regain vibrancy in the contemporary age, I am convinced that a revisioning of aspects of Christian theology and praxis is necessary:
1. Produce an evidence-based theological approach that balances mythopoetic, metaphorical thinking, understanding of allegory, symbol, and ritual with solid scholarship of all kinds. This is a broad call for the Christian religious imagination to be transformed by a courageous encounter with reason and learning.
2. A renewed understanding of the nature of divinity which aligns with the best of human understanding and science, as well as the best of human religious imagination, myth, and poetry.
3. A vigorous proclamation and defense of human dignity that opposes the dehumanizing forces of empire, secularism, and nihilism.
4. Continued refinement of our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth, applying insights from Historical Jesus scholarship, hermeneutics, and cutting edge textual scholarship.
5. Moving beyond problematic notions of original sin and substitutionary atonement that reduce Jesus to a human sacrifice.
6. Making Jesus’ rejection of moralism, legalism, and literalism – all of which tempt us to build walls, control others, and establish abusive power structures – central to our understanding of Christian practice and communal organization.
7. A deemphasis on institutional structures, denominational identity, clericalism, and American-style, 20th Century “church”, instead favoring organic community, sacramental living, and local transformation.
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
– Mary Oliver
I understand theology to be at its best when it is open to criticism and input from others. Therefore, I plan to continually revise this work as part of an ongoing conversation with those who kindly take the time to read and engage my work.
If you’re reading this, I want to thank for taking the time to engage. Hopefully, you’ve had the chance to read some of the other essays, too.
I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts, ideas, challenges, and own experiences. I welcome dialog and questions, and would particularly like to hear from others in West Michigan (and beyond) who share interest or commitment to various forms of religious naturalism.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
– Mary Oliver
All content copyrighted with all rights reserved. Gregory Gronbacher, 2021. (C)