I have writers block at this point. I’m just throwing that out there. But, as an obsessive thinker, I have made use of this current inability to write by dissecting it with the rigorous blade of analysis so that I see much of why I can’t write and what that means about myself, my relationships, humanity, and reality.
And I still can’t write a thing worth reading. But I’ll vomit something out of my brain here. Here goes.
As I come to understand the gospel more and more, the expression of Christianity that I have spent most of my life around becomes more and more suspicious to me. The cross that has been preached as a miracle looks more like a tragedy, and has been replaced by the resurrection as the central event in redemptive history for me. The community, defined by prayer meetings, sermons, and worship events, looks more like emotional masturbation than the flourishing of the shadow-shattering truth of redemption. God no longer lives in the sky, but in us. And I say all these things quite literally, to mean something that most christians I know would deny. And I count all this as growth in the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.
This changing growth centers around what I see as the central, defining theme of the gospel – unification. The gospel, I think is most basically about uniting that which is divided, but shouldn’t be. That is the end, the goal, of the gospel. This is accomplished in the world largely starting with the forgiveness of sins, which was accomplished by Jesus’ death. People are forgiven, and unified with God, who then, by coming to literally dwell in them, empowers them to break down the walls between each other, bringing unity in humanity, and then, as one Body of God, bringing about unity in all of creation – in humans, animals, the environment, societies, etc.
By contrast, almost every gospel presentation I hear today centers around forgiveness of sins, as if it were the end goal of God’s work. As if forgiveness of sins was the gospel. This commits the huge blunder of making the means the end. God didn’t forgive us to forgive us. He forgave us to redeem everything to its perfect state, to unify all of creation. It is this blunder that puts a nearly useless gospel into the hands of the lost. The gospel becomes a one-time event in their life, where they accept the death of Jesus Christ as a sufficient and effective work on their behalf to earn them forgiveness of sins. Jesus is dead and we’re Gods new children. As if Jesus died and we took his place. Then we walk out of the church and go screw our lives and other people’s lives and the whole world up even more because all we get from God is a dead carpenter. Oh yeah, and he came back to life. Neat.
That’s really the extent to which Christianity effects people’s lives. Forgiveness is the point of Gods work so we can all go to heaven after we die. And we’re waiting till then. But this is only the first step of the gospel – it opens the door of the prison cell so that we can walk out and and live, and work toward truth, goodness, and beauty. That unity, that unifying work is not just the purpose of the gospel, but it is the meaning of the gospel. It is the gospel I think. And this unity will reign in the end, when all of reality will be defragmented into one crystalline whole, pregnant with the being of God.
This gospel is the myth that ties every event and fact together into a single, interpretable picture of all. It defractures our views of the world and our experience into a picture where everything illuminates. In this mythic truth we can begin to live whole lives where every aspect is threaded together with the same meaning. Doing taxes and educating our children and watching movies and having sex and going to work will all share a common meaning and goal – that of unifying the world in truth, through love, culminating in beauty.
I don’t mean that we should leave the cross behind, or that we should quit going to worship services. But I think the expression of Christianity we embody will change a lot if we understand the gospel more fully. Basic truths of God’s redemptive act are being ignored and the result is often a silly, incoherent, anxious expression of the faith. When people who claim to embody a redeeming God arrange twenty-four hours of consecutive prayer, sing praise for hours a week, and read their bible incessantly, but don’t listen to the hurting, or feed the homeless, or recycle, or treat animals well, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what the active life of God is.
What do you think, whoeveryouare?