Thursday, March 29, 2007

A false dichotomy

Having posted the video Christian vs Christ follower pt 1, I probably gave the impression that I agreed completely with the whole 'Christian no more' idea which says, it seems, that the word 'Christian' has become so debased that those who seek to follow Christ need to give up on it and find another way to describe ourselves.

Well, i agree that 'Christian' has been devalued, but I don't subscribe to a 'throwaway society' approach that says 'if something doesn't work then we dispose of it'. I think that the character in the video who is 'the Christian' is probably more of a 'Churchian' - of whom I have met many in my life. For them the culture of Church, particularly the Conservative Evangelical sub-culture, is where they find a sense of identity and even self-importance. This identity is built up with Christian books which re-enforce certain attitudes, with Christian music, with the way they dress, wit Christian media etc etc etc. But that does not apply to all those who seek to follow Christ and who proclaim themselves 'Christian'. Or rather I should say it doesn't apply to all of us who seek to follow Christ and proclaim ourselves Christian!

The history of the Church is filled with times when we have re-valued common currency. Not always for the better but often very effectively. Rebranding 'saturnalia' as 'Christimas' was a way in which the Church took the longing to express light and life in the darkest part of winter and brought it under the banner of Christ, reminding ourselves of the light of Christ that has come into the world. It involved meeting human need for spiritual and emotional comfort with a proclamation of what God had done. It took a pagan festival and 'redeemed' it.

We are called to redeem the world, to take those things which are alienated from Christ and to bring them back into the light and life of God. It strikes me that sometimes we need to do that within our own 'Christian culture' as well, to take back from certain expressions of Church the misrepresentation of faith. I find myself constantly having to explain to parents who want their child baptised that 'born again' (a phrase which crops up repeatedly in our Baptism liturgy) does not mean a sort of 'wearing dodgy ties, right wing, tele-evangelist' Christianity, but that Jesus said that all must be born again to see the kingdom of God. It is an inclusive statement, whereby Jesus invites us to share new life, rather than an exclusive statement which says 'we're in, you're out'.

Surely, as Christians we are called to redeem the culture, not condemn or despise it? Likewise I don't see a distinction between Christ followers and Christians, but all are one in Christ Jesus. What we need to do is to re-educate both the Church and the world as to the meaning of 'Christian', to re-state our faith in and commitment to Christ, and to resist creating another culture of exclusiveness, such as the 'we're in the Christ followers so we are more faithful and significantly cooler than you who call yourselves Christians' which the Church is so good at doing.


Tom said...

The point about redeeming our own religion is a really good point. I know some people who got so fed up with what they saw as inconsistencies in their church history that they left for a church that no history at all (there's a trendy word for them, but I can't remember what it is right now).

So they don't have to deal with some traditions that they felt were wrong, but they completely lost all the accumulated knowledge that was part of that church history that they didn't like.

Which, I guess, is just me using too many words to say that I agree that if there's something wrong with a church, it's best to fix it instead of throwing it all away.

Dr.John said...

Very good entry. I still think you'd make a great Lutheran.
Just a note. I got your dragon story.

Alastair said...

Thanks for the response Tom, I am often dismayed by the Church, but even more dismayed by those who reject it without making any effort to change it!

Dr John, I consider the idea of being a great Lutheran very high praise indeed. thank you. (As a matter of interest, if I wanted to minister in a Scandinavian country, Denmark, Norway, Finland etc, I would be a Lutheran - due to the Porvoo agreement we are in complete accord with the Lutheran Church in those countries and Ministers of the Lutheran Church there are entitled to take any position within the Church of England)

quilly said...

Redeeming one's one's own church is about as easy as redeeming on'es own family. "A prophet is not respected in his own town."

I just try to live my life as I bet I can in reflection of what i believe to be true. I do claim to be a Christian, but I flinch from the connotation so many -- often too rightfully -- have of the word.

quilly said...

that's supposed to be "as best I can;

Someday I will will learn to proof read before I submit, but I suggest you not hold your breath while waiting.