Like many people’s experience, I was engrossed in a conservative baptist-y organ-hymn singing church for as long as my parents could feasibly force me to go. They may not know it, but when I got a job at 15 I requested to work every Sunday morning so I wouldn’t have to go to church anymore – my parents simply thought that was the day they needed me the most. It wasn’t that I was engrossed in a life of selfish, hedonistic sin – I just didn’t care to be indoctrinated any longer, so I found a way out.
When I somehow meandered on back, it wasn’t through the doors of the same kind of quasi-fundamentalist red bleeding Republican Christianity. And in a sense I began to re-learn Christianity, as I discovered the right leaning side wasn’t the only side. Yesterday I mentioned this when I discussed moving from rule based religion to relationship with God style Christianity, which was a total shift in perspective for me.
Similarly, viewing the earth as God’s desired permanent dwelling place that he comes down to so that he can live with man (in Revelation 21), rather than the sinking ship he was going to blow to smithereens and rapture the pious from, renewed my hope that religion could be a thing of love, beauty and restoration rather than harsh judgment and destruction. I think I finally loosened up a little bit, the conservative types seem to have knots in their shoulders. This is when I began reading more, favoring books that explored the possibilities of this far more organic Christianity rather than simply listing all of the sins and wrongs in the world.
It was all quite revolutionary for me. It helped release a lot of the resentment I had stores of inside my bones. Because it was so new and contrary to everything I had believed about the religion of my childhood, I found it fascinating. This story has likely happened a thousand times over, anywhere people rediscover Jesus’ message of peace. It seems to reinvigorate people again, pumping them full of life rather than negativity and resentments. I suspect this explains the surge in coffee-shoppe and pub Christianity, where people gathered to detail out their explorations and realizations and show the open new world.
I know I spent a lot of time thinking, reading and talking about this new beautiful thing I had found. God seemed more present and far less “I’m looking down at you with crossed arms and one angry raised eyebrow.” However you can find yourself in the same trap as you did in fundamentalism – focusing only on doctrines, beliefs and ideas, so that Christianity is nothing more than a belief system that you operate from.
The danger can be that you spend all your time and energy researching and discussing your discovery so that you compartmentalize it into solely the intellectual or philosophical part of your life. Of course it’s a lot less work and a whole lot less self sacrifice doing it that way, but I also think emerging from the fallout of fundamentalism lends itself to just being a “let’s discuss that idea over coffee” kind of Christian. And unfortunately ideas are not going to heal the world and spread the kingdom like seeds all over the planet.
Is my story in any way your story? Have you ever filed Christianity away as something you discuss in pubs and coffee houses and not much more?