**I will confess up front that this may be the most blasphemous post I have written yet, so be warned. I am (to quote my friend Josh) opening a vein with this one. I expect that it will stir the pot, so feel free to respond in the comments section below.
I am, in my faith journey, moving into a place that I have come to identify as “post-Christianity”. “Post” in the sense that my roots have been firmly planted in the deep, rich soil of Christianity from my birth. I was raised in Christian homes by wonderful, loving Christian family members; attended a private, Christian university where I majored in theology; have served as a pastor on three church staffs; and continue to read more theology than most pastors I know. So, when I say “post-” I mean something beyond, something after, as one might say, “post-graduate” or “post-partum”; for me, all that is good about the term “Christianity” has given me a great mooring and now the subsequent freedom to step into the deeper waters of what I am calling “the Kingdom”.
Now, for my parents and friends who are hitting their knees in prayer over this confession, let me be clear: I am not moving away from something but towards something, and that, for me, makes all the difference.
Perhaps it is best if I clarify what I mean by the term “Christian” before I move on. To me, Christianity in the modern, American, fundamentalist, evangelical sense has come to mean more of a political platform or a defendable “worldview” than anything else. The term “Christian” has come to mean what Christians universally should think about such things as gay marriage, abortion, school vouchers, anti-evolutionary curriculum, and the like. It is boiled down to a list of tenets that must be signed off on before membership can be granted. The idea that you are Christian if you do this, believe that, go there, say this, all with little to no imagination and a story so constricting many avoid it altogether.
This, then, is what I am moving away from: Christianity as organization, politics, agenda, worldview, position, media empire, and power structure. It’s like I commented to my wife the other day, when I can’t tell a church from a shopping mall anymore, we are in trouble. As my friend Ben reminded me, the church has never operated well from a position of power, and that is just as true now as it was in the Middle Ages.
What I am trying with my very life to move towards is the reality of the Kingdom: towards the Mystery, the longing, the ache, the “secret in the dark” (to quote Frederick Buechner), the “desire of the everlasting hills” (to quote Genesis and Thomas Cahill), the myth that just might be true, the big “S” Story that gives meaning to all the little “s” stories we try to write with our lives, the love that might not be safe, the vision that can be should all things be as they ought.
I hear whispers of this Kingdom everywhere: in the dance of nature (the circle of life) that seems to move of its own accord, the miracle of child-birth and the awesome responsibility of child-rearing, in this thing called love that is willing to be torn in two again and again, in the paradoxical reality that consumption ultimately consumes and sacrifice ultimately delivers, in the ache felt for just one perfect love story, in the deep reality that, at the bottom of it all, we are creatures of desire needing to love and be loved in return.
I catch glimpses of it in stories like Les Miserables (the greatest redemptive story not found in the Bible), A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, and The Once and Future King and in movies like The Pursuit of Happyness, Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, and Life is Beautiful.
This Kingdom, the full story of agape breaking loose in the world, is the story of the God with a big “G” (the Word and the Word made Flesh in the one who came to embody Isaiah’s vision of shalom, says John 1) that dwarfs the other “g”ods of Mammon, Bacchus, Technos and the rest. It is the great shout of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, but also the faint hint found in the wisdom, pathos, wonder and reality of the Quran and its call for us to strive against our base instincts and choose purity over carnality; the Analects of Confucius and their description of a way of selfless living that helps form the exemplary one; the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle and their examination and explanation of virtue; the ache of the existentialists and their hope that one day, we just might rise out of the absurdity and write a story worth reading; the hope that perhaps Narnia might be real after all.
The Kingdom breaks in all around us. Indeed (to borrow from Eugene Peterson), I believe Christ plays in ten-thousand places. Though I see it in literature, another might see it in biology or in cosmology or music, or even urban design. Indeed, the Kingdom is all around us, this vision of Isaiah 61, Matthew 5-7, Revelation 21-22; it whispers and shouts and sings and sighs and rushes out in music and stories so full of life they make you weep just to encounter them, and we try to bottle it up and package it as dogma and offer it up in 35 minute bites once a week like we know what we are doing.
No, though I leave at my own peril, I have chosen to sail my ship to a different shore, to the place where songs create worlds and swords become shovels and cities become sanctuaries and all things are made new. I have chosen the narrative-made-flesh whom I will serve, the less-traveled-road I must walk, and for me, that has made all the difference.
**Ok, have at it! I look forward to your thoughts on the most vulnerable post I have offered yet.